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A Study of Revelation 4:1-11


For years people have wondered what heaven might be like. My wife is an artist and a Christian friend once commissioned her to paint a picture of heaven. She painted a beautiful city among radiant clouds. She did a lot of research and included some interesting features from some of the most impressive castles in the world. When it was finished, it did look like a heavenly city. Her friend was pleased with the result. But none of us really know what heaven might look like. We can only guess. However, the Bible does give us a description of what the throne room of God looks like.

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to enter the heavenly presence of God? The Bible gives a description of God’s throne room in Revelation 4. I want to examine this description and see how it applies to us.

Verse 1

After this I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, "Come up hither, and I will show you what must take place after this."

John is called up to heaven. Up to this point his vision has concerned the churches here on earth. But now he is taken up to heaven. Many believe that this indicates that the church will be caught up to heaven before the great tribulation occurs on earth.

The first thing that John sees in heaven is an open door. The entrance to the throne room of God is an open door. This way is open to all who have accepted Christ as their Savior. The door is never closed. Whenever we are facing trials or difficulties, we can always enter into God’s presence. It doesn’t matter the time of day or night, God’s door is always open.

John is told to "come up hither." Whenever we need to enter God’s presence, we have an invitation. We are invited to come. As Hebrews 4:16 tells us, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

Verses 2-3

At once I was in the Spirit, and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! And he who sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald.

John enters into the throne room, into the very presence of God. Whenever we pray, we can enter immediately into God’s presence. He is sitting on his throne ready to hear our pleas and grant our requests. As Walvoord comments, "It is first of all important to note that this is a throne in heaven, a reminder of the sovereignty of God who is far removed from the petty struggles of earthly government. Here is the true picture of the universe as being subject to the dominion of an omnipotent God."

This verse tells us that the one who sat on the throne appeared like jasper and carnelian (or sardius). The carenelian was a red stone, and the jasper may have been a clear stone. No doubt, these gems represent the beauty and majesty of God. But they may even stand for more. In Exodus 28:17-21 we see these stones mentioned. They represent the 12 tribes of Israel which where embedded on the breast plate of the high priest. The carnelian was the first stone and the jasper the last stone. The implication is God’s throne room is open to all – from the first to the last.

Surrounding God’s throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald. In Genesis 9:13-16 we see how God placed a rainbow in the sky as an everlasting covenant between him and mankind. The rainbow on earth is multi-colored which is symbolic of the different covenants God has made with man – to individuals, to the nation of Israel, and to the church. But the rainbow in heaven is only one color. It is green, the color of the earth. Even though God’s covenant with Israel is different from his covenant with the church, we are all the same when we enter the throne room of heaven. God has no favorites, no privileged classes.

Verse 4

Round the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clad in white garments, with golden crowns upon their heads.

Next we see twenty four elders in the throne room. I believe these twenty four represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. God is not alone in heaven. He has those saints from the nation of Israel and from the church with him in his throne room. These twenty four elders represent all of the family of God.

The Greek word used here for crowns is stephanous which indicates a victor’s crown and was the kind awarded to athletes. So these elders are the ones who have been given crowns because they have overcome. As you are struggling through trials in this life, remember that God has prepared a victor’s crown for those who will remain faithful to him and overcome. He has a place for us for eternity, in heaven with him and in his throne room.

Verse 5

From the throne issue flashes of lightning, and voices and peals of thunder, and before the throne burn seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God;

These metaphors indicate the majesty of God. We see the same pictures in Exodus 19:16, Zechariah 9:14 and Psalm 29:3. God is all powerful. His majesty fills all of heaven. The one who controls all of heaven and earth is also the one who reaches to us to help us. All the power of the universe is at his disposal. What is it that you need from God? He is the all powerful one. He is able to meet your need.

The seven torches of fire represent the presence of the Holy Spirit in its manifold completeness. When we enter into God’s presence, we are ignited by the Holy Spirit. He goes with us strengthening us, teaching us, and helping us to overcome temptation. We may only enter God’s throne room from time to time. But God’s spirit is always with us. He never leaves us.

Verses 6-7

And before the throne there is as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 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 a flying eagle.

For those of you who believe in UFO’s, if ever there was a section in the Bible that would support the idea of creatures from other planets, this would have to be it! Of course, the language here is symbolic so its difficult to figure the exact meaning of these four living creatures. Perhaps these different images represent what we can be if we allow God to have his way in our life.

The lion is the king of the jungle. If we allow God to lead us, we will find that we will be able to defeat all our enemies just as the lion does. The ox was an important beast of burden. When we are facing trials and tribulations, we will find that God will give us the strength to bear any burden. The creature with the face of a man is interesting. Too many of us are not the kind of man or woman that God wants us to be. If we allow him to lead us, we can be that husband or wife, father or mother, that God intended for us when he created us. The eagle soars high above the land. If we will let God lift us up, we will be able to soar above all our problems and find safety far from the reach of danger.

Verses 8-9

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all round and within, and day and night they never cease to sing, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever,

How do we get the victory of the lion and the strength of the ox, the completeness of our humanity and the flight of the eagle? These verses tell us that the creatures never cease to sing. We need to constantly sing our praise and worship to God. In trouble, in sorrow, in pain, in despair we must never cease to sing to God. The living creatures were constantly giving glory and honor and thanks to God. Whatever you are facing, let your heart sing out in faith to God. He will be there for you, and help you through the most difficult times.

Verse 10

The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,

Now the twenty four elders join in this song of worship. We owe our salvation to God. We owe our existence to him. Notice that the elders cast their crowns at God’s throne. When you enter into God’s presence, cast your crowns at his feet. Everything you have has been given to you by your creator. All your talents, your abilities, your worldly blessings are gifts from God. When you enter into the throne room of God, you cannot enter with any pretenses. You cannot enter thinking that you are somehow worthy or somehow deserving. All our goodness is because of God’s mercy toward us. We have nothing good in ourselves. Cast everything you have at God’s feet.

Verse 11

"Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou didst create all things, and by thy will they existed and were created."

Here is the song the elders sing. They sing that God is worthy to receive glory and honor and power. Do you worship God like that? You should.

Walvoord comments, "The world today does not give such honor to the Lord God. Though men benefit from His goodness and live in a universe of His creation, they tend to neglect the worship of God."

Let us not be guilty of neglecting our worship. God loves us. He gives us an open door that we may enter into his throne room. He will strengthen us so that we may overcome like the lion and bear up like the ox, that we may be complete in our humanity and like the eagle soar over our problems. Shouldn’t this cause us to praise him?


This study on Revelation 4 1998 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.

All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version 1971, A. J. Holman Company

Hebrews 4:16 from the King James Version

Walvoord: The Revelation of Jesus Christ pg. 104 1966, Moody Press

Exodus 19:16 – "On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud      trumpet blast, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled."

Zechariah 9:14 – "Then the Lord will appear over them, and his arrow go forth like lightning; the Lord God will sound the trumpet, and      march forth in the whirlwinds of the south."

Psalm 29:3 – "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, upon many waters."

Walvoord: The Revelation of Jesus Christ pg. 111 1966, Moody Press

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