A glimpse of heaven – Revelation 4

There have been many people who have claimed to have had out of the body experiences in heaven. Some have even written books about their experiences. Whether those experiences are real or not, the fact is that heaven is real. There are two people in the New Testament that took trips to heaven. The apostle Paul was brought up into heaven but was not allowed to speak of what he saw there. John, however, was commanded to write about his experience and we see his description of heaven in Revelation chapter four. Through John’s vision, we are able to preview the place where we will live forever. This chapter also marks a transition in the book of Revelation. In the previous chapters we see the church age as John records the letters written to the seven churches of Asia. Chapter four leads John into heaven where he witnesses future events concerning God’s judgment and wrath on the world. The things which are seen beyond John’s vision of heaven will not be experienced by the church. The church will be saved from the wrath of God and will be taken out of this world into heaven. This new section begins with a glorious view into the very throne of God.

The voice of Jesus. After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”[1] John mentioned that ‘after these things’ he looked and saw a door open in heave. The ‘after these things’ refers to what John previously recorded in the letters given to the seven churches. As John enters into the door, he hears a familiar voice. It is the same voice that he heard in chapter one. The voice was as the sound of a trumpet. The voice was coming from none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus invites John to come up into heaven and He will show him the things which will take place after this. Here we find the transition from the church age to the time of great tribulation on the earth. After the church age is over and the church is brought up into heaven, God will pour out His wrath upon the earth. These are the things that Jesus is about to reveal to John.

When I think of Jesus calling John to come to Him so that He could show John the things that are to come; I can’t help but wonder how we respond to the voice of Jesus. We may not be able to hear His voice in an audible way, but He does speak to us today. Jesus calls out to us through His Word, His Holy Spirit, God-ordained men who preach the Word, and through other believers who mentor us. The problem is that all too often we are too busy to hear His voice. There are many things in this life that we are caught up in that distract us from listening to His voice. What is Jesus trying to tell you? What is He calling you to do? You will never know until you put away the sins that hold you down and distract you. As Christians, we should put away all of those things that distract us and we should pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus. We miss out on so many blessings because we simply will not listen to His voice. Quiet your life and listen to what Jesus has to say to you.

The throne of God. As John responds to the voice of Jesus and goes through the door, he finds himself in the very throne room of God. “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.” [2] John MacArthur writes concerning the throne, “Today most people who claim to have visions of heaven tend to emphasize its most bizarre aspects. Yet John’s vision focused on the glorious throne of god and the majesty of the One who sits on it. John was amazed and astounded by what he saw, causing him to exclaim, ‘behold.’ The cause of John’s amazement was the throne of God that he saw ‘standing in heaven.’ This was not a piece of furniture, but a symbol of God’s sovereign rule and authority located in the temple of heaven.”[3] The throne is immovable and unshakeable. The vision of this throne shows that God is in complete control. This is a very comforting sign due to the horror that is about to be revealed to John. The Lord saw it fit to encourage John with the fact that everything will okay because He is in control.

Isn’t good to know that God is in control? If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you really have nothing to worry about. You are on the winning side. Though your life may be in shambles and you wonder how you can carry on, just remember, our Savior lives and He is still on the throne. As a Christian, it does not matter what you are going through right now, it’s going to be okay. We live in a very troubling world. I personally believe that this is just the beginning. We may very well live to see the day when we as Christians in America will suffer great persecution. It’s already started. The good news is that no matter how bad it gets, God is still in control. He is still on the throne. His throne is permanent. It is eternal. Things may look grim right now, but, my friend, I’ve read the back of the book and let me tell you something, we win! There is coming a day when the trumpet of God will sound and will be saved from the wrath that is to come as we are taken out of this world into the presence of Jesus! Child of God, don’t give up. Hold on. It’s going to be all right. The throne of God is still there and it always will be. Just trust Him. Just hang on to His promises. God is in control and everything is going to be just fine!

He who sits on the throne. A description is given of the One who sits on the throne. “And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald”.[4] Warren Wiersbe writes, “This is God the Father, since the Son approaches the throne in Revelation 5:6, and the Spirit is pictured before the throne in Revelation 4:5. There is no possible way for human words to describe what God is like in His essence. John can only use comparisons. Jasper is a clear gem (see Rev. 21:11) and the sardine is red. The Lord is robed in light, according to Psalm 104:2 and 1 Timothy 6:16. Both the jasper and the sardius (sardine) were found in the breastplate of the high priest (Ex. 28:17–21).”[5] The jasper is stone is crystal clear. It is comparable to a diamond. God is compared to such a stone which displays all the colors of the spectrum. This, I believe, is a picture of the glory of God. There are no words to describe Him. He is beautiful beyond description. He is glorious! The sardius stone is a fiery red ruby. This is also a beautiful stone. However, I believe, that this stone represents God’s wrath that is about to be poured out upon the unbelieving world. The wrath of God can be a beautiful thing as the righteous demands of God are satisfied. Such wrath is also seen in the cross. As the blood of Jesus was poured out, the wrath of God is satisfied. All those who go to the cross and believe on Him will escape the wrath of God.

The completeness of the throne. John also notices that there is rainbow circling the throne. “And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.”[6] The rainbow is a symbol of God’s covenant faithfulness. He promised Noah that He would never destroy the earth again with a flood. The rainbow is a reminder of God’s promise. The rainbow is also described as being ‘around the throne.’ This is a unique rainbow in that it is not just and arch. It is a complete circle around the throne of God. Everything that God does is complete. He never leaves anything unfinished. “Judgment is about to fall, but the rainbow reminds us that God is merciful, even when He judges (Hab. 3:2). Usually, a rainbow appears after the storm; but here, we see it before the storm.”[7] I believe, this rainbow also shows us that God will finish what He started. He will bring all things to completion.

There is a principle here that is encouraging to us today. God will finish what He started. If you have come to Him for salvation, He will finish His work in you. He will never let you go. He has saved you. He has given you the Holy Spirit. He has promised you eternal life in heaven. Rest assured; God will do what He says He will do. He will finish His work in you!

The twenty-four elders.  “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.[8] Who are these twenty-four elders? It is most probable that they are the people of God gathered around the throne. “They are not angels, for they have white robes and crowns of victory, implying a conflict and endurance.”[9] Though I am not one hundred percent certain, I believe, that these twenty four elders are the heads of both the Old Testament and New Testament people of God or, we may say, the heads of the Old Testament and New Testament church. Perhaps these are the twelve Patriarchs (representing the twelve tribes of Israel) and the twelve Apostles (representing the church). The number, twenty-four, could symbolize the completion of God’s people. “The white robes and palm branches speak of victory (see Rev. 7:9). These are the “overcomers” who have conquered because of their faith in Christ (1 John 5:4–5).”[10]

Proceeding from the throne. “And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”[11] In Exodus 19:16 and Ezekiel 1:13, ‘flashes of light and sounds’ are associated with God’s presence. Latter on in Revelation, we find that these lightnings and thunderings are also associated with God’s judgment during the tribulation. This is a display of the all-mighty power of God.

Before the throne. Verses 5-6 also describe the scene that is before the throne of God. “And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.6 Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.” [12]John sees seven lamps of fire burning which are described as the seven spirits of God. Earlier in our study of Revelation we found that the seven spirits of God is the Holy Spirit of God in all His fullness. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “These should be understood to represent the Holy Spirit rather than seven individual spirits or angels, with the concept of the sevenfold character of the Spirit (Isa. 11:2–3; cf. Rev. 1:4; 5:6). With God the Father seated on the throne and the Holy Spirit represented by the seven lamps, the stage was then set for the revelation (chap. 5) of Christ Himself as the slain Lamb.”[13] John also saw before the throne a sea of glass, like crystal. Revelation 21:1 tells us that there is no sea in heaven. The sea that John saw is metaphorical. At the base of the throne is a vast pavement of glass shinning brilliantly like crystal. I could only imagine the beauty of such a place. Heaven is a place of brilliant light and colors unimaginable to mankind.

Around the throne. In verses 6-8 we see a description of creatures who gathered around the throne. “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. 8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:“Holy, holy, holy,Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”[14] What an amazing sight John must have saw! The Bible Knowledge Commentary sheds light on who these creatures are, “As the Holy Spirit was seen symbolically in the seven lamps, probably the four living creatures symbolically represent the attributes of God including His omniscience and omnipresence (indicated by the creatures being full of eyes)—with the four animals bringing out other attributes of God: the lion indicating majesty and omnipotence; the ox, typical of faithful labor and patience; man, indicating intelligence; and the eagle, the greatest bird, representing supreme sovereignty. Another possible view is that they represent Christ as revealed in the four Gospels: in Matthew, the lion of the tribe of Judah; in Mark, the ox as the servant of Yahweh; in Luke, the incarnate human Jesus; and in John, the eagle as the divine Son of God. Another alternative is that the four living creatures are angels (cf. Isa. 6:2–3), who extol the attributes of God.”[15] Either way, we understand that the purpose of these creatures are to continuously bring praise and honor to God.

Worship in heaven. As John continues his tour of the throne room of God, there is one thing that stands out. There is constant worship taking place. “The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: 11“You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”[16] Imagine a worship service in heaven! Matthew Henry writes, “There is in heaven not only that to be seen which will highly please a sanctified eye, but there is that to be heard which will greatly delight a sanctified ear. This is true concerning the church of Christ here, which is a heaven upon earth, and it will be eminently so in the church made perfect in the heaven of heavens.”[17] We enjoy singing songs of praise to God here on earth. Imagine what it will be like when we are made perfect and we are gathered around the throne with all true believers who have come to Christ down through the ages and with one accord, with one song, we will sing praise to our king! Imagine that first moment, when all is said and done. When the church is caught up with the Lord and we enter into the throne room of God for the very first time. The creatures are there. The angels are there. The twenty-four elders are there. Together we join in song as our eyes behold for the very first time, our creator. As the music starts and the creatures begin to sing, we bow ourselves before the throne along with the elders and we take the crowns, the awards that we have received for our work on the earth, and we cast those crowns before the throne as we worship Him! What a day that will be!

As we wait for that day, we should be faithful to bring glory and praise to God through the life that we live. May we worship Him is our songs, our words, and our actions. As we reflect on this glimpse of heaven, may we hold on and stay faithful. Even so, Lord Jesus, Come!


[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 4:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 4:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, John. Because the time is near. Moody Publishers. p. 109

[4] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 4:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 582). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[6] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 4:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 582). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 4:4). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Re 4:4). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[10] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 582). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[11] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 4:5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[12] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 4:5–6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[13] Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 943). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[14] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 4:6–8). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[15] Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 944–945). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[16] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 4:8–11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[17] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2471). Peabody: Hendrickson.

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