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Revelation 4

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Posted on CCPC's website 2022

The study Index page.

     Again. This study is verse by verse, IMAGE by Image, IDEA by Idea, and concept by concept. Which means it is a Marathon.
     We are using sources that John the Apostle and those mentioned as the recipients of the letter, the Seven Churches and other First Century Christians, the majority of which were Jews, would / should / could have been familiar with. We will also reference newer translations and versions of the book, beginning with the 1560 Geneva Bible (the bulk source for the 1611 KJV, which we also use) all the way up to much more current publications, and examinations of the text from various scholars, as well as beginning the analysis of the text from the Greek.
     It should be said here, as we are beginning with the Greek, we are going in remembering that John was writing in an 'apocalyptic' style. It seems many translations have forgotten that and 'moderated' the language.
"God is a verb not a noun."
- Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983)

1 “After this I looked, and behold....”
     For this part of the study, we're examining the details of various verses.
     Many Biblical scholars agree to break Relevation into three sections. They only disagree about where those breaks happen. Some make chapter one “the things that were”. Chapters two and three as “the things that are”. And the rest as “that which is to come.” Others put chapters one through three in their own section, then begin a middle part of “the Vision” with four, and then a latter part, beginning in the late teens of “the aftermath.” Either way, we are now into the heart of the book.
     Verse one of chapter four opens with an open door (eneogmene) in Heaven, and John states it as a matter of fact. Then he hears the loud voice from before and it tells him to “Anaba hode” (Come up here), and He will show John what will “dei genesthai” (necessarily take place). The expression here is "it Must Happen", as was stated in chapter one, just as the sun Must come up tomorrow.

2 and 3
     “Immediately” (eutheos). There is no transition, it does not explain any of it. John was simply “in the Spirit” (Pneumati) on Patmos, then he sees "ourano" (heaven) almost as if he, like Paul's 'friend', was “taken up to it”. Paul didn't know if it was in the body or not, neither do we, and John doesn't actually say, but the implication is that he was spiritually 'taken up'. At least in Ezekiel's first vision he explicitly says it was a vision. As when Stephen saw Jesus while being killed. On the whole it doesn't matter.
     The term “thronos” is back, except this time it is in Heaven, and the One on it has the appearance of gemstones. Jasper is a bright red stone, usually with a fine line pattern of a darker red through it. There is some difference of opinion as to the color of the second stone mentioned as sardio (sardine stone). Most sources identify it as a darker red gemstone with brown inclusions in it, the modern term for it is red carnelian.

Revelation Rocks! Tangent:
     As with everything else in The Apocalypse, symbolism is important, and Everything has meaning, even the rocks. What sort of stone it is, and what color it is, where it is, who is 'using it' and how, are all important. We'll begin with the White Rock we've already looked at.
     We saw the White Stone Onyx in chapter 2, a stone from the from priest's ephod in Exodus 28. Those were mounted on the shoulders of the vest with the names written on it as described earlier.
      Later in the same chapter comes the Breastplate of Judgment with twelve stones set in it. Each stone stood for a tribe, and are named in the original text in Hebrew. However, in the last four thousand years or so the names of some of the stones has changed. Also, there is some question as to what stones were available in the area, or through trade, at the time. Job 28 lists several of interest with some metals beginning with verse 15.
     The Jewish organization stated there are about Thirty Different Scholarly Opinions on the configuration of the stones on the breastplate. Others, such as the International Gem Society have a different list as well. The below is a more or less generally accepted configuration of the arrangement, another list and other references below:
Barekes (Carbuncle) Levi. -   Pitdah (Prase/ Peridot) Simeon. -   Odem (Ruby) Reuben.
Yahalom (possibly Diamond) Zebulun. -   Sappir (Sapphire) Issachar. -   Nofech (Emerald) Judah.
Achlamah (Crystal) Gad.   -  Shevo (Turquoise) Naphtali. -  Leshem (possibly Lapis Lazuli) Dan.
Yashpeh (Jasper) Benjamin. -   Shoham (Onyx) Joseph. -   Tarshish (Chrysolite) Asher
     Other stones hold other meaning, but most of them are re-appearances of those twelve. We'll look at these others as they come up.
End Tangent
     “... and there was a rainbow around the throne in appearance as an emerald.” The most famous rainbow in the Bible was the one shown to Noah in Genesis. However, this reference is an almost direct quote from Ezekiel 1 26 - 28.

     Verse four states there were twenty four “presbyterous” (elders 'church and/or tribal) on twenty four thrones, all dressed in white and wearing crown-like (stephanous) things. Which, as we will point out, are 'crown like things', and NOT halos, which is a different word: "perilampo" (shine around) or even "iris" (rainbow).
     While the number 24 isn't used a lot in the Bible, it does occur in a place of importance and relevance to our current work in Revelation. 1 Chronicles chapter 24 (yes, that's the chapter) discusses the dividing of the priests into 24 groups, and 25 discusses the musicians and others to serve in the temple in the same way. They were selected by the 'casting of lots', and they weren't sitting on thrones or any of the rest of it. BUT, they were arranged that way “for the ministry at the house of God.” 1 Chronicles 25: 6, which is what the 24 elders do in Revelation.

     The first “sound and light show” of the larger vision.
     1611: “And out of the Throne proceeded lightnings, and thundrings, and voyces”. That is pretty much what is in the Greek as “astrapai” (flashes of lightning), “phonai” (speech), and “brontai” (thunder).
     Then there is seven lamps of fire burning “lampades pyros kaiomenai” before the throne, which are the “hepta Pneumata tou Theou” (seven Spirits of God). These are also mentioned in chapter one, as well as in chapter three, and comes up again in five. While there is One Holy Spirit, there are other 'Spirits' recognized in the Bible. One of those lists is in Isaiah 11 where six other “Spirits” are counted. The Spirit of Truth is also mentioned by John in chapter 14 verse 16 and 17 his Gospel. The Spirit if Wisdom is mentioned with some other aspects in Ephesians 1: 17. While 2 Timothy 1 : 7 has a different idea.

6 (a)
     The “thalassa hyaline homoia krystallo” (sea of glass like crystal) reminds us of the bronze sea that was a large wash basin that was used in the tabernacle and then in front of Solomon's temple 1 Kings 7 : 23...`The Sea of old was used for washing before anyone served in the Temple. But as here the 'sea' is around and, evidently under, the Throne of God.

6 (b) through 8. Four Beasts, and an 'inline tangent'.
     First we'll look at the number Four. The lowest Non-Prime number there is. Four occurs in some interesting places in Scripture. Such as our new friends here and in Ezekiel (which we'll come to in a minute), and later 'four winds', there were four horns on the alter in the Temple, and we can check the list in Hebrews 2 : 4. Here, it appears to be a real counting number and not figurative.
     The “tessara zoa” four living creatures. The Greek says they are “full of eyes before and behind”. Proverbs 4 : 25 discusses the 'line of sight'. The eye has always been a symbol of watchfulness, and in the case of the Lord, His omniscient as in 2 Chronicles 16: 9.
     First, we'll line the four up against various pagan gods from the Middle East beginning with the Lion first. The Egyptian lion-headed god Maahes first seen about 1600 BC, and was one of the gods involved with warfare. The “young bull” is perhaps most famous from the Apis bull worship of Ancient Egypt (since before the Exodus with that little mess the Jews got into), beginning perhaps before 3200 BC, the bull was also worshiped in Sumeria as one of the attributes of Marduk, and was widespread in the Minoan civilization a bit later. The third 'beast' had the face of a man, which is fairly straight forward. And the fourth was an “aeto” (bird of prey, possibly an eagle). Besides Horus of Egypt, it was one of the Anunnaki gods of Sumeria, and was the totem animal for Zeus of the Greeks. Here, in Revelation, they are all praising the Creator GOD.

A Question: "Are these the same four creatures from Ezekiel one?"
     The only difference is the wing count and the arrangement of the faces on the four in Ezekiel (each had four) where the four in John's vision appear as the entire being with one face each. "Could they be the same and the differences based solely on how the image was related?" Sure, why not? And you get the same answer when you ask about Daniel 7, except there the four beasts had a different job.

     Now we'll take a look at them in light of Church History as the symbols of the so called 'four evangelists'. Which, to begin with, is a misnomer, but that's a discussion for another time. Each of the four gospel writers is depicted as a winged creature. Except, there is no universal consensus as to which is which, and there is no consensus because such a depiction occurs nowhere in scripture. The usual arrangement is that Matthew is the Man, Mark the Lion, Luke the Bull/Calf, and John is the Eagle, as is depicted in the front page to the Book of Kells from the 800s. But that order would raise an argument from Irenaeus, and another one from Augustine, and isn't accepted everywhere today.
     The idea of six wings has come up before. We see it in Isaiah 6 with the Seraphim.
     What these beasts are saying, other than being the lyrics to a traditional hymn, is also an echo of what the Seraphim are saying in Isaiah. And here again is one of the themes of the book, what “was, is, and is to come”, and as is stated in the next verse “who lives forever and ever” as “aionas ton aionon” (for ages upon ages). That they work day and night we'll come back to in another chapter.

9 - 11
     This is something that happens while John is watching. When the 'beasts' sing, the Elders fall down and worship, and toss their crowns before the throne, and say something else. They "pesountai" (fall), it is a different word from the prostration, but carries with it the same idea of subjugation. The Elders also state that the One on the throne is the "Ektisas" (Creator) of all things.
     We just saw a similar move in chapter one when John feel at Jesus's feet, and we will see the same action later when John does it and is told not to. In the OT, Esther fell at the foot of the king (ch 8), a woman named Abigail did the same to David in 1 Samuel 25 beginning at verse 23. Earlier in the New Testament gentiles worshiped Christ in Matthew 2. Lazarus's sister falls at His feet in John 11.
     Is this the ONLY time it happens? We do not know. It may be a regular event in heaven, or this was a special occasion for John's benefit, and ours. And, in the larger scheme, it doesn't matter.

Crown Tangent:
     We saw “stephanous” before. In 3 : 11 the faithful were told no man would seize their crown. In James 1, believers are promised the crown of life. Peter talks about a crown of glory in his first letter chapter 5. These are a bit different than the Crown Of Thorns placed on Christ's head in John's Gospel in chapter 19.
     In the Old Testament we find crowns ranging from the 'sacred emblem' on Aaron's turban in Leviticus 8: 9 to where the king crowned Esther as Queen in 2: 17 and on to 2 Samuel 12: 30 where David, after his episode with Bathsheba went out and did what he should have been doing and conquered a city and took that king's crown for his own.
     The Greek word is also used for various garlands and wreaths that were tokens of victory, which we see with the usage by Peter and James. The older references see it as a sign of authority, which also comes into play in Revelation 14.
End Tangent
     Also coming in to play is another old hymn, if you get good material you use it, right? See Verse 11 in the KJV.

End 4

Another site listed the known gemstones in the Bible as: Amethyst, Beryl and related Emerald, Carnelian and Chalcedony (similar iron oxide stones), Chrysoprase (green chalcedony), Chrysolite (peridot), Jacinth (zircon), Jasper (type of quartz, several colors), Lapis Lazuli (blue with lines), Onyx, Ruby, Sapphire, Sardonyx and related Agate, Topaz. Also listed were Coral and Pearls even though those are not “stones”.

Selected Sources for this chapter:
High Priest's Breastplate

What Were the Gemstones of the Breastplate of Aaron?

What are the Symbols of the Four Evangelists?

Sources used throughout entire study:
Bible Hub Interlinear pages:

the Geneva Bible downloadable

the 1611 KJV

The study Index page.

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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