Revelation 4 Study Notes


4:1-2 The phrases after this and what must take place after this signal the beginning of the body of the book (4:1-22:5) spoken of in 1:19, in the wording, “what will take place after this.” Even though John was told to come up here, it is not clear whether: (1) he was actually taken up into heaven (with the same command in 11:12 the two witnesses were taken to heaven), or (2) he was still “in the Spirit” (see note at 1:10) on the isle of Patmos (1:9-10). What he saw of the heavenly throne room in chaps. 4-5 is trustworthy either way, since the vision came from the Lord.

4:3-4 Jasper is an opaque jewel also mentioned in the description of the new Jerusalem (21:11,19). Carnelian stone is a vivid red color. A rainbow is God’s cov-enant sign that he will never again judge the earth by destroying every creature in a flood (Gn 9:8-17). The Apocalypse tells of God’s just judgment of the world by other means. The twenty-four elders could refer to angels, but since there were elders as leaders in both Israel (Nm 11:16) and the church (Ti 1:5), it is more likely that twelve of the twenty-four represent the tribes of Israel and the other twelve the apostles of Christ, previewing the reference to the twelve tribes and twelve apostles in the new Jerusalem (21:12,14). Elsewhere in Revelation, white clothes and golden crowns make up the attire of victorious believers (3:5; 6:11; 7:9; 19:8,14).

4:5 Flashes of lightning . . . and thunder coming from God (the throne) represent the first mention in Revelation of phenomena that intensify and spill over from heaven to earth as part of God’s just judgment (8:5; 11:19; 16:18,21). On the seven spirits of God, see note at 1:4.

4:6-7 The four living creatures resemble the cherubim in Ezk 1 and 10, though there are differences as well. Covered with eyes means that very few things escape the notice of these watchful angelic creatures. The imagery of the lion . . . ox . . . man . . . and eagle has strong linkage to Ezk 1:5-10 and may represent animate creation.


Greek pronunciation [HAH gee ahss]
CSB translation holy
Uses in Revelation 25
Uses in the NT 233
Focus passage Revelation 4:8

Hagios (holy) frequently refers to that which is dedicated or set apart to God’s service, describing things that have a derived holiness. This includes the church (1Co 3:17; Eph 5:27; 1Pt 2:9), as well as individual Christians (Rm 12:1). Indeed, hagios may be translated “saints” in reference to believers, who are set apart by God for his service (Mt 27:52; Ac 9:13; Rm 1:7; 1Co 1:2; Rv 5:8). The word also describes Jerusalem (Mt 4:5; Rv 21:2,10; 22:19), the various parts of the sanctuary (Mt 24:15; Heb 9:1-3), angels (Mk 8:38), OT prophets (Lk 1:70), Christian apostles and prophets (Eph 3:5), divine revelation (Rm 1:2; 2Pt 1:21), and various geographical locations (Ac 7:33; 2Pt 1:18). Additionally, hagios may describe what is holy by nature, namely, God the Father (Jn 17:11; 1Pt 1:15; Rv 4:8), Jesus Christ (Mk 1:24; Ac 3:14), and the Spirit (Mt 3:11; Ac 1:5).

4:8 The mention of the creatures having six wings and the words holy, holy, holy echo the description of the seraphim in the heavenly throne room in Is 6:1-3. On who was, who is, and who is to come, see note at 1:4.

4:9-10 The heavenly throne room is characterized by unceasing joyful praise, thanksgiving, and worship toward the Lord by the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders.

4:11 The beginning point of worship is to recognize that God is completely worthy to be recognized for his unrivaled glory and honor and power, and his work as Creator and Sustainer of all things.