[T[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
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.
The term “after this” is used by John to show a break in the sequence of things. The words “things which must be hereafter” shows that the revelation moves from present to future, as indicated in Revelation 1:19. John is given the opportunity to come view the events of the end times, as they will unfold.
Some people claim that “come up here” refers to the rapture, and that Christians will be raptured before the following events actually happen. They point to the fact that the church is never specifically mentioned in chapters 4-19, so therefore it does not exist during this time. This is a false assumption that has no Biblical grounds. This theory contradicts, not only the word of God, but itself also, since the church is not mentioned in this verse either. The simple fact is that, in Jewish thought, the command to “come up here” indicates the prophecy to be given is of the highest level.
Another point to consider, concerning the use of the word “church”, is that in chapters 2 and 3, John recorded the words of Jesus as He gave messages for the churches. In chapter 4, John stops quoting Jesus and, in his own words, begins doing what he was told to do in Revelation 1:1, which was to show God’s servants what will take place. The fact that Jesus used the word “church”, and John didn’t, does not mean the church ceases to exist at this point.
2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
Chapter 4 is an introduction to the things John sees in heaven, and contains his attempt to describe the throne room of heaven. The book of Ezekiel, chapter 1, gives a similar description.
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.
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.
There is much debate on the identity of the 24 elders. Some point to the fact that Jesus promised His disciples that they would sit on thrones, on earth, during the millennium (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). They then try to add the 12 sons of Jacob, because it just sounds good. I believe these elders are angelic beings, not saints, as I shall point out in our study of chapter 5:9-10. Also, as we shall see in the sequence of events, the saints are not in heaven at this point in time. I firmly believe, however, that the identity of the elders is not really important, or the Bible would have told us.
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.
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.
This is not a liquid sea, but a great expanse. Imagine a great expanse of crystal reflecting the colorful radiance, and flashes of lightning, from the throne. In Revelation 15:2, we shall see a great multitude standing on this transparent sea of crystal.
Many translations use the word “beasts”, but the literal translation is “living beings”. We have no words to accurately describe them, and nothing with which to compare them. Ezekiel spoke of four living creatures, called cherubim, before the throne of God, whose movements gave the appearance of lightning (Ezekiel 1). More details are given about the cherubim in Ezekiel, chapter 10..
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.
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.
9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
Whatever is the main function of the living beings, they are seen, throughout Revelation, worshiping God.
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,
Satan always tries to copycat God, and in the last-days, will have four beasts serving him (Daniel 7:2-7), and which will lead unbelievers to worship him (Revelation 12:17-13:4).
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.