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Bible Study: The Book of the Revelation – LESSON 4

Calvary Bible Church Bible Study

The Book of the Revelation

 

LESSON 4:

The Creator on the Throne. 4:1–11.

Thus far, the first two divisions of the prophecy have been covered (1:19): the things John saw (chapter. 1) and the things which are (the current position of the seven churches, which can also be applied to the status of churches world-wide during the “church-age” (chapters. 2–3).  The largest section of the book (chapters. 4–22) is divisible into three parts: 

(1) chapters 4–19 (relating events during the 70th Week of Daniel)

(2) chapter 20 (The 1,000 Year Millennial Reign)

(3) chapters 21–22 (The New Jerusalem and the Eternal Kingdom)

 

vrs     1                  “Come up hither.”  John is commanded to come up to heaven (the “dwelling place” of God), so that he may see and understand the things that are to transpire on earth from that vantage point. Christ Himself has changed His position: in chapters 1–3 He was seen among the candlesticks on earth. Now He is in heaven. A number of expositors see the call to John as that of 1st Thessalonians 4:16–17; namely, the Rapture of the church.  However, there is no evidence to state with any certainty that the Rapture will occur prior to, or at the very beginning of, the 70th Week of Daniel.  Also, many translators think that the last word of verse 1 (“hereafter” in the KJV, “after these” in the literal Greek) should be placed at the BEGINNING of the sentence in VERSE 2, rather than at the END of VERSE 1: thus changing the meaning and time frame of the 2 verses FROM “Come up hither, and I will show thee the things which must be hereafter.  AND IMMEDIATELY I was in the spirit…” TO THE FOLLOWING, “Come up hither, and I will show thee the things which must be.  HEREAFTER AND IMMEDIATELY I was in the spirit…”

 

vrs     2                  The throne set in heaven occupies the attention of John first, as it will the adoration of the redeemed, when we get there. The throne is occupied by the Son (John 5:22), though neither the Father nor the Spirit is excluded.

 

vrs     3                  When heavenly things are spoken of, the description is beyond what is capable of being expressed in earthly speech, so beautiful and durable are the precious stones introduced (cross reference with chapter 21).  Jasper is of various brilliant colors, and sardine is a red color. These stones were the first and last precious stones in the breastplate of the high priest (Exodus 28:17–20).  Emerald is green. The rainbow reveals God in covenant relation with nature (Genesis 9:16); He does not forget His promises. Many judgments in this book will be poured out on the earth, but it is not God’s purpose to bring about earth’s (or mankind’s) utter destruction.

 

vrs     4                  The number of elders stated is important. The Levitical priesthood had twenty-four courses (shifts) in Israel (1st Chronicles 24:7–19). The church is a priesthood (1st Peter 2:5–9; Revelation 1:6). The statement that they are “elders” is also important, as it is the term used for overseers in the church, according to Paul’s writings.  This combined identity has led some commentators to suppose that they may be the 12 Patriarchs of Israel, and the 12 Apostles, in a combined authority that unifies the Old and New Testaments.

 

vrs     5                  It is significant that from and before the throne there are lightnings and thunderings and voices: and seven lamps of fire.  Once again, the symbology here typifies judgment, not grace. Judgment is pending and ready to break forth.

 

vrs     6-7               The sea (or endless expanse) of glass is reminiscent of the laver in the Mosaic tabernacle and the bronze sea of the Solomonic temple (2nd Chronicles 4:2–6).  Both were symbolic of holiness and cleansing.  Holiness is now a fixed state, as in 15:2. Much discussion has centered about the four living creatures (not beasts as in Authorized Version).  They are seen in Scripture from the very beginning of God’s covenant relationship with His People through the Law (The encampment around the Tabernacle in Numbers 2), the Prophets (Ezekiel’s vision of the Throne in Ezekiel 1), and the historic symbols of the 4 Gospels.  The first living creature was like a lion; this was, the standard of JUDAH on the east, with the two tribes of Issachar and Zabulon. The second, like a calf or ox, which was the emblem of EPHRAIM who pitched on the west, with the two tribes of Manasseh and Benjamin.  The third, with the face of a man, was the standard of REUBEN who pitched on the south, with the two tribes of Simeon and Gad. The fourth which was like a flying (spread) eagle was the emblem on the ensign of DAN who pitched on the north, with the two tribes of Asher and Naphtali. This description agrees with the four faces of the cherub in Ezekiel’s vision. Christian tradition and teaching has given these creatures as emblems of the four Gospel Writers. To John is attributed the EAGLE (Divinity); to Luke the MAN (Humanity), to Mark the OX (Servant), and to Matthew the LION (King of Judah).  The fullness of eyes denotes the omniscient perception of God in His judgments. All is under His infinite wisdom.

 

vrs     8-9               They rest not day and night. Untiringly and without interruption, they worship, ascribing holiness to the triune God in the same manner as at Isaiah 6:3. The eternality of the Godhead is emphasized again.

 

vrs     10-11           Worship him.  The church in heaven will occupy herself with worship, the highest function of any creature of God. In this exercise the rewards (crowns) will find their greatest use.

Crowns of Christians

Joy                        1st Thessalonians 2:19

Righteousness                2nd Timothy 4:8

Life                                         James 1:12

Glory                                    1st  Peter 5:4

Imperishable            1st  Corinthians 9:25

 

“Thou hast created all things … for thy pleasure.” The focus and worship here center on the fact of God’s claims as Creator. There is another basis upon which God can rest His judgments of man and creation; it is His right as Redeemer, a truth shown clearly in chapter 5.

 

The Redeemer on the Throne. 5:1–14.

Chapters 4–5 are introductory to, and explanatory of, the remainder of the Apocalypse. This chapter carries on the scene from the previous chapter.

 

vrs     1                  Anyone studying this chapter in the modern age must first erase from his mind the meaning of the word “book”, because it has no relation to what is meant here.  A book “written within and on the backside” was in fact a scroll which was so full of information that it took both sides, front and back to contain it all. Moreover, it was firmly sealed with seven seals, so that the contents could not be known until God’s appointed time. R. H. Charles (The Revelation of St. John, I, pp. 137–138) states: “A will … in Roman law bore the seven seals of the seven witnesses on the threads that secured the tablets or parchment.… Such a Testament could not be carried into execution till all the seven seals were loosed.” The scroll was not a book of prophecy, or even the Book of Revelation, because they would not require worthiness to open it. It is the title deed to the earth, to which Christ has the right of ownership, both by way of creation and, even more, by way of redemption at Calvary.  The events that follow are the culmination of the “battle” between good and evil that will culminate in Christ’s absolute ownership and Lordship over the earth being finally and totally fulfilled.  When these events are finished, Satan will no longer be considered the “Prince of this world” (see John 14:30, 16:11, 2nd Corinthians 4:4, and Ephesians 6:12).

 

vrs     2–5              The strong angel is not further identified, but his question points up the dilemma connected with the book. No one of the angelic host or the human race or the demonic host could open the seals or look into the book.  No man was found worthy. The failure was not merely lack of power, but of worthiness. The book must involve a matter of importance for the apostle to have wept much.  “Weep not.” Weeping is turned to joy when one of the elders points out the One able to open the book and the seals. The designation of Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David directly relate Him to Israel (Revelation 22:16; Matthew 22:42–46).

 

vrs     6                  Notice that the Lion is the Lamb (John 1:29, 36). He will always bear the marks of His suffering and death in His glorified, resurrected body. He overcame as a Lamb (Isaiah 53:7), and all can overcome through His blood (Revelation 12:11). He now sits at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1:3), but in that day He will stand (Isaiah 3:13).  “A Lamb as it had been slain.”  He was slain but is alive now forever. The seven horns point to His fullness of power (Psalm 89:17, 24); the seven eyes speak of complete wisdom (Zecheriah 4:10), a characteristic of the fullness of the Spirit, which was uniquely His. Thus, the Lamb’s three qualifications to be counted as “worthy” to open the Scroll are:

1) He was sacrificed for man’s sins

2) He has all power to overcome every foe

3) He enjoys all wisdom and intelligence to foresee and oversee all things.

 

vrs     7                  He came and took the book. The act described here represents and includes all that the Revelation will show following this. It is this for which creation (ALL of creation) and the church especially have been waiting through all the centuries.

 

vrs     8                  Now will be answered the prayers of saints of all ages, symbolized by the golden vials full of odors (incense). It is the saints sending up their prayers to Christ, for one another and all the redeemed.

 

vrs     9                  They sung a “new song”, but it is the old, old story. The worthiness of the Lamb is clearly stated as a result of His work on Calvary (thou wast slain), which redeemed to God every trusting heart. Notice the three circles of praise (vrs. 9–13). The redeemed in heaven are the closest to the throne, and from them praise goes out in ever-widening circles.

 

vrs     10                Many claim that the reign of the saints on the earth is just “wishful thinking”.  It is claimed by some to be carnal (because a truly “spiritually minded” person wouldn’t want to reign as a king).  The saints in heaven, who are made kings and priests (1:6), do not regard it as being bad or unspiritual.  That reign is not first spoken of in 20:4, because it has been stated in 3:21 in a promise and here in praise (Matthew 25:31).

 

vrs     11                “Many angels.”  Both in verse 9 and here, a vast multitude of redeemed are seen in heaven. It must be noticed that the angels do not indicate they have been redeemed. They have been preserved, not saved (see Hebrews 1:4-14).  The angels who did not follow Satan at his rebellion have been kept pure, but there is no possibility of a fallen angel (demon) being SAVED, and changing his position back to righteousness.

 

vrs     12                Power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. Sevenfold blessedness belongs to the Lamb because of Calvary and the unimaginable agony endured there.

 

vrs     13                Every area of creation—heaven, earth, subterranean, and sea—is included (Philippians 2:10–11). Both the Father and the Son are recipients of the acclaim.

 

vrs     14                Every creature. Now the four living creatures and the elders respond, Amen, in unanimity. The psalmist was right: “Praise is becoming to the upright” (Ps 33:1).