Vision of Heavenly Worship.* 1After this I had a vision of an open door* to heaven, and I heard the trumpetlike voice that had spoken to me before, saying, “Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards.” 2* At once I was caught up in spirit.a A throne was there in heaven, and on the throne sat 3one whose appearance sparkled like jasper and carnelian. Around the throne was a halo as brilliant as an emerald. 4Surrounding the throne I saw twenty-four other thrones on which twenty-four elders* sat, dressed in white garments and with gold crowns on their heads.b 5From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder.* Seven flaming torches burned in front of the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. 6c In front of the throne was something that resembled a sea of glass like crystal.*
In the center and around the throne, there were four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back. 7The first creature resembled a lion, the second was like a calf, the third had a face like that of a human being, and the fourth looked like an eagle* in flight. 8The four living creatures, each of them with six wings,* were covered with eyes inside and out. Day and night they do not stop exclaiming:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty,
who was, and who is, and who is to come.”d
9Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before the one who sits on the throne and worship him, who lives forever and ever. They throw down their crowns before the throne, exclaiming:
11“Worthy are you, Lord our God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things;
because of your will they came to be and were created.”e
* [4:1–11] The seer now describes a vision of the heavenly court in worship of God enthroned. He reverently avoids naming or describing God but pictures twenty-four elders in priestly and regal attire (Rev 4:4) and God’s throne and its surroundings made of precious gems and other symbols that traditionally express the majesty of God (Rev 4:5–6). Universal creation is represented by the four living creatures (Rev 4:6–7). Along with the twenty-four elders, they praise God unceasingly in humble adoration (Rev 4:8–11).
* [4:1] The ancients viewed heaven as a solid vault, entered by way of actual doors.
* [4:2–8] Much of the imagery here is taken from Ez 1 and 10.
* [4:4] Twenty-four elders: these represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles; cf. Rev 21:12–14.
* [4:5] Flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder: as in other descriptions of God’s appearance or activity; cf. Rev 8:5; 11:19; 16:18; Ex 19:16; Ez 1:4, 13. The seven spirits of God: the seven “angels of the presence” as in Rev 8:2 and Tb 12:15.
* [4:6] A sea of glass like crystal: an image adapted from Ez 1:22–26. Four living creatures: these are symbols taken from Ez 1:5–21; they are identified as cherubim in Ez 10:20. Covered with eyes: these suggest God’s knowledge and concern.
* [4:7] Lion,calf,human being,eagle: these symbolize, respectively, what is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in creation. Calf: traditionally translated “ox,” the Greek word refers to a heifer or young bull. Since the second century, these four creatures have been used as symbols of the evangelists Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John, respectively.
* [4:8] Six wings: like the seraphim of Is 6:2.
a. [4:2–3] Is 6:1 / Ez 1:26–28.
d. [4:8] Is 6:2–3 / Rev 1:4, 8; 11:17; 16:5.