After John has recorded the words of Christ to the seven churches, the scene now shifts to the heavenly throne room of God. Chapter 4 describes God as one who sits on the throne, surrounded by twenty-four elders and four living creatures. Chapter 5 introduces the scroll and the Lamb who is the only one worthy to open the scroll. This vision is an important introduction to the subsequent chapters. As we get a glimpse of God and the Lamb in heaven, we know that God, as the sovereign Judge and Redeemer, will surely prevail.
Did You Know...?
1. Writing inside and on the back (5:1): “Like the stone tablets of the OT covenant law (Ex 32:15; see Eze 2:9-10).”
2. Seals (5:1): “The importance attached to seals in the East is so great that without one no document is regarded as authentic… In many cases the seal consisted of a lump of clay, impressed with the seal and attached to the document, whether of papyrus or other material, by strings. In other cases wax was used.” [ref]
3. Seven horns (5:6): “The horn is an ancient Jewish symbol for power or strength (cf. Dt 33:17).” [ref]
4. Harp (5:8): “An ancient stringed instrument (not the large modern harp) used especially to accompany songs (Ps. 33:2).” [ref]
5. New Song (5:9): “Cf. 14:3; Ps 33:3, 96:1, 144:9; Isa 42:10. In the OT a new song celebrated a new act of divine deliverance or blessing”.
Fill out chart E at the end of this lesson and compare the five hymns. Record your observations on the progression and organization of the hymns.Hide Answer
1) The number of those singing increases with each song, and the four living creatures end the last hymn with “Amen!”
2) The first two hymns are to the One on the throne; the 3rd and 4th to the Lamb; the last to the One on the throne and the Lamb.
3) There is a symmetry in terms of the length of the hymns: The
1st and 5th are the shortest; the 2nd and 4th are longer; the 3rd hymn, which is about the redemption of God, is the longest of the hymns.
What common subjects link the two chapters together?Hide Answer
The One on the throne, the twenty-four elders, the living creatures, the hymns of praise, the worship, the seven Spirits of God.
What proceeded from the throne? What do these represent? Read also 8:5; 11:19; and 16:18.Hide Answer
Lightnings, thunderings, and voices. These elements represent God’s awesome judgment for the vindication of His saints.
See Lesson 2, question 5 for the meaning of the seven lamps and seven Spirits of God.
Why is it necessary for John and for us to know that God sits on the throne?Hide Answer
The vision of God on His throne lets us know that God is about to exercise His judgment (Dan 7:9, 10; Ps 9:7, 8). God is the supreme ruler who is above all. He will pour out His wrath on the wicked and vindicate His people. For the believers and the repentant, the throne of God represents God’s mercy and protection (Heb 4:16; Jer 17:12; Rainbow may symbolize mercy: Gen 9:13-15). Just as the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures surround the throne and constantly offer God praise and worship, we should let God be the first in our hearts and always draw close to Him to obtain mercy and grace.
What was the appearance of the twenty-four elders?
Who might the twenty-four elders represent?Hide Answer
The number twenty-four may parallel the number of tribes in Israel in the OT plus the number of apostles in the NT. That these elders sit on thrones and have crowns of gold on their heads suggest that they have been given authority to judge or govern. Taken as a whole, the twentyfour elders may represent all the servants of God who have faithfully ministered in the house of God and will be given great honor and power.
Who might the four living creatures represent?Hide Answer
The four living creatures, which parallel the cherubim in Isa 6:2, 3; Ezek 1:5-25; and 10:1-22, serve and worship God near His glorious throne. Their appearance can be symbolic of the qualities of God. Therefore, these creatures (or more accurately “beings”) may represent believers who have attained the likeness of God (cf Eph 4:24). It is also possible that they are angelic beings of the highest order.
What spiritual qualities does the appearance of the four living creatures suggest? a. Lion (cf 5:5; Mic 5:8) b. Ox (cf. Prov 14:4;
1Tim 5:17-18) c. Man (cf. Mt 8:17, 9:35-36, 12:17-21; Heb 2:18, 4:15-16) d. Flying eagle (cf. Ex 19:4; Isa 40:31) e. Six wings (cf. Ps 18:10; Isa 6:2; Ezek 11:22) f. Full of eyes around and within (cf. Mt 6:22-23; 1Cor 2:10-15; Eph 1:17-18)Hide Answer
a. Royal power.
b. Strength and service.
c. Compassion like that of the Son of man.
d. Swift to save; powerful.
e. The wings of the cherubim carry the throne of God (cf. Ps 18:10; Ezek
11:22). Four of the wings are also used to cover their faces and feet (Isa
6:2). Thus, the wings may represent swift, powerful, and humble service.
f. Spiritual insight and wisdom.
What do the twenty-four elders do as the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to God?Hide Answer
They fell down before God, worshiped Him, and cast their crowns before the throne.
What could this action represent?Hide Answer
Their actions represent total humility in God’s presence, giving Him all the glory, honor, and power. They said, “You are worthy…” God alone is worthy of all praise and worship. Although the twenty-four elders sat on thrones and had crowns on their heads, their honor was bestowed by God. We must give all glory to God, the creator and ruler of all things.
According to the hymn of the twenty-four elders in verse 11, why is God worthy of all glory, honor, and power?Hide Answer
He created all things, and by His will they exist and were created.
From your study of God on His throne, what impresses you the most?
How should you worship and live your life in view of what you have learned about God?
The scroll contains judgement and woe on the inhabitants of the earth. 10:7 also tells us that the mystery of God would be finished as the scroll unfolds. This mystery refers to God’s redemption of His people through Christ (Eph 3:3-12; Col 1:26, 27, 2:2). As such, the opening of the scroll is the fulfillment of God’s will in history, including exercising His justice and redeeming His people.
Why did John weep much when he realized that no one can open the scroll?Hide Answer
John knew the importance of the scroll. If the scroll was not opened, not only would he not know the things that are to come, it also means that evil had prevailed in this world and we have no hope of being redeemed into God’s kingdom.
The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. Both are Messianic titles in the OT. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah because He was in the line of Judah (Heb 7:14); He is the Root of David because He was a descendent of King David (Rom 1:3-4). These titles are symbolic of Christ’s kingly power and authority.
Where was the Lamb in the vision? What does this mean?
Compare the image of the Lamb and the Lion of Judah.Hide Answer
While the Lion is powerful and fierce, the lamb is meek and gentle.
Why was Christ portrayed as a Lamb that has been slain?
What does it mean that the Lamb has redeemed us by His blood?
What makes the Lamb worthy to open the scroll?Hide Answer
Through His death and resurrection, Christ has overcome sin and death (Heb 2:14, 15). He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18-20). Anyone who believes in Him is saved, but those who do not believe Him are condemned. As the Judge and Savior who has conquered evil, He is worthy to carry out God’s plan of redemption and judgment. As God’s will unfolds, as symbolized by the opening of the scroll, the unbelievers will be judged and the believers will ultimately inherit God’s kingdom.
What happened when the Lamb had taken the scroll?Hide Answer
The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense.
What is special about the 3rd hymn?Hide Answer
In the OT, a new song represents praise to God for His wonderful deeds (Ps 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1; Isa 42:10). Believers sing a new song praising God for His redemption (cf. 14:3). The song is new because it was never sung before, since God’s redemption was revealed only after Christ accomplished the saving work on the cross.
Who sang the 5th hymn? Compare this with Phil 2:8-11.
Why must believers always praise and worship God? Do you sing praises day and night without stop (see 4:8)?Hide Answer
Praise and worship brings us close to God and lets us focus our mind on God. Praise and worship comes from a heart-felt thanks for all that God has done for us (Ps 103:2; Col 3:16). Believers who truly appreciate God’s abounding love will continually offer a sacrifice of praise (Heb 13:15). Our praise and worship to God also serve as a testimony to all people of God’s greatness (Ps 57:9).