Chapters 4 and 5 of the Revelation are really the beginning of the Revelation proper. Chapter 4 begins the third division of the book which Jesus referred to as, “the things which will take place after this” (Revelation 1:19) The meaning is about the major things that will happen to the church from 100 A.D. till the end of the world. It is a fantastic foretelling of the future history of the New Testament Church. Any other approach to this book is a waste of time in the judgment of many good Bible scholars, and I concur in that judgment. It is all about the ups and downs of the Christian religion. Let it be understood that this book does foretell all historical events of the past 2,000 years. It only speaks of those historical events that had the greatest impact on the Christian religion. There are only two historical events that have seriously impacted the church in the past two thousand years. One was the pagan Roman Empire of the Caesars and the untold thousands of Christian martyrs they put in their graves. The other was the same Roman empire under the Popes of Rome who also sent many Christian martyrs to their graves. This book speaks primarily of the Roman Empire under two different forms, one political and one religious. If you have eyes to see, you can see these two opposing powers discussed in this book. In discussing the second vision of the Revelation, we should keep in mind that this book was not written in chapters and verses. The vision classified in chapters 4,5 contain the entire second vision. Both chapters talk about one and the same vision. Thus, we shall study both chapters together in this message. The subject of this vision is, “The Throne and the Book.”
For the sake of brevity I will paraphrase what John saw. He saw an opening in heaven, and a trumpet-like voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must be hereafter.” Gazing into heaven, John saw a glorious Being sitting in majesty on a glorious throne. His effulgence and radiance defied description. His appearance was something like the luster of a diamond crystal clear or white. So intense was His splendor, He is compared to a Jasper stone. He was shining like the beautiful red sardius stone. Flashes of lightening, voices, and thunderings proceeded from the throne. Over the throne was a rainbow in appearance like an emerald.
Twenty four seats encircled this throne upon which were seated 24 human beings, men clothed in white robes and called elders. Each had a golden crown on his head. Each one had a harp and golden bowl full of incense, which symbolized the prayers of persecuted Christians on earth. Between these men and the majestic One were four beast-like creatures
covered all over with eyes. One had the face of a lion, another the face of calf, the third the face of a man, and the fourth had the face of an eagle. Each of those creatures had six wings. Twenty- four hours a day they worshiped and glorified the One seated on the throne uttering these words: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty Who was and is and is to come.” We learn from these words the One seated on the throne was none other than Jehovah God. Every time these four creatures uttered these words of praise, the 24 men simultaneously fell down before Him on the throne, casting their crowns before the throne. These men praised God saying, “You are worthy O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you have created all things and by Your will they exist and were created.”
Then John's attention is called to a book in the right hand of God. Books then were in form of a scroll or manuscript, and it had writing on both sides of scroll and was sealed with seven seals. It was a roll of parchment bound by a band with a seal affixed to the tie on the band or to the knot. Concerning this book, an angel proclaimed with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scoll and to loose it seals?” No one in heaven or earth was able to open the scroll or even to look therein. John knew this document had something to do with the church, and John wept when no one could be found to open the book. The contents of that scroll inflamed his curiosity. But one of the elders ordered John to stop crying, and informed him that a person had been found who was worthy to open the book. He is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the root of David. The only one who could open this book was a person from the tribe Judah and a descendant of David. Who this person is was cleared up when before the throne a Lamb appeared as though it had been slain, and the wounded Lamb took the book out of the right hand of God. At the very moment the Lamb took the book from God's hand, the four beast-like creatures and the 24 men fell down before the Lamb and worship the Lamb, and together they sang a new song of worship to the Lamb. They sang, “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals. For you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue, people, and nation. And have made us kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign upon the earth.” Then ten thousand times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands of angels appear before the throne, and they worship the Lamb saying. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” That was the second vision. What does all this mean? Of course, it is not to be understood literally. This did not literally take place in heaven. Flesh and blood cannot enter into heaven. There are no creatures in heaven with faces of wild animals. A literal lamb does not
exist around God's throne in heaven today. This is not a literal description of what goes on in heaven today. This was simply a curious picture, an exciting vision created by the Holy Spirit on the Isle of Patmos to teach John and us what was going to happen to the church in coming centuries. This vision was located on Patmos and not in heaven. The majestic person seated on the throne is God, the Father. The rainbow around the throne reminds us of the covenant God made with the human race after the flood. The four beast-like creatures are high ranking angelic beings called Seraphim and Cherubim. You can read about them in Isaiah 6:2 and Ezekiel 1. I would suggest their faces of wild animals represented the entire animal creation of God and that this entire vision is a tribute to the God of all creation.
I would suggest that the 24 men seated around the throne represented all Christians existing on earth at the time John wrote this book, both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Both were being brutally persecuted and put to death by the Imperial Roman Empire of the Caesars. When the 24 men worshiped God with their bowls of incense, we are distinctly told their incense represented the prayers of Christians. They were offering prayers to God to ease their bitter persecution and suffering(Revelation 5:8). . It would seem those 24 men represented the entire church on earth bitterly persecuted by the Romans. They were offering prayers to God for justice. This persecution started by Nero in 60 A.D. continued for two centuries. God was about to answer their prayers. God's entire creation is represented as worshiping God in this vision: angelic beings, human beings, and the animal creation, all of His creatures. Of course the wounded Lamb who took the book from the hand of God was a symbol Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Finally, we come to the book in the right hand of God. This book contained important disclosures about the Church of Christ, also called the Church of God. At this time there were no denominational names. It contained future events that were to befall the one church, and some of them were terrible indeed. This book was about what the future held for the church, and for all who are members of that church. Two powerful enemies made havoc of the church in the ensuing centuries. Only Christ knew what would happen to the church; and that is why no one was found worthy to open the book but the wounded Lamb, Jesus the Messiah. It meant the future is in the hands of Christ. God gave this book to Jesus, and Jesus gave it to the apostle John by an angel. The book in the hand of God was none other than the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible.
Let us summarize Revelation 4,5 by saying God had a message for the New Testament church. Very important events were in the offing. The future is in Christ's hands, and He will communicate God's message to the church. This message was conveyed to John by the vision of God on His throne with a book in His hand, and Jesus the Lamb coming to take it out of His hand and divulging its contents. The book of Revelation contains the final message of Christ to the church, and it will never need another message as long as time lasts. John Hinds in his commentary makes this statement about the book in God's right hand, “The book contained symbolic visions of what was to come to pass; hence revealed the destiny of the church and its enemies from that time till the end of the world.” The comment is made in E.M. Zerr's Commentary, “He(this Lion and Lamb) came to the throne to get the book. Him that sat upon the throne means God, and in giving the book to the Lamb signifies that God gave His Son the ability to reveal future events. This fact is stated literally in the first verse of the book of Revelation.” The Pulpit Commentary makes this statement about the book in God's right hand, “We must remember that the Revelation was vouchsafed to the Church as an encouragement to her members to persevere under much suffering and tribulation, and as a support to their faith, lest they should succumb to the temptation of despair, and unable to fathom the eternal purposes of God, should doubt His truth or His ability to aid them.” B, W. Johnson states in his commentary on these two chapters, “It is generally agreed that with chapter 4 the third section of Revelation begins. Chapter 4 and 5 are preparatory visions. It is not until chapter 6 is reached that the future begins to be uncovered. In these chapters there is revealed through the open door of heaven the Almighty upon the throne in glory surrounded by adoring creatures. The symbolism declares that He holds in His hands the destinies of the world and the knowledge of the future. Then it is declared that to the Lion of the tribe of Judah it has been given to open the book of destiny and to reveal the future. To the Son, who appears in a symbolic form, the book is given, amid the praises of the Elders and living creatures.”