3A.   “AND THE THINGS WHICH SHALL BE HEREAFTER”

The Scene In Heaven, (4-22)

 

1B.   The Church In Heaven With Christ (4 & 5)

 

“Chapters 4 and 5 are the introduction and background of the tremendous sweep of prophetic events predicted in the rest of the book. If chapter 4 and succeeding chapters relate to the future, they provide an important clue concerning the interpretation of the vision and the prophetic events that unfold in those chapters. One of the principle reasons for confusion in the study of the book of the Revelation has been the failure to grasp this point. If Revelation has no chronological structure and is merely a symbolic presentation of moral truth, its prophetic significance is reduced to a minimum. . . The events anticipated in the angel’s promise to ‘shew thee things which must be hereafter’ (4:1), should be regarded as a prediction of events which shall occur at the end of the age.”[1]

 

(4.1)    After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

 

1.   Turn in your Bible back to Revelation 1.19 and read with me:

 

Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter

 

a.   I want to lay a good foundation at this point, since it is at this juncture most Bible students make mistakes interpreting prophetical portions of John’s Revelation and deviate from Scriptural truth.

 

b.   Revelation 1.19 is John’s outline of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. In addition, if you remember what we have covered thus far, chapter 1 deals with “the things thou hast seen,” and chapters 2 and 3 deal with the “things which are.”

 

c.   Therefore, by the process of elimination, chapters 4 and following have to do with “the things which shall be hereafter.”

 

d.   If I were you, I would circle the word “hereafter” in verse 19, and write “see 4.1” next to it.

 

2.   Now turn to Revelation 4.1 and let us read that verse again:

 

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

 

a.   In this verse, circle the phrase “After this” and the word “hereafter.” The word “hereafter” in Revelation 1.19 and the phrase “after this” and the word “hereafter” in Revelation 4.1, each translates the Greek phrase “meta tauta.”

 

b.   It is important to note that the construction of the statements into which this phrase is nestled is such that we are forced to understand that what is referred to in these instances is not a logical sequence of concepts but a chronological sequence of events.

 

c.   What is taking place from this point onward occurs, chronologically, after the events of chapters 1-3 have passed into history. There is no overlapping of the events in these chapters with anything that is mentioned in the first three chapters of this revelation. From this point forward there will be no further mention of churches on earth.

 

3.   “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven

 

a.   Let me mention to you, once more, what “After this” means.

 

“The expression “after this” (Gr., meta tauta), with which verse one begins, identifies the revelation as subsequent to that of chapters 2 and 3.”[2]

b.   “I looked, and, behold

eidon kai idou” is the Greek phrase translated “I looked, and, behold.” It literally means, “I saw and beheld,” and serves “to introduce a new vision of special importance.”[3]

c.   “a door was opened in heaven

i.    “John, having been the channel of revelation to the seven churches existing in the first century, now is being introduced to a new field of prophecy. As he beheld, he saw a door opened into the very presence of God in heaven. The reference to heaven is not to the atmospheric heavens nor to the starry heavens but to that which is beyond the natural eye which the best of telescopes cannot reveal. This is the third heaven, the immediate presence of God.”[4]

ii.    Notice something about John observing the opening of a door in heaven. This is the fourth mention of a door in this book of Revelation. The first door was the door of opportunity presented to the angel of the church of Philadelphia in 3.8. The next time doors are mentioned is the door mentioned twice in Revelation 3.20.

iii.   The first door is a door of opportunity, much like the door of opportunity that God has given to this church. The second door would apply to our Lord’s invitation to unsaved church members to respond to Christ’s invitation, which would result in them getting saved from their sins.

5.   “and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

 

a.   Though John does not identify whose voice he hears first, we have a good idea from its description, “as it were of a trumpet,” and the content of what was said, “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” I am persuaded that this is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Who is speaking. Amen? I believe this because the voice we know to be the Savior’s voice is described in similar terms in Revelation 1.10:

 

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet

 

b.   When John comes up hither he is transported, in the Spirit, to heaven. “This is not a veiled reference to the rapture of the church, but a command for John to be temporarily transported to heaven ‘in the Spirit’ to receive revelation about future events.”[5]

 

c.   Nevertheless, there are similarities between what happened to John and what Christians will experience when the Lord comes to meet us in the air at the time of the actual Rapture. Listen to First Thessalonians 4.15-18:

 

15   For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

16   For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

17   Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

18   Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

 

d.   Does this passage sound strikingly similar to John’s experience? It is, except that John is not physically transported as believers will be in the Rapture. John’s seems to have been a purely out of body experience. More on this in a moment.

 

e.   And the reason behind all of this? John is to be shown the things “which must be hereafter.”

 

i.    Notice that word “must.” The Greek word dei. It is a powerful little word that very forcefully conveys the idea of necessity or compulsion. Fritz Rienecker writes that the word in this context means, “it is binding” or “it is necessary.”[6]

 

ii.    My friends, the things that are recorded in Revelation chapters 4-22 have to happen! They have to happen because God has determined them to happen. So, no matter how badly things get in the middle chapters of the Revelation, remember that there is a great ending that will come about because God has written it into the script.

 

f.    The verse closes as it began, with the Greek phrase meta tauta, translated here by the word “hereafter.”

 

(4.2)    And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

 

1.   “And immediately I was in the Spirit

 

a.   This phrase lets us know that John’s experience was not identical to the experience Christians will have at the time of the Rapture. The Rapture, for every living church age saint, is the resurrection. You see, the actual resurrection, different than John’s experience in Revelation 4, will also include our mortal bodies being changed into immortality and being transported to heaven.

 

b.   Notice the speed at which John’s transportation took place. It will actually be faster than the transporter abroad the star ship Enterprise. Boy, would Scottie be envious.

 

c.   Paul says that the time required for us to be transported from this planet to a location in the third heaven, which is in God’s presence outside this material universe, will be “the twinkling of an eye.” This means that we will travel at a velocity far in excess of the speed of light to traverse such distances in the twinkling of an eye.

 

d.   You want to know the greatest detail about all of this? No effort is required on our part. But notice again that John’s experience, somewhat unlike ours will be, was “in the Spirit.” That is to say, his physical body probably never left the isle of Patmos.

 

5.   “and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne

 

a.   What first caught John’s eye when he was transported out of body in the Spirit to heaven was a throne. The tense of the verb tells us that the throne was already sitting in place when he arrived on the scene. A T. Robertson writes, “As the vision opens John sees the throne already in place as the first thing in heaven. This bold imagery comes chiefly from 1Ki 22:19; Isa 6:1; Eze 1:26-28; Da 7:9. One should not forget that this language is glorious imagery, not actual objects in heaven. God is spirit.”[7]

 

b.   “And one sat upon the throne.”

 

i.    Who is the Person sitting upon the throne? We cannot be sure, at this time. And what about the throne? What can we say about the throne? “Not so much a piece of furniture, but a symbol of sovereign rule and authority (7:15; 11:19; 16:17, 18; cf. Is 6:1). It is the focus of chap. 4, occurring 13 times, 11 times referring to God’s throne.”[8]

 

ii.    “It is remarkable that John gives no description of him who sat on the throne, nor does he indicate who he was by name. Neither does Isaiah or Ezekiel attempt to describe the appearance of the Deity, nor are there any intimations of that appearance given from which a picture or an image could be formed. So much do their representations accord with what is demanded by correct taste; and so sedulously have they guarded against any encouragement of idolatry.”[9]

 

c.   Could this throne be the throne grace? Could it be that throne that Christ sits on? Could it be that throne that we approach in prayer when we pray to God through the mediation of His Son Jesus Christ, Who sits at His Father’s right hand? Could it be the throne mentioned in Hebrews 4.16? Let us read that verse:

 

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

 

d.   Though we cannot be dogmatic, I am of the opinion that this throne is not the throne of grace that Christ now sits on in this present age of grace. I believe that this throne that caught John’s attention when he arrived “in the Spirit” in heaven is a different throne. If it is the same throne then I think it is that this time for a different use, for I believe that it is a throne of judgment, because the book of Revelation is a book of judgment, as you shall see.

 

(4.3)    And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

 

1.   There is no indication, here, that the One sitting upon the throne looks anything like a man. This may mean that John was looking upon some representation of the essence and glory of Almighty God Who, being a spirit, has no human form. The descriptions John gives us are extremely informative, however, for the impressions he gets observing Him Who sits on the throne are impressions of color.

 

2.   The two stones are quite interesting. Jasper is thought by a number of scholars to be the present day diamond. If that is so, the jasper might be a symbol of the transparent holiness and crystalline purity of the Lord God.[10],[11]

 

3.   The sardine stone, being red, possibly a ruby color, could be symbolic of the saving work of the Lord Jesus, which was accomplished by the shedding of blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.

 

4.   The stones could also represent other things. You might remember the garments worn by the high priest of Israel during the age of the Mosaic Law. The high priest wore a breast pouch, which had twelve stones on it, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.

 

5.   The sardine stone was the first stone, representing the first son of Jacob whose name was Reuben.[12] The jasper stone represented the last son of Jacob whose name was Benjamin. Reuben means, “behold a son” and Benjamin means “son of my right hand.” Maybe this means that although Christ represents Israel, as indicated by Reuben and the meaning “behold a son,” He also is the Son of God, symbolized by Benjamin meaning “son of my right hand.” Nothing definitive, but something to ponder.

 

6.   “Rainbow is the Greek word iris. It can mean halo. While the rainbow polychrome, here it is emerald which is green (Ezekiel 1:28). After the judgment of the flood the rainbow appeared as a reminder of God’s covenant not destroy the earth again with a flood (Genesis 9:13-15). It appears here before the judgment of the Great Tribulation as a reminder that a flood will not be used in judgment. Green is the color of earth. The suggestion is that of Habakkuk: ‘In wrath remember mercy.’”[13]

 

7.   “The difficult problem of identification has been solved in various ways. Actually both the Father and the Son are properly on the throne as Christ Himself mentioned in Revelation 3:21. One explanation would have Christ on the throne in chapter 4 and the Father on the throne in chapter 5. Another point of view is that both chapters picture God the Father on the throne in the special character of the God of Israel. The seeming contradiction may also be resolved in the doctrine of the Trinity as Christ expressed it in John 14:9: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” It is significant that God is not given an anthropomorphic figure in this revelation and does not appear as a man. Apart from the fact that He is said to sit on the throne, no description is given except the colors which impressed John. It is evident that the glory of God was the intent of the vision rather than an anthropomorphic representation.”[14] 

 

(4.4)    And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

 

1.   Who are these elders mentioned in verse 4? Could they be angels? Could they be Old Testament believers gone to heaven? Could they be New Testament believers gone to heaven? Could they be both Old Testament and New Testament believers gone to heaven? Well, the way to discover who they are is to eliminate who they cannot be, leaving who they really are left over. Amen? That is the Sherlock Holmes method of Bible study.

 

2.   We know that these twenty-four elders cannot be angels or any other heavenly being. There are a number of good reasons for this. Let me give them to you:

 

#1  These elders are clothed in white raiment, which commonly speaks of redemption. Angels are not saved creatures, according to any indication given in God’s Word. Holy angels, having never sinned, do not need to be saved. Fallen angels are not given God’s hand of saving grace by any indication in God’s Word. Their fate is sealed.

 

#2  The elders are wearing crowns. Nowhere in Scripture is there any mention of angels wearing crowns. But there are several places in the New Testament in which believers are promised crowns of the sort mentioned here.

 

#3  The elders are seated in seats. The Greek word for those seats is the word “qronoi,” which is the same word for thrones. These are royal seats the elders are sitting on. Angels do not sit on these kinds of stools. As a matter of fact, angels are never pictured as sitting in God’s Word.

 

3.   Since the elders mentioned in verse 4 are sitting, they must be believers, from either the Old or New Testament era. However, there are reasons for believing that Old Testament believers are not a part of this particular group.

 

#1  Old Testament believers are never mentioned as wearing crowns or earning crowns of this type.

 

#2  Old Testament believers do not experience their resurrection until after the Tribulation period. Therefore, they could not, at this time, be in heaven with their glorified bodies. Note the sketch below and examine Revelation 20.4-6:

 

4     And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

5     But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

6     Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

 

The first resurrection, which we will deal with at greater length later on, will take place in three distinct parts. First, there was the resurrection of Christ. Next, the church age believers are resurrected at the time of the Rapture. Finally, the Old Testament saints and the Tribulation period martyrs will be resurrected at the time of Christ’s second coming. All three of these events comprise the first resurrection. (See figure #6)

 

Figure 6: Future Events

 

4.   So, what are the reasons for believing that these twenty-four elders represent church age believers only? There are several reasons:

 

#1  They wear crowns. These crowns are not diadems, which are the kinds of crowns worn by kings. Rather, these crowns are “stefanoi,” which refers to a victor’s crown. These are the kinds of crowns which are placed on one’s head as a reward for winning a battle or winning a race. These elders represent overcomers who are wearing the symbols of the rewards given to them by Jesus Christ for their faithful service down here on earth.

 

#2  The elders are sitting on thrones. Christians have been promised that we will reign with the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen? John shows these twenty-four elders occupying royal thrones. Our reign with Christ will take effect immediately after the judgment and rewards to the believer take place at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which John passes over without comment in his revelation, but which Paul deals with quite extensively in his writings.

 

These two reasons are sufficient in themselves to establish that the twenty four elders represent the Christians of our present era.

 

5.   Why, then, are twenty-four elders mentioned? Twenty-four refers to the number of courses of priests that Israel had to minister in the temple. You see, by the time David was king of Israel there were simply too many priests for them to all minister in the Tabernacle, and later on in the Temple, at one time.[15] Therefore, to keep them from falling all over each other, David devised a rotating schedule whereby each course, made up of certain families whose descendants would always serve in a particular course, would serve for one month every two years. It was one of these twenty-four courses that John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias, was serving in when Gabriel informed him that he would have a son, Luke 1.5-20.

 

6.   These elders are not priests of Israel. However, this number of elders might signify the priestly office that New Testament believers occupy. Remember, Revelation 1.6 reads, “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

 

7.   How remarkable it is that God’s Word paints a genuine picture of what John saw . . . and what he saw was evidence of our being what Revelation 1.6 said we were . . . kings and priests.

 

8.   I am confident that the white raiment and gold crowns substantially prove these men to be New Testament era Christians. The seats they are on show them to be ruling. The number of elders, twenty-four, suggests priestly courses.

 

(4.5)    And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

 

1.   Imagine yourself a Jewish Christian, which many believers were during the first century. Even the Gentile churches had a much stronger Jewish flavor than most congregations do today. But imagine reading this verse from the viewpoint of someone with a strong Jewish perspective.

 

2.   What would lightnings and thunderings and voices remind the Jewish person of? Would that not cause him to hearken back to Mount Sinai and the very presence of Almighty God? That would indicate, to me, that it was the Almighty Who was sitting on this throne John saw set before him in heaven, in the midst of the twenty-four elders.

 

3.   We are told that the seven lamps of fire in the vicinity of the throne are the seven Spirits of God. But what is referred to by the phrase “seven Spirits of God”? Do you remember from Revelation 1.4 and Isaiah 11.2? Let us read those two verses again:

 

Revelation 1.4:     “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne.”

 

Isaiah 11.2:  “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD

 

John’s symbology refers to the Holy Spirit of God and the sevenfold aspects of the Spirit’s glorious ministry.

 

4.   Allow me to summarize at this point: “John’s attention is also directed to seven lamps of fire which are seen burning before the throne. These are identified as “the seven Spirits of God” mentioned earlier in 1:4 and 3:1. These are best understood as a representation of the Holy Spirit in a sevenfold way rather than seven individual spirits which would require that they be understood as seven angels. Ordinarily the Holy Spirit is not humanly visible unless embodied in some way. When the Holy Spirit descended on Christ on the occasion of His baptism, only John the Baptist saw Him descending in the form of a dove. If it had not been for that representation, John could not have seen the Holy Spirit. In a similar way on the day of Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit would not have been visible if it had not been for the “cloven tongues like as of fire” (Acts 2:3). The seven lamps of fire therefore are the means by which John is informed of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The number seven is characteristic of the perfection of the Spirit and is in keeping with the revelation of Isaiah 11:2-3. In the heavenly scene it may be concluded on the basis of both chapters 4 and 5 that all three Persons of the Trinity are in evidence, each in His particular form of revelation.”[16]

 

(4.6)    And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

 

1.   What is the sea of glass? Or, what does the sea of glass represent? Let me read from John Walvoord:

 

Occupying an important part of the scene before John is a sea of glass described as “like unto crystal,” and in the background are four living creatures. Apart from indicating that the sea of glass is like crystal, John gives us no explanation of the meaning of this sea. As in other portions of the book of Revelation, however, John expects the reader to draw conclusions from similar scenes elsewhere in the Bible. There seems here to be an analogy or comparison to the sea of brass in the Tabernacle in Old Testament or the molten sea in the Temple. Both were lavers, or washstands, designed for the cleansing of the priests, and contained water used for various ceremonial rites. This may represent typically the sanctifying power of the Word of God.

No sure interpretation of the sea of glass may be advanced. As Alford states, ‘All kinds of symbolic interpretations, more or less fanciful, have been given.’ Alford supports this by citing a long number of complicated and conflicting interpretations. He prefers the following view:

The primary reference will be to the clear ether in which the throne of God is upborne and the intent of setting this space in front of the throne will be, to betoken its separation and insulation from the place where the Seer stood, and indeed from all else about it.

The fact is that no explanation is given in the text.

John, however, is not occupied at this point with the sea of glass, but rather with the four living creatures described as in the midst of the throne and round about the throne. He records that they are full of eyes, before and behind, and each of them has six wings. Further, each of the four beasts is to be distinguished according to verse 7. They are described respectively as like a lion, a calf, a man, and a flying eagle. Their ministry before the throne of God is that of ceaselessly ascribing holiness to the Lord.[17]

 

2.   John Walvoord gives us the opinion of a Gentile Christian scholar.  And I would not disagree with him at all. But listen to what two Jewish Christian commentators have to say about this sea of glass that is before the throne.  I think you will find them quite interesting, hearkening as they do back to the Old Testament:

 

a.   First, there is Sale-Harrison: “A sea of glass like unto crystal” (v. 6). It will be remembered that both the Laver in the Tabernacle (Exod. 30.18-21) and the Molten Sea in Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 7.23-37) were for the purification of the priests, and were symbolic of the Word of God which is the Holy Spirit’s instrument to keep the life, and walk clean. Here the sea is of glass, not of water, for the cleansing of the saint is not needed after the church is home with the Lord (see Eph. 5.26, 27). This sea being of glass symbolizes the fixed state of holiness and purity, while crystal (which is a natural product), symbolizes that this fixed state is in perfect harmony with the holy nature of God.”[18]

 

b.   Next, there is Lehman Strauss: “The laver in the tabernacle (Exodus 30:18-21), and the sea in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 7:23-27) were for priestly purification. But in Heaven the sea is solidified. In Heaven, where there is a fixed state of holiness and purity, there is no need for cleansing. Heaven is the place of perfection. There saints will have entered into perfect sanctification. The backslidings of the heart and the failures of the flesh are forever past.”[19]

 

2.   As for the beasts that surround the throne, some things need to be cleared up. Adam Clarke tells us that it was “Wiclif” who first translated this word using the English word “beasts,” and every English translation since then has followed his lead.[20] The word “beasts” does not refer to some ugly or hideous creature. It translates the Greek word “zwa,” and refers to something that is full of life. These are beings, living things, created by God, which have many eyes.

 

(4.7)    And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.

 

1.   There are several interpretations put forth about these beasts that surround the throne. Actually, they are guesses, since no one has ever provided substantial proof that their guess is any better than anyone else’s, allow me to share this particular version with you.

 

2.   One fellow believes that the beasts are real beings who represent the divine attributes of God. From verse six, the eyes before and behind would represent omniscience.

 

3.   The lion would represent the king of beasts and stands for the sovereignty of God and omnipotence, or His total power.

 

4.   The calf, or young ox, represents patience and continuous labor. This would mean that God is both long-suffering and continuously working in His universe.

 

5.   Man being the greatest of all created beings, stands for intelligence and rational power.

 

6.   Then the eagle, one of the greatest of birds, symbolizes sovereignty and supremacy.

 

7.   Obviously, there are a few holes in this view of verse 7, but it is a starting point toward developing what you think the proper interpretation might be.

 

(4. 8)   And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

 

1.   Notice that these beings do continually worship the Almighty. They say, “Holy, holy, holy” continuously. They also have six wings. Turn to Isaiah 6.2-3 and read with me if you will. These beasts John mentions might be angels known as seraphim:

 

2     Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

3     And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

 

2.   Think of the total scene that John saw. He is taken up in the Spirit into heaven, where he sees a throne set down before him. In that throne sat Almighty God, Whom John could not describe except by colors and sensations. Around this throne sat 24 elders decked out in royal garb, with golden crowns on their heads that they were awarded. Probably near these 24 elders were four beings that were apparently created for no other purpose than to sing praises unto the holy God. What a scene!

 

3.   And what do we learn of God from these praising creatures? We learn two things: First, we learn that God is thrice holy. That suggests a triune God of holiness. Second, we learn that God was, and is, and is to come. That is, God is eternal.

 

(4.9-11)     9     And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

10    The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

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.

 

1.   When these four creatures began to praise God in a special way, the 24 elders could not contain themselves. They cast themselves before the throne of God and joined in the praise saying, “Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

 

2.   As they did this, they cast their crowns at His feet. Does anyone know why the 24 elders might have been moved to do that? Why did they take the crowns, which were symbols of the rewards they had earned, and cast the crowns before the throne?

 

3.   Remember that these crowns are almost certainly representative of rewards for earthly service rendered to Christ during their Christian lives and ministries. By throwing these crowns before the throne these elders acknowledged that all praise and glory belong to God. Those men would not be saved and in heaven, escaping the wrath of the Tribulation, were it not for the grace of God. Neither would they have any crowns for service, unless God’s grace had continued in abundant supply to work in their lives after they were saved. How we should constantly sing praises unto God.

 

4.   Now, for a personal observation related to Revelation 4.11, which is my personal life verse. Take note of that word “receive.” It translates the aorist tense of the Greek word “lambanw,” which is a commonly used word that refers to the reception of something, either passively, receiving something, or actively, taking something. Consider what the elders are saying in this verse. They are saying that God is worthy to “lambanw,” glory, and honor, and power. We can imagine someone giving glory to God, and even giving to God honor. But can you imagine anyone giving power to God? I cannot. I can imagine, however, God being so worthy as to take glory and to take honor and to take power, which is what I think is meant here.

 

5.   Let us review, very briefly, some facts about the rewards that I am confident these golden crowns represent.

 

a.   As to the earning of the rewards these crowns represent. Does it need to be established that only Christians can earn rewards from the Savior? No. This is well understood already. However, to keep matters clear, remember these two points: First, while salvation is always shown in Scripture to be a gift, rewards are always earned by those who have trusted Jesus and have already received the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Second, salvation is always shown to be a present possession of the Christian, while rewards are shown to be the anticipated prize of the believer at the judgment seat of Christ immediately following the Rapture.

 

b.   But in what context is the Christian to earn rewards for service to Christ? Read First Corinthians 3.9-4.5:

 

9     For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.

10   According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11   For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12   Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13   Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

14   If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15   If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

16   Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

17   If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

18   Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

19   For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

20   And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

21   Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;

22   Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;

23   And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.

1     Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

2     Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

3     But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.

4     For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

5     Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

 

This passage quite obviously addresses Christian service that will be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ. Close attention to First Corinthians 3.12-17 clearly reveals that Christian service that leads to rewards is understood by Paul to take place within the context and setting of the local Church congregation.

 

c.   Now, let us look at several of the crowns that will be given by the Savior in the future. Paul refers to his crown of rejoicing in First Thessalonians 2.19, when referring to his Thessalonian converts: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” So, it appears the Savior gives special rewards for evangelism.

 

d.   Second Timothy 4.8 names a crown of righteousness, given to those who love His appearing: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” This would seem to be a reward for those who are particularly conscious of and looking forward to the return of the Savior.

 

e.   James 1.12: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” The crown of life, given to those that love Him, is probably given to those who have demonstrated exceptional obedience to Christ, since love equals obedience.

 

f.    First Peter 5.1-4 speaks of the faithful pastor’s crown:

 

1      The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

2     Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

3     Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

4     And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

 

g.   Revelation 2.10 speaks of a crown of life, which is given to those faithful unto death, the martyr’s crown: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” This might be a specific example of the generality seen in James 1.12.

 

h.   Each crown, given for service and ministry, is earned by the believer by means of the grace that God gives to His Own children to serve Him.

 

6.   We conclude Revelation chapter 4, by revisiting 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.

 

a.   He is worthy.  He is worthy to receive glory.  He is worthy to receive honor.  He is worthy to receive power. In addition, as God is praised by the angels who shout, “Holy, holy, holy,” so the elders respond by singing that He is worthy of glory, and honor, and power.

 

b.   This is the One Who is the Creator of all things.  And why did He create all things? For what purpose and to what end have we, have you, have I, been created? What is the end of our existence, that which makes us happiest, which is most fulfilling? To give Him pleasure.



[1] John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 102.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 822.

[4] Walvoord, page 102.

[5] See footnote for Revelation 4.1 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1998.

[6] Rienecker, page 822.

[7] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol VI, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930), page 326.

[8] See footnote for Revelation 4.1 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1998.

[9] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[10] Reinecker, page 822.

[11] See footnote for Revelation 4.3 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1998.

[12] Exodus 28.17; 39.10

[13] J. Vernon McGee, Reveling Through Revelation, Part I, (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Books, 1979), page 15.

[14] John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 105.

[15] It should be kept in mind that David assembled the materials to construct the Temple, but its actual construction was left to Solomon, 1 Chronicles 28.2-3.

[16] Adapted and altered from John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 108.

[17] Walvoord, pages 108-109.

[18] L. Sale-Harrison, The Remarkable Revelation, (New York: Sale-Harrison Publications, 1930), page 66.

[19] Lehman Strauss, The Book Of The Revelation, (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1963), page 134.

[20] Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

Revelation Chapter 4 © Copyright 2003 by John S. Waldrip 70                                                                                                                                 

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