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Bible: What Does Revelation 4-5 Teach Us About The Scroll, the 24 Elders, the Four Living Creatures, and the Lamb?
A Young Apostle John
The Identity of the Twenty-Four Elders
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Four "Living Creatures"
Revelation 4-5: John's Vision of God the Father's Throne; The "Twenty-Four Elders"; The "Four Living Creatures"; The Lamb Takes the Scroll
Beginning with meta tauta ("after these things")--a prepositional phrase which signals the start of the third and last part of Revelation--John describes an open door in heaven, and hears a trumpet-like voice which summons him "up there" to see future events (“things which must take place after this” (v. 1).
[Although what the apostle sees in subsequent chapters describes the tribulation period (chapters 6-19), his transference to heaven here does not symbolize the pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church.]
John Sees A Vision of the Father
As Jesus placed John “in the Spirit” to give him a vision of Himself (cf. 1:10ff), so He brings the apostle “in the Spirit” into the very throne room of God, and gives him a vision of the Father (v. 2).
While the first half of verse three may describe how the Father appeared to John (“like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance”), it probably depicts what His throne looked like.
An emerald-colored (light green) rainbow surrounds it (v. 3) as well as twenty-four white-robed, golden-crowned “elders,” each sitting on their own throne (v. 4).
[Since these glorified “elders” sit on thrones, they may represent “redeemed men” (Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 462).
May they symbolize Israel (twelve tribes) and the Church (twelve apostles)?
If they represent only the Church, why are there twenty-four of them? Cf. 1 Cor. 6: 1-3; Dan. 7: 9-10)].
Sights and sounds suggesting great power emanate from the throne; before it upon a crystal-clear sea of glass burns the fullness of the Holy Spirit (“the seven Spirits of God”) [v. 5]; in its midst and around it fly four winged, all-seeing “living creatures”(v. 6).
[Since it is difficult to comprehend how “representations of the attributes of God” (Ryrie 462) could “give glory and honor and thanks” to the eternal Father (v. 9), it makes better sense to understand these four living creatures as angelic beings of some sort, even though John does write that they are “in the midst of the throne.”]
Each living one looks like a different animal or like a man; that they represent how the Gospels depict Christ appears reasonable, though also somewhat speculative (v. 7; Ryrie 463).
Their six-winged, all-seeing appearance as well as their incessant worship of the thrice-holy, eternal, omnipotent God reminds the student of the Older Testament of the creatures the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel saw in their visions (v. 8; cf. Is. 6:2-3; Ezek. 1:18).
When these angelic beings worship the Eternal Father, the redeemed twenty-four also fall prostrate before God (“Him who sits on the throne . . . who lives forever and ever”) and throw their crowns before the throne, signifying that they owe these rewards (namely, the crowns) to the One sitting upon it (vv. 9-10).
In unison they proclaim His worthiness to receive all “glory and honor and power” as the Creator Who permitted other beings to exist (v. 11).
The Word of God
The Lamb of God
Who is the Lamb of God?
Do you believe Jesus to be the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world?
John records that he saw the Father holding in His right hand a seven-sealed scroll with writing on the inside and on the back (v. 1).
The apostle also heard “a strong angel” ask everyone everywhere (“no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth”) if anyone was worthy to unseal the scroll and open it (vv. 2-3a).
He finds no one who can even look at it, let alone open it (v. 3b).
Grieved by the universal silence, John weeps greatly (v. 4).
At this point, however, one of the twenty-four elders comforts him with the good news that “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” had earned that privilege and would open the scroll (v. 5).
[The One about Whom Moses and Isaiah wrote—Jesus, the Anointed One of Israel—has proven His supreme worthiness (see Gen. 49:9; Is. 11:1, 10)].
The apostle now sees an omnipotent (“seven-horned”), omnipresent (“seven eyes”) Lamb that had apparently been slain standing among the four living ones and the elders “in the midst of the throne” (v. 6).
[The designation “seven horns” signifies perfect or absolute strength or power; John interprets the “seven eyes” as “the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth,” suggesting that the Lamb, in union with the Holy Spirit, sees everything under the sun.
This Lamb, Jesus Christ, still bears the scars of His bloody death.]
This once-crucified, now risen and ascended Lamb takes the scroll from the Father (v. 7).
The Lamb’s action motivates the twenty-four and the four living ones to prostrate themselves before Him; holding harps and golden saucers full of incense (“the prayers of believers”), they sing “a new song” to Christ (vv. 8-9a).
[Are these prayers the requests of tribulation saints?
A familiar OT term, “a new song” has millennial overtones (cf. Ps. 96:1; 98:1; 149:1).]
The song proclaims His worthiness to open the scrolls (which unleash the plagues on Earth), because He has bought (“redeemed”) sinners out of the slave market of every tribe and language and people-group and country by shedding His blood at Calvary (v. 9b), making them qualified to reign with Christ as a kingdom of priests to the Father (v. 10).
Vast numbers of angelic hosts, “the twenty-four,” and “the four” now join together to chant loudly that the once-slain Lamb is worthy to receive seven-fold praise for His finished work (vv. 11-12).
Then finally, universal worship erupts as all creation gives “blessing and honor and glory and power” praise to the Father and the Lamb” (v. 13).
“The four” declare “So be it,” and “the twenty-four” prostrate themselves again before the eternal God (v. 14).
[Note that Revelation 4-5 is a unit, showing a definite progression of five heavenly songs: from the praise of four living creatures toward the Father (4:8); to the twenty-four elders joining them (4:11); to both groups worshiping toward Christ (5:9-10); to an angelic host joining them (5:12); to that of every creature toward both the Father and the Son (5:13).]
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