Bible Study

Bible Study Revelation 4

This week’s Bible Study is ready and online. This is the link to the video. The outline in PDF format is available here.

Bible Study Revelation 4

Second Vision: ch. 4-16. Structured around the symbols:

Four part introduction of the second vision:

  • ‘In the Spirit’ (see also 1:10; 17:3, 21:9)
  • Someone (an angel: 17:3, 21:9; or a voice like a trumpet, 1:10, 4:1)
  • ‘Come up’ (4:1, 17:1, 21:9)
  • ‘I will show’ (4:1, 17:1, 21:9)

Throne Room: ch. 4-16 all happens in the throne room:

  • Seven seals (God holds back His wrath)
  • Seven trumpets (alarm: warning of the coming of God’s wrath)
  • Seven bowls (God’s full wrath)

4:5 : lightnings, thunderings, voices: See 8:5 (7th seal), 11:19 (7th trumpet); 16:18 (7th bowl (all four times the same words!)

Ch. 15: Back to the throne room in heaven:

  • Sea of glass (4:6 and 15:2)
  • Harps (5:8 and 15:2)
  • Bowls (5:8: prayers of the saints; and 15:7 : God’s wrath)
  • 4:2 : Him seated on the throne; 16:17 : voice from the throne: it is done!

Question:

The Book of Revelation is beautifully built around the symbols. It truly is a work of art, just like the entire Bible. Do we see that enough? How much do we focus on enjoying the beauty of God’s Word? Or are we too much focused on ‘what is the application’?

The Throne Room in Heaven:

4:1 : open door: see 3:8

4:1 : Voice like a trumpet, “Come up here”: Exodus 19 and 20

4:1 : the first voice: ESV: the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, see 1:10

4:2 : In the Spirit: See Ezekiel

4:2 : throne in heaven: see 1:4, 3:21 çè throne of Satan (2:13)

Structure vs. 3-10:

                Vs. 3: He Who sat ON the throne

                                Vs. 4: AROUND the throne

                                                Vs. 5: FROM the throne                 => Centre

                                Vs. 6: BEFORE the throne

                Vs 9-10: Him Who sits ON the throne

4:3 : He Who sat there : Psalm 11, 47, 93, 103, 1 Kings 22, Isaiah 6, Daniel 7: God

Jasper and Sardius

Exodus 24:9-10: like sapphire stone, like the very heavens in its clarity.

Jasper: clear as crystal

Sardius (from Sardis): deep red colour: sign of God’s fiery holiness.

Rainbow: not correct. IRIS: coloured circle. Here: like emerald: soft green

Stone colours describe God’s majesty.

4:4 : Twenty Four thrones, with twenty four elders:

Around the throne: as in a semi-circle, see 4:10

Who are the 24 elders?

  • Elders: those who know the past, Deut. 32:7, eye witnesses.
  • 12 Apostles as elders? eyewitnesses of His suffering (1 Peter 5:1) and majesty (2 Peter 1:16)

24 elders from OT and NT

OR:

1 Chronicles 24 (the priest divisions) or 1 Chronicles 25 (24 musicians with harps)

4:5 : lightnings, thunderings, voices: God descending on Mt Sinai. Ex. 19:16.

4:5 : seven lamps of fire: the seven Spirits of God: lampstand in the temple: omni-presence of God’s Spirit: He does not sleep.

4:6 : before the throne a sea of glass, like crystal:God’s holiness: Ezekiel 1:22, 26.

Sea as crystal: serenity, tranquil: Peace: Be still and know that I am God : Psalm 46!

Contrary to the wicked world: Isaiah 57:20-21 : But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

Question:

The sea of glass: reflecting the holiness of God, the distance: What does this teach us about our worship of God? (See also the praise of the four creatures: their words in vs. 8, and also Hebrews 12:18-24).

4:6 : in the midst and around the throne: four living creatures

Inner circle, within the circle of 24 elders.

See Ezekiel 1: God’s creation:

  • Lion : the wild animals
  • Ox (calf): the livestock: tamed animals
  • Eagle: the birds
  • Man: ruler over the creatures

six wings: see Isaiah 6.

Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1, Ezekiel 10 combined in these four creatures.

They do not rest, day or night

Contrast with 13:8, 12

See 13:15 in contrast with 4:8-11

Question:

We see how Satan uses science to make an image of his beast (Revelation 13) and gives is breath. However, it is only an image, and a false image. The real Creation praises God! How does this encourage us to again use science to praise and glorify God and take it away from this world, which uses it to glorify itself? How can we do this practically?

4:9-10: the twenty four elders fall down before Him

4:10 : Cast their crowns before the throne: Gen. 1:28

See Romans 1:22-23 :     Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

12 thoughts on “Bible Study Revelation 4

  1. Question via text message:
    You said that the 4 creatures represent creation, and their purpose is to praise God. Is that their sole purpose? What have they got all those wings and eyes for?

    1. The Bible says about them that they do not rest day or night, so they are always busy. We do not know with what exactly, but they do constantly praise God. Based on verse 9 I believe that constantly means several times a day, and not without end. Because otherwise it wouldn’t make sense in verse 9 ‘whenever’. But still, we don’t know what exactly they do all the time. We read about the seraphs in Isaiah 6 as well, and about the four creatures in Ezekiel 1, having wings and going in every direction. Praising God can also be done in their works, whatever they do. Their task is to praise God, but we don’t know exactly how they do it.

  2. What is the role of the 24 elders in 4:4? It doesn’t mention in chapter 4 that the elders are judging, but you mentioned that they take part in the deliberations of the judgement as part of the council. Does this mean they help God with His judgement? Do they help to make the judgement? Or to deliver the judgement? And, what are they judging, people or something else?

    1. The 24 elders are ruling with God. Not only judging but ruling in general. Judging is part of it.
      The Bible teaches us that we will reign with Christ. That is also summarised in LD 11 of the Catechism.
      1 Corinthians 6:2 says that the saints will judge the world.
      In the beginning God had already ordained mankind as ruler over this creation. That is symbolised in the 24 elders.

  3. Question via text message:
    You also said that the sea separates the creatures from God, yet vs 6 states they are in the midst of the throne. To me that means they are on God’s side of the sea?

    1. Yes that is correct. I have thought about that but didn’t have time to work it out. They are symbols, no ‘real’ existing creatures. All creatures on this earth are still corrupt and must remain at a distance, but the heavenly creatures not. They are holy. Nevertheless, I do believe that the crystal sea does reflect God’s holiness and makes creatures realise they can’t just come close to God.

      1. Reply via text message:
        Selles reckons the creatures represent courage, strength, Intelligence and farsightedness respectively, and their purpose was also to ‘protect ‘ God’s throne. That’s why they had so many eyes and wings for seeing everything and the ability to respond quickly. Grijdanus seems to support some of that, but agrees they also represent creation. So many different explanations are a bit confusing!🤔

        1. Yes, there are many different explanations. The Bible doesn’t say explicitly what they are, so to a certain extent we have freedom of exegesis here. As long as it does not go against something the Bible is clear about.

  4. Three questions:

    1. You mentioned that the 24 elders and four living creatures may form a semi-circle around the throne. How does one reach this conclusion, when it may be that the elders and creatures form a complete circle instead? Is there something in the original translation that suggests a certain way?

    2. Why does the third living creature only have a “FACE like a man”, when the other creatures seem to have the complete appearance of a lion/ox/eagle?

    3. Could the structure in v. 3-10 be an example of a chiasm/chiastic structure? Are there any literary techniques that would only be found by reading the original text? i.e. Alliteration, Acrostic…
    Are there any specific literary techniques commonly found in Revelation that one should keep an eye out for when studying it? i.e. Symbolism (a common one), Imagery…

    1. 1. If it were a complete circle, half of them would sit behind the One on the throne (God), that is not likely. It gives more the impression here of a round table conference of rulers, with God at the head of the table. There is nothing in the text or in the book of Revelation that makes me think this, but this is the most likely explanation. Also here: if someone has a different explanation, that is possible. We should judge every explanation on its own merits.
      2. I don’t see any specific reason for this difference. In Ezekiel 1 we read that they all had the face of a lion, the face of an ox, the face of a man and the face of an eagle. I think that especially when it comes to being like a man, John still saw that it was only his face that was like a man, and not his wings and the rest of his body, while describing the other creatures he mainly focused on the head.
      3. Yes, this is a chiastic structure. That is more often used in Greek, also in the NT. It is an art form and is part of the beauty of literature. There are several elements that are specific for Greek, and also several elements that are actually foreign to Greek but are coming from Hebrew. The Jews and Christians from the Jews have in fact created a completely new form of Greek which is called New Testament Greek. There is much more also here in Revelation that could be mentioned. However, we have to limit ourselves. I could write a book about each of the chapters, but we are now looking at the larger perspective of the book of Revelation.
      About specific literary techniques commonly found in Revelation: the symbolism is very much in the numbers. In this second vision it is the three sets of seven, in which the seventh seal is the opening of the seven trumpets and the seventh trumpet the beginning of the pouring out of the seven bowls. Revelation has a lot of symbolism which refers back to other parts of the Bible, and we should from REvelation go to those other parts to see what is meant there, and then explain Revelation. We will see that later when we get to the seven seals and seven trumpets. Another element is the number 666 and I will say more about it when we are at chapter 13. The Jews had made an entire art of kabalistics, that is playing with numbers. They would have much better understood the numbers in Revelation than we often do. Some knowledge of that art can be helpful as well.

  5. Is anything imperfect allowed in heaven? Was Satan allowed into heaven when he was corrupt?
    Had the 24 elders been judged and declared righteous before God in this chapter? Or would this happen at Christ’s second coming?
    Will there be a need for the sea after after judgment day?

    1. No, there is nothing imperfect anymore in heaven. Christ came to cleanse the entire creation from sin and corruption and make all things new. Before His ascension Satan could still come in heaven (see Job 1, Revelation 12), but after the ascension of Christ, Satan was thrown out of heaven. With His ascension, the heaven was cleansed from all sin and corruption.
      When Christ returns that will happen to the earth as well. It will be made completely new and nothing unclean will enter the New Jerusalem.
      The 24 elders were righteous, they were clothed in white garments. In chapter 7 we read that those who are righteous had made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. The 24 were also justified by the blood of the Lamb.
      God declares us righteous, now, in Christ, and not just on judgment day. Now already, who is in Christ, by faith, is a new creation. See 2 Corinthians 5:17. For God we are righteous now, if we believe. The 24 elders are symbolic, but if they would have been real beings, they had been righteous already when they lived on earth.
      Will there be a need for the sea after judgment day: Revelation 21:1 says that ‘the sea was no more’, when John saw the new heaven and the new earth.

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