John is attempting to describe the glory of God. What one must do is to think of the most precious and spectacular stones imaginable and then attempt to describe the glory of God accordingly. Many times the Lord gave a glimpse of His glory to His prophets before He revealed to them the coming judgment (see Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1).
A rainbow is one of the most beautiful, and, no doubt, the most mysterious sight in the heavens. It has always mystified man as he viewed its dazzling array of colors. God used it as a token of His covenant with man. It was to remind him that God is faithful and will fulfill His promise to man in general, and to Israel in particular. “And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-17).
The twenty-four elders are also symbolic and are a heavenly representation of the governors of Israel(v.4). “All down through the history of the Jews we find mention made of the elders as exercising authority among the people. They appear as governors (Deuteronomy 31:28), as local magistrates (Deuteronomy 16:18), administering justice (Deuteronomy 19:12). They were men of extensive influence (1Samuel30:26-31)” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).
The elders, like the living creatures, may be created representations, or they could be twenty-four elders of Israel to represent the new temple and the new government under the new King. They worship the Lord day and night. They serve Him at His bidding, and they represent believing Israel before the throne (see 1 Chronicles 24:1).
Verse 5 is a display of God’s almighty power and the judgment about to be poured out on the earth. The seven lamps are the seven Spirits of God. These speak of His omniscience.
The “sea of glass, like unto crystal;” (v.6) speaks of the purity required to approach His majestic throne. This area is “holy ground.” We are aware that it is not literal ground. The laver inSolomon’s temple was called a sea (2 Chron.4:2). Not only was it symbolic, but it was also there for the priest to wash in prior to entering the Holy of Holies. Thus, this sea before the throne is like glass. It is undisturbed, calm, and holy. The rent veil means that the waters need not be disturbed any more.
John sees this scene again in chapter 15:2. “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.” The lightning flashes from the throne would give the appearance of fire mingled with this sea of transparent glass. The fire was also symbolic of God’s impending judgment and the fiery trial these martyrs had come through. They were overcomers. They overcame the beast and were privileged, as priests, to stand on this sea of glass singing and praising their Creator and Redeemer.
The four beasts or living creatures were full of eyes before and behind. The first was like a lion, the second like a calf, the third like a man, and the fourth like a flying eagle (v. 7). It appears that these living creatures are the same seen by Ezekiel in chapter 1 of his prophesy and that they are connected to creation and God’s holiness. They are also a personal representation of the four-fold ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a lion, He is King of Israel-Matthew’s Gospel. As a calf, He is Jehovah’s Servant-Mark’s Gospel. As man, He is the Son of Man-Luke’s Gospel. As an eagle, He is God-John’s Gospel.
An overview of the word “beast” will help us understand its varied uses throughout Scripture. It is found in the Book of Revelation 44 times. In the Book of Daniel it is used 6 times. The first time the word “beast” is used is in the Book of Genesis. The purpose there is to make a distinction between the animal kingdom and the creation of man, who was made in the image of God.
Noah was commanded to make a distinction among the animals and select a specific number of clean and unclean. “Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female… And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (Genesis 7:2, 8:20). The animals on the ark were called “beasts.”
The word is used of the domestic and wild animals. Some animals were classified as “clean” and others “unclean” in relation to Israel’s diet. “Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you” (Leviticus 11:3-4). All these are in the category of the “beast” of the field.
The heavenly creatures in Revelation 4:7 are also called “beasts.” That is because they have the faces of three beasts of the field; only one face is that of a man.
Some men and their kingdoms are also called “beasts” because of their vicious treatment and persecution of Israel. Daniel7:3-7 says, “And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.”
The false prophet of Revelation 13:11-12 is also called a “beast.” “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” This “beast” is religious and causes men to worship the political beast, the government.
Therefore, a beast can be:
- A beast of the animal kingdom.
- It can be of an angelic creature.
- It can be a man who is called a beast.
- It can also be a kingdom, which is called a beast.
- The false prophet and his religious system are also a beast.
These definitions are important and must be remembered as one considers their various uses throughout the Book of Revelation, especially when reading chapter 13 and 17.
“And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come’ (v.8). If six is the number of man, then we must assume that these beasts also represent mankind before the throne in some manner. The verse needs little explanation. All creation is represented in these creatures, and they worship Him who is worthy (see Ezekiel 1).
“And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:9-11).
In verses 9-10 the twenty-four elders join in the hallelujah chorus giving praise to Him who sat upon the throne. Verse 11 demonstrates the end or final objective of all God is and does. This is the conclusion Job came to after his “tribulation” experience. James calls it, “the end of the Lord.” (James 5:11). “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” The “end” of all God takes His children through, is to refine them and bring glory to Him.
Pastor Ken Blue was born in Boswell, Ark. In 1955 he accepted Christ as his Savior. He and his wife Joyce were married in 1955. They have 5 children. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Bible College in 1969 and started the Open Door Baptist Church in Lynnwood, Wa. where he pastored for 39 years. Because of health issues (ALS) he was forced to resign as pastor. It is his desire to continue to be used of God to help pastors and believers through this ministry.