Revelation 4:1-11 Part 12


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”.


     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”, or “ministers” 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.  The throne of justice; the throne of judgment and redemption.  And the four living beings, in and round-about the throne, are “throne-creatures”.  They are creatures of God associated with the throne of rule and dominion.  And their functions, in and round about the throne include the earth and all of its creatures.

     We’ve already seen a number of ways in which the earth and its creatures are in the “likeness” of these throne-creatures.  One that I didn’t mention, and I should have, is the fact that they are working!  We took note of the fact that they are implicated in the entire course of history, as well as the direct animation of all earthly creatures.  All of their activities, of course, in concert with the sovereign Will of God.

I don’t think we need to quote portions of Scripture in order to show God’s requirement for man to work.  That’s already a given.  Even non-believers perceive that that’s the case, although they don’t give God the acknowledgment.  For example, here’s a quote from the deist Benjamin Franklin:


"This gave me occasion to observe, that when Men are employ’d they are best contented. For on the Days they work'd they were good-natur'd and chearful; and with the consciousness of having done a good Days work they spent the Evenings jollily; but on the idle Days they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with their Pork, the Bread, and in continual ill-humour."


This quote may be somewhat humorous in and of itself, but it does, indeed, illustrate what the apostle Paul said in Romans chapter one, that all men know that the entire creation speaks to the power and divinity of God – Father, Son and Spirit, for it is all around them, and even IN them!  And Paul could make that statement to the Church in Rome because all creation is in the likeness of that which is in the heaven!  It all corresponds in some way.

When men don’t work, they’re not in the likeness of the heaven, and all kinds of mischief ensues.  And, further, when men do work, then they ought to acknowledge the power and divinity of God and give Him glory and honor and thanksgiving, the product of the work and the acknowledgment being contentment.

In Ezekiel’s vision of the throne, there was One above that throne of dominion.  Here it is in chapter one of his prophecy:


26) And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.


In and round about the throne were four living beings, and above the throne was One in the likeness of a man!  This is the prophetic Word, now… and Ezekiel’s prophecy was one of judgment and redemption.  Judgment upon idolatrous Israel, and redemption of the world by God-man.

And, while we’re here, let me just mention to you that in all the detailed instructions for the construction of the tabernacle (and, later, the temple), there was only the Ark of the Covenant with its cherubim in the Holy of Holies.  There was no image.  Just the ark and these awesome creatures with their wings spread over it.  There were no instructions from God to Moses to craft an image of one above the Ark of the Covenant.  In fact, Moses’ instructions were that NO image of God was to be made.

But now, in the prophecy of Ezekiel, with his visions of the temple and the city in the last days; and then in plain sight of the apostle John, here in the Revelation, One in the likeness of a Man over the throne of dominion and rule.  Ezekiel’s prophecy was one of the ascension of Jesus Christ to the throne; and John’s view of the heaven was post-resurrection and post-ascension and post-enthronement.

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.

As I said last Lord’s Day, we’re going to look at the worship of the creatures in the heaven.  But first we have to finish the description of these four creatures that John saw and here describes.  We’ve said some things about their being entirely of eyes; and we’ve done what we could with regard to the four faces; all of that being reflected in the creation and providential care of the earth and all of its creatures.

But we’ve yet to say anything about the six wings.  And since we are in the process of becoming aware of the creation’s “likeness” to that which is in the heaven, it should be pretty obvious now that many of God’s creatures on earth have wings!  And that they are, in some ways, made in the likeness of God’s creatures in and round about His throne.  And therefore we ought to be able, without hesitation, to observe the power and divinity of Almighty God – Father, Son and Spirit.  The creation is, in many ways, in the likeness of His throne-room!  And “without hesitation” simply means that it ought to be automatic.  We ought to automatically observe and acknowledge the power and glory and divinity of our Triune God.

Just like the rocks and stones; just like the mountains and rivers and oceans; just like the wind and the thunder and lightning; just like the trees and grass and flowers; just like the animals; just like man… birds, in their great diversity, correspond in some ways to that which is in the heaven.  They have “wings” like the throne-creatures.  And birds ought to remind us of God’s throne; they ought to remind us of God’s sovereign Providence.  They ought to remind us of worship and thanksgiving, for all the creatures in the heaven, to which all things on earth correspond, are glorifying the One over the throne!

But, as with all things that are beyond our comprehension, the original is far more complex than that which corresponds to it.  And for that we must go to the written Word; for by Word and Spirit we are brought into contact with the height and depth and breadth of the Person, power, divinity, love and sovereignty of our God and Savior.  The more we’re sanctified by Word and Spirit, the more we know of the glory of our God; and the more we can glorify Him in word and deed.

So, first let’s just review a very few of the many Bible passages having to do with the wings of the cherubim.  First is in Exodus chapter nineteen where God, speaking to Moses, makes specific reference to the cherubim in bringing Israel out of captivity in Egypt.


3)    And Moses went up unto God, and Yahveh called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:

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:

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.


And since Yahveh bore Israel out of captivity by the wings of His cherubim, we can better understand the Psalmist in the many references to the wings of these creatures.  Listen:


And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly; Yea, he soared upon the wings of the wind. (Psalm 18:10)


Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me; For my soul taketh refuge in thee: Yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I take refuge, Until these calamities be overpast. (Psalm 57:1)


I will dwell in thy tabernacle for ever: I will take refuge in the covert of thy wings. (Psalm 61:4)


Bless Yahveh, O my soul. O Yahveh my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honor and majesty: Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment; Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain; Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters; Who maketh the clouds His chariot; Who walketh upon the wings of the wind; Who maketh winds His messengers; Flames of fire His ministers. (Psalm 104:1-4)


And the prophets, too, reveal a full awareness of these throne creatures and their wings.  Here’s Ezekiel three, verses twelve and thirteen:


12) Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great rushing, saying , ‘Blessed be the glory of Yahveh from his place.’

13) And I heard the noise of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the noise of the wheels beside them, even the noise of a great rushing.


And from Malachi chapter four:


1)    For, behold, the day cometh, it burneth as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith Yahveh of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

2)    But unto you who fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and frolic as calves of the stall.


The throne-creatures of God, operating in direct concert with the sovereign will of God, and being the very eyes and wings of God in His creation, and being one with the “seat” of dominion, carry out that Providence in all the earth.

In the passages that we just read, Israel itself being the context, the throne-creatures were the wings and eyes and hands of God in bringing Israel out of captivity, establishing it in plenty, hosting the prophets as they spoke God’s Word to the nation, and bringing disasters against her in her rebellion.  And as we’ll see, they were the creatures bringing utter disaster to her in the last day.  Not that they, themselves, administered those disasters, but that they are the ministers of God in the history and in the animation of all things pertaining to the earth.

And we need to say this one more time:  These are throne-creatures.  The throne is one of rule and dominion – dominion over all the earth and all of its creatures.  These are God’s minister-creatures at the throne of dominion, and they carry out all of His divine providence in every aspect of the earth.  They don’t preach; they don’t prophesy; they don’t save; they don’t convert; they don’t mediate; they don’t condemn; they don’t kill; they are not the actual instruments of war and death and plague.  But they are, as Calvin said, the ministers of God in His secret inspiration, activating and animating all of the earth and all of its creatures.   They are the creatures of God’s dominion over all that He has made.

And now; the wings were SIX!

We already know that the throne-creatures were four, and that they work in concert with the Will of God for His providential dominion over the earth… the four creature faces, the four winds, the four corners of the earth, the four seasons, the four great beasts of history, etc., etc.

Now we see that the Scripture is very specific about the wings of these living beings being six.  And, at this point in our exegesis of this text, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the non-accidental use of the word “six” is literally into the hundreds.  And they all have something to do with man himself.  So, man himself corresponds to that which is in the heaven.  The number six is man and all of his activities.

There are other correspondences among men and other creatures, but the fact that the four throne-creatures are directly linked to God’s providential rule over the earth, and that they have six wings, and the fact that man and all his activities are revealed by God in terms of “six” is not an accident!  It’s not inadvertent, for there are no “contingencies” with God.  God’s providential dominion over all that He has made hasn’t “perchance” revealed man on earth in terms of six!

The fact that the Revelation of God through Moses says that God made man on the sixth day, and that man was to work six full days out of seven, and that he was to work the land and the vineyards six years out of seven… these alone, without any further confirmation in Scripture, ought to cause us to acknowledge God’s power and divinity.  For His throne-dominion over all His creation and all His creatures (including man) is evidence enough to leave us without excuse.

And it wasn’t by “chance” that Noah was six hundred years old when he took his family and seven pairs of all the animals of the earth into the ark.  And exactly when he was six hundred and one, the earth was dry and he came out of the ark as the new beginning of man.

But there IS more… much more.  Hear the following few of many:


For the children of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, shall these six cities be for refuge; that every one that killeth any person unwittingly may flee thither (Numbers 35:15).


If thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee (Deuteronomy 15:12).


For the sake of time, skipping many dozens of worthy passages, let’s hear John’s Revelation, chapter thirteen and verse eighteen:


Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of man:  and that number is six hundred and sixty and six.


As we’ll see when we reach chapter thirteen, there is a particular man who numerically, exegetically and historically fits the six-six-six designation.  And we’ll spend the time necessary to make that obvious connection.

But, you see, “three” is the quantitative perfection of God (as in Trinity); and “seven” is the qualitative perfection (as in the “seven spirits of God” here in John’s Revelation).  However, six relates to man and all of his activities.  And no matter how hard he tries, man is six.  He is not God.  He may wish to be “as God”; he may wish to BE God; he may wish to be his own god.  But man cannot be seven!  He can’t transcend his “sixness”!  He is man – a creature.

The last “beast” from the sea of humanity, raised up by God through the agency of these throne-ministers, was the Roman empire, the worst of them all.  And at the time of John’s reception of this Revelation, a man ruled the whole occupied world from his “seat” – the throne of the empire in Rome.  He was a very bad man.  And he did not cast his crown before the resurrected and ascended God-man, but was there to usurp the kingdom from the King of Kings and rule all of the world from his seat.  He had a throne; and he expected that every word that proceeded from his mouth would be acted upon immediately by those in his court!  And just from these things alone – the fact that he had dominion from a throne – itself corresponded to the throne of God in the heaven!

But regardless of everything he did, he could not become God, and he could not be equal with God.  He could not become “seven”.  All he could do was add sixes… six hundred and sixty six of them.  And that’s the nature of all of fallen man, isn’t it?  All he can do in his rebellion against the sovereign providence of Almighty God is string out “sixes”!

That’s about all I can say about God’s throne-creatures, except to say, once again, that all of God’s creation is in some way correspondent to that which is in the heaven.  That which is in the heaven is the “pattern” for all of that which He has created.  The only way for man – the “six” – to approach the “seven” is to worship and adore the “three” – in One.

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning GOD….”  The word “God” there at the beginning is plural.  “In the beginning (Father, Word, Spirit) created….”  “Created” is in the Hebrew third person singular, i.e. HE created!  “In the beginning Father, Word, Spirit – HE created”!  It is a TRI-UNE creation.

What did HE create?  “the heavens (plural) and the earth (singular).  HE created two heavens and one earth… a “tri-creation” patterned after Himself, the perfect “three” in “one”.  And the correspondences of this tri-creation to the Tri-unity (trinity) of our Creator are in evidence everywhere!  And we must know them and acknowledge them in order to give Him worship and adoration (as do these creatures in the heaven).

Past – present – future, within this creation called “time”; the tri-creation called “the heavens and the earth”; the dimensions called length – breadth – height; the triadic chord within music; blue, yellow, red – the primary colors; father – mother – child in the family; pastors – elders – deacons within Churches; family – Church – state within societies; legislatures – administrations – judiciaries in civil governments; body – soul – spirit, the tri-unity of man.  We are to be “thrice-blessed” in counsels and knowledge of God and His creation!*

And all of the creatures in the heaven make that very clear in their adoration, don’t they?  The last two verses in the chapter say exactly that.  We’ll get to that in a minute.

But let’s be clear about one thing:  what John sees in the heaven and describes for us isn’t a worship service, and this is not a Church. There is no Lord’s Table; there are no baptisms; there is no preaching; there is no reading of Scripture; the throne with its cherubim is not a pulpit; the elders and messengers of the heaven do not comprise a congregation, for they are not “members”… their names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life.  No “body” was given for them; no blood shed for them.  Therefore they are not baptized members of the covenant.

So, commentators on this passage (and there are quite a few) who say that John’s description of the adoration of the creatures in the heaven must be the standard for the Church’s worship are simply incorrect.

The apostle John is called up into the third heaven at a particular time in the history of God’s creation in which there is to be judgment and redemption.  It is a throne of dominion and rule by One Who has paid for the sin of the world.  One in the likeness of a man – the God-man – has occupied the throne promised to David’s Son and David’s Lord, having been given all authority in heaven and on the earth.  And the “time is near” to execute the sanctions of the covenant upon an obstinate and idolatrous nation which was God’s “second heaven and earth” (and now there is a third, by the way).  God-man has been given the earth as His footstool; and all the nations of earth will bow down to Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and kings will cast their crowns at His feet.  And He will sanctify this entire creation to the glory of the Father.

So what John sees in the heaven is not Church – it is dominion.  It is Kingdom.  The Church is the special gathering (Eklesia, sunagogue) of the Lord’s covenant people, and it has its own God-revealed, God-ordained worship requirements and its own duty requirements in the Kingdom.  This Revelation of the heaven, though, is the throne of rule and dominion over the entire creation of God.


“…they have no pause saying ‘holy holy holy Kurios The God the Almighty, the Was and the Is and the Coming.’”


The ministers of God’s infinite providential dominion continually declare Him thrice holy – Father, Son and Spirit.  Being His agents, in wondrous relation to the throne as ministers of His rule, they never cease glorifying Him.  The One Who Is, Was and Coming is the thrice holy God.  “The whole earth is full of His glory,” Isaiah heard them say.

God the Father, Son and Spirit is “un-begun” and “un-ending”.  He Is; He Was, He Comes.  And when the four throne-creatures will give glory and honor and thanksgiving to the One Living, the One on the throne, they are specifically referring to the One Who was dead, but is now alive and bodily ascended to the throne.  And the twenty-four elder creatures will also prostrate themselves before Him and cast their crowns at His feet.  For they acknowledge the King of Kings.

And they will say,


“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”.


All of this that we’ve been learning is the reason the elders and the four throne creatures were glorifying Father, Son and Spirit.  It is His “creatorship” of all things (as John heard in the last verse) that evidences the absolute, eternal majesty and exaltation of Triune God and His throne.

The “doubling”:  “You did create”, and “they were created” repeat, verify and confirm Genesis 1:1 in that Triune God brought all things into existence.  “HE” did create… did bring all into existence from non-existence.  And by His Will, they ARE!

They (all things) were created by Triune God, and they are.  In His providential care they are… they remain in existence, they continue in existence.  If I’m permitted to use the subjunctive mood here without sounding like a rapper, all things were called into existence by the Word of His Power, and they BE!

And our Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Savior, the Word of God, without Whom nothing was made that was made, is bodily over the throne of His dominion, Creator of all things, Providentially caring for all things, in Whom we live and breathe and move and have our very being.  Thrice holy God – worthy to receive the glory and the honor and the power.  For by His WILL, they are. 


*Concepts regarding the Trinity and creation gleaned from various works and forum emails by Rev., Professor, Dr. Nigel Lee.