All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Chapters four and five form a unit, and should be regarded as one chapter. The actual events of Revelation begin in chapter six. Chapters four and five are a vision of Heaven and the very throne of God. Persecution and suffering are themes of the seven churches that Jesus addressed in chapters two and three, and this vision of Heaven serves to comfort and encourage Christians in the midst of it. We’re to live with eternity in view, and this vision of Heaven and of God’s glory, helps us to keep our focus where it needs to be as we go through the difficulties of this life. This book, from chapters six to twenty, reveals the difficult times that Christians experience throughout the Church age. We see this especially in chapters six through sixteen, which involve the seven seals, seven trumpets, and the seven bowl judgments.
1 After these things I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard, a voice as of a trumpet speaking with me, one saying, Come up hither, and I will show thee the things which must come to pass hereafter.
NASB – “After these things”
This refers to the the things that was revealed to John in the first three chapters.
This marks a transition from what was shown to John before to what’s about to be shown to him next. In other words, the details of the previous revelation were all grouped together, and now he is about to be introduced to a whole new series — though still connected to the other. The revelation before was focused on the spiritual condition of the seven churches. From this point forward, the focus will be on events associated with it.
“and behold, a door opened in heaven”
A door to the very dwelling place of God and His people was opened to John. Can you imagine being able to see Heaven as John did? What an honor that was! What a privilege! Paul too was given a glimpse of Heaven (2 Cor 12:1-4). Stephen, just before he died, saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at His right hand ready to receive him into Heaven (Acts 7:55).
Now here is the Apostle John seeing and getting ready to see what no one else in this life has ever seen before. I believe this speaks volumes to how God viewed John and his walk as a follower of Christ. This is very instructive to the rest of us, for it reveals that there are blessings and privileges set aside for those who walk faithfully before the Lord. Not that every faithful Christian will be blessed in extraordinary ways or to the same extent as some. I simply mean that for those who walk in harmony with Christ, there is always the possibility of God working in our lives in unusual ways. For Christians living mediocre Christian lives, the opportunity to see God dealing with them in such a manner is not normally available to them — for we experience God on the level in which we seek Him.
“and the first voice that I heard, a voice as of a trumpet speaking with me”
The mention of a trumpet prepares us for a grand announcement of some sort. In this case, a revelation. That of course makes sense, because this is a scene in Heaven we’re talking about. There is nothing more grand than what takes place in Glory.
“one saying, Come up hither”
Some premillennialists see this as symbolic of the rapture of the Church, and that from this point forward, the Church is no longer in view. But that is nothing more than pure assumption. There is absolutely no grounds for that interpretation. This is simply a call to John to come up to the very throne-room of God to behold His glory, and to be given a front row seat of the events of this book.
“and I will show thee the things which must come to pass hereafter.”
Up to this point, much has already been revealed to John, and now he is about to be shown much more. The “things” spoken of here are all the things that follow throughout the rest of this book. These things are directly connected to the seven churches. Remove the chapter divisions, and chapter three goes right into chapter four. Thus there is no good reason to separate the Church from the events of the rest of what follows.
2 Straightway I was in the Spirit: and behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting upon the throne;
“Straightway I was in the Spirit”
I believe the meaning of this is that John was not in Heaven physically, but was there by way of a vision. In other words, it was the Holy Spirit who opened his eyes to this heavenly vision. And that makes sense, since it’s the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to the truth.
“and behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting upon the throne”
This is the very throne of God, which refers to His sovereign rule over the universe. There is no higher throne or authority, for He is the Creator and Ruler of all things. All are subject to Him. All are accountable to Him.
This also serves as an encouragement to us as Christians, for no matter what trials and tribulations we may go through in this life, no matter what horrible things people may do to us, God is still on the throne. Someday all the hardships of this life will be behind us, and all those who oppose us as followers of Christ, will answer to Him — not as Savior, but as Judge. Their time of “victory” is in this life, and of short duration. But for the redeemed, our victory is in Christ and will last throughout eternity in His glorious presence.
3 and he that sat was to look upon like a jasper stone and a sardius: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, like an emerald to look upon.
I believe what we’re seeing here is a description of the glory of God. It’s difficult to say why these particular stones were chosen, but in combination with the rainbow, God’s glory is clearly depicted. I don’t believe it’s possible to accurately describe the glory of God, so I believe what we’re seeing here is merely representative of something far grander and glorious than what we’re able to comprehend.
I believe the mention of the rainbow also points to the promise that God made not to ever again destroy the earth with a great flood (Gen 9:11-17). This is significant because in this book we see the end of all things, how God will destroy this present earth and everything in it (Rev 6:12-17; 21:1-5; 2 Pe 3:10-13) — but not via a worldwide flood. Indeed, God will not only destroy this present earth, but also the heavens, and will create a New Heaven and a New Earth of the Eternal Kingdom (Rev 21:1; 1 Pe 3:13).
4 And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones: and upon the thrones I saw four and twenty elders sitting, arrayed in white garments; and on their heads crowns of gold.
The fact that these “elders” were “arrayed in white garments,” reveals that they are glorified saints, for white garments are symbolic of salvation (Rev 3:4-5; 3:18; 6:11; 7:9,13,14).
The number twenty-four is significant because half of that is twelve. The twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve Apostles are prominent in the Bible. Thus we can confidently identify these elders as representatives of the Old Testament and representatives of the New Testament. While it seems clear that these twenty-four are in view, the numbers twelve and twelve may simply be representative of the actual number of elders in Heaven. Since there have been so many godly leaders whom God has used for so much throughout history, I tend to believe that the actual number of elders (leaders) in Heaven is much higher. However, I believe we can be confident that the twelve Apostles plus Paul are among them (Math 19:27-28).
The combination of the two groups of twelve is symbolic of the whole Church (assembly, congregation) in Christ. All OT believers and all NT believers have their salvation in Christ. In Christ we are all one. In Christ there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile (Gal 3:28-29). In Christ there is no distinction between OT believers and NT believers. The believers of Christ’s day transitioned from being OT believers to NT believers upon His resurrection.
That the number twenty-four represents two groups of twelve, and that the first twelve represent OT saints, and that the second group of twelve represent NT saints – to combine as one group – makes absolute sense. Reason being, OT Israel was fulfilled in Christ and His Church, to combine as one people of God — not two people of God, as some would have us believe.
Jesus told His disciples that they would sit upon twelve thrones:
27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee; what then shall we have? 28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matt 19:27-28)
Jesus told them that “in the regeneration” they would sit upon these thrones. When is the regeneration? Jesus told us when in this same verse. The regeneration begins “when” He “sits on the throne of his glory.” Jesus sat down on His throne at the right hand of God upon His ascension (Acts 2:29-36; Ro 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; He 1:3,8; He 8:1; He 10:12; He 12:2; Rev 3:21). Therefore, the regeneration began when Jesus sat down upon His throne, and refers to the Church age, when believers are regenerated in Christ. We are in the time of regeneration now.
We must conclude then, that the reign of the Apostles began in this life after Jesus ascended into Heaven. Their reign, or course, is a spiritual reign, as those who have the truth and as those whom Jesus used to establish His Church. Their reign continues to this very day in Heaven.
Furthermore, all other Christians share this reign with them (Rev 1:5-6; 5:9-10), and that begins in this life as it did with the Apostles. However, the twelve Apostles have the distinction as leaders, as co-representatives of the Church with the OT twelve. Again, that number may be representative of a much larger number of leaders (elders).
The fact that the the reign of the twelve Apostles began in this life, and ours as well, reveals that the Kingdom of Christ is now. Christ’s kingdom does not await some future fulfillment. That was fulfilled when He sat down upon His throne after His ascension into Glory.
Furthermore, the fact that we are reigning with Christ in His kingdom now, is a clear indication that the book of Revelation is not merely about the final years before the return of Christ, but has the full extent of the Church era in view. This is a major key to identifying the time period of this book.
“and on their heads crowns of gold.”
These crowns, of course, represent authority, an authority that was given to them by Jesus as leaders of God’s people.
5 And out of the throne proceed lightnings and voices and thunders. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;
“And out of the throne proceed lightnings and voices and thunders.”
This one sentence provides strong internal evidence (evidence in this book), and one of the strongest arguments that the Church is in view in the book of Revelation. That is, that it covers the entire Church age, that this book is not simply about the final years before the return of Christ. We may not be able to understand every word or phrase or sentence in this book, but we can rest assured that not one word is wasted, that it all has meaning. In light of that fact, I believe we can confidently associate these words with Exodus 19 and 20. The association is so clear that it behooves us to go there and look for the message that it brings forward to this book. Given that this reveals such a major key to identifying the time period of this book, I will provide chapter 19 in full and most of chapter 20. I will provide discussion as we go along:
1 In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. (Ex 19:1)
Egypt is a type of the world that Christians are saved out of, to live lives that are contrary to it.
2 And when they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount.
3 And Moses went up unto God, and Jehovah called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: (Ex 19:2-3)
“Moses went up unto God”
We see that as “Moses went up to God,” so did the Apostle John go up to God (verse 1).
“house of Jacob”
“children of Israel”
The house of Jacob (Israel), the children of Israel, has their fulfillment in Christ and the Church, as the Apostle Peter makes clear in 1 Peter 2:4-10. In describing the Church, he uses terms normally used to describe Israel:
a people for God’s own possession
the people of God
(For a detailed study of 1 Pet 2:3-10, click here)
“Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:”
Just as Moses was instructed to address the children of Israel, so is John instructed to address the seven churches, which of course is an address to the whole Church (Rev 1:1-4).
4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. 5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine: (Rev 1:1-4)
As Peter revealed, all believers – Jew and Gentile – are “God’s own possession,” and we are to “obey God’s voice,” and “keep His covenant.” The Church of Christ must be present on earth in order to fulfill what we’ve been called to do:
6 and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (Rev 1:6)
The Church is the “kingdom of priests” and the “holy nation” of the New Testament in Christ. If you will read the above commentary on 1 Peter 2, Peter obviously understood the Church to be the new Israel in Christ, that Israel has its continuation as a spiritual nation. But John, too, makes that clear when he referred to us as “a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father” (Rev 1:6; 5:10). This is an obvious reference to what’s described here in Exodus 19:7.
7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which Jehovah commanded him. (Ex 19:7)
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that “elders” is mentioned in both Rev 4 and here. The connection is obvious. Just as we see the elders of Exodus gathered together, so we see the elders gathered together in Rev 4.
8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that Jehovah hath spoken we will do. And Moses reported the words of the people unto Jehovah.
9 And Jehovah said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and may also believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto Jehovah.
10 And Jehovah said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to-day and to-morrow, and let them wash their garments,
11 and be ready against the third day; for the third day Jehovah will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. (Ex 19:8-11)
“wash their garments”
(See verse 14)
The “third day,” of course is significant in Christianity, because it was on the third day that Jesus rose from the dead (Matt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19). When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, it was the day when God “came down in the sight of all the people.” That is, God revealed Himself to all people through Christ, His Son, the risen Savior — that salvation is provided to all people through Him. Just as God revealed Himself to Israel, so does God reveal Himself to this world through His Son.
12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:
13 no hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, he shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount. (Ex 19:12-13)
The parallel between Rev 4 and here in Exodus continues with the mention of the sounding of the trumpet (Rev 4:1).
14 And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their garments. (Rev 4:1)
The mention of the “washed garments” is significant, as it refers to the salvation of God’s people (white garments), and mentioned in several places in Revelation (Rev 3:4-5; 3:18; 6:11; 7:9,13,14), including in our text of Rev 4:4.
15 And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not near a woman. (Ex 19:15)
This is an allusion to Rev 14:4, where it refers to the Church.
16 And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp trembled. (Ex 19:16)
The allusion to Rev 4 continues with the mention of the “thunders and lightnings” and the “voice of a trumpet.”
17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. (Ex 19:17)
In the book of Revelation, especially as we seen in Rev 4 and 5, we “meet God” through the revelation that is being shown to us through John, just as God revealed Himself to the people through Moses.
18 And mount Sinai, the whole of it, smoked, because Jehovah descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. (Ex 19:18)
This scene here is similar to what we see in Revelation in several places (Rev 6:12; 8:5-8; 11:13,19; 16:18). We must keep in mind, that here in Exodus, it’s in the context of God’s people. As with everything else we’ve seen up to this point, it strongly suggests that the Church is in view in the book of Revelation.
19 And when the voice of the trumpet waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. (Ex 19:19)
The similarities between Rev 4 and this chapter in Exodus continues.
20 And Jehovah came down upon mount Sinai, to the top of the mount: and Jehovah called Moses to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. (Ex 19:20)
Again, just as Moses “went up,” so did John “go up” (Rev 4;1).
21 And Jehovah said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto Jehovah to gaze, and many of them perish. (Ex 19:21)
As Moses was instructed to “charge the people,” so was John instructed to charge the Church as seen in Christ’s address to the seven churches. That His address to the Church continues past chapter three should be clear by now. That the Church is still in view past chapter three, there should be no doubt.
22 And let the priests also, that come near to Jehovah, sanctify themselves, lest Jehovah break forth upon them. (Ex 19:22)
Again, both Peter and John refers to believers as “priests” (1 Pet 2:5,9; Rev 1:6; 5:10).
23 And Moses said unto Jehovah, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou didst charge us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.
24 And Jehovah said unto him, Go, get thee down; and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto Jehovah, lest he break forth upon them.
25 So Moses went down unto the people, and told them. (Ex 19:23-25)
Here we see that it was Moses (and Aaron) that went up to God, but the people did not go up. This is another allusion to what we see in the book of Revelation. John went up into the presence of God – by way of a vision – and based on everything that’s implied here throughout, we must conclude that “the people” (the Church), does not. Dispensational premillennialists believe the Church is raptured after chapter three.
1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. (Ex 20:1-2)
This pictures our deliverance from sin and the world through Christ.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: (Ex 20:3-4)
Prominent in the book of Revelation is false religion. The mention of “graven image,” in particular, reminds one of Rev 13:14 about “making an image to the beast.” Nowhere do we see the idea that the Church has disappeared from planet earth.
18 And all the people perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the voice of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they trembled, and stood afar off. (Ex 20:18)
“thunderings, and the lightnings, and the voice of the trumpet”
Again Rev 4:1,5 is alluded to here.
“stood afar off”
With the whole context of these texts and the comparisons between them, “stood afar off” (from the presence of God) suggests that the Church is still present on earth.
19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before you, that ye sin not. (Ex 20:19-20)
“God is come to prove you” (“to test you”)
What we see throughout Revelation is a time of testing for God’s people. This is a book about the persecution of those who profess Christ as Lord and Savior. The persecution of God’s people has continued throughout the history of the Church. The idea that the Church will not go through the “great tribulation” is inconsistent. Thus the time of “testing” continues throughout the whole Christian era. We are in the “great tribulation” now.
21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. (Ex 20:21)
Like Moses, the Apostle John meets with God on behalf of the people — the Church.
22 And Jehovah said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye yourselves have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. (Ex 20:22)
“The children of Israel” today are the people of God in Christ. Israel continues as a spiritual nation in Him and the Church. Just as God spoke to Moses on behalf of the people, so God spoke to John on behalf of the Church.
Continuing with Rev 4:5:
“And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God”
(See commentary on Rev 1:4)
We see in Exodus 19 and 20 a type and shadow of what we see in Revelation 4 and 5, and throughout the book. Just as Moses went up to God to receive His words to deliver to His people who are down below, so we see John going up to God to receive His words to deliver to His people who are still down below. The Israel of the OT is a type of the Israel of the NT, which is the Church, the Kingdom of Christ.
As I said in my introduction to chapters 4 thru 20, while I don’t believe we need an understanding of the OT to have an accurate understanding of Revelation, it does shed light on certain passages, and this is surely one of the most important places where it does that. For it sets the stage for the rest of the book by identifying the time period as the Church age.
It’s ironic that premillennialists use Rev 4:1 to support the idea that the Church is no longer in view from this point forward, when the imagery of Exodus 19 and 20 so clearly reveals the very opposite. As I said in the introduction, not one word of this book is wasted, it all has meaning. If the description of Rev 4:1-5 is not a direct allusion to Exodus 19 and 20, what then? Is it merely a coincidence that it fits so well? Ill let you be the judge of that.
6 and before the throne, as it were a sea of glass like unto crystal; and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, four living creatures full of eyes before and behind.
“a sea of glass like unto crystal”
When I was in the Navy, I saw what a sea of glass looks like. It’s rare, but there are times when the sea is perfectly still, not a single ripple anywhere. It looks like a sheet of glass. It’s a total calm of the ocean. This is what Heaven is like — in contrast to what we have in this world. Jesus said, “In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). There is total peace and tranquility in Heaven, whereas, in the world we have trouble, misery, pain, agony, hardship, etc. But notice what Jesus says: “I have overcome the world.” I believe this picture is given to us (Rev 4:6) to remind us that no matter how bad things get for us in this world, no matter how bad the persecution and suffering, Jesus has already overcome the world, and it’s just a matter of time that we are forever in His presence. Considering all the persecution and tribulation that this book reveals, this calming scene in Heaven is very comforting, knowing what we have to look forward to as we cling to our faith in Christ.
“in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, four living creatures full of eyes before and behind”
On the “throne” we have Almighty God, who reigns over the world, and over the whole universe. He reigns over mankind. We are all accountable to Him. Whatever persecution and suffering that is inflicted upon God’s people by unbelievers, they will give an account of it. People think they’re getting away with what they do, but one day they will find out that they didn’t get away with anything. Again, this is meant to bring comfort and encouragement to the members of Christ’s Church.
“four living creatures full of eyes before and behind”
All around the throne of God are no doubt, angels. Verse 8 mentions each one having 6 wings, indicating angelic beings, as Isaiah 6:2 confirms. The “full of eyes before and behind” (also vs. 8), suggests a 360 degree view and awareness. Angels are the servants of God, who go about the world doing the will of God, especially among those who belong to Christ (He 1:14). They apparently see all that goes on in our world, and no doubt have understanding of much regarding the plan of God as it relates to our world. They take a special interest in God’s people, with whom they will spend eternity.
A distinction is made between these four angelic beings and the rest of the the angelic host. I believe the reason for that is that these four represent or symbolize the glory of God, as Ezekiel 1 and 10:1-22 indicate. These two chapters of Ezekiel are parallel passages to this one in Revelation. Please read those passages and compare.
7 And the first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face as of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.
(See Ezekiel 10:12-14)
Though these four living creatures are angels, I believe the description of them is intended to represent characteristics of Christ.
“Like a lion”
A lion is “mightiest among beasts” (Pr 28:1) and doesn’t back down from anything (Pr 30:30). They’re fearless and ferocious. They have a kingly and majestic way about them. This reminds one of the “lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev 5:5), who, of course, is Jesus, who is King of kings.
“like a calf” (ox or steer)
A picture of gentleness.
“Had a face as of a man”
Though fully God, as the Second Person of the Trinity, He was also fully man, and was resurrected as a glorified human being. He completely identifies with mankind, and is able to relate to us on our level. Furthermore, as a man, He completely fulfilled God’s will and all righteousness, doing for us what we are not able to do for ourselves (Matt 3:15; Ro 10:4; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9). As a man, He died for our sins and rose from the dead, providing for our salvation.
“like a flying eagle”
Like the lion of the animal kingdom, eagles are majestic among birds. They soar high above, and make their nests high above (Job 39:21; Pr 23:5; Jer 49:16; Ob 1:4). Eagles have keen eyesight, like high-powered binoculars. With those eyes they’re able to see and swoop down upon their prey. Though Jesus is gentle as a calf, He is also like the lion and the eagle; He is fearless and swoop’s down upon His enemies, as seen in this book.
The description of these four living creatures symbolizes the glory and majesty of Christ, who is high above all and sees all. He is King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Ti 6:15; Rev 19:16). Though mighty and all-powerful, He is gentle (Matt 11:29), like a Shepherd among His sheep (Jn 10; 1 Pe 5:4; Rev 7:17).
8 And the four living creatures, having each one of them six wings, are full of eyes round about and within: and they have no rest day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.
“and they have no rest day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty”
Not only do these four living creatures symbolize the glory of God, but they give glory to God, continuously saying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty.” Over and over and over they attribute holiness to God. They make the point over and over and over that God is altogether pure and and clean and righteous and blameless and spotless, without sin, without darkness, perfect in every way…..and a God of justice.
The message here is that such a God cannot determine and carry out the sin and evil in the world — either directly or indirectly. It’s not possible that such a holy God as He to put it into the hearts and minds of people to do these things. It’s not possible that He be the orchestrator of the sins and evil in the world. Make no mistake, God is absolutely sovereign, but He carries out His plan and purposes within the framework of man’s free will. Contrary to determinists, God is not limited by man’s free will. That’s a limitation that they themselves place upon God, but that is not what God reveals about Himself. A completely holy God cannot hate sin and evil on the one hand, and ordain it and orchestrate it on the other. Such a notion has God working against Himself.
While God has not revealed how He carries out His plan for the world, He has revealed that He is completely separate from all sin and evil and darkness, and requires the same of us. He requires us to be like Him. It’s not possible that He require holiness and righteous of us, while ordaining the sin in our lives at the same time. That is a bizarre way of interpreting God’s sovereignty. In order to get God’s sovereignty right, we must get God’s character right. That’s our starting point. We’re to interpret God’s sovereignty according to His holy character, not the other way around. If we get God’s character right, we’ll get His sovereignty right.
“who was and who is and who is to come”
Refers to God’s eternal existence. He has no beginning and no ending. He is as much in our future as He is in our past and present. He is not bound by space or time. Furthermore, if God had a beginning, He would not be God. This fact about God is beyond human comprehension.
9 And when the living creatures shall give glory and honor and thanks to him that sitteth on the throne, to him that liveth for ever and ever,
10 the four and twenty elders shall fall down before him that sitteth on the throne, and shall worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and shall cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power: for thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created.
We see here the twenty-four elders joining the four living creatures in the worship of God. They also “cast their crowns before the throne.” A crown represents authority, and here we see the twenty-four elders casting their crowns of authority (Rev 4:4) before the One who has all authority. It’s an act of recognition of who God is, the Ruler of the universe. It’s an act of honor that recognizes that we all are accountable and subservient to Him. This casting of the crowns may be merely symbolic, but either way, the message for us is clear: we’re to give the honor and glory to God that is due Him — CONTINUOUSLY throughout our lives…..for He is worthy of our worship.
“for thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created.”
God has not only created the whole universe, but He is moving all things in our world according to a glorious plan. We see the culmination of that plan in this book.
This revelation of God and of Heaven continues in chapter 5.