Bible Study With Jairus- Revelation 4
Where Are the Humans?
Revelation chapter 4 records the vision John saw after heaven opened. In previous lessons, we’ve discussed the seven stages of spiritual growth for the church, which are described in the seven letters to the churches. As we pass through these seven areas of growth and deal with the seven aspects of spiritual problems the Lord reveals in this letter (whether corporately or individually), heaven will be opened to us, as well. Not only will we see God’s throne and God sitting on the throne, but we will also see God’s actions performed from the throne, namely his dealings with mankind which are revealed by the seven seals and seven trumpets. I believe Revelation chapters 4 and 5 are closely linked.
As I read Revelation 4, I noticed that John saw various visions of God, the twenty-four elders, the seven spirits, and the four living creatures, but there was no mention of humankind. This struck me as odd, because the entire Bible is the revelation of God’s plan for mankind. Human beings, especially Israelites, are the apple of God’s eye (Deuteronomy 32:10). Man is at the center of God’s plan.
So where is mankind in this passage? Humans are not mentioned in Revelation 4, but that does not mean they aren’t present. God’s plan for mankind is in the scroll in the right hand of God as he sits on the throne (Revelation 5). This scroll can only be opened by the victorious Lamb. We will talk about this scroll next time. The vision in chapter 4 foreshadows the opening of the scroll that contains God’s plan for mankind in chapter 5. The fourth chapter of Revelation is a wide-angle shot that gives us a vast image of heaven, and the fifth chapter of Revelation is a close-up shot. In Chapter 5, the lens zooms in on the scroll in God’s right hand. Although mankind is not mentioned in Revelation 4, mankind is hidden in the right hand of God, who sits on the throne.
A New Inspiration
In the past, when I read Revelation 4, I always paid close attention to the beautiful realities revealed in John’s visions. I focused on the descriptions of God, the twenty-four elders, the seven spirits, the four living creatures, and the angels. But I never realized that mankind was missing from the chapter until recently. One day, I was teaching about this passage in a Bible study. While I discussed the passage out loud, I was praying internally and waiting for enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. Many other brothers and sisters in Christ do the same thing while teaching or discussing God’s word. We constantly pray for inspiration from God. That’s what happened when I was leading a Bible study recently. I was in a constant state of prayer, waiting for God’s revelation. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit gave me an idea that I had never thought of before.
This is one of the most common ways that the Holy Spirit speaks to me. When my mind is quiet before God and I am waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak to me, my mind is like a piece of poster board hanging on the wall. When a brand-new idea suddenly enters my mind, it is like a post-it note stuck on the poster board. These new ideas are not things that I’ve thought of in the past or read somewhere—they are things that have never occurred to me before. When I have a new thought, I pay attention to it and speak it to others with faith. This has often happened during our Bible study meetings over the past few years. As I share these inspirations, I often gain a clearer view of the topic during the process of sharing. As I started teaching, I didn’t have a full picture of this chapter, nor was I completely clear about the little inspirations that God gave me. But as I shared them with faith, God gave me more light.
At the beginning of our Bible study, we were discussing the worship of angels, as well as the identity of the four living creatures and the other angels. As I waited prayerfully for the Holy Spirit to speak, I suddenly received an inspiration. I realized that Revelation 4 is like a puzzle with a missing piece. The missing piece is God’s plan for mankind contained in the scroll in God’s right hand. As mentioned above, Revelation 4 contains a discussion of God, the twenty-four elders, the living creatures, and countless angels, but it contains no mention of mankind.
In the Bible, God reveals three main things: His character, His plan for mankind, and Satan’s deceit and final destiny. Aside from God’s self-revelation, the most important theme in the Bible is God’s plan for mankind. God’s plan for mankind is inextricably woven into the entire content of the Bible so that they cannot be separated. Since human beings are at the center of biblical revelation, I knew that man must be in the scene somewhere.
The answer came to me: the mysteries of God’s plan for mankind are hidden in the scroll in the next chapter, which contains the plan of redemption that the incarnate Christ would accomplish. The missing piece from Revelation 4 is waiting to be unfolded in detail in Revelation 5. After the puzzle is put together, it will point toward God’s next move, the plan of judgment and redemption for mankind revealed by the seven seals and seven trumpets.
Can We See God?
God is the protagonist of the book of Revelation; there is no doubt about this. As Revelation 4 begins, John sees heaven opened, and he sees God sitting on a throne. I believe the image of God depicted in Revelation 4 is God the Father, not the Lord Jesus Christ, because the Lamb described in Revelation 5 is Jesus Christ. But this creates a conundrum: How did John see God, if the Bible says that humans cannot see God and live? John once said, “No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared him” (John 1:18). Paul also said that “no one has ever seen or can see” God (1 Timothy 6:16). Moreover, Moses could only see God’s back, not His face, because God says, “Man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). However, there are also some scriptures in the Bible that mention people seeing God face to face. God says that He spoke to Moses “face to face” (Exodus 33:11), and Moses saw “the form of the Lord” (Numbers 12:8). In addition, at Ford Jabbok, Jacob “saw God face to face and yet his life was delivered.” Plus, “seventy of the elders of Israel saw God, and ate and drank” (Exodus 24:11). Most famously, the Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
So, can man see God? I personally think that we can see the image of God to a certain degree, but the extent to which we can see God’s glory may be limited. Perhaps John’s understanding of God’s appearance continued to grow over time. Biblical truth is ever-evolving, not static. Although God’s principles and disposition are unchanging, God’s revelation is progressive. I personally feel that John’s understanding and experience of seeing God may have developed over time. Perhaps he had a different understanding when he wrote Revelation than when he wrote the Gospel of John. Let’s take a look at John’s description: “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” (Revelation 4:3). This is John’s description of God’s appearance. He doesn’t describe God’s face directly, but he describes his appearance. We can at least be sure that John saw God’s appearance to a certain extent.
Since God began to give me prophetic dreams in 2015, I have seen the appearance of the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit many times. I even saw the glorious face of Jesus. I am very eager to see the appearance of the Heavenly Father as well, and I am envious of sisters Lai Wang Xiulan from Taiwan and Anna Rountree from the United States, who described their experiences of seeing the Heavenly Father. I often pray for this to happen to me, but so far I have not had the same experience as they have had. Only a few times have I vaguely seen the appearance of the Heavenly Father. Once, my spirit was lifted up to heaven, and after sharing a short greeting with the Lord, the Holy Spirit led me to enter a door. He told me that the Heavenly Father often passed by there in a vehicle. I immediately saw a wisp of smoke, and the Holy Spirit told me it was traces of the Father flying by. Psalm 18:10 says, “He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.” Isaiah 66:15 says, “For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind.” Although the Father is omnipresent, He has all kinds of mounts and vehicles in heaven. Many people focus on John’s description of the Father in Revelation 4 as the only picture of God, thinking that God the Father has glue on his buttocks and can only sit motionless on the throne and receive everyone’s worship. This is a wrong concept. God the Father often walks around in heaven. He also makes frequent visits to the earth, including when he warned the Israelites to cover up their excrement so that he would not see anything indecent as he walked through their camps (Deuteronomy 23:14). God the Father is the “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6). In fact, God the Father visits us far more often than we can imagine. But we don’t perceive His presence because our spiritual eyes are not prepared to perceive His secret appearance. In the dream I just mentioned, I was very disappointed. I had seen the Lord face to face, and the Holy Spirit was with me, leading me to visit heaven, so I was hoping to see the Father as well. But I couldn’t even see His back clearly, not to mention getting to see a vision of God on the throne as described by John in Revelation 4. So I could not help but feel disappointed.
During another spiritual experience, the Holy Spirit was driving a vehicle to take me into heaven for a visit. I saw a lion and a horse lying peacefully on the same hillside. After crossing the hillside, I saw many people playing in a place similar to a swimming pool. Suddenly, someone said that God was coming to visit us. It immediately started raining rainbows, and everybody was so excited. I didn’t see the Father clearly, but I was told that the Father had visited through the mode of the rainbow rain. Revelation 4 mentions a rainbow surrounding God’s throne, so we know that rainbows often accompany God the Father’s appearance.
In another dream, some believers and I went on a long trek. It was a difficult climb to get to heaven, but we finally got there with the help of Jesus Christ. From a distance, I saw the Heavenly Father and Jesus talking to one another, and I heard them talking about a big performance that was about to begin. God said he was waiting for more believers to join the action. (This may be a sign of The Great Revival to come.) But I only saw them vaguely from a distance and overheard their discussion. I have written more about this dream on Elijah List. You can find a detailed account of this dream by searching for “Shake Off Disappointment and Keep Climbing!” on Elijah List by Sean Song.
I describe these experiences of mine to show that after hearing other people’s testimonies, I began longing to see the Father. I had not had these experiences in the past, but after I fervently prayed, I began to have supernatural experiences of seeing the Father. I personally think that we don’t need to be limited by our theology. God the Father’s decision to appear to us does not depend on our theology, but on his own will. Remember, the Lord Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). Although this verse is referring to Jesus showing himself to us, not the Father, it reveals a universal principle. Our love and desire for God is a prerequisite for God showing himself to us. In addition, don’t forget that the Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Instead of debating about whether or not we can see God, let’s focus on developing a pure heart full of love for God.
When I heard other people’s testimonies about seeing the Father, I didn’t condemn or criticize them. Instead, I prayed from the bottom of my heart: “God, let my heart be as pure as that person’s so that I can see You!” I prayed fervently and left the rest to God. Rather than pursuing the experience of seeing God, I pursued becoming a pure-hearted person. Only then did God allow me to see him to a certain extent.
Angels Are Ministering Spirits
In Revelation 19, John saw an angel and wanted to worship him. But the angel rebuked him and told him to worship only God. He explained that angels and human believers are fellow servants, and we all hold to the testimony of Jesus (v. 10). In his epistles, Paul also critiqued the church’s teaching on the worship of angels (Colossians 2:18). Hebrews 1:14 clearly says, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” Paul also said, “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:3). Clearly, the Bible prohibits angel-worship.
Let’s take a look at John’s description of the twenty-four elders and of the various angels (including the four living creatures) that were standing before the throne. Most of us agree that the four living creatures are a kind of angel. Ezekiel 1 has a detailed description of the four living creatures, and a similar description of the cherubim in Ezekiel 4. These beings have multiple wings with wheels under their wings and have four faces: the faces of a lion, a cow, a man, and an eagle. The four living creatures described in Revelation 4 are similar. It seems that the four living creatures are a kind of cherubim, angels created by God.
Who are the twenty-four elders sitting on the twenty-four thrones surrounding the throne? Some believe they are the twelve sons of Jacob and the twelve apostles. Personally, I find this statement unreliable. John, one of the twelve disciples, was the one describing the vision, yet he was still alive on Earth. Was he serving as one of the twenty-four elders in heaven while he was still alive on earth? Personally, I think this is untenable. I personally believe that these twenty-four elders may have been another type of creature created by God. I said they were “creatures” and not angels because I can’t be sure if they are angels. But I do know that there are many mysterious creatures in existence that are beyond our current understanding. For example, the Bible mentions that Melchizedek has no father, no mother, no beginning no end, and no genealogy (Hebrews 7:3), but he has a physical body and served as the king of Salem and the priest of the Most High God. The Book of Hebrews says Jesus Christ is a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek cannot be an angel, because an angel has no body. He cannot be an ordinary person, because he has no father, no mother, no beginning, and no end. Melchizedek is also not God, because he is a priest of God, nor is he Christ, for Christ is a high priest according to his order. So who is Melchizedek? We do not know. So we can see that there are many kinds of creatures that God has created, and we do not necessarily know about all of them. The Bible doesn’t give us a clear answer, because this is not the main point of biblical revelation. What is the main point of biblical revelation? The center of biblical revelation is God’s plan from eternity past to one day come to earth, be crucified, and be resurrected so he could woo his bride, the Church, the manifestation of his glory. In other words, the destiny of the church is to become mature and eventually sit on the throne with God (Revelation 3:21). We need to shift our focus from the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures and the other angels in front of the throne to God, who is sitting on the throne with a scroll in His right hand. That scroll reveals the mystery of God’s plan for mankind. That is, after we have gone through a process of maturation, we will become the glorious bride who sits on the throne with God. We must not seek to end up in front of the throne; we must seek to be on the throne as overcomers (Revelation 3:21). Many people still have the same mentality as John, feeling that angels are very great and we must worship them, but that is incorrect. We must worship God alone. The purpose of us sitting on the throne with God is not to be equal to God or to accept the worship of all things, but for us to embody the fullness of God’s glory, leading all of creation in the worship of God. We are above the angels, not below them.
We are Seated on God’s Throne
Revelation 4 does not mention God’s plan for mankind, but Revelation 5 contains the missing piece of the puzzle. It contains the mystery of God, His hidden plan for the church. Let’s dive a bit deeper into this topic by looking at Ephesians. Ephesians 1:9 mentions the mystery of God, which is “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (v. 10). The church will first submit to God in Christ as the first fruits. After that, all things will submit to God in Christ. The church is Christ’s body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (1:22-23). God’s plan for the redemption of mankind includes the redemption of all creation: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God (that is, us), for the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21). In other words, the mystery of God’s plan for man’s redemption (which is revealed in the scroll) will eventually lead to the redemption of all things.
God has given humankind an amazing honor. The Bible never says that the twenty-four elders are allowed to sit on the throne with God, but it does say that human believers can sit on the throne with Him (Revelation 3:21). The Bible does not say that angels can abide in God, and God in them, but Jesus said to his human followers, “I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). God is a tabernacle into which we can enter, and we are also His tabernacle and dwelling place. Colossians 3 reveals that our life is hidden with Christ in God (3:3). The Bible does mention that before the fall, Satan was a cherub created to cover the Ark of the Covenant, and he was covered in all kinds of precious stones and walked on the holy mountain of God (Ezekiel 28:13-14). But the Bible never says that any angels can receive the life of God like we can. Angels will not become the bride of Jesus Christ, the image of Christ, the brothers of Jesus Christ, or the children of God. But we humans can become sons of God! We are different from angels, and we are higher than angels. Satan is jealous of mankind, so he spreads lies to confuse our minds and prevent us from realizing just how precious our identity in Christ really is.
Conclusion: Our Destiny Is To Be Children of God
Rather than focusing on the angels and other creatures, we should focus on God and on the scroll which contains the mysteries of God’s plan for mankind (explored further in Revelation 5). When we look at the vision in Revelation 4, we see that man is not standing before God’s throne with the elders, living creatures, and angels. Instead, mankind is seated on the throne with God (Romans 3:21). Man is a child of God, has the life of God, sits on the throne with God, and manifests the glory of God. The purpose of sitting on God’s throne is not to be worshiped like God, but to lead all things to worship God. Just like children have the life of their father but are not the same person as their father, Christians share God’s life but are not a member of the Godhead.
Saint Athanasius of Alexandria said that God became man so that man could eventually become God. The Local Church Movement goes a step further and teaches that God becoming man is for man to become God in terms of life and nature, and not in Godhead.
This teaching is considered heresy by many Christians. But, in fact, this is not a heresy at all; it is a profound truth. Yet many people’s minds have been deceived by Satan to the point that they no longer accept this truth. Again, we must be clear about the fact that man is not to be worshiped as God, even though he sits on the throne with God.
Instead, God’s presence is a tabernacle that people can enter, and only those who overcome can sit on the throne with the Lord, just as the Lord sat on the throne with His Father after He overcame (Revelation 3:21). In order to personally experience this divine truth, we must go through a process of sanctification. We must grow incrementally closer to God, as if we were a worshiper entering first the Outer Court, then the Holy Place, and finally the Holy of Holies and the presence of God (Ephesians 2:18). This process of human sanctification is accomplished gradually through the seven seals and seven trumpets mentioned in Revelation 5.