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Revelation 4:6

Revelation 4:6
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Revelation 4:6, “And around the throne…are four living creatures…”

In the central vision of Revelation (ch. 4-5), John stands before the throne of God. Four “living creatures” surround the throne and ceaselessly sing the praises of the one seated thereon.

To this point, John’s vision of the divine throne room largely agrees with other canonical and non-canonical heavenly visions. However, in chapter 5 he introduces an element that radically transforms his audience’s conception not only of the throne room, but of the throne, and of the one seated on the throne. This transformation comes with the entrance of the Lamb.

In Revelation 5:6, John tells us that there is a slaughtered—yet standing—Lamb “in the midst” of the throne. For one reading through the lens of John’s Gospel, this Lamb can be none other than the crucified Jesus Christ who is raised—the Paschal Lamb of God whose substitutionary, wrath-absorbing death reveals the unseen God and so gives life to all the world.

One of the many implications we can note here (I’m working on a research project solely on this subject, so there’s much more to say!) is that by placing the slaughtered Lamb on the throne, John conceptually transforms the throne into an altar—or to say the same thing—through this image, the throne of heaven *becomes* the cross of Calvary.

When John stood on Calvary before the cross of Christ, he saw four women gathered there around the crucified Jesus. Then, years later, when that same John is taken in the Spirit to stand before the throne of God, he sees four living creatures gathered around the enthroned God. One would assume these two instances could not be more distinct in John’s mind, but when—in Revelation 5:6—he tells us that the unseen God seated on the throne is visually exegeted by the image of a Slaughtered and Standing Lamb, we realize that—for the Beloved Apostle—what he saw on Calvary and what he saw in the throne room were one and the same sight.

Through the eyes of the Spirit, the cross of Calvary is the throne of the universe, and the throne of the universe is the cross of Calvary.