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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 4


The Creator’s throne

1.  After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
2.  At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.
3.  And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.
An emerald
Jesus has given specific messages to the seven churches of Asia and has commanded John to write them in a book. They were read in those churches and preserved. The book of Revelation became the last part of the New Testament canon and the church down through the ages and in every corner of the world has had it at its disposal. We have had the privilege of participating and the eternal Word has spoken to us, as well. We have studied and come to the end of the messages, described as “the things which are” and now, we are able to go on. What follows continues to be for the enlightenment of the seven churches and for us.

The account changes dramatically, as a door is opened into heaven! This is an amazing development because, never before in all of Scripture has an opportunity been given to look upon heavenly scenes. We heard from heaven from the beginning of the Holy Bible and anointed men of God delivered multiple heavenly messages. We have seen patterns and types of heavenly things. We watched as God ordained the history of the Jews, beginning with the calling of Abraham. We were able to appreciate literature, inspired by heaven. Then, heaven’s King, God the Son, came to earth, took on a human body, and spoke of heaven with a human voice to human ears. Apostles, eye witnesses of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, taught us heavenly principles and doctrines, but now, at the close of Scripture, we are going to be able to follow John through an open door into heavenly scenes!

When Moses made the tabernacle, God told him to make all its features “after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain” (Ex.25:40). The writer of Hebrews called those instruments, “the copies of the true things” (He.9:24), but now a door is opened to heaven itself and John enters. As instructed, he writes it in a book that all the church, through it, might look into heaven itself. The church is to be the living reality of heaven on earth.

The Word of God calls to John from inside the door and invites him, “Come up here.” The revealer is the Son of God Himself, who is about to uncover the final phase of the plan devised by the godhead before the foundation of the world and reveal it to His church. He tells us, “I will show you what must take place after this.” All that John sees from this time on will be future events (v.1).

There is only one way that John can see the scenes of the heavenly world and there is only one way that we can appreciate them. He was immediately in the Holy Spirit and we must be, as well. The Holy Spirit is the divine enabler, who bridges the infinite gap between material things and the heavenly. Hear the doctrine of Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” We remind ourselves again of what Jesus said, concerning the divine Teacher, “He will declare to you the things which are to come” (Jn.16:13). We pray, oh Father, let your Spirit come upon us as we humbly delve into Your realm!

A number of years ago, our son, Dave, preached about the sounds of heaven. He said, “While reading through Revelation, I noticed that heaven is not quiet at all. It is not a monastic site, where everyone is silently floating around on fluffy, white clouds. Biblical hearing, however, does not come cheaply, but must be given time and effort. In order to grow a garden in winter, you need to provide a greenhouse to accommodate the seed. You have to give it something akin to its native atmosphere – the proper soil, moisture and light, if the seed is to germinate, grow and produce fruit. In order to hear from heaven, its atmosphere must be cultured in our hearts. It must become a place, where the Holy Spirit feels at home and is not grieved. The natural environment must be blocked out.

Why was John able to clearly discern these voices and sounds from another world? The key to his reception of the entire book of Revelation lies in the text: ‘On the Lord’s day I was in the Spirit.’ John did not happen by chance to be in the right place at the right time, but the literal Greek rendering reveals, ‘I came to be in the Spirit.’ He brought himself to a condition, in which he could hear from heaven. On a remote island, he shut out the noise of this present world and turned his eyes and ears heavenward.”

The first thing that John sees inside heaven’s door is a throne and “one seated on the throne” (v.2). Fourteen times this chapter speaks of a throne and it is the throne of the Creator. It is at this point that we must prostrate ourselves before the throne and before the One, who rules the universe. We can make no further progress in this book, or receive any kind of benefit from God, without first recognizing the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We remind ourselves that man’s appropriation of his salvation begins here: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord… you will be saved… Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Ro.10:9, 13). The Kingdom of God is a theocracy, ruled by an absolute Sovereign, in love and righteousness.

There is nothing somber about the presence of God. The religious world has it wrong in equating holiness with dull colors and low, whispered tones. Heaven is alive with bright, sparkling colors and exuberant praise; its beauty is stunning and unsurpassed. We see it and hear it in detail in this chapter. John must give some kind of description, in an attempt to describe the indescribable, of the One sitting upon the throne. No human features are used, but John illustrates with two precious stones. He shines with the appearance of a jasper, a clear brilliance, and as the sardine or carnelian, which is fiery red.

There is a complete rainbow around the throne and, while emitting its seven colors, the predominating color is green as an emerald. After the flood, God put His rainbow in the earthly sky, promising His mercy upon mankind. The rainbow can only be seen, in the presence of a dark, threatening cloud, assuring the believer of His promises, in the midst of danger. These colors glow with the attributes of God’s purity, righteousness, and mercy.

Praise to the Creator

4.  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.
5.  From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God,
6.  and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind:
7.  the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.
8.  And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
9.  And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever,
10. the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11. “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Again I mention that when Jesus called John into heaven, He said that He would show him “what must take place after this”, therefore this is a future scene. There are 24 enthroned elders seated around the throne and it is generally agreed that they are human, since we read nothing in the Bible about eldership among the angels. Isaiah saw the Millennial scene, which often carries over into eternity: “Then the moon will be confounded and the sun ashamed, for the Lord of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders” (Is.24:23).

The Bible must be its own interpreter, or else we are in danger of getting into wild conjecture. We have here also four living creatures that we know to be cherubim from the book of Ezekiel. In the next chapter, the angelic host is called angels, so there are really no other beings to take into account, besides human beings. The question is, whom do they represent?

Many students of this book say that they are representative of the body of believers, raptured into heaven. If this is the case, are these 24 thrones symbolic of all the church or are these 24 representatives for the church? In either interpretation, the problem that they must explain is the meaning of the number 24. Outside of the book of Revelation, there is nothing in the New Testament that would give the number significance.

Some would point us to the 24 divisions of the priesthood, which David established, and which continued, at least, to the time of Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist. Zachariah was of the division of Abia, the eighth order. They would suggest that the church is a kingdom of priests (1:6), which Peter described in his first letter: “You… are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices... You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood…” (1 P.2:5,9). This is certainly a reasonable interpretation and explanation. The question that remains would be… How would you divide the church of all ages in all the world into 24 divisions? Again, we have no word from Scripture on which to base this idea.

I certainly cannot claim to have a final word on this passage, but let me offer an alternative, one which is still more literal and basic. Suppose that these 24 elders are representatives of the sum total of the people of God, going back to the original twelve patriarchs of Israel. These are the ones after which the twelve tribes are named. Suppose that the remaining twelve are the apostles of the Lamb, the eye witnesses of the life of Christ and the original teachers of His doctrine (Ac.2:42): “In the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt.19:28). They are clothed in white garments, washed in the blood of the Lamb and crowned with golden crowns. Gold is the finest of metals, and is indicative of that, which is ordained of God.

Verse 5 is a great illustration of what our son, Dave, meant, when he said, “I noticed that heaven is not quiet at all. It is not a monastic site, where everyone is silently floating around on fluffy, white clouds.” There are flashes of lightning and claps of thunder; they are sounds that echo and reecho. Add this to the brilliant appearance of the One upon the throne, the rainbow and the seven torches of the Spirit of God before the throne. Remember that this scene is unearthly, heavenly and supernatural, therefore beyond our power of imagination. John had to be in the Spirit to grasp it, but I see nothing in this passage, prohibiting any child of God from approaching and participating under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

We look into the Holy of Holies, which was not open before the new covenant (He.9:8). We are seeing the things, which Moses depicted in the tabernacle in the wilderness, as Solomon did in the temple in Jerusalem. The veil of the temple, between the holy place and the holy of holies, is rent in two and, through the blood of the covenant, we are allowed to look inside. The throne with the encircled rainbow is the Mercy Seat, or more properly the Propitiatory.  The seven torches were represented by a candlestick and in verse 6 we read of a sea of glass, like crystal.

An idea of Solomon's  bronze "sea" 
Solomon designed a magnificent “sea”, 17 ½ feet in diameter, sitting on the backs of twelve bronze oxen (1 K.7:23). From this, water was drawn to wash the priests, who entered the temple. No one could enter the holy places without washing. I can only think that the sea before the throne is immense and has none of the properties of the earthly sea, including turbulent waves and shifting tides. The glassy sea is absolutely calm and it is crystalized into its perfect, eternal state; besides this we can only mention its unimaginable beauty. So those who approach the throne have been perfectly washed and eternally clean. It is the reality of that, which water symbolizes in the Bible, such as the “washing of water with the word” (Eph.5:26), baptism in water and in the Holy Spirit, and the profound depths of God’s forgetfulness, where our sins are cast.

Closest to the throne are the highest echelon of heavenly beings, the accompanying cherubim, called throughout Revelation living creatures. These are full of eyes in front and behind. Those who are blessed to gaze continually upon the enthroned Lord do not have enough eyes to take Him in and those who praise Him, do not have enough tongues. The hymn writer yearned, Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing our great Redeemer’s praise. Any being less than divine is infinitely incapable of adequate resources, with which to serve or worship, even though they be cherubim.

The living creatures are further described from verse 7 to 9. They are like a royal guard, which surround the throne and transport it, wherever the Spirit leads them. Each one has its particular features; the first is like a lion, the second an ox, the third like a man, and the fourth like a flying eagle. From the first time that I began to study these beings, I saw their identity with the four Gospels. Christ is presented as the King of Israel in Matthew (the lion); as the Servant in Mark (the ox); as the Son of Man in Luke (man); and as the Son of God in John (the flying eagle). 

Above the Propitiatory upon the Ark of the Covenant were two cherubim, which the writer of Hebrews called “the cherubim of glory” (He.9:5). The prophet, Ezekiel, sees them in several different scenes and gives us more details concerning them, beginning in the first chapter, although there are some differences, as well. At that time, he was among the exiles in Babylon by the Chebar Canal and as John, he was in the Spirit (Ez.1:3, 2:2, 3:14, etc). As in Revelation, they are called living creatures. Like the cherubim on the Mercy Seat, their wings touched.

I am captivated by the wheels…. as a wheel within a wheel, so that they did not turn as they traveled. The formation of the wheels allowed them to go straight forward in any direction. In this way they were directly and instantly moved, lightning-fast, by the Spirit (Ez.1:20). Their eyes are actually in the wheels and Ezekiel commented that “their rims were tall and awesome” (Ez.1:18). The throne is above them.

I won’t go into all the details that Ezekiel mentions, but you can make your own study of them. I will give you the locations, and the texts, besides chapter one: Transported to Chebar (Ez.3:12-15); in a secluded place (3:23); Jerusalem temple (8:4); the threshold of the temple (9:3); south side of the temple to the threshold to the east gate (chapter 10); from the city center, to the mountain on the east side of Jerusalem, and back to Chaldea (11:21-24); finally, entering the Millennial temple from the east (43:2-5).

The living creatures proclaim the Creator to be the unchanging, holy, Lord God Almighty. Seraphim were in the presence of the Lord, when He launched Isaiah’s ministry, and they cried, “Holy, holy, holy” (Is.6:2). John said of the living creatures, “Day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy.’” In heaven, above all His attributes, God is honored for His holiness and there, it will never be compromised. Isaiah heard this and it influenced him throughout his ministry. He most often titled the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. As John’s heavenly vision begins, he sees the Creator in His holiness, and now, through John, we also see Him (v.8). For teachers and preachers, a strong concept of His holiness is absolutely essential in order to faithfully present the gospel and to feed the flock of God.

At 93 years of age, 'Tio Juan' and his wife, after
some 45 years as Christians, are still praising the Lord
Juan can barely walk, but can still raise his hands in praise.
The main business of heaven is unending praise and worship and the living creatures are joined by the 24 elders in giving glory, honor and thanksgiving to the One who is worthy (v.9). Because He alone is worthy, the elders remove their crowns and place them before the throne (v.10). No earthly or heavenly being will ever tire of this activity, because it is instilled in their nature and is the reason for their existence. What can compare to the thrill of reveling in the presence of the Maker of all beauty and wisdom? What created thing or being can gain priority over His majestic person?

The apostle Paul’s heart overflowed into words as he wrote to Timothy, “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 T.1:17). As he contemplated the plan of God that extended salvation to the non-Jewish nations, only to have them provoke the Jews to jealousy. He uncovered the heart of the Creator, showing that in the end, He could have mercy on all and every Jew would be saved. Once again, the cup of Paul’s soul ran over and he exclaimed, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Ro.11:33)

All glory, honor and dominion belongs to the Creator for the wisdom, beauty and purpose of the creation. He purposed it in His heart and brought all things into being for His own pleasure (v.11). From here below, His church cries out to Him: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”


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