Summary: Revelation 4:1-5:14
REVELATION IN PICTURES:
A PICTURE OF HEAVEN
John was on the island of Patmos, and he wasn’t on a vacation. No, this island was more like Alcatraz - an island where prisoners were banished, far removed from the rest of the world. Much like Alcatraz, this wasn’t a very comfortable place; it was a place of hardship. But while he was there, John received a picture of heaven.
This is important for us to hear because we also live in Patmos. What I mean is that, as Christians, this world can be an uncomfortable place; a place of hardship. And in the midst of our troubles, we sometimes forget that this is not our home.
BEFORE THE THRONE (Rev. 4:1-3)
How many of you have ever been to Disney World? You take the monorail to the Magic Kingdom and you get off and walk through a hallway and right before you, at the end of the street is Cinderella’s Castle. Now, I don’t care how old you are…six or sixty…you’re going to find yourself standing there, looking at that castle in all its majesty. Then, after a few minutes have passed, you’re going to be drawn to all the other attractions that make Disney World a children’s paradise.
Well, that’s kind of what happens in our passage as John first gets to heaven. He’s only able to look at the throne of God at first. But as time passes, he starts to notice all the other things going on around the throne.
1. The Twenty four Elders (v. 4).
Who are these 24 elders? What do they represent? The first thing that comes to mind is that they might be representatives from God’s two economies: 12 from the Old Covenant, and 12 from the New Covenant.
How many tribes were there in the nation of Israel? How many disciples did Jesus choose?
The Bible is very clear in showing us that God has dealt with two groups of people: the descendants of Abraham under the Old Covenant, and the spiritual descendants of Abraham under the New Covenant. But God doesn't leave these two groups apart, He makes them into one.
You see, God doesn’t have two churches…He doesn’t have one assembly for Israel and another for Gentiles. There is no segregation in heaven. He has one church, and it’s made up of all of His people. That means you and I belong to the same church that Abraham, David and Solomon belong to. If you’ve come to Christ in faith, then you’re a part of the family of God. So then, these 24 elders represent a united church.
As we discussed a couple weeks ago, John’s vision is often expressed in the symbolism of the Temple. So as John continues to see this vision of heaven, this imagery continues as he sees the Lamps and a Sea of glass.
2. Lamps & a Sea of glass (Vv. 5-6a).
There were seven lamps “burning before the throne” of God. This corresponds to the seven-branched lamp stand which stood in the Temple. Now, we’ve already leaned from chapter 1 that these lamps represent the seven churches of Asia Minor.
But what about the “sea of glass"? One thing you need to know about the Jewish people of Bible times is that they were afraid of the ocean. Yes, a couple of the disciples were fishermen, but think about it. Every time the Bible talks about someone getting into a boat, they got in trouble:
Noah’s Ark - the whole world perished.
Jonah - thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish.
The disciples could barely cross the Sea of Galilee without sinking.
As Paul embarks on his final missionary journey, he ends up being washed ashore.
But this wasn’t that kind of sea, it serves a different purpose. It was a “sea of glass, like crystal”.
In front of the Temple there was a large bronze bowl filled with water. This water was used for the purification rites. It was commonly known as the “Sea" (Show Picture).
John doesn’t explain the meaning of this because no explanation is needed. This is Temple language.
3. The Four Living Creatures (Vv. 6b-7).
The next thing John notices is these four living creatures standing around the throne. Biblical scholars have come up with all kinds of ideas as to who or what these might be. Much like most everything else in Revelation, I believe that the answer is found in the OT. When John saw these four living creatures, he saw something he had read about before:
Read Ezekiel 1:4-10
Notice that the same creatures in John’s vision are described here in Ezekiel. What are these "living creatures"? They’re angels. Ezekiel has another vision later on where these four living creatures are specifically identified: