The Revelation of John: Chapter Four

26 Feb

I have been doing some posts on various prophecies, but in the recent weeks my mind has not been very active on the subject. That is until I started reading the Book of Revelation again. So, I have decided to do a series of posts on that book. I will also be comparing it to other books with similar prophecies, such as Daniel, as well as section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which gives interpretations to a selected portion of the images of the Revelation. I will also rely heavily on the Joseph Smith Translation (JST).

 Revelation Four

A few notes on this chapter before we begin. There are some small Joseph Smith Translations that will be given in red. Because there are few and they are generally minor the KJV will not be given for comparison. This can be done through the link provided in the title. Also, section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants gives us some interpretations for this chapter, to which I will refer.

So, lets get to it.

Revelation 4

In this chapter John is called into Heaven to view things that ‘will happen hearafter.’ He sees Christ on His throne. In verse three he describes Christ in terms of precious stones. He also says that a rainbow was around the throne, which alludes back to Ezekiel. That ancient prophet stated “As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about.” (Ezekiel 1: 28) So John didn’t see an actual see precious stones or a rainbow, but chose these symbols for the brilliant glory of Christ.

With verse four we begin the weird and bizarre images that John saw.

4 And in the midst of the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

Who are these 24 elders? The Lord revealed to Joseph that “that these elders whom John saw, were elders who had been faithful in the work of the ministry and were dead; who belonged to the seven churches, and were then in the paradise of God.” (D&C 77: 5) I am inclined to think that they are 24 specific men who held the Melchizedek Priesthood and had been killed for the faith, though this is not really stated.

5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven servants of God.

On this one we are just left to wonder what John is talking about. I am not even going to venture a guess here.

6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne were the four and twenty elders, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

Now we get two new images; the see of glass and the beasts with eyes. For both of these we are given a meaning in D&C 77.

In verse one God tells us the sea of glass is “is the earth, in its sanctified, immortal, and eternal state.” Thus the throne of Christ is on this Earth, or will be when the Earth inherits Celestial glory. It is seen as a see of glass because “This earth…will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim…” (D&C 130: 9).

As to the beasts, the Lord has revealed this: “They are figurative expressions, used by the Revelator, John, in describing heaven, the paradise of God, the happiness of man, and of beasts, and of creeping things, and of the fowls of the air” (D&C 77: 2) Thus we see that the beasts of this chapter represent living things that will dwell in heaven with God. This is important for two reasons. First, it shows that even animals are eternal creatures and have souls. Second, it distinguishes from other parts of this revelation, as well as of others, that use beasts to represent earthly political bodies.

7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.

Note here that four distinct groups are represented. There is the wild animal – Lion; the domesticated animal – calf; the human race – a man; and flying animals – Eagle. I realize that this leaves out insects as well as aquatic animals, but both can be included with the wild animals. I point this out because God also said “They are limited to four individual beasts, which were shown to John, to represent the glory of the classes of beings” (D&C 77: 3). They are to represent all animals, and thus there is a need for the diversity.

8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

Why do the beasts have wings and eyes? These are common symbols in many visions and revelations, so it is important to know what they mean. Again, the Lord tells us. “Their eyes are a representation of light and knowledge, that is, they are full of knowledge; and their wings are a representation of power, to move, to act, etc.” (D&C 77: 4)

There is little else to be said. Joseph Smith has given us a very clear interpretation of this chapter, and there is no need to add to it. The last three verses of the chapter simply record the 24 elders and the beasts worshiping Christ and declaring His power, glory, and right to rule; things I don’t think need to be explained.

 

See also chapter one,  two, three

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