Revelation: Chapter 4


As seen in the chronology of Revelation, John's viewpoint in this chapter is in heaven near God's throne. Revelation 4:1-11 and Revelation 5:1-14 form a break from the previous chapters. A new phase in the events concerning the saints has shifted, beginning with several occurrences before the throne of God. The events in this chapter describe the great glory about the throne of God, and the all the characters and activities about it.


Verses Topic
1-2 After these things, before the throne of God
3-6a The appearance, order and events before the throne
6b-9 The four creatures
10-11 The 24 elders
  • After these things, before the throne of God
  • Outline
  • Top

In Revelation 1:19, the Lord instructed John to write the things that he had seen (his witness of Christ's first advent), the things that are (the church age), and the things which will be hereafter (the tribulation, millennial reign of Christ, and the future eternity). Three distinct periods of time are given by the Father, Revelation 1:1, Acts 1:6-7, that concern Israel, the church, and the tribulation saints. The first period is related to the time that John observed and participated in the Lord's' earthly ministry, 1John 1:1-4. The second period is the church age, to whom this book of Revelation is addressed to and each of the letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor provide the Lord's view of the character of each church and church type through time. The final period, which indicates a future event relative to the church age, is the transition into the opening of the seven years of tribulation.

The phrases "After this" and "hereafter" in Revelation 4:1 are the same Greek words used in Revelation 1:19. It reinforces the event of the church being removed, or raptured, prior to the things "hereafter". Those things "After this" and "hereafter" constitute a great number of events to occur during the period of time known as the tribulation. As identified in the Blue Letter Bible,, the words "After this" and "hereafter" are translated from the Greek words, Meta Tauta. The reader is referred to the foregoing link to read more on the meaning of these words in the original Greek. In General, the meaning of these words are:

  • Meta is defined as either with, after, or behind
  • Tauta is defined as these

A graphical representation of this concept is shown in the web page on this site, at: the survey of timelines.

Immediately after the church age was revealed to John, several events took place in rapid succession, as shown representing the end of that age, as written in Revelation 4:1-2. John observed a door standing open in heaven and heard a voice speaking to him like a trumpet saying "Come up here." This is the same description of the sound that John heard in Revelation 1:10, which was the voice of the Lord commanding John to be in His presence. Similarly, after the two witnesses who were killed by the Antichrist, and laid dead for 3 days, a thundering voice also told them to "Come up here" and immediately they were taken up into heaven, Revelation 11:11-12. John reports that at once he was in the Spirit and found himself immediately before the throne of God. The experience of John to this point in this chapter is not unlike the experience that the church will have at the rapture; it was sudden, and the translation immediate. More information can be found in this site on this subject by following the link to the web page on the rapture. The events following the church age were revealed to John and are enumerated beginning with Revelation 4 through the end of the book of Revelation.

In Revelation 4:2, John reports that after hearing the voice that sounded like a trumpet he suddenly was in the spirit and appeared before the throne and in front of Him who sat on it. John had to be in the spirit since God had warned Moses of death would result if anyone in the flesh would cast their eyes upon the Lord's face. However, the Lord did reveal Himself to Moses by protecting him in a cleft in the rock, and the hand of God shielded Moses from seeing God's face. What Moses witnessed was God's afterglow, and hearing God proclaim His name, and announce His mercy and compassion on whom He wills, Exodus 33:19-23. What John saw in the spirit was truly incredible. John's reaction is not given immediately, as he is busy recording all that was revealed to him. Not only does he see God on His throne, but all the activity and beings about the throne are captured with John's pen as well.

It is instructive at this time to see the other references of the throne of God as reported by the prophets of the Old Testament: Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

In Exodus 24:8-11, Moses records the events that occurred when he and other elders of Israel observed the throne of God. After offering the blood of the covenant that the Lord made with Israel before Mount Sinai, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel went part way up the mountain. There they saw the God of Israel, and under His feet was pavement like sapphire that was clear as the sky to see through. While there, Moses and all who were with him ate and drank before the Lord, which is common for some of the sacrifices that would be identified in further revelations of the law.

In Ezekiel 1:1-28, Ezekiel 2:1-10, and Ezekiel 3:1-27, Ezekiel recorded a vision that he had by the Kebar River during Israel's Babylonian exile. This is when Ezekiel received his commission from the Lord to be a prophet to the exiles of Israel, Ezekiel 2:1 through Ezekiel 3:15. Concurrently, Jeremiah was with the remnant in the land of Israel, and Daniel was with those who were in the king's house. In Ezekiel 1:22, Ezekiel observed above the heads of the living creatures an expanse that was sparkling as ice, something that left him in awe. Then in Ezekiel 1:23-28, He saw the living creatures associated with this expanse and responded to the one above the throne and who was above the expanse. Ezekiel saw that the throne was of sapphire and above the throne was a figure like a man, glowing, full of fire, with brilliant light surrounding him, and His appearance was surrounded by a rainbow.

In Isaiah 6:1-13, the prophet Isaiah described the vision he had concerning the Lord's throne and the commission he received. In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah observed the Lord seated high and lifted up. The train of the Lord's robe filled the temple. In Isaiah 6:2-4, he reported seeing above the Lord seraphim. Each of them had:

  • Two wings covered their face
  • Two wings covered their feet
  • Two wings were used for flying
  • They called to one another the praises of God
  • As they cried out, Isaiah witnessed the door posts move at their sound

Then Isaiah saw the whole house filled with smoke. In Isaiah 6:5-7, the prophet Isaiah reported being undone at this wonderful sight, and he recognized and confessed his uncleanliness and that of Israel. Thereafter, a seraph flew to Isaiah, and taking a piece of hot coal from the altar, he touched Isaiah's lips with it. Next Isaiah was told that his iniquity was taken away, and his sin purged. Isaiah 6:8-13 shows the commission of Isaiah from the Lord to go to the people of Israel and tell them God's words. However, Isaiah was warned that the message would not be immediately understood nor accepted, but after much time Israel would receive God's blessings.

Before continuing with the description of what Daniel saw, it may be helpful to explore some of what John observed. Afterwards, Daniel's vision will be compared with that of Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John.

  • The appearance, order and events before the throne
  • Outline
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In Revelation 4:3, God's appearance is described by John to be like jasper and carnelian. God's interaction with His people is seen in the colors selected, such as the 12 gems used to decorate the high priest's breastplate, Exodus 39:8-14. The colors appear also in the make-up of the New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:9-11. John also saw a rainbow resembling an emerald encircled the throne.

In Revelation 4:4, John noted an order about the throne of God. There were 24 elders who sat on thrones about God's throne. They were dressed in white and had gold crowns. There are some commentators who feel that the elders are angels, others that they represent the 12 tribes of Israel and 12 Apostles, and some think they represent the raptured church.

The identity 24 elders is not explicitly given, but their conduct and dress may provide some clues as to who they are. First, why could they not be angels? One reason is that these elders are wearing crowns, which is promised to the saints in the church, 1Corinthians 9:24-27. Also, each group that is identified in Revelation, the saints, angels, and the tribulation saints all have their own song in the book of Revelation which is unique to that group.

Second, the song in this chapter is sung by the redeemed in Christ. Neither the angels nor the tribulation saints who will be introduced to John in Revelation 6:1-17 participate in this song. It would appear then that the elders represent only the church and not the angels or the tribulation saints.

Third, why are not the elders representing the 12 Tribes of Israel and 12 Apostles? There are certainly some interesting arguments for thinking so. Near the end of this book in Revelation 21:10-14, the new Jerusalem is described as having 12 gates named after the tribes of Israel and the 12 foundations after the Apostles. Another reason is the logical division of 24 being evenly divided into two parts of 12, one for the tribes of Israel and the other for the 12 apostles. This is one of the issues raised in this book of the Bible where today one cannot be dogmatic about a conclusion. Thinking that the elders represent the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles may be correct, but there is yet one more possibility.

Fourth, the 24 elders may only represent the raptured church for the following reasons:

  • This passage follows the description of the church age
  • The first verse implies strongly the rapture of the church, and there is no longer any mention of the church until Revelation 22:16-17, where the bride is arguably the church
  • The New Testament church had two components, the Jewish church, led by the 12 apostles, which began in Jerusalem, and the second that was led by Paul, the Body-of-Christ. 12 elders could be from the Jewish church, and the other 12 from the Body-of-Christ
  • Also, the church is composed of Jews and Gentiles, which could also account for the 12 and 12 groupings, one representing the Jews and the other representing the Gentiles, Galatians 3:28
  • When we are in the Lord's presence, we will be like him, 1John 3:1-3
  • We will appear before the judgment seat of Christ and there, receive our rewards and crowns 2Corinthians 5:6-10
  • Though the Old Testament saints have been gathered together with Christ after His resurrection, the resurrection of their bodies will be at the end of the tribulation period and is when they will receive their rewards, Daniel 12:1-3
  • The Lord ordered His church to have elders and deacons, etc., Acts 14:21-23

As a result, it is thought, but not strongly held in light of the third alternative, that the church is more likely the source for the elders.

Returning to the description of God's throne room, in Daniel 7:9-11, 13-14, the scene is not during the days of Daniel, but are prophetic and coincide with Revelation 4:1-11 and Revelation 5:1-14. The appearance of God's throne is setup first with all the thrones in array for the judgment of the indescribable beast that Daniel sees in Daniel 7:7-8. The following action that Daniel observes is the "Son of Man" coming with the clouds of heaven to approach the Father and to be given all dominion over the entire world. This is precisely how the Lord answered Caiaphas, the high priest the night that Jesus was betrayed. When the high priest asked Jesus if He was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, to which Jesus answered that He was. He also told all present that they would see Him, the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven, Mark 14:61-63.

So what is missing from the previous instances of visions concerning God's throne as recorded by Moses, Isaiah and Ezekiel? First, in the other records only God and the Seraphim are seen, and the temple is filled with God's glory; no other being is seen in God's throne room. There are two groups mentioned by Daniel in his vision, those that attended the Lord (thousands upon thousands), and those who stood before Him (ten thousand times ten thousand). This may not be an absolute number 100,000,000 to serve as a limit of those who make up the raptured church and bride of Christ, but rather it may be indicative of a huge number of the saints and their proximity to God before His throne. A court was seated before the throne of God and the books of judgment were opened, 1Corinthians 6:1-4. It is the position of this website that the events in Daniel 7:13-14 relate to the events as they unfold in Revelation 5:1-14.

To return to John's observations, in Revelation 4:5, he saw and heard from the throne flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder, which were also observed by Moses as they waited upon the Lord at the base of Mount Saini, Exodus 19:16-19, and what David wrote about in a psalm, Psalm 18:6-15.

John also saw before the throne, seven lamps which represents the Holy Spirit, Isaiah 11:1-2, John 16:13-15, Zechariah 4:2, 6, 8-10. These are:

  • The Spirit of the Lord
  • The Spirit of Wisdom
  • The Spirit of Understanding
  • The Spirit of Counsel
  • The Spirit of Power
  • The Spirit of Knowledge
  • The Spirit of the fear of the Lord

These are not separate entities, but the different manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, in Revelation 4:6, there was before the throne what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. Again, there are many interpretations offered by commentators concerning the sea of glass, such as the aggregate church at rest. However, consider the other instances of the temple, seen by Moses as pavement like sapphire that was clear as the sky to see through, and by Ezekiel as an expanse sparkling like ice, and awesome. In light of these observations, the sea of glass may simply represent the "bigness" of God.

In Revelation 4:6, John sees around the throne, four living creatures who are closer to the throne of God than the other groups. He described their characteristics as:

  • Being covered with eyes in the front and back
  • One is like a lion
  • The second is like an ox
  • The third is like a man
  • The fourth is like an eagle
  • Having six wings that were also covered with eyes
  • Giving continual praises to God day and night

Finally, the Lord is described as the one who opens and no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.

The Lord's commendation

A further description of these creatures is given by Isaiah, Isaiah 6:2. This is where Isaiah described the creatures about the throne. Above the Father were seraphs with two wings that covered their face, two wings that covered their feet, and two wings were used for flying. They called to one another the praises of God.

In Ezekiel's description, he saw them along with wheels in Ezekiel 1:4-24. These creatures are different than described by John in Revelation 4:1-11, and serve other functions but there are similarities as well with what John reports.

There are some who have associated these four beasts with the four gospels and other parts of scripture, see the table that follows. The Gospel according to Matthew presents the Lord as the King, which in scripture is represented by the Lion of Judah. The gospel according to Mark presents the Lord as the willing servant, which is the ox. The gospel according to Luke presents the Lord as the man, which is as one of the four beasts. The Gospel of John presents the Lord as the Son of God, which is represented by eagle. These beasts provide John views on earth that show the impact of each of the seals that were opened by the Lord in Revelation 6:1-17.

The Beast's likeness Associated With Related to the Gospel of: Represents the Lead of a Triad of Israel's Tribes Location of the Tribe Around the Tabernacle During the Exodus
Lion King Matthew Judah East (right side)
Ox Servant Mark Ephraim West (left side)
Man Man Luke Ruben South
Flying Eagle Deity John Dan North

In Revelation 4:8, John observes each of the four living creatures about the throne of God continually singing:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. They cry out Holy three times in recognition of the triune nature of God; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are also giving praise to God for His eternal nature and in the Son establishing His throne on the throne of David on this earth. The Lord will be taking back dominion over this world that Adam lost to Satan in the Garden of Eden.

In Revelation 4:10-11, John views the continuing praises toward God. Whenever the creatures cry out their praises to God, the elders respond:

  • They fall down before God
  • They worship God
  • They lay their crowns before Him
  • They sing out as well

Their praise and those of others about the throne continue through Revelation, with the same or parts of what are expressed here:

  • Worthy
  • Glory
  • Honor
  • Power
  • For He has created all things and for His pleasure they were created

For the saints this is nothing less than joy unspeakable, 1Peter 1:3-8! This song of the four living creatures and the 24 elders is the first of seven songs recorded by John throughout the remaining chapters in Revelation. The other songs are sung by other groups as well.

Finally, as mentioned previously on this webpage, it is believed that these 24 elders represent the church. John will introduce another group of saints in Revelation 6:9-11, and a third group in Revelation 7:9-17. These two groups consist of the slain tribulation saints, the latter being a subgroup who came out of the Great Tribulation, or the last 3 1/2 years of the tribulation. Note the difference between these last two groups with the group that represents the church; the latter two groups are dressed in white, the righteousness of Christ, but they do not have the crowns that were promised to the church. This is another powerful reason for seeing that the church is raptured before the beginning of the tribulation.