Skip to content
Feb 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapter 4 – 02/18/2024



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion Community!  Grace and Peace to you!

Spiritual practices – we often talk about the value of having some form of these. And they are valuable, yet we must know that they are not the Real that we’re after; but they can help us get to the Real.  I think we have all moved past measuring our Christianity by church attendance, bible memorization, and the like.  The measure of our following Christ is becoming like him, being transformed by our relationship with him.

Practices always begin with intention, don’t they?  We practice the piano because we want to be able to play well.  Spiritual practices are the same:  what’s our intention, what are we after; what do we really want?  Jesus often asked those He was about to heal, “What do you want me to do for you?” 

We begin with intention, desire, or perhaps a better word, our longing.  The rituals, the traditions, the prayer practices can all hold our longings in the contemplative life.  We can see a practice as the door, the lens, the threshold; and we can see a practice as an embrace, the arms that hold us so we can rest within them.  My husband has routines, but it’s not really the routines themselves he’s after, it’s the feeling of security and safety they hold for him.  As a married couple, we have rituals.  It’s the rituals that give space for the love relationship, and that’s what we are after.  Let’s remember our intentions today.

We can manage our practices; we can work on our healing.  We may cross the threshold by our will.  But effort and willpower are not the energies that will carry us all the way.  If transformation is our goal, remember that it is beyond our control, yet very Real in Spirit.

So, what does the contemplative life look like for you?

May I pray for our time? 

Lord, thank you for this gathering of your people.  May we hear and reflect on your words, knowing that they are living and active, able to be a mirror or a scalpel, a comfort or an awakening.  May our responses always be “Yes” to the Spirit who dwells in us.  Open to us Truth and the Treasures you have for us and lead us to unity with Christ and with each other.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.
After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what may take place after this.”
At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne Revelation 4:1-2

Intro: One day, a few years ago, I was visiting my oldest daughter

Her oldest daughter, came to me and said, “I dreamed you last night”
– she had told my daughter, “I dreamed grandpa”
• Jennifer asked her, “Which grandpa?” she said, “The bald one.”
• fortunately I have another dream story
– in 1992, my life had been shattered by divorce
• that summer a nine year old boy in the church sent me a letter
◦ he had colored a picture that looked like a church, with clouds in the sky
◦ a from one giant cloud a text bubble emerged with the message, “Hi Chuck”
◦ a little stick figure on the ground was saying, “Hi God!”
• with the picture I also received the following letter:

The book of Revelation comes at us more like a dream than a story
– it certainly doesn’t read like history, textbook, or poetry
• so going through it is more like dream interpretation, than a typical, technical Bible study
• Revelation wasn’t written to appeal to our rational mind
◦ it was written to give us an experience of God’s realm
◦ it speaks to us in pictures – like dreams–or nightmares
– chapter four is the first half of a two-part story
• the first will climax in worship of God for his creation
• the second part will climax in worship of Jesus for salvation

Verses 1-2, We are swept up to heaven

Verse 1 begins and ends with, After this (or these things)
– Steve Gregg, says those that interpret Revelation “spiritually” will remind us,
Gregg, “The opening words, ‘After these things,’ do not mean ‘This is what will happen next,’ but rather, ‘This is the vision I saw next.’”
• John is looking around and tells us “behold”
a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard . . . .
(this would be Jesus from chapter 1 and verse 10)
◦ doors hide mysteries – but this door is open – we’re allowed to see behind it
Come up here and I will show you . . .
◦ John is invited to ascend and walk through the door
• Paul tells of a related experience and he teases his readers with it
◦ not that he meant to tease us, but he doesn’t tell us everything
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which [humans] may not utter” (2 Cor. 12:2-4)
– John doesn’t bother to ask questions, like “Is this in the body or out of the body?”
• he just describes where he went and what he saw

Verse 2, At once I was in the Spirit – what does this mean?
– Jesus made a promise to disciples regarding a new experience in their relationship with God
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (Jn. 14:17)
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high (Lk. 24:49)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you (Acts 1:8)
• Paul talks about an inspiration that produces inspired “gifts” (1 Cor. 12)
◦ he gives instructions to Corinthians regarding the proper use of gifts
◦ he explains that:
a person may speak “in the Spirit” or “mysteries in the Spirit (1 Cor 12:3)
each [one] is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7)
“tongues” speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:2)
• when the Spirit comes over a person it a supernatural effect
do not get drunk with wine . . . but be filled with the Spirit (Ep. 5:18)
– our first vision of heaven is a throne – there’s a reason for that
• this symbol doesn’t produce same effect on us that it would to a person in the first century
◦ but imagine a knock on the door, and when you open it, a sheriff is standing there
◦ or being in a courtroom and the judge calls your name
• what do you feel? typically the authority of the sheriff or judge
◦ they have a power we can’t ignore or fight off
◦ Revelation will keep bringing us back to the “throne” and “thrones”

It is important that a throne is first symbol in heaven we’re given
– the throne is a reality that moves through the entire book — it explains everything
• God’s will is absolute – he rules over heaven and earth
• John gingerly refers to one seated on the throne
– so the first thing, we come to a throne
• and we have to come to terms with this
• I have to ask myself, What rules me?
◦ my inner life–my unconscious motives, desires, fears, etc.?
◦ we have to sort this out – we have to understand our relation to the throne

John maintains his focus on the throne
And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. Revelation 4:3-4

First, John the appearance of the One sitting on the throne
– unlike his vision in chapter 1, John says nothing about his features
• instead, he sees colors – and his pallet consists of precious gems
◦ the rainbow is probably what gave rise to “halos” in Christian art
– most people dream in color
• what made these colors stand out for John?
◦ it’s possible that they had substance
◦ what is ethereal on earth is solid in heaven
Michael Herbert, who had near death experience said, “Our four-dimensional universe is like a shadow, while heaven has is the reality that casts the shadow.”
• perhaps there was an energy in the colors, and John felt their vibrations

Next, looking around, John saw twenty-four other thrones
– “elders” in Paul’s letters, were (usually older men) who watched over the churches
• have you dreamt about people who have been mentors, care-givers, coaches, or bosses?
◦ we can hear those voices for the rest of our lives
• “white garments” tell us these leaders are good — they have qualified themselves for white garments
◦ “crown” is stephanos – it was not the crown of kings, but like a laurel wreath placed on the heads of winners in athletic competition
◦ their crowns are “golden” because what they do has value

Then the throne again:
From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne was a sea of glass, like crystal Revelation 5-6
– now throne is making lots of noise – as if it were alive and communicating
(later on we’ll see that the throne can talk: from the throne came a voice (Rev. 19:5)
• in front of the throne, seven torches were burning – seven spirits of God
◦ do your have a favorite number?
◦ seven is a favorite number in Revelation
Edward Edinger says that “The number seven is being shouted at us!”
Philo, refers to seven as “the birthday of the world” (going back to the creation story)
“a sea of glass” two spaces seemed wild, unpredictable and dangerous to ancient Israel: the and the wilderness
a of glass like crystal would be awesome – do you think it would reflect colors?
• in dreams the sea, a lake, or pond is our unconscious mind
◦ but here it is transparent, allowing us to look into it and what is underneath

So far its been a magnificent spectacle–now it starts to get weird
And around the throne, 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 and ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

– “live beings,” animal-like, are similar to beings described in Ezekiel’s and Isaiah’s visions
• Ezekiel also saw four living creatures, but they had four wings and each one had four faces
• Isaiah saw “seraphim” – we think angels, but seraphim is an odd name if you look at its root (the angels he saw also had six wings)
I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up . . . Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two they covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts
the whole earth is full of his glory (Isa. 6:1-3)
◦ the description full of eyes tells us the creatures were all seeing, the visual equivalent of all knowing
◦ nothing escapes their view
◦ but its also that the seeing within indicates enlightenment (Mt. 6:22; Ep. 1:17-18)
– the animals (lion, ox, human, and eagle) may represent “the best in their class”
• again, they are watching everything, but their eyes are especially on God

All that we’ve seen builds to a crescendo
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Worthy are you, 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.”
Revelation 4:9-11

Their praise of God is ongoing, and like Isaiah they sing, Holy, holy, holy
– they refer to God as the one who was and is and is to come
• this has the same meaning as the Alpha and Omega
• the Greek alphabet used letters for numerals
◦ the Alpha and Omega contains all number to infinity
◦ some mathematicians and scientists experience “mystical states” moments of insight when they finally come to a breakthrough in an equation or theorem
– the worship that begins with the elders spreads throughout the heavenly vision
• the elders give up their golden crowns (in worship, God is everything)
◦ a verse is added to their previous song – note the word “worthy” — worship is “worthy-ship”
• every time the door to heaven cracks open in scripture, we hear echoes of worship
◦ every thing in heaven and earth owes its existence to God, so praise of him is that wide

Conclusion: I want to emphasize what we’re doing in Revelation

And why I’m treating the vision as a dreamlike experience
I don’t believe it is as important to study and interpret what’s here as it is to experience it
The goal isn’t to get all of this into our heads, but into our hearts
Experience enters a different part of our brains than logic and math
I affects us in ways science and reason cannot

What this means, is a world of possibilities we’ve never discovered
No eye has seen, nor ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9 NLB)

Leave a comment