Prologue: Christ’s Rights to the Inheritance
Revelation 4 – 5
Revelation 4 – 5
Doors. when the church’s door is closed to Christ on earth (rev. 3:20), god opens a door in heaven… the true church is raptured and the judgments begin to unfold (rev. 4:1). ch. 4-5 are a heavenly parenthesis. if you skip it, prophetic events on the earth continue chronologically from ch. 3 → ch.6.
The Throne and the book. all in ch.4 centers around the throne and the maintenance of its glory and holiness, and worship does not go beyond recognizing that god is the creator and sustainer of all things. in ch.5 the theme is the book of God’s counsels to bless the earth brought about by judgment. in ch. 5 the Lord Jesus is clearly distinguished from the godhead, and worship by the elders rises to include redemption.
- Christ’s rights through creation (Rev. 4)
- Christ’s rights through redemption (Rev. 5)
Christ’s rights through creation (Rev. 4)
¶ After these things I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven, and the first voice which I heard as of a trumpet speaking with me, saying, Come up here, and I will shew thee the things which must take place after these things. v.1 see note on rev. 3:20. “in heaven” – we need to approach the truth of prophecy from heaven’s viewpoint. “the first voice” – same voice as in rev. 1-3 (see rev.1:10) but from a new direction. the scene has changed. it still addresses him like a trumpet, but no longer on earth in the midst oif the candlesticks… now from heaven. why? the church period has passed. “Come up here” – not the rapture specifically, but a dim allusion to it. “after these things” – after what things? the church period. See rev. 1:19.
Description of the throne, the sitter, the elders, and the living creatures (vv.2-8)
¶ 2 Immediately I became in the Spirit; and behold, a throne stood in the heaven, and upon the throne one sitting, v.2 “in tHE SPIRIT” IN THE SPECIAL CAPACITY OF INSPIRATION… is only temporary. It needed to be refreshed for the next vision. The throne is a symbol of authority. It is God’s throne. The sitter on the throne is God in Godhead. He is sitting which indicates stability.
3 and he that was sitting like in appearance to a stone of jasper and a sardius, and a rainbow round the throne like in appearance to an emerald. v.3a The gems symbolize the glory of God. The Jasper is a high-grade diamond…. not his essential glory, but that which can be revealed and even conferred upon a creature (john 17:22-23) such as the church in the millennium (rev. 21): her light (v.11), her wall (v.18), and First Foundation (v.19). The sardius is a Ruby – His glory and justice and judgment. The rainbow – Speaks of blessing after judgement – appears after the storm. here it precedes the storm, showing that there is mercy in store (Rev. 10). Unbroken circle – speaks of eternity… Eternal mercy (psa. 136). Emerald – green is the characteristic color of the earth seen from heaven.
4 And round the throne twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones twenty-four elders sitting, clothed with white garments; and on their heads golden crowns. v.4 The elders – called elders because of maturity/wisdom (I cor. 13:9). They are the administrative representation of Old and New Testament saints; 12 + 12 = 24. “Around the throne” – in the place of understanding. “Upon Thrones” – royalty. “White garments” – priesthood. “Sitting” – the Saints will be at perfect peace, even with lightning shooting out of the throne! The crowns are a result of the judgment seat of Christ. Everyone has one.
note: crowns in scripture: (1) the crown of life, (2) the crown of glory, (3) the crown of righteousness, (4) the crown of rejoicing, (5) the crown of incorruptibility, (6) philadelphian crown, and (7) the crown of gold.
5 And out of the throne go forth lightnings, and voices, and thunders; and seven lamps of fire, burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; v.5 “lightnings, and voices, and thunders” are Pictures of the terrors of God and the coming judgments. These must flow from the throne before the stream on Rev. 22:1 can flow. “Seven spirits” – see rev. 1:4 – various operations in judgment. Pictured here as burning torches – searching out evil. In Rev. 5:6 pictured by the Lamb’s seven eyes – perfect discernment.
6 and before the throne, as a glass sea, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, four living creatures, full of eyes, before and behind; v.6 “Glass sea” – Contrast with the laver (Ex. 30:18-21) and molten sea (I Kings 7:23-37) for purification of the priest. The washing is no longer needed so the sea is fixed. The objective of the throne is a fixed state of purity for the whole creation. Four – universality in creation (Gen. 2:10). The judgment will have a universal effect. Full of eyes – superior discernment… Every angle of perception is covered. Before – future events. Behind – past events. See v.2.
7 and the first living creature like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third living creature having the face as of a man, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. v.7 The four living creatures have the likeness of the chief creatures of earth and air (not of the sea) saved in Noah’s Ark in the judgment of the old world.
- lion – power / strength.
- Calf – patience / endurance. More energy than an ox.
- Face of a man – intelligence.
- Flying eagle – rapidity.
They combine the characteristics of both cherubim (executors of God’s judgment, Gen. 3:24, Ex. 25:18-22, Ezek. 1, 10:2) and seraphim (bear witness to God’s holy nature, Isa. 6:3).
8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having respectively six wings; round and within they are full of eyes; and they cease not day and night saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come. v.8 “six wings” – Supernatural speed, just short of perfection. Contrast with four wings & wheels of Ezekiel 1. “EYES” – Around (external) and within (internal) perception – not so much of events – but of God’s purposes and motives. They bear witness without intermission to three things.
- the holiness of a triune God.
- The power and absolute authority of God.
- The eternal being of God.
thrice repetition. “Holy, holy, holy” the thrice repetition of the word ‘holy’ (treishagion) is a jewish literary device. In hebrew, if you want to emphasize a word like you really mean it, you say a word and repeat it. e.g. “i love, love you” or “i love you, you”. but several times in the old testament a word is elevated by thrice repetition, to where it has no greater possible emphasis!
The Worship of the Elders (vv.9-11)
vv.9-11 compare the response of the elders to that of the living creatures. The creatures celebrate, declare, and thank while the elders worship with intelligence.
9 And when the living creatures shall give glory and honour and thanksgiving to him that sits upon the throne, who lives to the ages of ages, v.9 these glorious truths as to the nature of god are another trigger (in addition to the mention of the name of christ, SEE Rev. 1:5) that lead to a burst of praise and worship from the redeemed company. This will always be the case.
10 the twenty-four elders shall fall before him that sits upon the throne, and do homage to him that lives to the ages of ages; and shall cast their crowns before the throne, saying, v.10 Despite their dignity and maturity, when the worship begins, they quickly leave their honored Thrones to fall before the worthy one. Happily they part with their crowns of glory to ascribe it all to Him. We have in this verse an example of worship:
- Prerequisite: have no thoughts of self, all thoughts of him.
- Consider the greatness of God the Father revealed in the divine person of the Son.
- Results: describe every received Glory and blessing to the proper source, then express praise vocally.
11 Thou art worthy, O our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honour and power; for “thou” hast created all things, and for thy will they were, and they have been created. v.11 The creatures give glory, honor, and thanks while the elders wish upon Him glory, honor, and power. They enter into his personal worthiness. They say “thou”. The Redeemed Saints are able to give a reason for their worship. We were called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28), created for HIS praise (Isaiah 43:21), and created for his pleasure (Rev. 4:11). See also Col. 1:16. Note: While all three persons were involved in creation, the Son is often accredited because he became a man. He is the benefactor and beneficiary, that means and the motive, the source and the sink, of the universal creation.
Christ’s rights through redemption (Rev. 5)
A shift in administration. There is a change of administration when the Lamb takes the book. Notice there are no angels in Rev. 4, but the four living creatures have angelic qualities and less intelligent worship: i.e. they are angelic. But in Rev. 5, angels are mentioned as a distinct class from the four creatures, and the creatures join the elders in the song of redemption: all pointing to the creatures being redeemed men in Rev. 5. How can they be angels in ch.4, and men in ch.5? We must conclude that there has been a change in the administration when the Lamb takes the book, in which the saints in association with Christ replace the angels as administrative executors – a change fully developed in the Millennium (1 Cor. 6:3). “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come” (Heb. 2:5). God has chosen to have a man set over this creation. Adam failed in his headship, but Christ will perfectly succeed. A transfer of power is needed, because today the administration of the world is in the hands of angels, who do the Father’s bidding (Heb. 1:13). But before the Millennium begins, the whole host of elect angels will be subjected to the authority of the Son of man. This is comprehended in the prophecy; “when he brings in the firstborn into the habitable world, he says, And let all God’s angels worship him” (Heb. 1:7; Psa. 97:7). Not that the angels do not worship Christ today, but when the Father brings the Firstborn in the world a second time, the angels will worship a Man on the earth! We will join the glorified Son of man as administrators of the Millennial earth; the “world to come”. In this way, we the saints will “judge angels” (1 Cor. 6:3). Therefore, on account of this shift, we discern that the living creatures speak more of an office than specific persons. In ch.4 the living creatures are angels, in ch.5 they are the heavenly saints.
The book and the search for an opener (vv.1-5)
¶ And I saw on the right hand of him that sat upon the throne a book, a|b written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. v.1a “Right hand” – The book is connected the power and authority of God. The book contains “the counsels of God for the blessing of the earth that will be brought about through judgment” – B. Anstey. The “title deed to the inheiritance.” See Isa. 26:10. Perhaps it is a chapter from the book of Heb. 10:7. “Written” – God’s will is unalterably settled. “Within and on the backside” – Full of judgement (normally only written on one side)… But nothing beyond can be added to it. “Seven seals” – the counsels God are perfectly hidden in the divine mind until the Lamb reveals it. Each seal closes a certain portion of the book… Contents excessively revealed in order.
2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to break its seals? v.2 Some are stronger than others. This voice penetrates to the utmost bounds of the universe, searching three great sectors. Opening the book and breaking the seals are Separate events: the order seems backwards but there is a moral order: (1) unfold the contents, (2) their execution (rev. 6).
vv.2-3 The primary question is of worthiness (v.2). But the response (v.3) adds another thought: ability. No one is found morally worthy or physically able (v.3) to deal with the vast system of evil and to bring in blessing… although many have tried (Napoleon, Hitler, etc.). as a lion he is able, as the Lamb he is Worthy. Worthyiness has two parts: (1) moral perfection and (2) redemption, he purchased the inheiritance)
3 And no one was able in the heaven, or upon the earth, or underneath the earth, to open the book, or to regard it. v.3 “no one” – no created being. Three sectors: (1) The attendants of God’s throne, (2) Men and animals, (3) Departed spirits in torment and fallen angels. Well-intentioned men have been trying for 6000 years to eliminate the effects of sin and bring in blessing. All attempts have failed – none able to open the book.
4 And “I” wept much because no one had been found worthy to open the book nor to regard it. vv.4-5 Contrast John with the intelligent elder. He is more in the character of an Old Testament prophet than an apostle to the church. Thinking only of man’s inability and unworthiness – we would weep too. To “regard it” is to metaphorically see with the mind’s eye, to contemplate it. The book represents something so weighty and momentous that neither man nor angel could examine it.
5 And one of the elders says to me, Do not weep. Behold, the lion which is of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, has overcome so as to open the book, and its seven seals. v.5 Lion – (see Gen. 49:8-10, Prov. 30:30) irresistible power, majesty, and sovereignty to secure the blessing of Israel and the earth. Root – David represents royalty the kingdom. More than being David’s son (offspring or branch, Rev. 22:16, Isa. 11) he is David’s Lord (Matt. 22:41-46) the root the source of all Davidic titles and promises. He has Overcome every spiritual power by his death on the cross. vv.5-6 as the lion he is able, as the lamb he is worthy!
The lamb and him taking the book (vv.6-7)
¶ 6 And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God which are sent into all the earth: v.6 He sees a lamb instead of a lion. Seeming weakness instead of majesty. Lamb – occurs 28x in revelation – in the diminutive form, “a little lamb” or “Lamkin”. characteristics:
- As slain, a picture of holy suffering and rejection, isa. 53:7. Rejected with a violent death, he is glorified in heaven now, who but he is worthy to take the book?
- Seven horns – complete power – omnipotence.
- Seven eyes – complete discernment – omniscience.
- All the earth – present everywhere – omnipresent.
7 and it came and took it out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. v.7 When Christ takes the rains of power the result is praise.
The resulting praise; three circles of praisers (vv.8-14)
circle #1: redeemed men
8 And when it took the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, having each a harp and golden bowls full of incenses, which are the prayers of the saints. v.8 A third trigger of the redeemed company’s worship (See Rev. 4:9)… the thought of Christ having his rightful place. The harps represent the heavenly Saints’ praises (for the lamb’s goodness to His saints on earth – see v.9). “Odors” – Represents the prayers of the earthly Saints in their time of need being offered by the heavenly Saints now functioning as priests. Prayer on earth is incense in heaven!
9 And they sing a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open its seals; because thou hast been slain, and hast redeemed to God, by thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, v.9 in their song, The heavenly Saints connect his worthiness with his suffering:
- Slain – A violent death at man’s hand – he must be vindicated.
- His atoning sufferings paid the price of redemption.
The heavenly Saints sing to him not just chant about him (v.12). They sing of glory brought to God through redemption. These can sing of redemption by blood… connect with Rev. 15 3. “every kindred” – No such thing as the redemption of a race. See Psalm 90:3.
vv.9-10 “Redeemed them” – Unselfishly, the elders sing of the redemption of the earthly saints. Only the redeemed can sing it. This song is later taught to the Jewish remnant (rev. 14:1-5).
10 and made them to our God kings and priests; and they shall reign over the earth. v.10 “Over the earth” always refers to the reign of the heavenly Saints with Christ in the millennium. How does that follow with v.9? The answer is that they are earthly saints shortly to be martyred (in the first 3.5 years, Rev. 6:7-11, and in the last 3.5 years, Rev. 11 + 14:3) who will partake in the first resurrection to join the heavenly Saints with Christ reigning over the earth.
Circle #2: REDEEMED MEN + ANGELS
vv.9-11 “Singing” (circle #1) and “saying” (circle #2 and #3) will be going on in unison… one theme, different pitches or levels of intelligence – forever… Except the silence in heaven for 30 minutes before the first trumpet?
¶ 11 And I saw, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and their number was ten thousands of ten thousands and thousands of thousands; v.11 Angels mentioned as distinct from the living creatures, see note at top.
12 saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that has been slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. V.12 the church on earth can produce but two notes (rev. 1:6), but gives five more in heaven, to bring the total to seven.
|He will have||He had in this world|
|Power||Weakness||II Cor. 13:4|
|Riches||Became Poor||II Cor. 8:9|
|Wisdom||Foolishness||I Cor. 1:24|
|Blessing||Made a Curse||Gal. 3:13|
Circle #3: EVERY CREATURE
13 And every creature which is in the heaven and upon the earth and under the earth, and those that are upon the sea, and all things in them, heard I saying, To him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, blessing, and honour, and glory, and might, to the ages of ages. v.13 every creature is included. instead of seven notes, this circle has four notes. four – universality in creation (Gen. 2:10). How does the creation praise? see isa. 11:6-9, 55:12, rom. 8:19-21.
14 And the four living creatures said, Amen; and the elders fell down and did homage. v.14 in response to all three circles, the heavenly saints:
|(1) living creatures||administration||say “let it be so”|
|(2) the elders||priesthood||fall + worship|