Last week, we completed our study of the seven churches of Revelation. These churches were chosen specifically for a message from God to the world. It is a message of hope. No matter what your spiritual condition, there is always work to do and there is time to repent for your wrongs. This week, Jesus reveals more of what must come to pass.
“Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
In the last lesson, specifically in the letter to Laodicea, Jesus said “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” In chapter 4, John sees a door and enters the throne room of Heaven.
As he steps into the throne room, John sees a vision of God on the throne. It is a vision because no man can see God and live (Exodus 33:20). This vision is mirrored closely in the first chapter of Ezekiel. (Ezekiel 1:26-28, 1 Timothy 6:16).
Around the throne, there are 24 other thrones with Elders. Who are these elders?
Actually, there is a good bit of debate on the identity of the elders.
• Some say they are God’s heavenly council.
• Others say they are redeemed saints.
• Some say they represent the 12 apostles and the 12 patriarchs of the church.
• Some say they represent the 24 hours in the day and are symbolic of eternal worship and praise.
Depending on your perspective, you could make an argument that they are saints, or apostles and patriarchs, because people—not angels—are promised crowns and the reward of reigning with God. However, you could also say these are God’s council of heavenly servants who we have seen repeatedly throughout scripture bringing messages to mankind.
Symbolically, the throne room scene can be said to represent God’s true kingdom as compared to Rome. In the Roman courts, the emperor proclaimed himself as a god to be worshiped. In the study of the seven churches, we saw mention of the throne of satan and roman temples. Domitian took the title “lord and god” and had a court set up to praise him. See the similarity. Augustus took the title CAESAR DIVI FILIUS, which means son of god. Caligula demanded people bow and praise his statues and Nero claimed to be god. God is saying “Nope. I am the Lord and God.”
In front of the throne John sees seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God. What are the seven spirits of God?
In front of the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. In Hebrew beliefs, the sea is depicted as evil—a place of chaos. Isaiah 57:20. So, this description shows that God has authority over all. You can also look at Genesis in the description of the sea. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” also “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”
What might these two interpretations regarding the sea mean, in your opinion? Skip ahead a bit in Revelation and read the description of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21:1.
Also in scripture, we see that water is used to cleanse (the flood, baptism) and that demons avoided water (Luke 11:24). In Revelation 22, the new Jerusalem is described as having a flowing river.
In front of the throne were four creatures:
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!”
Some people say these living creatures were symbolic of all living creatures on earth—the pattern God used at creation. Who or what do you think these creatures were? Read Isaiah 6:2-3. There is also a good, though long, description in Ezekiel 1:4-14.
In chapter 5, the figure on the throne is shown holding a scroll with writing on the inside and outside. It has seven seals. John weeps because no one is found who is worthy to open the scroll until the Lamb appears—Jesus. With each seal comes an event on Earth, as we will see next week. We are not told what is in the scroll, but Daniel 12:4-9 might offer a clue. Also:
And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe. (Ezekiel 2:9–10 ESV)
In ancient records, a scroll with writing on both sides was said to be complete, so the scroll with the perfect seals (seven) could be symbolic of completion or the end. A deed written on a scroll might also have had writing on the outside to indicate the content of the scroll. What might Jesus, the Lamb, have a deed to in this vision? Look at the new song in Revelation 5.
Next Week: The Seven Seals