Revelation 4 (NRSV)
Throne-Vision and Seven Seals:
At this point, we enter a new phase in the unfolding drama, as John is caught up to heaven and granted privileged access to the heavenly throne-room. This vision (which continues into chapter 5) inaugurates the opening of the seven seals (6:1-8:1), just as the vision of the exalted Christ in chapter 1 introduced the seven messages. Thus 4:1-8:1 forms the second great cycle of sevens in Revelation. But it is no less crucial for understanding the remaining visions of the book, acting as the orienting vision for the whole of chapters 4-22. In these remaining chapters, a kaleidoscope of images and symbols will flash before the mind’s eye, presenting from different perspectives the character of the battle described in the preceding seven messages. Revelation 4-5 provides as it were the appropriate perspective from which to view and make sense of what is happening on earth. Here is a drawing back of the curtain which normally restricts humanity’s view of the heavenly realm. John, and those privileged to hear his Apocalypse, are enabled to see the world in a radically new light.
The Heavenly Worship
“Surely that which occupies the total time and energies of heaven must be a fitting pattern for earth.” –Paul E. Billheimer
After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.
“A door stood open.” Heaven is where God is acknowledged as King, and where true worship occurs. But far from being separated from this world, it is intimately connected to it, for what is seen in heaven either has been or will be played out on earth. Doors into heaven can be opened wherever God’s people are, though particularly when they are gathered for the eucharistic liturgy (3:20). Heaven is never far away, for those with the eyes to see.
Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing,
“Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”