In these verses John continues his description of the throne room of God from his vision. Please keep in mind that this is not to be understood literally; John is not giving us a play-by-play of the sights, sounds and action in heaven, he is telling us of the character, glory and majesty of God.
To begin with, John sees four rather strange creatures. John’s description combines imagery found in Isaiah 6 which includes four six-winged creatures he calls seraphim that call out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (6:3b), with Ezekiel 1 in which Ezekiel sees “four living creatures” (called “cherubim” in chapter 10) each of which has four faces of a man, lion, ox and eagle. John’s description also includes their being covered with eyes, signifying that they never sleep, but praise God continually forever.
The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. (4:7)
To John’s original readers, these four represent the apex of a different aspect of creation; man is the crowning glory of creation, of birds, the eagle is supreme, of domestic animals it is the ox, and of the wild animals it is the lion that reigns supreme. Even though each of these representative creatures is “supreme” in one way or another, all are under God’s rule, and together they represent God’s sovereignty over His creation, and the worship that all of creation owes to Him.
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say; (4:9-10)
The living creatures as the whole of creation, give glory and praise to God, what do the elders do? The elders, who represent the whole of God’s people, the church, fall down before God, laying their crowns at His feet.
To fully comprehend this scene, we need to recall Genesis and the purpose for which God created Man. Back in the Garden, God and Man had direct personal relationship; they spoke together. God also gave Man a purpose, to exercise dominion over all the earth and over everything in it. God and Man had relationship with purpose, and relationship with purpose is “fellowship” which was God’s reason for creating humanity. This was broken by the entrance of sin into the equation, but through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, Man was redeemed and relationship was restored as was purpose. The crowns worn by the elders were attained because they were faithful to God’s purpose, and this faithfulness brought them to glory with Christ. When all Creation sings God’s praise, the elders place their crowns and themselves at God’s feet in worship; this is true worship.
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.” (4:11)
Throughout Revelation the song sung at the end of the vision description serves to tell us the point that the vision seeks to communicate. In the case of the entire vision described in chapter four, the point is verse 11.
Thus, we can say that for the Christian who has been given ability to shape events in this world, and as a group to exercise a degree of dominion in this life, the manner of our living is to voluntarily submit our own will to His, to submit our own purposes to His, and lay all that we are and all that we have at His feet.
As John continues into chapter 5, a new element is added to the scene, we’ll discuss that next time; see you then!