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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 4

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

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Verses 1-5

The Vision of God's Throne of Majesty and Glory. Revelation 4:1-11

The throne and the seat of the elders:

v. 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 show thee things which must be hereafter.

v. 2. And immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.

v. 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.

v. 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.

v. 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.

The first vision of John was full of comfort for all believers, since it showed how faithfully the Lord watches over His Church, and that His concern for her will not cease until the great day of the revelation of His glory. But in the second vision the Lord dispenses comfort just as bountifully. John relates: After this I saw, and, behold, a door opened in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard like a trumpet speaking with me, saying. It seems that after the transport and ecstasy of the first vision there was a slight pause, signifying that a new revelation was now forthcoming. John was again given the privilege to see some of the mysteries of God and of the future, and to transmit them to us. He did not open the door in heaven himself, but it was opened to him, because to him the Lord intended to vouchsafe this grace of revealing the future to him and of showing him the glory of the divine majesty. The voice like the sound of a trumpet which he had heard at the beginning of the first vision, chap. 1:10, was again in evidence, speaking to John and directing his actions: Come up here, and I shall show thee what is bound to happen after this. What John the seer saw and what he afterward described was not the outcome of his own speculation and inquiry, but the result of revelation only. He was called by God to approach and to be a witness, but not to enter.

The beginning of the vision: At once I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was placed in heaven, and One was sitting on the throne, and He that was sitting was in appearance like a jasper and sardius, and a rainbow encircling the throne in appearance like an emerald. The ecstasy which was worked by God, which, as it were, separated the mind from the body for the time being, took hold of John again and transported his spirit to the open door in heaven. The imagery of the vision, although expressed in the figures of speech which will best describe the marvelous atmospheric coloring of a gorgeous sunset sky, nevertheless merely indicates the greater glory which no human words can adequately portray. The first object that struck John was a magnificent throne placed in heaven. The name of Him that sat upon the throne is not mentioned, for His majesty transcends human conception and human language. It was the everlasting, almighty Lord, who has prepared His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all, Psalms 103:13. His appearance was such as to make Him resemble the precious stones jasper and sardius, the jasper being clear as crystal, to indicate the sublime beauty of God, and the sardius being a semitransparent, ruddy gem, to picture the unsearchable depths of His love. A rainbow, the symbol of God's covenant with man, a reminder of His kindness and benevolence, encircled the throne. The peculiarity of this rainbow was this, that it was like an emerald, thus making the green stand out among the prismatic colors, as a symbol of God's kindness and as a token of hope. Altogether, the majesty of this appearance is not one to terrify us, but to remind us of the covenant of grace which He made with us in Christ Jesus, which is shining before us as a beacon light unto eternal hope.

Although the Lord was the central figure in the picture. He had chosen others to share His glory: And round about the throne twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones twenty-four elders seated, clothed in white garments, and on their heads golden crowns. On the great day of the final revelation of God's glory He shall select witnesses and partakers of this glory. As in the Old Testament twenty-four orders of priests had charge of the Temple-service, 1 Chronicles 25:5-7, so the twenty-four elders in this picture are a type, they represent the royal priesthood of the believers. The Church of all times has its place with God, with the Father, in His immediate vicinity, in the most intimate fellowship with Him. The believers, as here represented by the twenty-four elders, are cleansed with the blood of Christ and clothed with the white garment of His righteousness. And as the reward of grace God has promised to them, and will eventually give them, golden crowns upon their heads, the immortal and unfading glory of heaven. This crown of glory will complete the accession of every believer to the kingship to which he has been an heir by faith.

The impression of awe, which is secondary in the entire description, is now stressed: And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and voices and thunders; and seven torches of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. It is the loving and merciful God that sits upon the throne of glory, but also the just and holy Lord. This is brought out by the description of the noises that John heard, like those of a fierce and terrifying thunderstorm. Flashes of lightning went out from the throne, and the shrieks and the loud blasts of the roaring storm and the peals and mutterings of thunder, all of which proclaimed aloud wrath and judgment and destruction, the almighty power of God in carrying out His sentences. At the same time, however, the lamps, or torches, of the sevenfold Spirit of God were quietly burning before the throne. The Spirit of God, working through the Gospel of the love of God in Christ, comes to us with His illuminating power, and gives us, and sustains in us, the light and the warmth of true spiritual life. Though God is terrible in His justice, yet the Pentecostal fire of His grace and love is a source of light and life to all that receive Christ Jesus as their Savior.

Verses 6-11

The sea of glass, the beasts, and the hymn of praise:

v. 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.

v. 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.

v. 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.

v. 9. And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth forever and ever,

v. 10. the four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

v. 11. Thou art 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.

This description further enhances the majesty of the picture: And before the throne there is like a glassy sea resembling crystal; and in the middle of the throne and round about the throne four living beings full of eyes, before and behind. There was not really a sea in the throne-room of God, but the appearance of the air was so clear and calm, so shimmering and motionless, as to remind the seer of purest crystal. The reflection of this crystal-like surface served all the more to bring out the beauty of the Lord's glory. To complete the picture, John now describes

The four living beings, the four cherubs of Ezekiel 1:5-18, who stood in the middle of either side of the throne, as it is said of the Lord that He dwells between the cherubim, 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; Psalms 80:2; Isaiah 37:16. Full of eyes they were toward the outside and toward the inside; they were able to look out in all directions, and yet some of their eyes were also fixed upon the Lord, lest any of His words and actions escape them. The four living beings, or cherubs, are now described: And the first living being was like a lion, and the second living being like an ox, and the third living being had his face like that of a man, and the fourth living being was like a flying eagle; and the four living beings, each of them having six wings, are full of eyes round their bodies and on the inside. The form of the four living beings, or cherubs, is the same as that in the vision of Ezekiel, chap. 1:4-11. In their appearance is symbolized, first of all, the power and the regal majesty of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, whose Word and Spirit and power makes the believers kings before Him. They typify, furthermore, the power of the sacrifice of the New Testament, Hebrews 9:13-19, which cleanses the consciences from dead works. In the human face the kindness and benevolence of the Son of Man is revealed, as He assumed a true human nature in order to gain a complete salvation for us. And the flying eagle, ascending to the very heavens in wonderful power, signifies the new strength which comes to the believers through the message of the Gospel, Isaiah 40:31. From olden times the Church has seen in these cherubs the types of the four evangelists: Matthew, who emphasizes the human descent of Christ, being the man-cherub; Mark, who stresses the victorious power of Christ, being the lion-cherub; Luke, who pictures the sacrificial act of Christ in giving His own body for the sins of the world, being the ox-cherub; and John, who emphasizes the divine origin of Christ and His return to God, being the eagle-cherub. Every one of these cherubs had six wings covering his entire body, like the seraphim which Isaiah saw, Isaiah 6:2. They were full of eyes, not only all around their bodies, but even underneath their wings; they could see the Lord continually and yet watch all that transpired in all parts of the heaven and on the earth.

The work of the living beings: And they have no rest by day and by night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is coming. That is the constant occupation of these cherubs before the throne of God; without ceasing, by day and by night, their chant sounds forth in praise of the Triune God. They strike up a great Tersanctus, they sing a threefold Holy in praise of the Trinity, in honor of Him who alone is holy, whose name may be hallowed only by such as have learned to know the holiness and perfection of Him who is separate from sinners and higher than the heavens. He is God, the one God; He is Jehovah the Lord, He is the Almighty; He it is that is today, the unchanging, the everlasting Lord; He it is that was from eternity, the same faithful and true God; He it is that is coming, whose return for the last great Judgment is imminent. His glory has filled heaven and earth, and His praise should rise in an endless hymn of glorification.

The hymn of the Church: And whenever the living beings give glory and honor and praise to Him that sits upon the throne, to Him that lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him that sits upon the throne, and they worship Him that lives forever and ever, and they cast their golden crowns before the throne, saying: Worthy art Thou, Lord, our God, to receive glory and honor and power, because Thou hast created all things, and through Thy will they existed and were created. The hymn of the cherubs was an unending anthem of praise; they gave praise to God by extolling His holy majesty, honor by worshiping Him in holy fear, and thanksgiving through the proclamation of His grace and mercy. All their praise is offered to the almighty Ruler of the universe, to the eternal King of Glory. As this overpowering testimony goes forth from the mouths of the cherubs, it is impossible for the Church, through the twenty-four elders that represent her, to hold her peace. With a spontaneous impulse of worship they fall down before the great King of the universe, before the everlasting Lord, and their prayer rings out in an endless hymn of praise. At the same time they cast down their golden crowns at the feet of the Lord, in token of their total dependence upon Him and upon the mercy which was shown them in Christ. All that the believers have they hold by His mercy and power; this they openly confess by their act. But no less is this confession contained in their words, in this preliminary anthem of praise. By virtue of the creation, as a proof of God's power and of His providence in upholding all things by the Word of His power, He is worthy of this hymn, in which glory and honor and power is given to Him alone. Neither Satan, who presumed to strive after the glory of God, nor any mere human being can aspire to the praise which is God's alone, Isaiah 42:8. All things exist because He created them, because He brought them into being by His almighty power; and they have their being to the present day and hour because of the benevolent mill which He had toward them. He sent forth His Spirit, they were created; and He renewed the face of the earth. If He hides His face, all creatures are troubled; if He takes away their breath, they die, and return to their dust, Psalms 104:29-30. All Christians, therefore, will join in this hymn of ceaseless praise in honor of the almighty Creator and King of the universe, thereby acknowledging their unending indebtedness to His benevolent power. To God all praise and glory!


The prophet, at the beginning of His second vision, describes the throne of the Lord, the elders and the seats of the elders, the cherubs and their proclamation of God's glory, to which the elders respond with a wonderful hymn of praise.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Revelation 4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/revelation-4.html. 1921-23.
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