After this is a phrase John the revelator uses to introduce a new unit in the sequence of his vision. It is a textual marker. It is also used in Rev.7:9; 15:5 and 18:1. It does not indicate a temporal shift. It does not mean a significant amount of time has transpired between the units of material. It rather indicates that the revelator had received the vision in units of materials. Rev.1:1-3:22 is the first unit. Rev.4:1-7:8 is the second unit. Rev.6:8-15:4 is the third unit. Rev.15:5-17:8 is the fourth unit. And Rev.18:1-22 is the last unit.
I looked and behold. This is a phrase John also uses frequently in Revelation. It is not indicative of physical sight but a spiritual sight. He saw into the realm of the spirit. Although John’s physical body was still on the island of Patmos, he saw a door opened in Heaven. This was beyond physical sight. He not only saw, but also he heard a voice like a trumpet, saying come up hither. This is the operation of the gift of the Spirit called discerning of spirits(1 Cor.12:10). It runs parallel to the physical senses. The one in whom this gift operates can see, hear, smell, taste and perceive in the spirit just as we do in the natural.
Man is a tripartite being: he is spirit, he has a soul and lives in body. There is a physical body in which we live here on Earth, which acts as a transducer enabling us to relate with the external physical environment. But there is a spirit body which houses our souls. Even in the realm of the spirit, the soul is invisible. The soul is fluid. It is the constellation of the will, intellect and emotion. It is internal to the spirit. But it is possible for one to know what the other person is thinking through perception not by sight. The spirit body is invisible to the physical senses though it looks more or less like the physical body. But there is a third body, the eternal immortal resurrection body that enable one to relate to both the two realms of the spirit and the material worlds at the same time. The spirit body or simply the spirit man to which the soul is internal, shall be clothed with the eternal immortal resurrection body at the resurrection. Jesus and the OT saints already possess this kind of body(Matt.27:52,53).
Here John saw and heard. To hear and see into the ream of the spirit, one has to be in the spirit. So John was in the spirit as he was on the Lord’s day in Rev.1:10. He heard a voice like a trumpet. The voice is no other than that of our Lord Jesus the Christ. In Rev.1, He has revealed Himself as judge of the Church, but here He reveals Himself as judge of the World. The voice invited him into Heaven, into the throne room of the temple in Heaven: come up hither, and I will show you things which shall be hereafter. The Scroll of Revelation is divided into three parts. The things which thou hast seen(Rev.1), the things that are(Rev.2,3), and the things which shall be hereafter( Rev.4-22). If anyone was in the same physical location that John was, the one could not have heard or seen what John saw and heard unless the one were in the spirit as John was.
On three separate occasions, John is invited to see a revelatory vision(Rev.4:1; 17:1;21:9). There are some who urge us to believe that the Rapture took place at this point, but there is no textual or exegetical basis for this claim. Robert L. Thomas claims the prophesies of Rev.4-19 will describe what will happen after the period of the church age has run its course. To attempt a divorcement between the church age and the events of Rev.4-19, as the pretribulationists do is biblically unjustified. This claim is clearly based on bias. There is no textual basis to claim that the church age ended at Rev.3:22. There is no explicit passage of Scripture that makes such claim. The argument that Rev.4-19 does not involve the church is based on silence. This is called argument from silence. The reference to wife in Rev.19:7 designates the church. The Church was designated in other ways in Rev.4-19. These are every tribe and tongue and people and nation(5:8); a kingdom of priests(5:10); fifth seal martyrs( 6:9); a multitude(7:9;19:5,6); bond servants(11:18;19:2,5); our brethren(12:10); the remnant of her children(12:17); saints(13:7,10;14:12;-8:20,24), and wife(19:7).
Verse 2 says, immediately I was in the spirit. As I pointed out, John was in the spirit and he saw and heard. There are two ways in which believers can see into the realm of the spirit. They are through dreams and visions. There are three types of visions: trance, in which one temporarily loses consciousness and sees into the realm of the spirit, inward or spiritual vision in which one retains some level of consciousness and at the same time sees into the realm of the spirit, and open vision in which one possesses full consciousness, totally aware of one’s environment and sees into the realm of the spirit. In an inward or spiritual vision, one is unaware of one’s environment and sees into the realm of the spirit. The difference between dream and vision is in the level of consciousness. In dream, one is in stage 4 and 5 of sleep, called rapid eye movement sleep(REM). If one is standing and falls into a trance, depending on how long the trance lasts, one can fall down. There is some muscular atony associated with it. On the other hand if one is standing and sees an inward vision, one keeps standing, but is not aware of ones physical environment, but sees into the realm of the spirit. There is no loss of muscular tone. If one were walking and had an inward or spiritual vision, one could stand still or still be walking while one sees into the realm of the spirit; but one is not aware of ones physical environment. In open vision, one retains full consciousness and yet sees into the realm of the spirit. In open vision, one is fully aware of one’s environment.
The Throne Of God(v.2b).
Verse 2b says, behold a throne was set in Heaven. John’s physical body was on Earth, but his spirit saw a throne set in Heaven. And one sat on the throne. What John saw here is the throne room in Heaven. The one who sat on the throne is no doubt God the Father. Throughout the whole scroll of Revelation, He was sitting. He never sat up. He was sitting because He had committed all judgement to His Son. Because Jesus is the judge of the Earth, He sat up. He that sat on the throne was like jasper and sardine stone. Jasper is a compact, opaque, cryptocrystalline variety of quartz, usually coloured red: often used in decorative carvings. Sardine stone or carnelian, is a brownish red mineral which is often used as semi-precious gemstone. These precious stones or gems are various shades of brown and reddish hue. These are symbols of royalty and wealth. God the Father is the sovereign Lord of the Universe. He is the king upon the throne of His universal kingdom, the possessor of the heavens and the Earth.
Verse 3b says, and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. There was a rainbow Round the throne, greenish in colour. Green signifies life and fruitfulness. It is from this throne that life emanates to the whole Universe. No wonder the throne is enveloped in emerald. As the Father has life in Himself, even so has He given to the Son that He may have life in Himself; and hath given Him authority to execute judgement also, because He is the Son of Man(John 5:26,27). “I and the Father are one”(John 10:30). “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father also”(John 14:9b). There is no contradiction here at all. As the Father is Life, so also the Son is life.
Worshippers About The Throne(v.4-11).
Verse 4 says there are twenty and four seats round about the throne: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they have on their heads crowns of gold. The thrones of these elders form a circle around the throne of God the Father. They are clothed in white garments symbolic of righteousness. But who are these twenty and four elders? Are they human or angelic? Biblical scholars are not agreed on this, it is possible to come to a conclusion of their identity through proper reading of the text in the original Greek. There are 12 patriarchs of Israel, and there are 12 Apostles of the Lamb. John the revelator is one of the 12. But he is not one of the twenty four, neither did he recognize any of them as one of his colleagues. The patriarchs would also be known to his audience, but they too did not recognize any of them either. There would be no confusion about the identity of these elders were it not for the poor translation in the KJV. This problem has been solved by the harmonization of the subjective and objective pronouns which must agree in number, singular with singular and plural with plural in Rev.5:9,10 in the New American Standard Version. They shall reign in verse 10 is third person plural which is contradictory to we shall reign in verse 9 which is first person plural. One of the cardinal rules of biblical interpretation is that there must be no antinomies or contradictions. Since we believe that John did not make a mistake in recording this prophecy, and that the Scriptures do not contain antinomies, we support a harmony of the text. Therefore they are angelic beings.
Verse 5: Out of the throne proceeded lightings and thunderings and voices. Thunderings and lightings and voices emanate from the throne of the invisible God, frightening onlookers. These signal the glory and the power of Almighty God. And there are seven lamps of fire burning which are the seven Spirits of God. Fire is symbolic of the spirit. On the day of Pentecost, when the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit, there appeared unto them cloven tongues as of fire(Acts 2:3). Baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs in tandem with baptism with fire in the Holy Scriptures(Matt.3:11;Luke 3:16). Seven is the number of perfection. There is no doubt this is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. We can see that the three persons are there present in the throne room. The Father seated on the throne, the Son standing as a slain Lamb in the midst of the throne( Rev.5:6), and the seven lamps of fire burning which is indicative of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 6, And before the throne was a sea of glass like unto crystal. The crystal sea is another display of the splendor of the throne of the sovereign Lord of the Universe. And in the midst and round about the throne were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. In the midst and round about were four beasts is difficult to visualize. But we must remember that this description is in the realm of the spirit where there is a fourth dimension and no distance. These angelic beings are full eyes before and behind. They see in all directions at once. They have isotropic vision, that is, equal in all directions. They are cherubim. They guard the glory of God. They also reveal something of the omnipresence of God. God sees everything at once, the past, the present and the future. There is no succession of events in His omniscient consciousness. Verse 7 tells us about the look of these marvelous beings. The first is like a lion, the second like a calf, the third has the face of man and the fourth like flying eagle. The lion is the king and representative of the wild beasts, the calf is representative of the domestic beasts. The third represents humanity, and the fourth, the eagle is king and representative of the fowls of the heavens. All living creatures are represented in the throne room and presence of God. The creatures on Earth are also represented in Heaven, but there is no schism amongst them. There is peace and harmony in the heavenly environment. All creation must worship Him who is the creator and the Possessor of the heavens and the Earth.
Verse 8 continues the description of the four beasts. They all have six wings apiece. Seven is the divine number but six is the number of created beings. The four living creature represent all living creatures. They are full of eyes. They see everything, they take note of everything, and they recorded everything. And more importantly, they rest not day and nightly, saying , holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is, and is to come. The phrase who was and is and is to come referent Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. Does that surprise anyone that in the midst of the throne of the Father, the four living creatures worship the Son. Jesus is God: there no doubt about that. Verses 9 & 10. When these beasts give glory, honour and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, verse 11, “thou art worthy , O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” As we have pointed out earlier, the four living creatures are representative of all living creatures which God in His manifold wisdom hath created for His own pleasure. Man was made glory to God. “It is He that made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture”(Ps 100:3). So also the fowls of the heavens, the beast of the field and all creeping, and whatever moveth upon the face of the Earth.