Previously: Revelation 1 through 3
The historicist interpretation of Revelation understands the vision to be a picture of the Gospel Age, or the period of time between the first and second comings of the Lord Jesus Christ. The next thing John sees in Revelation 4:1, after the letters to the seven churches, is a vision of heaven, with the door standing open. During the Gospel Age, the door to heaven is indeed standing open, and anyone who is called, may come, and enter through the Door, who is Jesus.
Then John is invited to enter: “Come up here, so that I can show you what must happen after these things.” The same language is used in chapter 1 verse 19, when John is told that he will see what will be. From this point on, John is seeing events future to his time.
Chapter 4 makes clear the source of the vision: it is from the throne of God, who is worshiped day and night. I often wondered if the twenty-four elders introduced in verse 4 were the twelve sons or tribes of Israel, and the twelve apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t know, that is speculation. But Jesus discussed (here and here) who would sit on thrones in heaven, and it didn’t sound as if it would be angelic beings.
Verse 5 introduces the seven flames of fire before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. The Spirit is described as fire many times in the New Testament (here and here, for example), so this symbolism is consistent with the rest of Scripture. The symbolism we do not know, is explained in the vision. That is helpful to remember when we get further into the book. The seven spirits of God may be the same as the seven- fold ministry of the Spirit described in Romans chapter 12.
The description of the four living beings sound like the cherubim, from Ezekiel chapter 1. Why all this extra background, why not just get straight to the events of the vision? I think it is because the Lord is being careful to confer the authority of prophecy concerning this vision to John, using elements that are consistent with the greatest of Israel’s prophets, whose authority no one disputes. So far the symbolism has been consistent with Daniel, Isaiah, and Ezekiel.
In chapter 5, the scroll containing the history of the Gospel Age, written before any of it had happened, is introduced. We shall see that all the events of the history to come are contained in the scroll, for the seventh seal contains seven trumpets, and the seventh trumpet contains seven vials.
Only one is found who is worthy to open the scroll, the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, the Lamb who was slain. And this symbolism is not explained, because the Scriptures have already explained it. The Lamb had seven horns, which are not explained, meaning the symbolism of horns has already been explained in Scripture, and seven eyes, which are explained: the seven spirits of God, or the seven- fold ministry of the Spirit. So what are horns? Come back tomorrow. We will need to identify the symbolism, because we will encounter it again in the vision.
The Lamb takes the scroll, but does not open it yet, and when He takes the scroll, the twenty- four elders and all the angels, and every created creature, praise and worship Him, and the One who sits on the throne. It is just more confirmation of the divine status of the Lamb.
To be continued …
Update: continued in Beasts with horns