The book of Revelation chapters 4 and 5 introduce us to the throne room of God with 24 elders, 4 strange four-faced beasts, and the Lord God who lives forever and ever.
Verse 1 opens with the Lord God speaking. The “first voice…as of a trumpet” uses the same expression as in v.10 “a great voice as a trumpet”, which from v.11 we know is clearly identified as the Lord God. Thus John is given a vision of the throne room of God (v.2) set in the heavens as with the rainbow (Ezekiel 1:28). The Lord God who sat on the throne appeared to shine like “a jasper and a sardine stone” (v.3). From Revelation 21:11 we learn that a jasper is not the same as we know today but is a clear crystal that has a brilliant shine. So it could be a diamond. God’s throne is described also by Isaiah (chapter 6) and Ezekiel (chapter 1 & 10).
There are 24 elders seated around the throne of God (v.4). Who or what they represent is debated still. They have “white raiment” which often signifies salvation and “crowns of gold” where the Greek word for ‘crown’ here is ‘stephanos,’ meaning laurels, the prize won in public games, or a symbol of honour. This is not the same as ‘diadema’ the Greek word for a kingly crown. This word for crown (stephanos) was used in v. 3:11 in relation to the believers enduring the trials and tests of life unto the end whence he/she will receive a crown (a reward) as a winner, but not meaning to win salvation, which can only come through grace.
The 24 elders worship God continually, even cast their crowns before the throne (v.10). Some commentators say that 12 of them represent the 12 tribes of Israel and other 12 the Redeemed Gentile Church. In verses 5:8,14 the 24 elders are on the same level as the four beasts (living creatures, see below), so possibly they are angels, but it is not clear.
The seven lamps of fire burning before the throne and the seven spirits (v.5) represent the perfect power of the Holy Spirit. Seven is God’s number meaning complete and perfect.
Before the throne there were 4 beasts or living creatures (v.6-8) who did not stop praising God. These beasts are similar to those described by the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:5-10, 10:15-20). The beasts have characteristics (v.7) of a lion, an ox, a man and an eagle. Lion for courage, ox for patient strength, man for intellect and an eagle for swiftness.
Each of the 4 beast here had 6 wings, which is the same as described in Isaiah (Isaiah 6:2,3) but in Ezekiel 10:21, the creatures (identified as cherubims in Ezekiel 1) had only 4 wings and the “likeness of the hands of a man under their wings.” In Isaiah 6:2 the 6 wing description is given to creatures called seraphims, who worshiped God continually. The 4 beasts then must be the seraphims. In Ezekiel 10:15-19 cherubims are seen around the throne of God. They also have 4 faces (Ezekiel 1:10) like in v.7. It could be that seraphims and cherubims are similar angel-like creatures. Their difference seems to be they have 4 wings and man’s hands as compared with 6 wings. The ark of the covenant had two gold cherubims over the mercy seat, where God dwelt in his cosmic Shekinah glory (Exodus 37:9, 1 Samuel 4:4, Psalms 80:1, Isaiah 37:16).
The 24 elders worship the Lord continually (v.10,11) to give all glory and honour and power to Him who created all things (the Creator) and we are told that He created the Universe for His own pleasure (v.11). Note many modern translations have removed this last important point.