In approximately AD 96, during his exile to the island of Patmos John the Apostle received instructions to record what Jesus revealed to him in a book (Revelation) including this chapter of the throne set in Heaven, the nature and character of the One seated the throne, and the response of those around this throne.
1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.
3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God,
6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” 9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Observation and reflection questions
Notes: After recording the seven letters to the congregations (chapters 2-3) John saw a vision: of a throne in heaven, of Him on the throne, and of the response of those around the throne. “jasper” probably refers to a diamond-like stone (refer to Revelation 21:11) while “carnelian” is a deep red stone.
- John writes the same command twice in verses 1 and 2 – did you notice it? What does he call the reader to do, and why?
- Record what you learn from John’s vision about:
(a) the throne (verse 2)
(b) the One who sits on the throne (verses 3-5)
(c) the response of those around the throne (verses 6-11)
- What do you learn from the character and nature of “the one seated on the throne” by each of these descriptions?
- Like the biggest and clearest jasper (think diamond) and carnelian (verse 3)
- Encircled by a rainbow (verse 3; hint: think Noah, Genesis 9:15)
- With many righteous rulers on the thrones around His throne (verse 4; hint: think of these representing the church through the ages)
- With “flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder” (verse 5; hint: this phrase appears another three times in Revelation (8:5; 11:19; 16:18), each time before God’s judgment is poured out on rebellious people)
- With “seven torches” lighting evening before the throne (verse 5; hint: seven implies perfection – so what could perfect light imply here?)
- What could these responses to the One on the Throne mean or imply?
- Before the throne was “a sea of glass, like crystal” (verse 6; hint: sea in Jewish writing usually refers to uncertainty, danger, and elsewhere chaos among the nations – see Psalm 93 below)
- Four living creatures covered with eyes (verses 6-8; hint: could more eyes observe and take in more beauty and glory…?)
- The four living creatures creaming “Holy!… Almighty!… [Ever-Living!]” (verses 7-8; hint: consider the mightiest domestic animal, mightiest wild animal, mightiest creature on earth, mightiest bird in flight, mightiest angelic being (Isaiah 6), yet what is their response to Him on the Throne…?)
- The 24 rulers casting their crowns, prostrating themselves before Him on the Throne in Heaven (verses 10-11; hint – what is implied in the church falling down before God?)
Personal Reflection questions
- The first recipients of John’s Revelation were severely suffering congregations, being tried for their faith by an egotistical ruler (Cesar Domitian) and tempted by their perverse societies. What would this vision of God seated on his heavenly throne have meant to them? (consider the throne, him who sat on it and the response).
- How does this vision of the heavenly throne, the nature and character of God, as well as the response around the throne (a) comfort and (b) challenge you personally?
Prayer and Worship
Read Psalm 93 to note the similarity with Revelation 4, and respond in prayer and praise of our God who reigns!
1 The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. 2 Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.
3 The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.
4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty! 5 Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.