In John's vision, Jesus calls him to enter through an open door into the throne room of heaven. He sees God the Father seated on his throne, being worshipped by four cherubim and by twenty four elders each seated on thrones.
God's Throne in Heaven (v1-11)
So far, John has been on the Island of Patmos where he was worshipping in the Spirit on the Lord's Day. In chapter 1, he heard a voice behind him like a trumpet, and after turning around, saw a vision of Jesus as the Angel of the Lord. In chapters 2 and 3, he received messages of feedback for each of the seven churches. Now as we enter chapter 4, John has an open vision into heaven. The same voice like a trumpet, which is still that of Jesus, tells him, "Come up here so that I can show you what must happen after these things" (v1). In other words, Jesus is now about to reveal the future to him. John is immediately lifted up in the Spirit, through the open door, and into the throne room of heaven (v2). Jesus has already described himself as the one who he holds the key of David, and who opens doors that no-one can shut (Revelation 3:7). So now he opens the door of heaven for John to enter. John sees God the Father seated on his throne, looking like jasper and carnelian, with an emerald rainbow encircling the throne (v3). I guess the point here is that God is beautiful and majestic upon his throne.

John's descriptions of God's throne, the platform like a sea of glass that it rests upon (v6), and the four living creatures around it (v6-8), are very similar to the visions Ezekiel had of God's throne about 600 years earlier (Ezekiel 1 and 10). In Ezekiel's visions, the four living creatures were God's throne-bearers as it moved about upon a cloud above the River Kebar. In John's vision, the throne and the four living creatures are stationary in the throne room of heaven. In Ezekiel 1:10, each living creature had four faces, one like a man, one like a lion, one like an ox, and one like an eagle. Here in John's vision, each living creature seems to have only one face, but for one it is like the face of a man, for another the face of a lion, for another the face of an ox, and for the other the face of an eagle. In Ezekiel, each living creature had four wings. In John's vision each has six wings (v8). According to Ezekiel 10:1, the four living creatures are angelic beings of a kind known as cherubim. In the Old Testament, the ark of the covenant was the earthly representation of God's throne. Normally located in the Holy of Holies, God was seen to be enthroned between the gold cherubim on the lid of the ark (e.g. 2 Kings 19:15, Psalm 80:1, 99:1, Isaiah 37:16).

John sees a sea of glass in front of the throne (v6). In Ezekiel 1:22, this is a platform that is stretched over the heads of the four living creatures, and which supports God's throne. Similarly, in Exodus 24:10, when Moses and Aaron went up Mount Sinai with the seventy elders of Israel, it says, "they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear like the sky itself".

In addition to the four living creatures, John sees twenty-four additional thrones around that of the Father, with twenty-four elders seated upon them (v4). Apparently these are human elders, but we are not given any clues as to their identities. In Matthew 19:28, speaking to his disciples about the judgment that occurs after his second coming, Jesus told them, "I tell you the truth: In the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel".

Each of the twenty-four elders has a golden crown upon their head. Seven torches are burning in front of the throne, and we are told these are the seven spirits of God. Seven is the number associated with God, with completeness and with perfection, so the seven spirits of God represent the Holy Spirit. In the next chapter, we see the full revelation of the Trinity, as Jesus enters the heavenly scene. In Ezekiel's visions, God's throne moves about as the Cherubim move, and Ezekiel gives additional details about wheels and wheels within wheels, and about how they move. Here in John's vision, God's throne is stationary, and the role of the living creatures is to continually worship God and declare his holiness. Holy means that God is separated from sin. The triple declaration 'Holy Holy Holy' implies that God is the superlative of holiness. He is the Most Holy.

As the living creatures lead in worship, the twenty-four elders join in, prostrating themselves before the throne and offering their crowns to God. Casting their crowns symbolises their willing submission to God's authority, and that they only hold authority because they are under God's authority. In Matthew 8:9, the Roman centurion recognised that this was true even of the authority that Jesus exercised. It is also possible that they cast their crowns before the Father as Jesus enters, in order to signify that when Jesus comes to sit upon his throne, they will willingly surrender their crowns so that Jesus can give them to whoever he chooses. The twenty-four elders proclaim that God is worthy to receive glory, honour and power because he created all things, and all things exist according to his will (v11).
Places: Heaven, Throne room of heaven
Symbols: Door
Tags: Throne of God, Sea of glass, Four living creatures, Cherubim, Twenty four elders, Holiness of God, Casting crowns, Heavenly worship
The Amazing Scene in Heaven
4 After these things I looked, and there was a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said: “Come up here so that I can show you what must happen after these things.”
2 Immediately I was in the Spirit, and a throne was standing in heaven with someone seated on it!
3 And the one seated on it was like jasper and carnelian in appearance, and a rainbow looking like it was made of emerald encircled the throne.
4 In a circle around the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on those thrones were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white clothing and had golden crowns on their heads.
5 From the throne came out flashes of lightning and roaring and crashes of thunder. Seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God, were burning in front of the throne
6 and in front of the throne was something like a sea of glass, like crystal.
In the middle of the throne and around the throne were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.
7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second creature like an ox, the third creature had a face like a man’s, and the fourth creature looked like an eagle flying.
8 Each one of the four living creatures had six wings and was full of eyes all around and inside. They never rest day or night, saying:
Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God, the All-Powerful, Who was and who is, and who is still to come!”
9 And whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the one who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,
10 the twenty-four elders throw themselves to the ground before the one who sits on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever, and they offer their crowns before his throne, saying:
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, since you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created!”