The letters to the church are now complete. All seven churches in Asia Minor have received commendation, criticism, or both from Jesus Christ. The vision of John now turns from the church to a view of the throne room in heaven. This continuation of the vision should serve as a reminder to the churches that they should be encouraged because they are also under God’s sovereign rule. The letter takes a dramatic turn from a straight-forward dictation to an obscure vision. Professor Michael Gorman writes, “The book of Revelation now undergoes a dramatic shift from the kind of text we understand fairly easily, the relative straightforward record of pastoral-prophetic oracles, to the kind of text that may confuse, scare, or distress us.”
The Throne Room
Vs. 1: The vision continues and takes us to the Throne Room in the heavenlies, which is the place where God exercises his rule over the world. It is generally held that chapters 4 & 5 are future and has yet to take place.
John looks and sees “a door standing open in heaven”. This vision is like the vision in Ezekiel 1:1 where the prophet saw “The Heavens were opened I saw a vision of God.” The heavenly door is open, and this could imply that the door to heaven is limited to John alone.
“The first voice…” This is the voice from chapter 1, and he now invites John to enter through the door to heaven.
“Come up here and I will show you what must happen after this” In chapter one John is told to write down the things he saw; now in chapter three he is taken to heaven to see the things that will happen. The events must happen, they are the outworking of God’s divine will. He is in complete control. John is not writing about matters of chance, but about events that will certainly take place for they are God’s divine will.
Vs 2: “behold a throne stood in heaven” The throne is one of the chief symbols of Revelation. The author, John, speaks of the throne frequently. He uses the word “throne” over forty times in Revelation out of the sixty-two references in the New Testament overall. He speaks of it the Throne in almost every chapter of Revelation. The throne represents the supreme sovereignty of God in heaven and on earth. John locates the divine throne in heaven, where heavenly beings are engaged in continuous worship surround it.
Vs 3: “The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones” We are not told who is sitting on the throne (most likely it is God), but it is apparent the one sitting on the throne is not human in form and portrayed as the brilliance of light reflected from precious stones. This depiction was a conventional way of reminding the reader of the magnificence of a heavenly figure.
The three stones held a place of honor in ancient times. They are among the twelve precious stones that adorn the breastplate of the High Priest. In fact, the Jasper and Carnelian (sardius) are the first and last stones in the Breastplate.
Jasper – Represents or suggests qualities as majesty, holiness, or purity.
Carnelian or some versions say Sardius – Represents or symbolizes wrath or judgment.
“Rainbow that had the appearance of emerald” – a reminder of God’s eternal covenant.
Vs 4: “Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them”. A similar O.T. picture of the throne room is found in 1 Kings 22:19. It is uncertain who the twenty-four elders are, but it is generally believed they are heavenly beings whose sole purpose is fulfilled in worshiping God.
There is debate and speculation over who the twenty-four elders are, some are as follows.
Theologian Richard Bauckham writes about the twenty-four elders, “Their ceaseless worship at the heart of all reality, around the divine throne, represent the theocentric (God-centered) nature of all reality, which exists ultimately to glorify God.” He continues, “It is worth noticing how far from anthropocentric (human-centered) is this vision of worship. Humanity is radically displaced from the centre of things where human beings naturally tend to place themselves. At its heart and in its eschatological (concerning last things) goal the creation is theocentric, orientated in worship towards its Creator.” 
“They were clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads” The white garments represent purity and holiness, and the golden crowns represent royalty.
Vs 5: “From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder.” Lightning and thunder represent the awesome power and majesty of God. Thunder in the Old Testament is associated with the voice of God.
Before the throne are the seven torches or spirit of God. This refers to chapter one concerning the “Seven Spirits…” Some interpret this to represent the complete manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s being. Some see it as a reference to the seven archangels of Jewish Tradition which is found in the Apocryphal writings of Enoch 20:1 – 8 where these angels are named Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel, and Remiel. However, this interpretation is unlikely since it would be a strange intrusion of Jewish tradition into Christian thought.
There is uncertainty as to what these seven spirits represent conclusively but we can deduce that they are part of a heavenly entourage that has a special ministry in connection to Christ.
Vs 6 - 8: “In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal.” John does not give an exact description but speaks symbolically. We need to remember that modern ideas about glass did not apply in the first century. In the first-century glass was dark, even opaque. Clear glass would have been extremely expensive. The text speaks only of “what looked like a sea of glass.” We are intended to understand it as a visual sensation that adds to the awesome magnificence of the throne-room vision. Its crystal surface stretches out before the throne, and reflects the flashing, multi-colored light emanating from the throne, furnishing a surface for the activity around the throne, and creating for the Seer an unspeakably heightened sense of the transcendence and majesty of God.
“Four living beings” are related to the cherubim as described in Ezekiel 1, but there are several differences. These creatures could also be like the Seraphim in Isaiah 6:2 – 3 who lift their voices to sing. It is widely held that they are an exalted order of angelic beings, who guard the throne and lead the heavenly hosts in worship. Some commentators say that the description of the creatures is to interpret them as having the strength of a lion, the ability to serve as an ox, the intelligence of man, and have swiftness of an eagle. Others say the four forms suggest what is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in animate nature.
Nevertheless, these creatures are angelic beings and do not need to be interpreted in a symbolic manner.
Four living creatures… Only one had a face, the others present the form of animals.
Vs 8: “Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out” The wings signify swiftness to carry out the will of God. The eyes in front and behind (lit. around, underneath, and inside) signifies watchfulness, and all-seeing intelligence. These creatures lead all in heaven and earth in endless praise.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty…” The praise from the creatures is directed to the characteristics of God which are essential to John’s vision. The praise suggests God is completely holy, all powerful in and over his creation, and He is eternal, he is outside of time. According to Stephen Smalley, “He acts in time and draws time and eternity together.” thus He is separate from his creation, yet he still dwells among them because of his great love for his creation. What we witness in this verse and the remaining passages of this chapter is worship in heaven. What begins as a vision of heaven now becomes a view of active worship in the throne room of heaven. With John, we can now get a glimpse and enter heaven to see the ceaseless praise of the Almighty God.
Vs 9 – 10: The twenty-four elders join in worshiping with the four living creatures. They give “glory and honor” to the one seated on the throne. They speak of God’s supreme nature and authority and they give thanks to God (the eternal one) for all he has done.
The twenty-four elders have the proper response of reverence and respect to the eternal one as they fall prostrate before the throne and worship the eternal one. They lay their crowns, which symbolizes their authority, thus implying that their power and authority is given back to the eternal and sovereign one.
Vs 11: “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.” Interestingly, this worship and adoration is constant and personal. If the twenty-four elders represent or are symbolic of the Church, then this makes sense. It has been written that Emperor Domitian delighted to hear the people in the amphitheater on feast days shout out, “Good fortune attend to our Lord!” He is also known to dictate a circular letter which began, “our Master and our God bids that this be done.” Domitian is believed to be the one to introduce emperor worship, thus John is making it clear, for believers, God alone is worthy of glory, worship, and reverence.
God created everything and it exists solely because of God’s will. God is the ultimate reason for and power in creation and salvation.
In this chapter, John has unveiled for his readers in the seven churches of Asia Minor a vision, or a picture of the Holy God in his preeminence and sovereignty. He has given his readers a glimpse of what worship looks like in heaven. Worship is intended to be theocentric (God-centered) and not anthropocentric (human-centered). This glimpse of heavenly worship is not so much of an exact replica of what worship should look like here on earth, but more of a model or example of what true worship looks like in heaven. If anything, it should help us, here on earth, determine and commit to how and why we worship God. Our worship is more than a love song to our savior, or a way to help us feel good about ourselves and our church. It is a way of life. Our worship is God-central. It is giving honor, reverence, praise, and adoration to the one who is all-powerful, eternal, and sovereign. It is praising the eternal one for his perfect will in creating and redeeming all creation. It is acknowledging and showing respect (falling prostrate) to the one who is perfect, flawless, holy, and good and placing the eternal one on the throne of our church and over all of creation. On a historical level the intent of this (scene) is to remind those who are about to suffer (the church) that God is nonetheless the sovereign Lord of the universe. Thus for us today, it is the same reminder, regardless of the state of the universal church or the world in general, we can take great comfort in the truth that God is the sovereign Lord of all creation.
 Reading Revelation Responsibly (2011) Gorman, Michael J: Eugene, OR: Cascade Books. P. 102
 The Theology of the Book of Revelation (1995) Bauckham, Richard: Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
 The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse (2005) Smalley, Stephen S.: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, P. 116
 The Theology of the Book of Revelation (1995) Bauckham, Richard: Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
 The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse (2005) Smalley, Stephen S.: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, P. 123
 Ibid p. 125
 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 127.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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