• Steve McAtee

Week - 38 Survey of the Book of Revelation

Updated: Dec 15, 2021


Authored by Jerry Marshall The Essential Features of The Book of Revelation


The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ was given to Apostle John, who was commanded by the Lord to write down the things that he had seen, the things that are, and the things that will be (Revelation 1:1,19).


This book was written during the last part of the last decade of the first century between 94-96 A.D. John was ministering to the church in Ephesus when he was arrested and exiled to the Island of Patmos under the intense persecution instigated against the church during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96). At this point, John is the last surviving apostle and is now an old man. Some sixty years plus have passed since the days when he walked with Jesus during our Lord’s earthly ministry.


The purpose of the Book of Revelation is to reveal events which will take place immediately before, during, and following the second coming of Christ. In keeping with this purpose, the book devotes most of its revelation to this subject in chapters 4-18. The Second Coming itself is given the most graphic portrayal found anywhere in the Bible in chapter 19, followed by the millennial reign of Christ described in chapter 20. The eternal state is revealed in chapters 21-22. So, the obvious purpose of the book is to complete the prophetic theme presented earlier in the prophecies of the Old Testament


The book of Revelation was addressed to the seven churches in ancient Asia Minor that where in existence when John penned these words at the command of our Lord. However, its audience extends to all true believers everywhere.


The central event in the book of Revelation is the Second Coming of Christ, and the establishment of His Millennial rule in accordance with the covenant that the Lord made with King David (2 Samuel 7:1-13; Jeremiah 23:5-6).


Revelation 1:19 provides the best foundation upon which this book can be outlined.

I. The Things which You Have Seen (1:1–20)

A. The Prologue (1:1–8)

B. The Vision of the Glorified Christ (1:9–18)

C. The Apostle’s Commission to Write (1:19, 20)


II. The Things which Are (2:1–3:22)

A. The Letter to the Church at Ephesus (2:1–7)

e.g. exempli gratia, for example

1Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:927


B. The Letter to the Church at Smyrna (2:8–11)

C. The Letter to the Church at Pergamum (2:12–17)

D. The Letter to the Church at Thyatira (2:18–29)

E. The Letter to the Church at Sardis (3:1–6)

F. The Letter to the Church at Philadelphia (3:7–13)

G. The Letter to the Church at Laodicea (3:14–22)


III. The Things which Will Take Place after This (4:1–22:21)

A. Worship in Heaven (4:1–5:14)

B. The Great Tribulation (6:1–18:24)

C. The Return of the King (19:1–21)

D. The Millennium (20:1–10)

E. The Great White Throne Judgment (20:11–15)

F. The Eternal State (21:1–22:21)

There are four different approaches that have been taken in terms of the interpretation of this book. Dr. Walvoord addresses them in his commentary on Revelation.


Because of its unusual character, Revelation has been approached from a number of interpretive principles, some of which raise serious questions concerning its value as divine authoritative revelation.


The allegorical or non-literal approach. This form of interpretation was offered by the Alexandrian school of theology in the third and fourth centuries. It regards the entire Bible as an extensive allegory to be interpreted in a non-literal sense. The allegorical interpretation of the Bible was later restricted largely to prophecy about the Millennium by Augustine (354-430), who interpreted Revelation as a chronicle of the spiritual conflict between God and Satan being fulfilled in the present Church Age. A liberal variation of this in modern times considers Revelation simply as a symbolic presentation of the concept of God’s ultimate victory.


The preterist approach. A more respected approach is known as the preterist view which regards Revelation as a symbolic picture of early church conflicts which have been fulfilled. This view denies the future predictive quality of most of the Book of Revelation. In varying degrees this view combines the allegorical and symbolic interpretation with the concept that Revelation does not deal with specific future events. Still another variation of the preterist view regards Revelation as setting forth principles of divine dealings with man, without presenting specific events.


The historical approach. A popular view stemming from the Middle Ages is the historical approach which views Revelation as a symbolic picture of the total church history of the present age between Christ’s first and second comings. This view was advanced by Luther, Isaac Newton, Elliott, and many expositors of the postmillennial school of interpretation and has attained respectability in recent centuries.

Its principal problem is that seldom do two interpreters interpret a given passage as referring to the same event. Each interpreter tends to find its fulfillment in his generation. Many have combined the historical interpretation with aspects of other forms of interpretation in order to

2MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Re 1:1


bring out a devotional or spiritual teaching from the book. The preceding methods of interpretation tend to deny a literal future Millennium and also literal future events in the Book of Revelation.


The futuristic approach. The futuristic approach has been adopted by conservative scholars, usually premillenarians, who state that chapters 4-22 deal with events that are yet future today. The content of Revelation 4-18 describes the last seven years preceding the second coming of Christ and particularly emphasizes the Great Tribulation, occurring in the last three and one-half years before His coming.


Objections to this view usually stem from theological positions opposed to premillennialism. The charge is often made that the Book of Revelation would not have been a comfort to early Christians or understood by them if it were largely futuristic. Adherents of the futuristic school of interpretation insist, on the contrary, that future events described in Revelation bring comfort and reassurance to Christians who in the nature of their faith regard their ultimate victory as future. The futuristic interpretation, however, is demanding of the expositor as it requires him to reduce to tangible prophetic events the symbolic presentations which characterize the book.

_______________________________________________

The Book of Revelation contains prophetic declarations about the final days of planet earth as we know it. These words of prophecy come to us from an omniscient God.

Therefore, we can be certain as to its accurate portrayal of the events that will lead up to and after the Second Coming of Christ. There are several features of this book that we can unpack in just the first eight verses of this opening chapter.


I. The Essential Nature of this Book (1:1a)


It is essential to keep in mind that the intent of our Lord in giving the content of this book is to bring clarity, not mystery. It is His divine purpose to reveal, to disclose and to enhance the understanding of the readers the things that John beheld, the things which existed in the seven churches in Asia Minor, and to that which will take place when this world as we know it comes to an end. The conclusion of this revelation describes a new heaven and earth, which will be the eternal home of all genuine believers (Revelation 21-22).


This is why the open verse of this book begins by its opening declaration… “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond servant John.”


Revelation” is a translation of the Greek noun apokalupsis, which means “an uncovering, an unveiling or a disclosure.” This book does not begin by stating that this is “an enigma of Jesus Christ.”

Nor does it begin by declaring that this book contains “an unsolvable mystery and impossible information to understand about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and the end of the world as we know it.”


II. The Central Figure of this Book (1:1b, 5-8)

3Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:926


A. The faithful witness (1:5a)


B. The firstborn of the dead (1:5b)


C. The sovereign king (1:5c)


D. The redeemer (1:5d)


E. The Kingdom priest-maker (1:6a)

F. The focus of all glory (1:6b)


III. The Supernatural Communication of this Book (1:1c-2, 4)


A. From the Father to the Son (1:1a)


B. From the Son by His angel (1:1b)


C. From the angel to John (1:1c)


D. From John to the churches (1:4)


IV. The Promised Blessing of this Book (1:3a)


V. The Purpose of this Book (1:1, 3b, 7)


VI. The Ultimate Priority of this Book (1:6b)


The Letters to the Seven Churches


The Church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)


A. The Lord’s Complement (2:1-3)


1. Their service (v.2)

2. Their steadfastness (v.2b, 3)

3. Their spiritual discernment (V.2c)

4. Their stand (v.6)


B. The Lord’s Criticism (2:4)


The Lord did not possess their supreme affection.


C. The Lord’s Command (2:5)


1. Remember (5a)

2. Repent (5b)

3. Repeat (5c)


D. The Lord’s Commitment (2:7-8)


The Church in Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11)


A. The Context of this Church (2:8)


This church existed in the context of a hostile environment.


B. The Condition of this church (2:9)


1. A persecuted church (2:9a)

2. A poor church (2:9b)

3. A slandered church (2:9c)


C. The Command to this Church (2:10)


1. Be fearless (2:10a)

2. Be faithful (2:10b)


D. The Counsel to this Church (2:11)


1. A command (2:11a)

2. A commitment (2:11b)


The Church in Pergamum (2:12-17)


A. The Lord’s Compliment (2:12-13)


There have been many suggestions as to the identity of this Throne of Satan. Some have suggested that it may have been a reference to one of the many temples of the pagan gods located in this city. But the fact that Antipas was killed, whom the Lord describes as His witness and His faithful one, points to Pergamum as being the leading city for emperor worship. That is probably the best understanding of the Throne of Satan and the place where Satan lives.


According to tradition, Antipas was roasted to death inside of a brass bull during the persecution instigated by Emperor Domitian. Not for his refusal to worship pagan deities but because of his refusal to worship the Emperor.


B. The Lord’s Concern (2:14-15)


1. The teaching of Balaam (v.14)


Balaam, still driven by the promise of financial benefits from Balak, came up with a plan wherein they would get the Israelite men to intermarry with the women of Moab. It was through that union, that they would assimilate the pagan worship and practices with those of the Israelites, which would weaken Israel spiritually and strategically; and it worked for a while (Numbers 25:1-9; 31:1,7,16).


Balaam’s successful strategy is called syncretism, which is the blending together of normally alien beliefs and practice into one. Sproul defines syncretism as… “the process by which aspects of one religion are assimilated into or blended with another religion. This leads to fundamental changes in both religions.”


2. The teaching of the Nicolaitans (v.15)


This toleration of the teaching of Balaam was manifested in the willingness to tolerate some who held to the teaching of the Nicolaitans who also taught that believers could participate in pagan orgies, all in the name of Christian liberty. The Nicolaitans believed that the grace of God somehow provided a license to sin (Titus 2:11 ff).


C. The Lord’s Command (2:16)


D. The Lord’s Counsel (2:17)


1. To those who hear (v.16a)


2. To those who overcome (v.16b)


The White Stone: There is a whole lot of speculation about what this white stone means. But perhaps the best explanation is the one that comes from the Roman custom of awarding white stones to the victors in athletic contests.

Their names were inscribed on the stone and served as a ticket to a special victor’s banquet. So then, those overcomers have a promise from the exalted Lord of a guaranteed entrance to the eternal victory banquet celebration in heaven.


The Church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29)


A. The Lord Compliments This Church (2:18-19)


1. Their deeds (19a)

2. Their love (19b)

3. Their faith (19c)

4. Their service (19d)

5. Their perseverance (19e)


B. The Lord Rebukes this church (2:20-23)


The word tolerate in the original language of the Bible means to allow one to do as they wish without restraint or restriction; to lack the will to reign in. It shows that the corruption of this church was not from external persecution, but internal compromise. It’s not from a pagan deity, but from a false prophet.


1. Her perversion (v.20)

2. Her punishment (v.21-23)


The Church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6)


A. The Condition of this Church (3:1)


The church in Sardis had a name or a reputation of being alive. No doubt that was true of them in the past, but it is no longer a present reality. In the 40-year history of this church, it had gone from a position of spiritual vitality and fervency to being primarily populated with unredeemed people, who were playing church, who were defiled by the world, and apparently into religion, but lacked a life-giving relationship with the Lord.


B. The Commands Given to this church (3:2-3)


1. Wake Up! (v.2a)

2. Strengthen what remains (v.2b)

3. Remember (v. 3a)

4. Repent (v.3b)


C. The Remnant in This Church (3:4)


As bad as the spiritual condition of this church was, there was still a glimmer of hope. There were yet some in this church who had not soiled their clothes, which is a metaphor meaning that they had not defiled their character with the sinful behavior and false teaching. That was the source of the spiritual death of others in this church.


D. The Commitment to This Church (3:5)


The Lord promises these overcomers that He will never blot out their names from the book of Life. This is not a statement of potentiality, but rather a statement of promise. To assume that this statement means one can have his name erased from the book of life is to turn a promise into a threat.


The implication of this promise is not that you can lose your salvation and have your name erased from the book of life. The implication of this statement is that those who are overcomers (true believers) are guaranteed that their names will never be blotted out from the book of life. It also guarantees that Jesus will openly confess them as being in relationship and fellowship with Him before God the Father and His heavenly host.


E. The Appeal to Those Who Had Ears to Hear (3:6)


The Church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-14)


A. The Promise of an Open Door (3:7-8)


The symbol of the open door is often interpreted in the light of Paul’s usage in

1 Corinthians 16:9 and 2 Corinthians 2:12, namely the opening up of evangelistic opportunity. In this context, however, it almost certainly refers to the door of God’s kingdom.


While the Jews in the synagogue in the city of Philadelphia closed their doors to those who professed that Jesus was the Messiah, none could deny the believers in this church entrance into the Messianic Kingdom - into heaven itself. For the one who holds the key to David, had opened the door to His kingdom to them - and no one but Him determines who comes in and who stays out.


B. The Promise of Ultimate Vindication (3:9)


The present enemies of the church in Philadelphia may have the power and the influence to persecute the church and to make its days most difficult at the time of the writing of this letter. However, the Lord of the church promises that He will arrange a time when their persecutors would give the proper respect and honor to this church and acknowledge that the believers in Philadelphia are indeed the focus of God’s love.


C. The Promise of Deliverance (3:10)


In response to the believer’s obedience to the Lord’s command to endure patiently (hupomone), the Lord promises to spare them from an ultimate time of testing that would be worldwide in its scope and focused on a particular people group (those who dwell on the earth).

In what sense will this promise be fulfilled? How will the church be kept from this hour of testing? Many reputable Bible scholars understand this to be an implied reference to the catching of the church away, or the rapture of the church, more specifically a pretrial rapture when the Lord will come to collect His redeemed church from this earth in order that they might be with Him in Heaven. This is not the Second Coming in which the Lord comes with the saints, but rather this is His coming for the saints. The details of this event are described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. This unique happening in redemptive history is described as a mystery (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).


D. The Promise of the Lord’s Coming (3:11)

4Carson, D. A.: New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA : Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, S. Re 3:7


“The placement of this promise at this point is clear implication that deliverance of the faithful will occur in conjunction with His coming. It holds open the possibility that His coming will happen before this generation passes but does not guarantee it.”

Dr. Robert Thomas


E. The Promise to the Overcomers (3:12-13)


The Church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22)


A. The Condemnation of This Church (3:15-17)


1. Because of their lukewarm condition (vs.15-16)


The key to understanding this contrast lies in comprehending some information about the geography of this particular area. Laodicea had two neighboring cities nearby; Hierapolis, which was famous for its hot springs and Colossae, which was known for its cold and pure water. The hot water of Hierapolis was healing to the weary and the cold water of Colossae was refreshing. “But the water supply of this city traveled several miles through an underground aqueduct before reaching the city. The water arrived foul, dirty, and tepid.” Laodicea’s water supply was lukewarm, polluted and useless. If you drank this water, it would certainly make you sick. This condition of the water supply of the city of Laodicea served as a metaphor for the true condition of this church. They were as useless to the Lord as the water supply of this city was useless to its citizens.


The NIVSB accurately captures this condition of the uselessness of this church in its footnote on this passage.


“The church in Laodicea supplied neither healing for the spiritually sick nor refreshment for the spiritually weary.”


The church at Laodicea was not neither cold, openly rejecting Christ, nor hot, filled with spiritual zeal. Instead, its members were lukewarm, hypocrites professing to know Christ, but not truly belonging to Him (cf. Matt. 7:21ff.).


The Expositors commentary states: “Lukewarmness, then does not refer to laxity of Christians but the condition of not really knowing Christ as Savior and Lord and thus being useless to Him.”


2. Because of their self-deception (v.17)


This passage proves once again that economic prosperity does not serve well in measuring the true heart condition of a people. A church or a culture may be prosperous materially and dead morally and spiritually. There is the tendency to perceive that everything is fine because of their material prosperity. What happened to this church is that the spirit and values of the surrounding culture had crept into the congregation making them useless and nauseating to the Lord. The people bore the label “Christian,” but were void of new life in Christ possessed by true

5MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Re 3:16

Christians.


B. The Counsel of The Lord (3:18)

1. Spiritual gold (v.18a)

2. Spiritual garments (v.18b)

3. Spiritual sight (v.18c)


C. The Call of The Lord (3:19-20)


1. For true repentance (v.19)

2. For true fellowship (v.20)


Rather than allowing for the common interpretation of Christ’s knocking on a person’s heart, the context demands that Christ was seeking to enter this church that bore His name but lacked a single true believer. This poignant letter was His knocking. If one member would recognize his spiritual bankruptcy and respond in saving faith, He would enter the church.


D. The Commitment of The Lord (3:21-22)


The Throne Room OF Heaven

Revelation 4 & 5

Part 1 (2020)


John was commanded to write about certain sights and sounds that he had never seen or heard before. For at this point, he is transported from the Island of Patmos where he was exiled, into the very abode of God - into heaven itself - into the very throne room of God; while still under the commission of God to "write therefore what you have seen."


Such an experience forces him to use a lot of comparison statements. In this chapter he speaks of hearing a voice like the sound of a trumpet. He describes the One who sat on the

6MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Re 3:20

throne in heaven having an appearance of jasper and sardius. He describes what was before this throne as what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. He sees four living creatures in the center and around the throne. He describes the first as being like a lion, the second as being like an ox or calf, the third had a face like a man and the fourth was like a flying eagle.


It would be from the vantage point of the throne room of God in heaven that John would see the unfolding of the divine program for the end times.


The primary activity of this place is worship. Thus, we are able to glean some practical insight into the essence of the kind of worship that is acceptable to the living Lord who sits enthroned in heaven.


There are three features of this vision that captured the attention of John. The first is a door standing open to heaven, the second is the very throne of God and the third is the worship that is expressed in paradise.


I. The Door in Heaven (Revelation 4:1)


A. The vision (1a)


After these things…” indicates the completion of the first vision that John beheld of the resurrected and the exalted Lord (chapter one), as well as the completion of the commission of the Lord for John to write what he had communicated to the seven churches in Asia (chapters two and three).


This opening phrase also signals the beginning of the second vision of this book

(four total). This vision is the longest recorded in the book of Revelation. It begins in this chapter and is completed in the sixteenth chapter.


The incredible context from which John would receive this second vision is heaven itself. For he looks and there before him was an open door to heaven. The Apostle Paul also had such a privilege that he describes as being caught up to the third heaven.


2 Corinthians 12:2-4

2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.


Paul described this place as paradise, the third heaven; the first being the earth’s atmosphere. The second would be the interplanetary and interstellar space and the third being the very throne room of God.


It was the place to which Jesus ascended having completed the redemptive plan of God. From this vantage point, John would behold the divine design for the final days of the world as we know it.


B. The voice (1b)


And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”


This is the voice of the ascended and exalted Lord Jesus. The same voice which John heard at the beginning of his first vision from which he was commanded to write the things which he had seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things (1:10-11,19).


John compares this voice, as he did in the first chapter to the sound of a trumpet - clear, authoritative and commanding; the voice of the Lord issues forth in a command. “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”


Some have seen an implication of the rapture of the church in this command but a careful study of the text reveals that the verb “come up,” is singular referring to John alone. This command is one in which the enablement of the Lord must be provided or else it would be impossible to obey. John would not be transported to heaven for his final glorification but rather for the purpose of the revelation of what will take place after these things.

After what things? Let’s go back to (1:19), where there is not only a command for John to write essentially what is the content of the book of Revelation - but also the chronology of events recorded in this book.


“Therefore, write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.”


The things which you have seen, refers to the first vision of the exalted Lord that John received (1:12-20). The things which are, refers to the letters to the seven churches in Asia found in chapters two and three. The things that will take place after these things - marks an important transition in the book of Revelation from the church age to the final days which eventually end in the Second Coming of the Lord, the establishment of the Millennial kingdom, and finally the eternal state (4-22).

The center piece of this vision is not the door to heaven but rather on the one who dwells in heaven and the throne that He alone rightly occupies.


II. The Throne in Heaven (Revelation 4:2-8)


“In the Spirit ...” is descriptive of a condition in which one is so under the control of the Holy Spirit that such a transport is made possible. The command to come up to heaven is made possible now through the controlling power of the Holy Spirit which is descriptive of the condition that John was in which now enables him to obey the command to come up into heaven.


Unlike many today who claim to have made this trip and testify of things that seem to be trivial and even bizarre, the first thing that captures the attention of John is the center piece of heaven, and that is the very throne of God and him who sit upon it.


For this is the seat from which our sovereign God exercises His sovereignty over all things directly or indirectly. It is the place from which the providence of God is initiated. It is the seat of divine power.


This vision debunks the notion that random chance governs the universe. It is Him who sits enthroned in heaven, the Creator of all that exists and therefore, the Sovereign One of all that He has created.


A. On the throne (2-3a)


2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian.


Although John does not name the one sitting on this throne, it is obvious that he is beholding God the Father because He is distinguished from the Lamb mentioned in the fifth chapter (God the Son), and the Holy Spirit mentioned later in this chapter (4:5). This is similar to the vision that Isaiah spoke of when he gazed upon Him who sits on the throne in heaven.


I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, lofty and exalted, or high and lifted up, with the train of His robe filling the temple. (Isaiah 6:1)


Daniel had a vision of the Lord on his throne. So did Ezekiel (1:26-28).


The only way that John could adequately describe this One who sits enthroned, was by the brilliance of His reflective transcendent glory emanating from His person, which John describes as an appearance of Jasper and sardius which are precious stones. Jasper is not to be understood as it is today which is sort of dull and opaque. The key to its probable identification is found in Revelation (21:11).


11 (New Jerusalem) It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

From this description, we can determine that the reflective and transcendent glory of the Lord was diamond-like, flashing the many facets of the perfection of the sum of His character revealing the colorful spectrum of the awesomeness of the One enthroned in heaven.


Sardius or carnelian was a fiery deep red stone. It was the stone for which the city of Sardis was named. This stone came to John’s mind as he attempts to convey to the reader another dimension of the colorful display of the transcendent glory of God.


The One who sits enthroned in heaven is manifested by this colorful, pulsating, reflective display of His transcendent perfection and glory.


B. Encircling the throne (3b)

A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.


The rainbow in the Bible symbolizes both the covenant of God with Noah as well as the judgment of God. The chances are that this emerald rainbow is just simply the reflective outer rim of exploding colorful display of the emanating glory of the Lord coming from His person. Sort of like a halo, or some sort of an aura of the majesty of God’s perfection casting forth in a rim or halo of the color green.


The word Rainbow in the original language literally means a circle of light, a

fiery-like ring, thus a halo or some sort of reflecting aura which encircles.


The most spectacular laser light show, cleverly devised by a technician of our day, would pale in comparison.


C. Surrounding the throne (4)


4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.


There is little agreement among Bible scholars about the identity of the twenty-four elders who surround the throne of God in heaven. Some understand these elders to be referring to some angelic beings of an exalted order whose chief purpose is to worship before the throne of the Lord and to be ready to serve Him at His beckoned call.


But nowhere else in the Bible are angels ever described as “elders,” nor are angels ever described in the Scriptures as seated upon thrones or ruling or reigning. Their chief responsibility is to be ministering spirits sent out to render service to those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14).


This title, along with what they are wearing, as well as the fact that they are seated upon thrones, have promoted some to say that the twenty-four elders are a representation of all true believers who are absent from the body but present with the Lord, clothed with the righteousness of Christ and reigning with Him upon their thrones.


Others have identified the twenty-four as being a composite of the representative heads of the twelve tribes of Israel, (Old Covenant people) and the twelve Apostles (New Covenant people).


More important than their identity, is what they do.


D. From the throne (5a)


5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder.


These natural forces of a pending storm have been associated with the presence of the Lord in other places in the Scriptures (Exodus 19:16-19).


The display of these natural forces is a manifestation of the glory of the Lord as well as a display of the sounds of omnipotence, especially as God exercises His holy judgment. These seem to be the associated sounds of the throne room of God; the ambience of heaven.


E. Before the throne (5b-6a)


Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God.


These seven lamps are either a symbol of the perfection of the Lord - or more than likely the symbol of the presence of the third person of the Trinity who is the Holy Spirit. He has already been identified in this book in this manner (cf. Revelation 1:4-5).


What John beheld at the base of the throne of God is a vast sea-like expanse of glass as clear as crystal. In John’s day glass was somewhat dull and semi-opaque. But not this sea of glass, it was a clear and shinning as crystal.

Although much has been written and discussed about the meaning of this sea of glass, it is probably an additional phenomenon which adds to the awesome splendor of the throne room scene. There is a similar record of such a scene in Exodus (24:10), where Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel, “Saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.”


F. The center and around the throne (6b-8)


Around the innermost circle most closely to the throne of God are these four living creatures that we know from other portions of Scripture to be angels of an exalted order. Their primary responsibility is to be unceasingly involved in the worship of the Lord specifically, declaring the majesty of His Holiness, His omnipotence and His eternality.


Ezekiel (10:15), identifies them as cherubim. Isaiah calls them Seraphim

(Isaiah 6:2-3). There is a much more detailed description of them found in

Ezekiel (1:4-25).


Obviously, much has been written and debated about the unique features of these four living creatures. Some have understood John’s description of what each of the living creature looked like as representative of all that God has created.


The one who was like a lion might represent the untamed creatures that God has created. The one who was like an ox or a calf represents the domesticated creatures, and of course the third, having the face of a man, represents mankind who have been created in the image of God. The fourth creature, which John describes like a flying eagle, would represent those flying creatures all created by the One who sits enthroned in heaven.


The truth of the matter is that we are not sure what all of these descriptive details mean, but we know for certain that they are angelic beings and we know for certain where they are, what they do and say.


Day and night they never stop saying:

“Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.”


The repetition is done for the sake of emphasis. It makes the point very clear that God is a holy God, which speaks of the moral perfection of the character of God as well as His transcendence from all that He has created, and all that has been touched by sin and evil. God is separated, set apart from that which is fallen and flawed.


Secondly, these angelic beings declared that the One who sits enthroned is the “kurios,” the ultimate master the Sovereign One. The “theos,” the One who is God and the only true God and finally, the “pantokrator,” the One who holds sway over all things, the omnipotent One who is the Lord God Almighty; He is the sovereign God who is all powerful.


And finally, they speak of the eternal presence of the Lord; He is the One, who was,

and is and is to come.


III. The Worship in Heaven (Revelation 4:9-11)


A. The focus of worship (9)

Glory is a translation of the Greek word Doxa, which can also be translated praise. It is the basis for the English word Doxology. It conveys the idea of elevating the character of God with words of adoration and praise.

Honor is a translation of the Greek word “Time,” which means to give high respect, or it is descriptive of an attitude one has toward something or someone who is greatly valued. It is the basis for the name Timothy, which literally means honoring God.


Thanks - is from the Greek word “eucharistia,” which is the attitude thanksgiving in reflection on all that God has done.

All of this is directed toward the One who sits enthroned in the splendor of His majestic holiness, the eternal One who alone is the exclusive focus of worship. The only true God! No one else or nothing else should ever be the focus of our adoration, devotion, praise or thanksgiving.


B. The acts of worship (10)


10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne…….


This is the first of six times recorded in Revelation that the 24 elders fall down in worship. It is a profound gesture of homage in recognition of Him who sits enthroned in heaven. Aware that God alone is responsible for the rewards they have received, they divest themselves of all honor and cast it at the feet of their King


They cast their crowns before the throne of God in recognition of the fact that had it not been for God's grace and mercy, they would have never obtained these crowns.


C. The words of worship (11)


11 You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.

7 John F. MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible, (Dallas: Word Publishing) 1997.


Practical implications


1. About the one who sits enthroned.


It is not the most powerful man on earth, nor the wealthiest person neither who ever lived, nor is it the most popular person from our world, nor is it any of the people that you live to impress or seek to win a favorable reputation from, nor is it a loved one, nor your husband or wife or your children, nor is it any person who held a high office in the church or in any country - nor is it you!


The One who sits enthroned in heaven has the right to sit enthroned in your life.


Please note that this throne in heaven is exclusively occupied by the only true God. The Lord does not share this throne - for He and He alone is the only worthy one to sit in the divine seat of power.


2. about the substance of worship


He is holy, omnipotent, eternal and sovereign. He is the creator of all

things (4:11b).


William Temple years ago, defined worship in this way: "To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God."


A worship service then is not about us it’s about Him who is to be the focus of our worship. Worship is not something that others do for us - rather worship is to be done by us. In the throne room of God, worship is not a noun but a verb, and certainly that must be true when we worship.


Worship was the sum of the existence of the four living creatures as it should be for you and me.


Sometimes it’s hard to identify what you see, let alone communicate what you have seen for the first time to others. You are left with the limited literary device of comparison language. But what John saw, those of us who are true believers will see!


Practical Application


1. The book of Revelation was not given to us to be an enigma that remains a perpetual mystery to us. It was given to disclose to us what God has planned for the final era of redemptive history.


2. The gift of this revelation proves that apart from God’s unveiling of the future, we can never know the future. Our fallen humanness is prohibitive to an accurate comprehension of the the days yet ahead.


3. The Second Coming of our Lord will not be mysterious or only revealed to a select few. All the world will know that Jesus has come again (Revelation 1:7-8; Matthew 24:1-31).


A Vision of The Worthy Lamb

Revelation 5


When old Fred arrived in heaven, there was hardly any line. He didn’t have to wait more than a minute before having his entrance interview. Naturally, he was a bit nervous about getting through the gates and into the heavenly city. Very quickly, he found himself standing before a very impressive looking angel with a clipboard who started getting his entry data down.


After name, address, and a few other particulars, the angel said, “Fred, it would help the process if you could share with me some experience from your life on earth when you did a purely unselfish kindly deed.”


Fred thought about it for a minute and then said, “Oh yes. I think I have something you might be interested in. You see, one day, I was walking along, and I came upon a little old lady who was being mercilessly beaten up by a huge fellow who looked like he belonged in a motorcycle gang. He was smacking her back and forth. Well, I just stepped right up and pushed his motorcycle over - just to distract his attention. And then I kicked him real hard in the shins and told the old lady to run for help. And then I hauled off and gave this guy a great shot right to the gut with my fist.”


The angel said, “Wow, that’s quite a story, I’m very impressed. Could you tell me just when this happened?” Fred looked at his watch and said, “Oh, about two or three minutes ago.”


That was certainly not the way the Apostle John found himself in heaven. He was given the privilege of entering into the very throne room of God in heaven by divine command and enablement (Revelation 4:1-2).


It would be from the vantage point of the throne room of God, that John would behold the unfolding of the Lord’s divine program for the culmination of world history.


From this vantage point, he would behold that period of time called the Great Tribulation, which features the rise and fall of the coming Antichrist, the casting of Satan and his demons into the lake of fire, the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom, the Great White Throne judgment and finally the eternal state.


But there is only one who possessed the power and the virtue necessary to unfold this prophetic plan to John - John now has the privilege of beholding him in this fifth chapter.


There are three scenes that John views in this chapter. The first is that of....


I. The Seven Sealed Scroll (Revelation 5:1-5)


A. The scroll’s description (v.1)


The word “scroll” or “book” is a translation of the Greek word biblion, from which we get our English word Bible. But here, that word is used to describe a number of papyrus sheets sown together and rolled up to make a scroll or a book. This was the typical writing material of the first century Greco/Roman world.


This particular scroll that John beheld in the right hand of God the Father had writing on both sides, which was unusual because it was hard to write on the outside of such a scroll. Nevertheless, this is an indication of the extensiveness of the details revealed in this divine document.


The inside of the scroll contained all the details of the contract, and the outside—or back—contained a summary of the document. In this case it almost certainly is a deed—the title deed to the earth (cf. Jeremiah 32:7ff.) sealed with seven seals.


It was also customary to protect the privacy of the content of such a document by placing wax seals on the outside edge of the scroll. Such a seal could only be broken by the person authorized to open the scroll. There were seven such seals on this scroll. The implication of the text is that it is God himself who placed these seals on this scroll.


Although there has been much debate about the content of this scroll, it seems apparent from the very nature of the book of Revelation that this book contains the account of God’s future program of divine judgment, exercised against this sin cursed world, the defeat of all of God’s enemies and the full restoration of paradise in the eternal state. (Keep in mind of very title of this book, The Revelation of Jesus Christ.)

8MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Re 5:1


It is God’s eschatological record; His judgment scroll containing the divine plan of the condemnation of the wicked and the eternal reward of the righteous. It is the ultimate and accurate record of that which is yet future. A written record of what will take place later.


Can you imagine, for just a moment, the sense of anticipation that the Apostle John must have experienced as he saw in the right hand of God the very document which contained all the details of what is yet future in the Lord’s scheme of things?