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Saturday, 03 September 2016 00:20

29. Round and about the throne * Revelation 4:5-8

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5  And out of the throne proceeded lightning and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

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 living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.

7  And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature like a calf, and the third living creature had a face as a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.

8  And the four living creatures 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, who was, and is, and is to come.


***Lightening, thunderings, and voices ***: Verses 2, 3, and 4 of this chapter give a detailed description of the throne of God. In verse 5, we start to see some important activities happening in that throne room. There are flashes of lightning, thunderings, and voices coming out of the throne. This description reminds us of the scene at Mount Sinai, when God was giving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:16; Exodus 20:18). These are not the only time when the presence of God is associated with thundering and lightning (Job 40:9; Psalm 77:18; Psalm 104:7; Ezekiel 1:13). Out of the throne comes the active and powerful presence of God.

*** Seven lamps burning ***: Right in front of the throne, there are seven lamps. These lamps are burning, and they are the seven Spirits of God. The Greek word used for lamps here is the word lampade, which refers to a hand-held torch that has a wick and is fueled with oil. In Zachariah 4, we have seven lamps which were the eyes of the Lord “which range throughout the earth”. In Revelation 5:6 we read that the seven Spirits are seven eyes sent out to all the Earth. As we discussed in lesson #5, the seven Spirits of God are the perfect representation of the Holy Spirit. He is present there, before the throne.

*** The sea of glass ***: John mentions the sea of glass in Revelation 4:6, and also in Revelation 15:2. Here in chapter 4, he describes this element as being located in front of the throne. He compares it to three things: sea, glass, and crystal. The sea gives the idea of water and movement. Glass and crystal are solid and static objects. All of them have a translucent quality, and can become reflective depending on how light hits their surface. It is not clear if the glass description refers to a smooth flat section of glass, or to broken pieces of glass and more of a textured look. Revelation 15:2 adds yet another descriptor: fire. John says he "saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire". Also, he says the victorious people are standing on this sea of glass and fire. In chapter 4, the saved people are not there yet. And the fire, although present as the Holy Spirit standing in front of the throne of the Father, is not mentioned as being in or on the sea of glass at that time. In terms of Sanctuary language, the water element was represented as the bronze basin. The basin was sometimes called the sea (2 Kings 25:13-16; 1 Chronicles 18:8; 2 Chronicles 4:6; Jeremiah 52:17,20). The priests had to wash themselves there before sacrifices and before entering the Tent of Meeting. It was a symbol for baptism, as we saw in study #9. In Matthew 3:11, we read the words of John the Baptist, referring to Christ: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire". Daniel 7:10 mentions a river of fire that was flowing out of the throne of God. It is interesting to note that in Revelation 15:2, when the saved people are standing on the sea of glass, fire is there mixed in. But in chapter 4, which is a scene that happens before the people get there, the fire is described separately. Very likely, this is not a literal combination of sea, glass, or fire. The sea of glass seems to be a hard to describe place. The point is, it marks an important area before the throne of God where the overcomers will stand one day.

*** The four living creatures ***: This is not the only time these beings appear in Revelation. They are always found near the throne of God, serving and worshiping Him (Revelation 4:6,8-9; Revelation 5:6,8-9,14; Revelation 6:1-8; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 19:4). This is also not the first time in the Bible where they are mentioned either. We can read about them in Ezekiel 1:5-10; Ezekiel 10:12,14,20-22; Isaiah 6:2-3. They remind us of the golden cherubim on the Arch of the Covenant in the Earthly Sanctuary. (Exodus 25:18-21; 1 Kings 6:23-28). The image of God sitting between cherubim is seen in other passages of the Old Testament as well (2 Kings 19:15; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 99:1; Isaiah 37:16). Isaiah calls them seraphim, and tells us they praise Him saying “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:2-3). In Revelation 4:8, John also tells us that they do not rest during the day or night, and remain praising God continually, “saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Both in Isaiah, and in Revelation, we see these beings praising the Trinity.

Full of eyes in front and behind, and inside; having six wings each and four different faces: Ezekiel 10:12 describes them as being “full of eyes all around”. He also says they each have 4 faces: as of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (Ezekiel 1:5-10). Ezekiel saw one being with four faces, and John sees four beings, each with a different face (Revelation 4:7). Ezekiel had a long and detailed description of these beings. But it seems that for John, they are not the focus of the scene, and perhaps only one side of each of those beings was revealed to him. It could also be a different order of angels. Regardless of their specific anatomy, their role seems to be very special. They lead the praise and worship, and they serve God very closely. These beings are also involved in the opening of the first four seals (Revelation 6:1-8). There are different views as to what each of their faces represent. It could be a reference to their strength, service, intelligence, and swiftness. It could also be a symbol for the qualities of God’s character, including His ability to see and know everything.

*** Overview ***: There was lightning and thundering coming out of the throne of God. That means the throne was not empty. The magnitude of His glory could be felt, seen and heard. The Holy Spirit was also in the scene, in all his perfection and fulness, described as the seven Spirits of God. But not all members of the Trinity were present there. Jesus was not there. Even so, the heavenly creatures near the throne of God kept worshiping the Trinity continuously, by saying: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 4:8). This description refers to a moment in time, when neither Jesus nor the overcomers were present. No one was standing on the sea of glass just yet. Just from what we read in chapter 4, we can understand that this happened before the Second Coming of Christ. A time when Jesus was not there, but when the Holy Spirit was. In reality, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent. His appearance in the throne room does not prevent His activities from happening on Earth at the same time. But for the sake of John’s understanding, as well as ours today, this is how it was shown to John. We can understand that this part of the vision seems to describe what was happening in Heaven before Jesus’ ascension. Chapter 4 show us what it was like to be standing there, in the presence of God.

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