6 September 2014Revelation 4:1-11
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created”. (v. 11)
Each new section of the book of Revelation begins with a reference to something being opened, and here it is a door in heaven, after which the seer of the revelation is invited to come and see what the future holds. However, before that is shown him, today's passage is but the beginning of a two chapter-long description of the heavenly scene, punctuated by the praises being offered by those who are there in the presence of God.
Apart from God the other characters are twenty-four elders seated on thrones and four living creatures. The latter are described in detail (verse 7) - one like a lion whom we can assume represents wild animals, one like an ox standing for domestic animals, one like a human, and one like an eagle. Four is the symbolic number which represents the earth, as for example when we speak of the four points of the compass, the four winds or the four seasons; it is fair to assume that these four are intended to be understood as offering the praise of all creation.
Most likely the 24 elders represent the 24 priestly divisions of 1 Chronicles 24 for they likewise worship and present the peoples' prayers; but other interpretations are possible.
The description of God emphasises beauty and power. The rainbow is a symbol of God's mercy (see Genesis 9:13-17). The writer appears to some degree to be drawing on the vision of God in Ezekiel chapter 1 for this whole scene. In that chapter the four living creatures each have four faces representing the same creatures we meet here, and there it is the wheels of God's chariot throne rather than the creatures that are "full of eyes" (v. 7) or all-seeing.
- Does the kind of picture of heaven offered here prove helpful to you? How does it differ from the kind of description you might like to find?
- How do you find it helpful to picture God?
- The words of verses 8 and 11 (and similar cries in chapters 5, 7, 15 and 18) have found their way into many church liturgies and hymns. Do you find such language helpful in praising God, or how do you prefer to do so?