Revelation 4–5. Act I, Scene I. A View of Heaven.
Key Notes: John in the throne-room of Heaven. The visible Trinity: Figure on the throne; Lamb, as if slain; seven-fold Torches. A mounting chorus of praise. Handel was inspired. Home in Heaven?
The scene has changed. We are no longer with Christ among the golden lamp-stands.
4:1 In Heaven, behold, an open door! And John was called up to Heaven to be shown the future. Steven saw such a door opened in Heaven (Acts7:56), and Matthew reports that Heaven opened at Jesus' baptism. Matt.3:16
4:2–3 He sees a throne and One seated on it, indescribable except in colors--jasper, clear as crystal (Rev.21:11), and carnelian (red) with an emerald-green rainbow around the throne. Crystal suggests purity or holiness. Carnelian suggests salvation, the green perhaps peace, and the rainbow a promise of mercy.
4:4 Twenty-four elders on thrones surround the throne of God. The elders may be the twelve sons of Jacob (the patriarchs) and the twelve apostles because both sets of names are written on the outside of the New Jerusalem. (Rev.21:12–14). Other suggestions are that the priests (IChron.24) and the singing Levites (IChron.25) are indicated because they work in 24 courses. The general idea is that these are exalted humans with special leadership, who carry harps as the Levites did.
4:5 Lightning and thunder/voices proceed from the throne. The seven torches before the throne represent the seven-fold Spirit of God.
4:6 A glassy "sea" before the throne was also described by Moses (Ex.24:10) and Ezekiel (Ez.1:22) in their visions of God. Four living creatures, evidently angels, are perhaps seraphim because of their six wings and their song. (Isa.6:2). They each have a different face. Four faces were seen on each of the living creatures in Ezekiel's vision, and they were called cherubim (Ez.10:7). They sing continuously. Their faces are of dominant creatures in four different areas of life: the lion, king of beasts; the ox, head of domestic animals; the eagle, dominating the air; man, having dominion over nature. They are power figures. Analogies between these four figures and the four Gospels as four dimensions of Christ's life are widely used. Their hymns are addressed below.
5:1–4 Now a scroll, written inside and out, is presented by God. Ezekiel was given a similar scroll (Ezek.2:9–10) also full of woe. But no one could be found to open this scroll and John, intent on understanding and revealing the future, knew he could not, and grieved his disappointment. It is different from Ezekiel's scroll because of the greater scope of the prophecy.
5:5 He was consoled to hear that the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, had conquered so that He could open the scroll.
5:6–14 When he looked toward the throne he saw, instead of a lion, a lamb, as if slain, standing. It is a startling image. The seven horns represent complete power. The seven eyes are interpreted to be the seven-fold Spirit of God sent into all the world. The scene concludes with hymns of praise.
The five hymns of 4:8–11 and 5:9–14 are considered together.
Hymn 1, sung by the 4 living creatures, speaks of God's holiness, His power and eternity.
Hymn 2 is sung by the 24 elders, singing of God's worthiness to receive glory, honor and praise because He created the universe.
Hymn 3 combines the voices of the four living creatures and the 24 elders, singing the Lamb's worthiness to open the scroll because He ransomed men for God, making them a kingdom, and priests to God, to rule on the earth.
Hymn 4 is louder yet, as myriads of angels join in praise of the Lamb, who is worthy to receive the power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.
Hymn 5 is the climax, with all creation joining in praise to God and the Lamb: blessing and honor and glory and might for ever.
The plot of this first scene is simple. John was brought into the throne-room of Heaven, to see God, His personnel and their worship. A scroll was extended by the hand of God and no one was eligible to open and examine it until the One who had redeemed mankind was pronounced worthy to reveal God's judgment on the unbelieving world. One clear message is that God has given the destiny of the human race into Jesus' hand. Christ who died out of love to save mankind, will now be the revealer of doom to the rebellious and disobedient. That is a hard lesson for us to grasp.
A second large piece of information is the presence and functions of the Trinity. The three-ness of the Trinity is striking, both in appearance and function.
*The Father cannot be described in human terms. "He dwells in unapproachable light whom no man has seen or can see." (ITim.6:16). He makes the decree which constitutes the rest of the material of Revelation.
*The Son is both Lion and Lamb, but it is as Lamb that He is seen delivering judgment on the world. He is the One who interacts with human beings. His equality with the Father is sung in hymns (5:13) as they are accorded equal honor.
*The Spirit is like seven flames (the candelabra of the Tabernacle), and like seven eyes searching the earth. He is both the source of illumination in Heaven and the source of vision on earth.
A third teaching of the passage is its hymns.
Handel reported a vision in which he saw Heaven opened and the Great God seated upon the throne, and was inspired to write “The Messiah”, incorporating many of these words into the music. “The Messiah” is but a hint of the singing we will hear one day.
Will we be in the throne-room of Heaven as our final home? Many Christians are impressed by the strangeness, the awe-fulness of the scene, and say that they would not like to be in this kind of Heaven. In the providence of God, He will condescend to dwell in the New Jerusalem which comes down out of Heaven. "The dwelling-place of God is with men... and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Rev.21:3)
What mercy and what grace.