One of my favorite bits of imagery in Revelation – Revelation 4:3

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    Heather R
    Heather R

    Revelation 4:3 contains one of my favorite bits of imagery in the book of Revelation. There is so very much contained within that one verse. Not only that, it contains the first bits of information to tell us what John sees immediately after he is caught up in the spirit.

    Many of us who hold to the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture of the church believe Revelation 4:1 depicts the change from “what is” to that which “is to come”, otherwise called the “hereafter”. Revelation 1:19 splits the book of Revelation into three sections: the things which thou “hast seen” (Revelation 1), the things which “are” (Revelation 2-3), and the things which shall be “hereafter” (Revelation 4-22). Thus, the things which shall be “hereafter” mark the beginning of the things which occur after the church age, the age John was in at the time he received the revelation. The things which “are” are marked by the 7 letters to the 7 churches. At the end of the church age, and via the “last trump” of I Corinthians 15:52, John is caught up to witness things which have not yet occurred. Revelation 4:1 contains the key word “hereafter”, and everything proceeding that is prophetic in that it is all yet future.

    Immediately after John was caught up in the spirit, we are told what he sees.

    Revelation 4:2-3 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

    John sees a throne and one sitting on the throne. The one sitting on the throne was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone. The assumption is the one sitting on the throne is God. This is validated when we understand how the jasper and sardine stone factor into the picture.

    When I was studying Exodus early last year, I came across this bit of information when reading about the breastplate the high priest wore. Set within the breastplate were 12 stones which represented each of the 12 tribes of Israel. The jasper and the sardine stone, otherwise called sardius, are included within said stones. However, what is of note is which tribes they represent.

    Exodus 28:15-21 And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen, shalt thou make it. Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof. And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row. And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings. And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes.

    The first and the last stones set within the breastplate of the high priest were to be sardius and jasper. There are two specific allusions being made in referencing the first and last stones. First, we understand John is seeing the Alpha and Omega, which is also referenced in Revelation 1.

    Revelation 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

    We are also seeing a representation that he who is sitting on the throne is the God of the 12 tribes of Israel. Although we are only seeing the colors of the stones which represent the first and the last, just as God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, He is also the God of everything in between. Thus, the inclusion of the first and last stones indicates He is the God of the first tribe and the last tribe and every other tribe in between.

    The second part of the imagery we are given in Revelation 4:3 is that John saw a rainbow round about the throne in sight like unto an emerald. The rainbow is symbolic of a covenant. In Genesis 9, we saw God put His [rain]bow in the sky as a symbol, or a token, of His covenant never to flood the world again. While the Noahic covenant is not particularly in view in Revelation 4, the rainbow is symbolic language used to show a covenant exists. Which covenant is in view?

    We can find out which covenant is specifically being alluded to with the inclusion of the emerald. Within the text of Exodus 28, we find the fourth stone on the breastplate of the high priest was the emerald. In order to understand a bit more about what John is seeing, we need to find out which tribe was the fourth of the 12. This, we learn from Genesis 29.

    Genesis 29:31-35 And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi. And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.

    The emerald, the fourth stone in the breastplate of the high priest, represents the fourth son of the 12: Judah. How does the tribe of Judah relate to God on the throne and a covenant? Hebrews 7 tells us.

    Hebrews 7:11-25 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

    In the Old Testament, the priesthood was always from the tribe of Levi. The two exceptions to this were Melchizedec, first mentioned in Genesis 14, and Jesus, of whom Melchizedec was a type and shadow. While Jesus is our high priest, He is not of the tribe of Levi. Rather, He is of the tribe of Judah. In being our high priest, Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant. What we are being shown a picture of through the imagery used by John in Revelation 4:3 is exactly what I Timothy 2:5 states.

    I Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

    In Revelation 4:3, John is seeing God – the Alpha and Omega and God of the 12 tribes of Israel – on the throne. His throne is surrounded by a rainbow which indicates a covenant is in place. The covenant is in sight like unto an emerald, because it represents the New Covenant of which Jesus, of the tribe of Judah – whose stone is the emerald – is the high priest and mediator.

    But there is one more thing we are also being shown…

    In Exodus 28, the first stone is sardius and the last is jasper. However, in John’s word picture, jasper is mentioned first. This is a representation of the order in which the New Covenant was both delivered to and accepted by two different people groups.

    Matthew 19:30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

    The New Covenant was extended to Israel first, but she rejected it. Thus, the Gentiles were given the opportunity to hear and believe. Although not chosen first in the hearing of it, the Gentiles will be first in the receiving and believing of it. Thus, they will be the ones admitted into God’s presence first, via the rapture of the church. The inclusion of the stones might signify that the one on the throne is the God of the 12 tribes of Israel, but the order in which the stones are listed represents that He is also the God of the believing Gentiles. And it is the believing Gentiles, the last to have been offered the New Covenant, who will be the first to partake of the salvation and redemption offered by Jesus. It is they who will be brought into God’s presence in the throne room to gaze upon Him… just like John was in Revelation 4.

    Romans1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

    I think this is really neat and probable interpretation. Made me think about the 12 foundation stones in the New Jerusalem that represent the 12 apostles/church. Wonder if these are the same 12 stones that are represented in the priestly garments. Interesting tie in of Israel and the Church.

    It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. Psalm 118:8



    This is very rich insight. Like digging deep on a treasure hunt and finding precious stones (pun intended). Thanks for sharing it. :good:

    John 14:1-3 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."



    Psalm 18:2
    The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.


    :yahoo: (insert vote of thanks)

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