Revelation 4 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)
III. God and the Lamb in Heaven
Vision of Heavenly Worship.[a] 1 After this I had a vision of an open door[b] to heaven, and I heard the trumpetlike voice that had spoken to me before, saying, “Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards.” 2 [c]At once I was caught up in spirit. A throne was there in heaven, and on the throne sat 3 one whose appearance sparkled like jasper and carnelian. Around the throne was a halo as brilliant as an emerald. 4 Surrounding the throne I saw twenty-four other thrones on which twenty-four elders[d] sat, dressed in white garments and with gold crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder.[e] Seven flaming torches burned in front of the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. 6 In front of the throne was something that resembled a sea of glass like crystal.[f]
In the center and around the throne, there were four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back. 7 The first creature resembled a lion, the second was like a calf, the third had a face like that of a human being, and the fourth looked like an eagle[g] in flight. 8 The four living creatures, each of them with six wings,[h] were covered with eyes inside and out. Day and night they do not stop exclaiming:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty,
who was, and who is, and who is to come.”
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before the one who sits on the throne and worship him, who lives forever and ever. They throw down their crowns before the throne, exclaiming:
11 “Worthy are you, Lord our God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things;
because of your will they came to be and were created.”
- 4:1–11 The seer now describes a vision of the heavenly court in worship of God enthroned. He reverently avoids naming or describing God but pictures twenty-four elders in priestly and regal attire (Rev 4:4) and God’s throne and its surroundings made of precious gems and other symbols that traditionally express the majesty of God (Rev 4:5–6). Universal creation is represented by the four living creatures (Rev 4:6–7). Along with the twenty-four elders, they praise God unceasingly in humble adoration (Rev 4:8–11).
- 4:1 The ancients viewed heaven as a solid vault, entered by way of actual doors.
- 4:2–8 Much of the imagery here is taken from Ez 1 and 10.
- 4:4 Twenty-four elders: these represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles; cf. Rev 21:12–14.
- 4:5 Flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder: as in other descriptions of God’s appearance or activity; cf. Rev 8:5; 11:19; 16:18; Ex 19:16; Ez 1:4, 13. The seven spirits of God: the seven “angels of the presence” as in Rev 8:2 and Tb 12:15.
- 4:6 A sea of glass like crystal: an image adapted from Ez 1:22–26. Four living creatures: these are symbols taken from Ez 1:5–21; they are identified as cherubim in Ez 10:20. Covered with eyes: these suggest God’s knowledge and concern.
- 4:7 Lion…calf…human being…eagle: these symbolize, respectively, what is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in creation. Calf: traditionally translated “ox,” the Greek word refers to a heifer or young bull. Since the second century, these four creatures have been used as symbols of the evangelists Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John, respectively.
- 4:8 Six wings: like the seraphim of Is 6:2.