Verse 1: A New Vision
“After this I looked.”
After John saw the vision of the seven churches, he then saw a new vision that included a heavenly court scene [chapters 4 and 5], and the breaking of the seven seals [chapters 6 and 7].
While John naturally saw the second vision after he saw the first vision, the breaking of the seven seals did not start when the Laodicean era ended.
The events of the seven churches and the seven seals are parallel in time. They both began with the early church and then proceed throughout the Christian era, ending with the second coming of Christ.
While the visions in the book of Daniel where given at different times, they nonetheless, are parallel in their interpretation as well. The events of Daniel chapter two, describing the rise and fall of empires, is paralleled by the vision found in Daniel chapter seven. In fact, the visions found in Daniel chapter eight and eleven, will parallel the events of both chapters two and seven.
This is an important point because some teach that the events of the seven churches are succeeded by the events of the seven seals, which are succeeded by the events of the seven trumpets. This would mean that all the events dealing with the seven seals and the seven trumpets are yet future. But the seven churches, seals, and trumpets are parallel in time.
The seven churches, seals, and trumpets cover the entire Christian era. The seven last plagues last only a short time in the end of time.
The door in heaven
The vision of Revelation chapter four begins with John seeing an opened door. John did not see the door being opened; it was already opened. He did not see a door into heaven, but a door that was in heaven. The door that was previously mentioned in our study was the door that Christ alone could open and shut. See Revelation 3:8. This was the door into the heavenly Sanctuary where Jesus ministers for us. When
Jesus ascended into heaven, He became our High Priest and entered the door to the Holy Place. As we have seen, in 1844, at the end of the 2300 year prophecy, Jesus entered through the door to the Most Holy Place to complete His high-priestly work.
If Jesus ascends to heaven and begins His work as our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary, then that means His sacrifice as the Lamb of God had been accepted by the Father. This is what is described in the beautiful scenes of Revelation chapters four and five.
The book of Revelation follows in perfect order the outline of the annual feasts in the Old Testament. There was Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
Passover: In Revelation chapter one we find Jesus who “washed us from our sins in His own blood. . . was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore.” Revelation 1:5, 18.
Pentecost: As we study Revelation chapters four and five, we will find the heavenly hosts welcoming Jesus at His ascension and singing glory to God and the Lamb.
Trumpets: In Revelation chapters eight through eleven we find the seven trumpets, which we shall study later.
Day of Atonement: Revelation chapters thirteen through nineteen cover the time when Jesus is in the Most Holy Place and when He leaves the Most Holy Place and returns the second time to resurrect the saints.
Feast of Tabernacles: This feast was also known as the Feast of Booths, when the Hebrews made booths symbolizing a new heaven and a new earth. Revelation chapters twenty-one and twenty-two describe the time when God will create a new heaven and new earth.
As we can see, the book of Revelation follows the order of the annual feasts in the Old Testament, which tells us that we would do well to study the sanctuary and its service to understand the book of Revelation.
Before we continue, let us take a peak at the beautiful scene portrayed in chapters four and five:
“There is the throne, and around it the rainbow of promise. There are cherubim and seraphim. The commander of the angel hosts, the sons of God, the representatives of the unfallen worlds, are assembled. The heavenly council before which Lucifer had accused God and His Son, the representatives of those sinless realms over which Satan had thought to establish his dominion,--all are there to welcome the Redeemer. They are eager to celebrate His triumph and to glorify their King.
“But He waves them back. Not yet; He cannot now receive the coronet of glory and the royal robe. He enters into the presence of the His Father. He points to His wounded head, the pieced side, the marred feet; He lifts His hands, bearing the print of nails. He points to the tokens of His triumph; He presents to God the wave sheaf, those raised with Him as representatives of that great multitude who shall come forth from the grave at His Second Coming. . .
“The voice of God is heard proclaiming that justice is satisfied. . . The Father’s arms encircle His Son, and the word is given, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.’
“With joy unutterable, rulers and principalities, and powers acknowledge the supremacy of the Prince of life. The angel host prostrate themselves before Him, while glad shouts fill the courts of heaven, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory and blessing. Revelation 5:12.” Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pages 833, 844
“The world that Satan has claimed and has ruled over with cruel tyranny, the Son of God has, by one vast achievement, encircled in His love and connected again with the throne of Jehovah. Cherubim and seraphim, and the unnumbered hosts of all the unfallen worlds, sang anthems of praise to God and the Lamb when His triumph was assured. They rejoiced that the way of salvation had been opened to the fallen race and that the earth would be redeemed from the curse of sin. How much more should those rejoice who are the objects of such amazing love.” Ellen G. White, God’s Amazing Grace, page 72.
The first voice
“The first voice” refers to the voice of Jesus who spoke to John in the first vision. See Revelation 1:10, 11.
“Things which must be hereafter”
Jesus tells him that He will show John things that will take place in the future.
John is permitted to look into heaven. To look through an opened door into the throne room of God. What does he see? First, he sees a throne and one sitting on the throne.
In verse three, he describes the one sitting on the throne.
He is “like a jasper and a sardine stone.” We are not told the shape, but we can only assume that He is in the form of a man. With the rainbow round about the throne, it is none other than the Father. But some say, “How can John behold the Father?” This is a fair question. But remember, John is in the spirit on the Lord’s day. He sees mostly the glory of the Father’s presence, not His form. In Revelation 5:7, Jesus “took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne.” Jesus would not be taking the book from Himself, but from the Father.
Around the throne are twenty-four seats where the twenty-four elders sit. As we will see, they are important personages who are part of the heavenly council. Along with the cherubim and seraphim, they welcome our Redeemer at His ascension. They also will take part in the forthcoming judgment. They are dressed in white representing purity of character. They wear “crowns of gold” representing their high authority in the kingdom of God as leaders of the unfallen worlds.
From this throne proceed lightnings and thunderings, which remind us of the Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments being the foundation of God’s government.
And there were seven lamps, which are before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. In Revelation 1:4, we have the “seven Spirits which are before His [Father’s] throne.” This is emblematic of the Holy Spirit, who is before the throne of God.
In connection with lightnings and thunderings, we can see the operation of the Holy Spirit to convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement to come. This gives us added emphasis that we are looking into the very throne room of God.
While there is turmoil upon the earth, there is the peaceful sea of glass like unto crystal.
Round about the throne are four living creatures full of eyes, representing their constant watchful attention to God. Eyes are also symbolic of intelligence. They are intelligent because they kept their eyes upon the Almighty.
The faces of the four living creatures are symbolic of power (lion), patience (calf/ox), wisdom (man), swiftness (the eagle). These living creatures are also symbolic of royalty (lion), service (calf/ox), wisdom (man), and vision (the eagle).
Verses 8, 9
All four of these living creatures have six wings depicting their ceaseless homage to God. With them there is no procrastination, they always do the will of God without question. They have full trust in the holiness of God and cease not to praise Him for it. They are the beautiful cherubim and seraphim.
Verse 10, 11
In like manner, the twenty-four elders worship God and cast their crowns before His throne. They praise Him for his creative power.
Let us go back over these verses in chapter four in more detail.
John is still in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, the Sabbath.
This simply means that John is now seeing a different vision. The scene is different. This is not about the seven churches, but a view into the throne room of God.
“the first voice. . . said”
“Come up hither” Where? Heaven.
What will he see?
“things which must be hereafter.” From the vantage point of the first century, John will now be able to look at future events. Actually, he will now see things from the vantage point of heaven.
“and immediately I was in the Spirit”
Some have wondered whether John was actually taken to heaven. Or, was he bodily on the island of Patmos, and saw heavenly things in a vision? In either case, John saw heavenly things.
“and, behold, a throne was set in heaven”
This was not a throne set in the earthly temple. After all, there was no earthly temple when John wrote the Revelation. It was destroyed in 70 AD. Therefore, John saw in vision a throne that was set or was placed in heaven.
“and one sat on the throne”
There is no name given to Him on the throne, but a short description of Him.
“And He that sat was to look upon”
John looked upon Him that sat on the throne and gave more of a description of His splendor, than to His form.
“like a jasper”
Jasper is better known for its brilliance than for its color. But you would find it usually red or yellow in color.
“and a sardine stone”
This stone was often blood-red.
What does John see? He sees the brilliance of the love of God, who gave to us His only begotten Son.
These two particular stones remind us of the breastplate of the high priest. Sardius (or carnelian) was the first stone, and jasper was the last stone. We learned earlier that Jesus is “the First and the Last,” the “Alpha and the Omega.” The twelve different stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel. See Exodus 28:17–21. The location of these stones upon His heart shows His affection for His people.
What does this tell us about the Father? The Father gave His Son not only to be our sacrifice, but also as our High Priest. The Son of God is the Mediator between us and the Father.
“and there was a rainbow round about the throne”
“A rainbow is represented in Heaven round about the throne, also above the head of Christ, as a symbol of God’s mercy encompassing the earth. When man by his great wickedness provoked the wrath of God, Christ, man’s intercessor, pleads for him, and points to the rainbow in the clouds, as evidence of God’s great mercy and compassion for every man: also the rainbow above the throne and upon His head emblematic of the glory and mercy from God resting there for the benefit of repentant man.” Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, volume 3, page 75
Rainbows appear as the storm passes away. It is a contrast with the tempest that passed. It is seen as the rays of the sun again bath the earth with its bright beams.
It is a reminder that we can trust the promises of God. Amidst the lightnings and thunderings, there is the plan of peace, the plan of salvation, the mercy of God for fallen humanity.
We are mindful of the first rainbow that appeared after the Flood. That rainbow became a symbol of mercy and justice. The world became increasingly wicked and was destroyed by the Flood. Yet according to God’s mercy He preserved Noah and his family.
In the throne room of God there is mercy and justice. In fact, Jesus is the perfect blend of mercy and justice. In every situation, Jesus is one hundred percent just and one hundred percent merciful. Often in our world, we are out of balance. We are either so mercifully that we do not hold individuals accountable for their actions, or we exercise a cold and indifferent justice.
The rainbow encircling the throne as a perfect circle represents the eternity and perfection of God’s throne. The most stable shape in our universe is not a square, but a sphere. God’s throne is the most stable thing in the entire universe. It is a throne that is all about life and is the perfect blend of mercy and justice.
“in sight like unto an emerald”
The emerald is green and reminds us of life. In the vision of the green cord of faith, Mrs. White said, “The green cord represented hope to my mind.” Early Writings, page 81.
In the throne room of God, we have these beautiful symbols of hope with the emerald, and mercy with the rainbow.
“And round about the throne were four and twenty seats, and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders.”
Who are these twenty-four elders? There are many interpretations concerning these twenty-four elders. But the three most popular teachings are: (1) they represent those who have been redeemed from the earth, (2) they are angels, or (3) they represent the leaders from unfallen worlds.
Part of the confusion over these three teachings concerns the reading of Revelation 5:8-10. Notice the difference between the KJV and a modern translation.
KJV. “And when He had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation: And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:8-10
Notice how the twenty-four elders say that Christ “wast slain, and hast redeemed usto God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” The only people who need to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb are sinners. According to most interpreters, this would make the twenty-four elders believers redeemed from the earth. Furthermore, it reads, “and hast made usunto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” Who shall reign on the earth? We know that the redeemed shall reign upon the earth. Therefore, most translators see the twenty-four elders as those redeemed from among men.
Now consider how one of the modern translations reads. I will quote from the New American Standard.
NAS. “When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.’”
In this translation, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sing a song that says, “You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” The twenty-four elders are not saying that Christ had died for them, but that the Lamb was slain and purchased for God men from the earth. Then they sing, “You have made them (not us) to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” The twenty-four elders are not saying that they are kings and priests to God, that will reign upon the earth. They are singing a song that says the redeemed will be reigning upon the earth.
The KJV and the modern translations are based on different manuscripts. If we go with the KJV, it seems that the twenty-four elders are redeemed from the earth. If we go with a modern translation, the twenty-four elders do not appear to be human. If they are not human, then who are they? Some say they are high ranking angels. Others says they are representatives from unfallen worlds. If they are representatives from some of the unfallen worlds, would they be similar to us? Are they higher than us? Without a doubt, the entire universe is interested in the outcome of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. It would not be surprising that the universe is well represented in this beautiful throne room of God. After all, there are more than angels and human beings in this universe.
Let me now share with you how I would understand Revelation 5:8-10. I will follow the KJV translation.
KJV. “And when He [Jesus] had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation: And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:8-10
Most translators would say that the twenty-four elders are singing the new song, without the participation of the four living creatures. It is possible to translate it that way. But it is also possible to include the four living creatures in singing the new song. Imagine the beautiful scene of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders singing this song together.
Without a doubt, the four living creatures are angels. They are the greatest of angels. As such, they are not human, and are not redeemed from the earth. Therefore, how could they be included in singing this new song? This is a fair question. But consider this. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders both have harps and golden vials full of odors. What do the odors represent? They represent the “prayers of the saints.” The song that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sing is based upon the prayers of the saints. In fact, the lyrics of this song are based on the very words of the saints as they pray to God. What do the saints say in their prayers? What should the saints say in their prayers? “Thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation: And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”
I think it is absolutely beautiful to think that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders turn our prayers into beautiful songs to God. With this understanding, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders are not humans redeemed from the earth. The four living creatures are clearly angels, they are the highest angels. How about the twenty-four elders, are they angels too? Or are they the highest leaders of the unfallen worlds?
It seems that the four beasts and the twenty-four elders are different than the retinue of angels in heaven. “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them as ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” Revelation 5:11. In this verse, there are three groups, “the many angels” (numbering in the billions), the four living creatures, and the twenty-four elders. This would make the twenty-four elders either a unique type of angel, or something other than an angel. If they are not angels, and they are not of the redeemed, then they would be the highest of intelligent beings representing the unfallen worlds.
We may choose to disregard the twenty-four elders from being human for another reason. In Revelation 4:10, the twenty-four elders “cast their crowns before the throne.” The saints will cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus. The elders cast their crowns while Jesus is in the heavenly sanctuary. The saints will cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus when they enter the city after the Second Coming of Christ. The elders cast their crowns before the throne because God “hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11. The saints will cast their crowns at Jesus feet because He has redeemed them by His blood. This sounds like two different groups to me, describing two different events, taking place at two different times. Besides, how can the redeemed, or a part of the redeemed, receive a crown before Jesus receives His crown? We receive our crowns after Jesus has returned as King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Also concerning crowns, of the 273 references to angels in the Bible, we are never told that they sit upon thrones or wear crowns. The twenty-four elders sit on thrones and wear crowns. This would point to the twenty-four elders as being a unique creation of God. The evidence keeps pointing to them being a unique creation of God, that oversees the unfallen worlds.
The number twenty-four is specific. Therefore, there are twenty-four elders in number. What does the number twenty-four represent? The number twenty-four is linked to the priesthood. There were twenty-four courses of priests that served in the Temple. See 1 Chronicles 23, 24. They served from Sabbath to Sabbath. Therefore, we would understand the twenty-four elders to have been selected for a special duty or service within the throne room of God.
As the twenty-four courses of priests represented and served the entirety of the camp of Israel. The twenty-four elders would serve the entirety of God’s unfallen worlds. How they were selected, we are not told, except that they all have “crowns of gold.” Revelation 4:4. This would indicate that they would be the leaders of other worlds, or regions of the universe. Adam was the leader of this world before he fell. It is likely that every world has an original leader. Beyond that, there would be leaders over many worlds. In any case, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders represent those closest to the throne of God, who have great responsibilities in the administration of the universe.
Now consider this important emphasis through chapter five. John is in the spirit on the Lord’s day, the seventh day Sabbath. See Revelation 1:10. The twenty-four elders worship God as their Creator. See Revelation 4:11. This would make them sabbath-keepers. This means that John who is the last surviving disciple is keeping the same Sabbath as the twenty-four elders, who are the leaders of all those unfallen worlds. Therefore, there is one Sabbath day kept by the entire universe. Clearly the worship of God as our Creator points to the seventh day Sabbath. See Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11.
Now consider the fact that the twenty-four courses of priests that served in the earthly sanctuary, served from Sabbath to Sabbath. The number twenty-four ties the twenty-four elders and the twenty-four courses of priests into some corresponding relationship. It doesn’t make the twenty-four elders human, but it does provide and emphasis that they serve in some special capacity in the heavenly court.
There is another tie of the twenty-four elders to the Sabbath. God’s remnant church is described as those who worship Him who created heaven and earth. See Revelation 14:7. This points to the remnant church as sabbath-keepers. They also declare that the judgment is come. See Revelation 14:7. This proclamation points to the work of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary. Where do we find the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders? They are in the heavenly sanctuary with Jesus.
While God’s remnant church keeps the Sabbath on planet Earth, the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, four living creatures, twenty-four elders, the unfallen worlds, and the myriad of angels are keeping it to. While the remnant church proclaims that judgment is come, all those in the heavenly court are participating in the judgment. This is how it should be. The saints on earth ought to be cooperating with what is happening in heaven. Praise God that He has such a people.
"clothed in white raiment”
White is the emblem of purity and a sanctified life. Rev 3:4; 6:11; 7:9; 19:8. Those who gain the victory over sin will have white raiment. And those who have never sinned are already in white raiment. We can be assured that the twenty-four elders have never sinned. In fact, none of the other worlds have sinned.
“and they had on their heads crowns of gold”
According to Peter, believers are a “royal priesthood.” 1 Peter 2:9. In Revelation 1:6, in Christ we are made “kings and priests unto God and his Father.” As kings, we are to dedicate all that we have to help others. As priests, we are to dedicate all of who we are in service to help our fellow man. Therefore, we would understand that the twenty-four elders are leaders of the unfallen worlds, who have dedicated all of what they have and all of what they are to the service of these unfallen worlds. After all, they already are kings and priests because they already have their “crowns of gold.”
“And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices”
Lightnings and thunderings from the throne of God could be seen as signs of power and majesty. Elsewhere in Revelation, they are seen as signs of judgment and finality.
“And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.” Revelation 8:5
“And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.” Revelation 11:19
“And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air. . . . And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.” Revelation 16:17, 18
When we are caught in a thunder or lightning storm, we feel threatened. The thunder and lightning here described seems to be expressive of God’s judgments against those who have rejected the plan of salvation. Perhaps the main point delineated here is that God has the right to judge.
“And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”
In Revelation, chapters one through three, the seven candlesticks represented the seven churches. In this verse, we have “seven lamps” representing the seven Spirits of God,” or the Holy Spirit.
This is not a contradiction. Rather, the work of the Holy Spirit is to burn away the dross from the saints in the seven churches. The number seven is the number of completeness. Hence, the Holy Spirit is able to do a complete work in burning way sin in the life of all church members.
Since this work is associated with the throne room of God and the theme of judgment, we might discern that the work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for all of God’s professed people to stand before God. What will the Holy Spirit use to burn away the sin in our life? He will use the Word of God. As Ellen G. White wrote, “By the seven lamps is represented the Word of God.” Christ Object Lessons, page 406
“And before the throne there was a sea of glass”
The sea of glass is perfectly clear and transparent like glass. It stretches far and wide like a sea. It is perfectly calm.
“like unto crystal”
This is another beautiful way of describing the clear and beautiful sea of glass.
God’s throne room is upon this sea of glass, meaning that:
His throne room is vast. According to Daniel 7:10, billions of angels can attend there.
His throne room is in perfect calmness. In contrast, the nations are in turmoil.
God’s judgments are transparent as glass.
“and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne”
Immediately around the throne, on every side of the throne, there are four living beings.
“were four beasts”
There are four living creatures around the throne.
“The seraphim before the throne are so filled with reverential awe in beholding the glory of God that they do not for an instant look upon themselves with self-complacency, or in admiration of themselves or one another. Their praise and glory are for the Lord of Hosts, who is high and lifted up, and the glory of whose train fills the temple. As they see the future, when the whole earth shall be filled with his glory, the triumphant song of praise is echoed from one to another in melodious chant, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts.” They are fully satisfied to glorify God; and in his presence, beneath his smile of approbation, they wish for nothing more. In bearing his image, in doing his service and worshiping him, their highest ambition is fully reached.” Review and Herald, December 22, 1896, par. 11
They embrace four great principles: strength; patience; intelligence; and vision. These qualities express four great principles in the government of God—Strength (Royalty); Patience (firmness); Intelligence; and Swiftness (Vision).
Who are these four living creatures on the four sides of God’s throne? Like the twenty-four elders they are close to the throne of God, but they are further away that the “seven Spirits of God.” These same wonderful angels are referred to 38 times in Scripture. They are found in Isaiah 6:1–8; Ezekiel 1:1–14; 10:1–20. In these verses they are called cherubim and seraphim. They represent the highest of the angelic world and minister closer to the throne of God than all other created beings.
We find these wonderful beings woven into the curtains and veil of the Most Holy Place. Lucifer himself was one of these covering cherubs. See Ezekiel 28:14–19. It seems that Gabriel himself is one of them. See Luke 1:19.
full of eyes”
These living creatures are ever-watchfulness. Nothing escapes their observation. They love to behold God, and desire to be like Him in character. After all, God’s throne room is transparent as glass, there is everything to see.
Eyes and Wings
The many eyes “before and behind” and “within” would indicate perfection of insight, discernment, and wisdom. Wings in Bible prophecy generally represent swiftness. It could be said that these four living creatures execute the commands of God without procrastination. They are obedient in manner and timeliness.
Isaiah’s vision of the seraphim they use their wings to cover their faces when in the presence of God. This would indicate reverence and humility before God.
In Numbers 2:1–5, we are told that the twelve tribes camped around the Sanctuary in four divisions, each “by his own standard, with the ensign of their father’s house.” Jewish writers tell us that the group on the east had the lion as their standard, those on the west had the calf or ox as their standard, those on the south had the face of a man, and those on the north had a flying eagle.
“And the first beast was like a lion”
The lion is the king of beasts, and becomes the emblem of dominion, of authority, and of government in general. Compare Genesis 49:9; Amos 3:8; Joel 3:16; Daniel 7:14.
A lion before the throne would indicate that He who sat upon the throne was ruler over all.
Ox or calf
A calf or young bullock, would symbolize firmness, endurance, strength (compare Proverbs 14:4). This would teach us that the One who sat on the throne would exhibit qualities of stability, firmness, and perseverance.
Face of a man
One of the living creatures had the face of a man, which would denote intelligence, wisdom, reasoning abilities, and a conscience. Therefore, God’s government is run with wisdom and intelligence. The universe did not happen by chance. We are not here by mistake.
The last creature was like a flying eagle, which denotes rapidity, power, elevation, and vision. The will of God is to be exercised or carried out promptly.
There four living creatures represent those closest to the throne of God. They are those who remained faithful to God’s government, while Satan rebelled.
These living creatures always fulfill God’s will without hesitation. Hence, they have six wings. The leopard like beast in Daniel chapter seven, representing the Grecian empire, had four wings. These four wings represented the swift or speedy accomplishments of Alexander the Great.
“and they rest not day and night”
They are constantly active on behalf of God, who neither slumbers nor sleeps. Every day we should also serve God in executing His will.
They praise God day and night
These four living creatures that are the closest of created beings to God, praise Him without rest day or night. Those who refuse to praise God will be punished without “rest” day and night until they are consumed by the lake of fire. See Revelation 14:11; Malachi 4:1–3; Revelation 20:13–15.
“saying, Holy, holy, holy”
Those who know God the best, rest neither day nor night to execute His perfect will, and praise Him for His holiness. It is good that we give expression to our faith and thankfulness to God—to acknowledge His holiness.
“The crowning glory of Christ’s attributes is His holiness. The angels bow before Him in adoration, exclaiming, ‘Holy, holy, holy. Lord God Almighty.’ He is declared to be glorious in His holiness. Study the character of God. By beholding Christ, by seeking Him in faith and prayer, you may become like Him.” Ellen G. White, Counsels to Teachers, 402
“Which was, and is, and is to come”
God is eternal. He has existed from all eternity; He exists today; and He will exist forever and ever. See Revelation 1:4
“And when those beasts give glory”
The four beasts seem to lead out in the song of praise for God’s creative power. See 4:11. They give glory to God. They honor God. They give thanks to God.
“The four and twenty elders fall down before him”
The twenty-four elders join in this beautiful anthem. They worship Him as their Creator. (verse 11)
“The duty to worship God is based upon the fact that He is the Creator and that to Him all other beings owe their existence. And wherever, in the Bible, His claim to reverence and worship, above the gods of the heathen, is presented, there is cited the evidence of His creative power. ‘All the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens.’ Psalm 96:5. ‘To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things.’ ‘Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it: ... I am the Lord; and there is none else.’ Isaiah 40:25-26; 45:18. Says the psalmist: ‘Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves. ‘O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.’ Psalm 100:3; 95:6. And the holy beings who worship God in heaven state, as the reason why their homage is due to Him: ‘Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things.’ ” Revelation 4:11. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, page 436, 437
“And cast their crowns before the throne”
We know that the saints will receive crowns for their victory over Satan and sin. I am not aware that angels wear crowns. But the twenty-four elders wear crowns, which makes them somewhat different from the four living creatures and the myriad of angels. Their crowns would represent that they are the leaders of the unfallen worlds. In the same way, kings and queens in are world wear crowns. They have very high administrative positions. The elders cast their crowns before the throne honoring God as their Creator.
“Thou art worthy, O Lord”
The Lord is worthy of worship from all of His creation. This beautiful scene of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders worshiping God, should be an encouragement to us to worship God as our Creator as well. For we have even another reason to worship Him, for He has redeemed us with His blood.
While Lucifer and the disloyal angels questioned the glory, honor, and power given to Jesus, these twenty-four elders do not. Like the four living creatures, the loyal angels, and the unfallen worlds, the elders have maintained their fidelity to God. The elders worship God because He has been and always will be the perfect Creator.
cherubim not only praise God individually; they also lead out in a praise service. What do they sing?
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8.
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou has created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11.
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” Revelation 5:12.
The song of God’s self-existence is the first song. God as Creator is the second song. And Jesus as Redeemer is the third song. These three songs give us three very good reasons to worship God and to recognize His authority over our lives. He alone is self-existent, immortal, and everlasting. He alone has the power to create. And Jesus is the only One who could have paid the penalty for our sins.