Revelation 4:1-11 Part 11


1)    After these I looked and, lo, a door having been opened in the heaven and the sound, the first that I heard as a trumpet, speaking to me saying “come up here and I will show you what is necessary to take place after these”.

2)    Immediately I did come in spirit and, lo, a throne set in the heaven, and upon the throne One sitting,

3)    and the One sitting like stone, jasper and sardonyx in appearance, and a bow round about the throne like emerald in appearance.

4)    And round about the throne twenty-four thrones, and upon the thrones twenty-four elders having been clothed in white garments, and upon their heads gold crowns.

5)    And from the throne coming forth lightnings and sounds and thunderings, and seven fiery lamps ablaze before the throne that are the seven spirits of God,

6)    and before the throne as glassy sea like crystal, and in midst of the throne and round about the throne four creatures being entirely of eyes front and back,

7)    and the first creature like unto a lion, and the second creature like unto a calf, and the third creature having the face as of man, and the fourth creature like unto a flying eagle,

8)    and the four creatures one by one of them having six wings each, being entirely of eyes around and within, and they have no pause saying “holy holy holy Kurios The God The Almighty, the Was and the Is and the Coming.

9)    And whenever the creatures will present glory and honor and thanksgiving to the One sitting on the throne, to the One living into the ages of the ages,

10) the twenty-four elders will prostrate themselves before the One sitting on the throne, and they will adore the One living into the ages of the ages, and they will cast their crowns before the throne, saying

11) “worthy are You, the Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power; for You, You did create all, and by Your will they are, and they were created”.


Having been created in His image, our life having been breathed into us, and our movements and directions, and our eyes, and our work, and our thoughts, and our worship, and our activities and our relationships are all animated through these living beings who are the very eyes and will of God – Father, Son and Spirit.

And in many ways the creation corresponds to them since it is all activated and animated by them; and we are to have similarities to them in the way that we live and move and have our very being in Christ Jesus the Lord, as we correspond to what the apostle sees in the heaven at the judgment seat of God.

Some of the questions in the second hour last Lord’s Day had to do with “angels” and other creatures, so I guess we’d better start with a few comments about them.

As has been discussed previously, the Greek term “angelos” is translated “messenger”.  The word “angel” is only a transliteration and not a translation.  That’s probably one of the reasons, among many, why so much mythology has been built up regarding them.  In cases in which the angelos have appeared, they have appeared directly from God in the form of man; and, in many cases, they have been attired in pure white garb and appeared “as lightning” (much like the event at the empty tomb).  And they appear in order to deliver messages – mostly verbal – directly from the mouth of God at the throne.

It also appears that the glory cloud itself is the ten thousands of ten thousands of these “messengers” of God, as there are, in certain passages of Scripture, spectacular and horrific “flashings” of angelic beings from the cloud at the direct will and command of God.

God’s creation, made by God to have corresponding similarities to the throne of God, demonstrates those similarities in thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornados, and other climatic events, as massive cloud formations occur, and lightning flashes across the sky, cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-earth, in nano-seconds.  Sometimes that display is awesome indeed; and we are to recognize, know and discern the power and divinity of God from these events in His creation, while seeing these things as corresponding to His throne in the heaven.  As the apostle Paul said in Romans chapter one, His power and divinity are perceived and known by what He has made, for it is all around us, and “in” us!  We, as well, correspond to that which is seen in the heaven.  Therefore we are without excuse for not knowing!

It’s also profitable to note that this cosmos has many millions of stars and constellations of stars, each individually known by God since He called each one into existence in its place.  And we “marvel” at the bright lights of the heavens, for they are in the likeness of the angelic brightness around the throne.  And they must stir us to glorify our God in the heaven, and to know His power and divinity.

Israel itself, the second “heaven and earth”, created by God after the flood, was a special, covenant people made to be in the likeness of His throne.  With its tabernacle built to be like the holy place and the holy of holies in the heaven, the covenant people were to be “like” those that John saw in the heaven, as they gathered around the tabernacle.  There were many millions of them gathered, in order, much like the stars in the heavens, (in order) around the tabernacle, for God instructed that they be placed, like the stars in the heavens, in specific locations.

Messiah, the Lamb Slain as John saw Him (chapter five), was clearly prophesied, there at the tabernacle, as the requirement for entry.  He was right there for all Israel to see.

 And “spheres of authority” were ordered for Israel, as heads of tribes and families were established as wise men, leaders and judges.  A family of priests, the Levites, was anointed to serve God and the people in the tabernacle.  And princes and kings were appointed to rule.  These three functions of the nation of Israel were to be in the “likeness” of the twenty-four elders around the throne in the heaven.  These twenty-four are living creatures of a function before the throne that is different from the lightning-appearing, star-appearing angelic messengers around God’s throne.

That’s two kinds of creatures.  And there is a third.

Now we have before us four living creatures, at, in and around the throne of God, having immense power and authority in the cosmos, all at the direct Will and Word and command of God.  And as we saw last Lord’s Day, these four are directly responsible for effecting God’s sovereign Will upon the earth.  And the earth exists and operates, in many ways, in the “likeness” of these beings.

As we’ve said several times, and we need to return to it often, that which is in the heaven is the Archetype for all that our God has brought into existence.  And since the heaven is the “pattern” for all else, then “all else” corresponds in some way to the pattern!  The “type” comes from the Archetype! 

A lady’s garment, sewn on the sewing machine, is sewed according to the pattern!  So, in many ways, the dress corresponds to the pattern from which it was made.  That’s an analogy, by the way.  And in some ways the cosmos fits the definition of an analogy, since an analogy uses one thing to “represent” another.  There is a “likeness” there.  And the entire creation was brought into existence, and it is sustained in its existence, in the “likeness” of what John sees and reports to the Church.  And what John saw is the same in substance as that which Moses saw, and that which Isaiah saw, and that which Daniel saw, and that which Ezekiel saw.

And I don’t think there can be much doubt that the reason that the apostles Paul and Peter were so strong in their warnings to the Churches about the worship of angels, was because the Churches had some perception of that which was in the heaven!  The Churches were familiar with it from (not only) the creation itself, but also from Isaiah and from Daniel and from Ezekiel….  And the tendency among some was to venerate these majestic creatures.  And they are awesome; but they are not there to mediate for men!  There is only One Mediator, and that is, of course, our God and Savior Jesus Christ.  Any other is open idolatry.  So the apostles chastened the Churches for holding the creatures of God in such high esteem, for they are not “authorities” in and of themselves.  And they have no power whatsoever to “mediate” on behalf of men.

Now.  Having heard from pastor John Calvin last Lord’s Day in his commentary on the first ten chapters of the prophecy of Ezekiel; and having toured the Scripture concerning the connection between these four living beings and the earth and all of its creatures, we learned that, although our God is completely independent of His creation, the creation isn’t independent of Him!

Through these living beings in the heaven, the entire earth is activated and animated by the Will of our sovereign God.  There is nothing that isn’t under the control of His mighty Will.  And these four beings, the most mighty among the ranks of His creatures, act directly in concert with the Will of God in every single aspect of this creation.  Pastor Calvin called it “a secret inspiration”.

It’s just as the apostle Paul said at the acropolis in Athens: “In Him we live and move and have our very being.”  Although completely independent of what He has made, our God is imminently involved in every detail of what He’s made.  It all exists, it lives, it moves, it has its being – in Him.  That’s what Scripture says.

As we also saw last Lord’s Day, the prophet Daniel was made privy to the fact that these four creatures “broke upon the sea” of humanity, and up arose four mighty beasts of history… the four great civilization-changing, world-ruling, tyrant nations: Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.  The four living creatures, acting in concert with the immediate will of God, caused these four nations to rise up in history!  The very history of the world is NOT independent of the Will of Almighty God.  So, therefore we can be assured that the fifth, and last, great Kingdom of earth, the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, will reign until all His enemies are under His feet.  The whole creation is His “footstool”, the footstool of the throne of dominion; and there is no part of it, no detail of it, that He doesn’t rule.  So never again will one nation rule in God’s creation, for there is only One King over all.

And the mighty messengers of the glory cloud, and the elders, and the four living beings will all worship Him and give Him obeisance and obey Him, as we’ll see in following passages.  He is God and Savior of the world.  The cosmos is His inheritance.   And the creatures of the heaven do whatever His will is in all that belongs to Him.  Without Him nothing was made that was made; and without Him nothing is redeemed that is redeemed!  The rescue of all of creation from sin and its eternal, disastrous effects is His revealed purpose, and the existence and actions of all His creatures in the heaven reflect His absolute Will!  And there is no detail left to “chance”.

Now let’s look at the text and make what comments we can about it.  We probably won’t satisfy everybody by answering all the questions.  We may not satisfy anybody!  But just remember that this is all sublime.  We see and understand some; but we only see through a dark glass.  We are obligated to know as much as we can, and, at the same time, we’re limited in our creaturely abilities.


“…in midst of the throne and round about the throne four creatures being entirely of eyes front and back, (last part of verse six)”


The four living beings are different from angel/messengers, and they are different from the elder creatures.  They not only look different, as John describes them, but their functions are different.  There are similarities of function, of course; but the differences are pronounced.

The first thing noticed is that John says that they are “in midst” and “round about” the throne.  The throne, as has been said, is the throne of judgment and redemption.  And above the throne One in the likeness of a Man.  And the throne is at the very core of John’s letter to the Churches.  It is the letter’s “center”.  And “in” and “around” the throne are these four.

It’s very interesting that when God gave Moses instructions to build the tabernacle, including the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, the cherubim were to be of one piece with the ark!  They were not to be fashioned separately from the ark, with their wings outstretched over it, but were to be fashioned with the ark in one piece.

That tabernacle room, the Holy of Holies, was built to the exacting specification of God to be like the throne of God in the heaven.  And that’s what John sees in the heaven… the cherubim “in and round about” the throne.  They are “throne-creatures”!

Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’ve never seen a picture, or a representation of the Ark of the Covenant of any kind, that included the cherubim being of one piece with the ark!  The ark has always been depicted by itself.  And in every representation of the cherubim that I’ve ever seen, there have been these beautiful angels, off to each end, with their wings spread over the ark!

Now, the ark was most certainly burned with everything else in the temple and the city of Jerusalem in 70AD.  But if the Roman armies took it, instead of letting it burn, and someone eventually finds it, it will be instantly identified, because it will be of one piece with the cherubim… exactly how the throne and the cherubim appear to John in the heaven.  And it won’t be as beautiful angels with their wings spread over the ark, either!  It will be these awesome, imposing and breathtaking creatures with six wings, four faces, and full of eyes which, when they move about with the throne in the glory cloud, they appear as chariots with wheels within wheels, also full of eyes (Ezekiel chapter ten).  These are “throne-creatures”, inseparable from the throne of rule and dominion!

I hope you don’t mind a personal note here, but, in the past, I’ve attended a number of presbytery examinations of candidates for the ministry.  Some of these exams are rather perfunctory; others are long and difficult experiences in which candidates are grilled for hours.   But one of the questions that examiners are sure to ask goes something like this:  “Explain the nature and significance of the “box”, or the “ark”, that God’s people had to carry around in the desert.”

Well, the answers that came forth from the candidates were usually of the “thirty second”, or “sixty second” variety, which revealed that they had no idea!  And the lack of follow-up questions from the examiners was evidence enough to expose them to the very same criticism!

But the Ark of the Covenant, made from one piece with these imposing and magnificent creatures described here by John, was the throne, the judgment seat of God in the heaven!  The ark corresponded to the throne of God.  Should one touch the Ark, he would immediately expire, indicating to all of Israel that there was only One Way to approach the throne of judgment and redemption, and that One Way was the One Sacrifice for the sin of the world.

Israel had this God-revealed throne right in its midst.  It had an immediate view of the throne-room of God with His creatures!  Israel itself, with its tribe leaders and its priests and its kings, was the “elder creatures” of the throne room; and the millions of God’s people around the throne in the tabernacle were the ten thousands of ten thousands of creatures comprising the glory cloud!  They were the sun, moon and stars of the second “heaven and earth”!  It was all there for them to see!!  And the Lamb Slain at the altar was the entrance to the seat of redemption in the Holy of Holies – the throne of Almighty God and Savior of the world.  The entire nation was a corresponding likeness; and the throne with its cherubim (the ark of the covenant) was the center of it all.

But let’s continue: the apostle John says that these living beings were entirely of eyes front and back.  Now, since these are the living beings that are most closely linked with the earth, we need to perceive these creatures from the perspective of God’s demand, in His written Word, that we know His power and divinity from what He has made (Romans one).

Now, as we’ve said on numerous occasions, this is John’s description of the throne.  It is God’s rule and dominion over all His creation and all His creatures and all of the “agents” of His dominion.  And these four living beings, “in and round about the throne” are the ones by which He rules, sovereignly, over all things in His dominion.  The throne is the throne of dominion, you see.

“Entirely of eyes front and back” indicates that these creatures are able to see immediately and in every direction, and at all times.  They see to the Providence of God; and they see to what that Providence demands in the whole of the creation.  They are the very eyes of the Throne of Dominion.

It’s just as the apostle Paul said at the acropolis in Athens: “In Him we live and move and have our very being.”  Although completely independent of what He has made, our God is imminently involved in every detail of what He’s made.  It all exists, it lives, it moves, it has its being – in Him.  And these creatures of His are, in many ways, the “pattern” for every detail of the dominion of God on earth.

These living beings have eyes; God’s creatures on the earth have eyes.  These living beings move and go in different directions; God’s creatures on earth move and go in different directions.  These living beings respond positively and immediately to the sovereign Will of God from His throne of rule and dominion.  God’s creatures on earth are commanded by God to respond to His sovereign Will.  There is great diversity in the living beings; there is also great diversity among God’s earthly creatures.

Wind doesn’t blow; the sun doesn’t shine; darkness doesn’t exist; objects don’t fall to the earth when they’re dropped; there are no “seasons”; men and animals don’t see; men and animals don’t move; men and animals don’t live – all without the direct and immediate “Cause” … Father, Son and Spirit.  And these throne-creatures are His “ministers” or “agents” of His rule and dominion.

These creatures have the “hands” of man.  And we are to perceive, to know, to discern God’s power and divinity in all that His hands have made; for all that He has made has an Archetype in the heaven.  Therefore all men are obligated, by all of His creation, to give Him worship and honor and thanksgiving.

Wind doesn’t blow “naturally”; water doesn’t run downhill “naturally”; a coin doesn’t drop to the floor “naturally”; cats don’t pounce on mice “naturally”.  We live, and move, and have our being in Him.  And it’s all in His Providence; and it’s all from the throne of dominion and rule.


“…and the first creature like unto a lion, and the second creature like unto a calf (that’s the calf of an ox, or a young ox), and the third creature having the face as of man, and the fourth creature like unto a flying eagle….”


Pastor Calvin, in his commentary on Ezekiel chapter ten, says “by these heads all living creatures were represented to us….”  That’s an excellent observation by our esteemed reformation pastor.  I would prefer to put it another way, though.  By the diversity of creatures made by God on the earth, we observe that the creation is in the “likeness” of that which is in the heaven.

The numbers, or kinds, of creatures God has made are not infinite, but they are certainly diverse – as are the kinds of creatures in the heaven.  And certainly the cherubim, the four creatures most closely linked with the earth itself, add to that heavenly diversity.  And we most assuredly can say, with Calvin, that the whole of creation should cause us to acknowledge the power and divinity of our God and Savior.  And therefore the animals upon the earth ought to remind us of the throne of dominion in the heaven and its four cherubim, and give honor and glory to Father, Son and Spirit as these heavenly creatures do.

Now.  There has been much said in the commentaries about these “faces” which adorn the cherubim.  And I’m very skeptical about most of it, because it seems as if it’s just pulled out of thin air.  “Well, this seems to be that”, or “this face represents (something or the other)”.

But, as we’ve declared previously, God doesn’t do anything without purpose.  And we find in His Word those things in His cosmos that are made in the likeness of that which is in the heaven.

And I have just a few passages of Scripture for you which give us “indication” as to the faces of the cherubim.  These are earthy “likenesses” to the throne-creatures.

First, from Numbers chapter twenty-four:


8)    God bringeth him forth out of Egypt; He hath as it were the strength of the wild-ox: He shall eat up the nations his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces, and smite them through with his arrows.

9)    He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a lioness; who shall rouse him up? Blessed be every one that blesseth thee, and cursed be every one that curseth thee.


That’s prophecy, by Holy Spirit, through Baalam!  And here’s another:


47) Because thou servedst not Yahveh thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things;

48) therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies that Yahveh shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.

49) Yahveh will bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;

50) a nation of fierce countenance, that shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor to the young,


That’s Moses prophecy against Israel, should she not worship and obey Yahveh!  And then this, as Moses recounts, prophetically, what God has done for Israel, chapter thirty-two of Deuteronomy:


9)    For Yahveh's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

10) He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He compassed him about, he cared for him, He kept him as the apple of his eye.

11) As an eagle that stirreth up her nest, that fluttereth over her young, He spread abroad his wings, he took them, He bare them on his pinions.


And the words of the Son of God through the psalmist (Psalm 93):


10) But my horn hast thou exalted like the horn of the wild-ox: I am anointed with fresh oil.

11) Mine eye also hath seen my desire on mine enemies, Mine ears have heard my desire of the evil-doers that rise up against me.

12) The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree: He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

13) They are planted in the house of Yahveh; they shall flourish in the courts of our God.


Without going any further with reading to you, let me just say, finally, that there are literally dozens upon dozens of prophetic references to oxen and eagles and lions… and, of course, man, as the earth (as Calvin says) is activated, or animated, by these creatures of God.  And the earth, in all of its diversity, bears a striking correspondence to the throne-room of God and His throne-creatures.

I leave you with one passage from Jeremiah concerning THE MAN!


14) Behold, the days come, saith Yahveh, that I will perform that good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and concerning the house of Judah.

15) In those days, and at that time, will I cause a Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

16) In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely; and this is the name whereby she shall be called: Yahveh our righteousness.

17) For thus saith Yahveh:  David shall never want for a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel;


The throne; the throne-creatures; The Man….

I see the Lion of Judah, Ruler of all creation, above the throne of judgment and redemption in the heaven; soaring with the wings of an eagle.  He was once the young ox on the altar of whole burnt offering.

He is awesome to behold, beyond description, bursting with majestic glory (Psalm 45:3).  His hair glistens like wool and new snow.  The arms and feet of our King glow like burnished bronze fresh from the forge, and His face shines with the brilliance of the sun.  Fiery eyes fix their gaze, while still seeing all things (Revelation 1:14).  A rich robe, impossibly white and pure, drapes over His powerful, risen form, and a name of mystery is written on it (Revelation 19:12).  The One named Holy and Faithful and True (Revelation 3:7) rides a magnificent stallion (Revelation 19:11), and with a voice resonating with the ocean’s power and ringing loud and long as a trumpet (Revelation 4:1), our man/King shouts to a glorious host of angels and awesome creatures of might, who storm across the skies with Him (Revelation 19:14).  The King of kings rides out to victory over all His enemies (Psalm 45:4).

This is God-man, Who has been given all authority in the heaven and upon the earth.  Matthew twenty-eight.

Next Lord’s Day the worship of the creatures of God at the throne.  And that will finish the preaching of chapter four.