After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” 2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 3 And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.
The vision given to John continued with an open door in heaven that Jesus beckoned him to come through. He wanted to show John what would come to pass after the time of the church. He saw in the vision Jesus sitting on the throne. His appearance was of a jasper stone and a sardius, like a burning fire. There was a rainbow around the throne, which was like an emerald in appearance. The throne and the rainbow had to be exceedingly beautiful in appearance, and Jesus Himself likely looked like a consuming fire. He was holy, deserving of praise, the King of Kings, majestic in splendor, and surrounded by beauty. The rainbow of the Old Testament signified that God would never flood the world again (Genesis 9:8-17), but Jesus in His holiness was going to have to judge the world, just not with a worldwide flood. Thus, the rainbow signifies both the coming glory and beauty of heaven and the need for Christ to judge the world in righteousness. Then peace will come as He establishes His rule once and for all (Micah 4:1-5, 5:5). The fiery jasper and sardius of the coming day of the Lord would transition to the peaceful soothing emerald of His coming reign of peace. Around the throne of Jesus were twenty-four other thrones, perhaps a fulfillment of Revelation 3:21 that believers will sit on thrones with Christ. Jesus also promised His faithful disciples that they would sit on thrones (Matthew 19:28, 22:30) and that believers would rule with Him in His coming kingdom (Revelation 1:6, 5:10). In 1 Chronicles 24, there are twenty-four divisions of priests which served in the sanctuary of God. In 1 Chronicles 25, there are twenty-four divisions of musicians responsible for worship in the presence of God. Hebrews 8:5 says that the earthly house of God was a reflection of what happens in heaven. Thus, it makes sense that there would be twenty-four elders to serve in the temple of God in heaven given that there were twenty-four divisions of earthly priests on the earth. 1 Peter 2:9 explains that believers are a royal priesthood before God, and Revelation 1:6 reemphasizes that believers will be priests of God in His coming kingdom. Thus, it is reasonable to believe that the twenty-four elders are a visual representation of believers who were raptured before the final seven year tribulation period. These are seen singing praises to God and even playing harps in Revelation 4:9-11, 5:8-10, 12-14 just as the twenty-four divisions of musicians did in David’s kingdom. Believers are seen later in Revelation 19:7-8 preparing for the marriage supper of the Lamb and then judging on thrones in Revelation 20:4 as the first resurrection occurs in which the tribulation saints join the rest of the believers in heaven in their new eternal bodies. The saints of Revelation 7:9-17 are clearly those who come out of the tribulation, but Revelation 4, 5, 19, 20 imply that other believers were already there present and waiting. Revelation 5:9-10 is of particular importance in determining who the twenty-four elders might be. Please see the notes on that text for more information regarding the identity of the twenty-four elders. Also important to note is the fact that the elders were clothed in white garments with golden crowns on their heads. This description is consistent with the promised rewards from Jesus’ letters to the churches in chapters 1-3. Revelation 3:5 promised believers that they would be clothed in white, and the bride of Christ is seen in bright, clean linen in Revelation 19:7-8. That believers get crowns is seen in Revelation 2:10 and 3:11. This is affirmed in James 1:12, 2 Timothy 4:8, and in 1 Peter 5:4 which says, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
5 Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. 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 something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 7 The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”
The throne of the Lord exudes power, majesty, might, glory, honor, and authority. The peals of thunder and the flashes of lightning illustrate this wonderfully. The seven Spirits of God presented by the seven lamps of fire before the throne point to the completeness of God. A somewhat similar picture of God’s Spirit is given in Zechariah 4:1-10, and it also signifies the fullness of the Spirit of the Lord. The complete and all-powerful God sits on a throne that illustrates those facts, and before the throne there was what appeared like a crystal sea. This imagery is consistent with that given in Exodus 24:10 and Ezekiel 1:22. Though there is no longer any sea in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1), there is a river of the water of life flowing from the throne, clear as crystal (Revelation 22:1). This points to God’s healing of the nations and to the fact that only He gives eternal life, He being the Living Water (John 4:10). Just as He will be the Light in heaven instead of the sun (Revelation 22:5), He will also be the source of water that satisfies, that heals, and that causes the trees of life to produce fruit (Revelation 22:1-2), symbolizing eternal life. There were also four living creatures full of eyes around the throne. This is a reference to the cherubim from the Old Testament who praise God before His throne (Psalm 80:1, 99:1). Ezekiel 10 confirms this when giving a near exact description of what the cherubim look like, for it is just as John saw them in heaven. Ezekiel 1 also gives a glimpse of this throne room of the Lord, for Ezekiel also saw creatures with faces of a bull/calf, eagle, lion, and man (Ezekiel 1:4-28). The creatures take in everything about God and worship Him according to all that they see, which is a lot given their many eyes. They are able to accurately and rightfully worship God because they see God as He is and for Who He is. They also have six wings like the seraphim referenced in Isaiah 6:2. These are imposing beings possessing angelic power and strength, and their chief job if not only job is to cry out in praise to God day and night without stopping. They cry out that God is holy, holy, holy, just as the seraphim said in Isaiah 6:3. Holiness is the utmost descriptor of the character and nature of God, He being unique, without blemish, without weakness, without sin, without error, without fault, without failure, and totally perfect and complete in every way. They identify God as the Lord God Almighty, for He has all power and strength. They cry out that He is eternal, that He was and is and is to come. Even these imposing creatures recognize who is God, and they worship Him ceaselessly.
9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
The creatures understand what it is to praise and worship God, for they give Him glory, honor, and thanks as they cry out humbly before Him. This is worship in its fullest sense, for it is focused on Who God is and what He has done. They recognize that it is God Who sits on the throne and that it is He Who lives forever and ever. The elders also praise God, falling down before Him and worshipping Him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before Him in an act of humility, for they recognize that whatever honor they have is given to them by God. Any eternal reward and honor is ultimately a credit to Jesus Who fills and empowers His children to be able to accomplish spiritual works to His glory. Thus, He alone is deserving of all praise and worship. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders rightly declare the attributes of God by calling Him worthy to receive honor, glory, and power. They understand why He deserves glory, and they are able to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24), reciting what God has done. They praise Him for creating all things and being the sole reason and impetus for their creation and continued existence (Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3). God spoke everything into existence by His will, for He is eternal, powerful, and the One Who put all things together and Who holds them together. There is no confusion as to what happens around the throne of God, for it is a place of humility and joy and of praising, thanking, and bowing before the One Who alone deserves all praise and worship.