John’s Vision of the Throne Room
1Then suddenly, after I wrote down these messages, I saw a portal open into the heavenly realm, and the same trumpet-voice I heard speaking with me at the beginning # 4:1 See Rev. 1:10. said, “Ascend into this realm! # 4:1 John did not simply watch these things happen through an open door, he was taken through the open door into the heavenly realm. In 3:20 Jesus stood knocking, ready to pass through the door; now John passes through an open door into heaven. I want to reveal to you what must happen # 4:1 Or “come to be” as in “give birth.” The Greek word for “happen” is ginomai (similar to our English word genome) and is translated three times in Rom. 7:3–4 as “married.” after this.”
2Instantly I was taken into the spirit realm, # 4:2 Or “I came to be [Gr. ginomai] within Spirit.” Four times John uses this phrase (1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10). Although some commentators believe John was in his human spirit, John went into an ecstatic state or prophetic trance and was shown these things in the spirit realm. The implication is that he was taken into the heavenly realm as these pictures were unveiled before him. After seeing the first vision of Jesus walking among the lampstands and the messages to the seven churches, John was taken into heaven for more revelation. See R. H. Mounce, Revelation, New International Commentary on the New Testament, 75; G. B. Caird, A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, Black’s New Testament Commentaries, edited by Henry Chadwick (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1966); George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary of the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1972); David E. Aune, Revelation, Word Biblical Commentary, vols. 52a and 52b, edited by Ralph P. Martin (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997 and 1998). and behold—I saw a heavenly throne # 4:2 John uses the word throne forty times in the book of Revelation, fourteen times in this chapter alone. God’s throne is the governmental center of the universe. being set in place and someone seated upon it. 3His appearance was sparkling like crystal # 4:3 Or “jasper,” an aggregate of microgranular quartz. It is likely that the word used here is not identical to our modern jasper, but instead refers to a clear stone like crystal (cryptocrystalline jasper). Revelation 21:11 describes it as being clear like crystal. The most common Hebrew word for jasper is yashĕpheh, as found in Ex. 28:20 and 39:13, which describes the last or twelfth jewel on the breastplate of Aaron, the high priest. The word yashĕpheh literally means “polished.” Jasper is recognized as a symbol of the glory of God in all his splendor, brightness, and beauty. and glowing like a carnelian gemstone. # 4:3 “Carnelian” (also known as “sard”) is a mineral red in color and commonly described as a glassy, translucent, semiprecious gemstone. The etymological origin of carnelian comes from the Latin word cornum, used for the cornel cherry. Assuming it to be cherry-red (blood red) in color, translucent light was glowing from the one seated on the throne. The sardius (carnelian) stone was placed first in order upon the high priest’s breastplate. Surrounding the throne was a circle of green light, # 4:3 Or “halo.” like an emerald rainbow. # 4:3 See Ezek. 1:28. This was not a typical rainbow, for a rainbow has seven colors. This was more like a halo of light, shining all around the throne. It was a full circle, not a half-circle. It could have been horizontally or vertically around the throne. The Greek also allows for the translation “a rainbow made of emerald.” The emerald rainbow points to God’s mercy and covenant love, for he gave the sign of a rainbow to Noah, signifying that he would never again destroy the world through a flood. The rainbow around the throne would be a clear symbol that everything God does (coming from his throne of majesty) is surrounded with grace and mercy. The Hebrew word for “emerald” is bareqeth, which can also be translated “flashing of light” (Ex. 28:17). God’s glory is represented by these three stones: jasper, carnelian, and emerald. 4Encircling the great throne were twenty-four thrones with elders # 4:4 Scholars are divided over who these twenty-four elders are, either (1) the union of Jew (twelve tribes of Israel) and the church (twelve apostles of Jesus), (2) a rank of heavenly beings serving as God’s cabinet officers, (3) a symbol of the twenty-four prophetic books of the Old Testament, or (4) an actual council of elders (believers) who are subordinate to God but ruling with authority and wisdom. They are enthroned and have crowns, which would speak of regal authority. Made up from the overcomers from among the community of the redeemed, the twenty-four elders are robed in Christ’s righteousness (white garments), enthroned with him (Eph. 2:6; Rev. 3:21), and crowned with glory. in glistening white garments seated upon them, each wearing a golden crown of victory. 5And pulsing from the throne were blinding flashes of lightning, # 4:5 Lightning is often an emblem of the revelation-word of God breaking forth on the earth (Ps. 97:4), which dismantles the works of Satan (Luke 10:18). As God’s Word goes forth, there will always be voices to carry the fresh revelation of heaven. crashes of thunder, and voices. # 4:5 Or “sounds.” See also Ex. 19:16; Ps. 77:18. And burning before the throne were seven blazing torches, which represent the seven Spirits of God. # 4:5 Or “the seven-fold Spirit of God.” 6And in front of the throne there was pavement # 4:6 See Ex. 24:10; Ezek. 1:22, 26. like a crystal sea of glass. # 4:6 The blazing torches reflected off the glassy crystal sea would appear to be heaven’s analogue to the Red Sea. See also 15:2–4. One of the miracles of the Red Sea crossing was that the waters congealed and became like glass (Ex. 15:8). John is seeing a hint of the chaotic “sea of humanity” (Dan. 7:2; Ezek. 32:2) being calmed before God’s sovereign throne.
Worship around the Throne
Around the throne and on each side # 4:6 A possible inference in the Greek is that the four living creatures are supporting the throne; that is, the throne (chariot of God) rested upon them. See Ezek. 1:15–26. The number four points to the four winds and the four seasons (the whole created order). stood four living creatures, # 4:6 Or “creatures of life.” full of eyes in front and behind. # 4:6 They had eyes to see into different realms and into times past and future (in front and behind). 7The first living creature resembled a lion, the second an ox, # 4:7 Or “calf, a sprout, a young one.” the third had a human face, and the fourth was like an eagle in flight. 8Each of the four living creatures had six wings, full of eyes all around and under their wings. They worshiped without ceasing, day and night, singing,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty! # 4:8 See Isa. 6:1–3.
The Was, # 4:8 See John 1:1; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1 Tim. 3:16. the Is, # 4:8 He who was (Christ in his early life) is now the one who is within us. See 1 Cor. 14:25. and the Coming!” # 4:8 Or “the coming one.” He is coming to be all that he is within us. See 2 Thess. 1:10.
9And whenever the living creatures gave glory, honor, and thanks to the One who is enthroned and who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fell facedown before the one seated on the throne and they worshiped the one who lives forever and ever. And they surrendered their crowns before the throne, singing:
11“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory, honor, and power,
for you created all things,
and for your pleasure # 4:11 Or “by your plan.” they were created and exist.” # 4:11 Or “they existed and were created,” an obvious figure of speech called hysteron proteron.