This Revelation is not for our future it is for our now. For those persecuted and in prison today because of their faith or to those who go to work for a manager who is a narcissist this apocalypse of John is for you. For those who are wondering if evil really does triumph over good and to those who think God has forgotten them these words of Jesus to John are of huge reassurance.
John and the churches of his generation were in a context of ruthless Roman control and oppression. If you have ever been to Rome you will have seen the lavishness of this culture. But you can simply search online for the Domus Aurea (the Golden House) of Nero, 54-68 AD and you will see the frescos of animals and all kinds of creatures adorning their rooms. Visit the Palatine Hill and you will be in what was the Flavian Palace which was Domitian’s 81-96, the Emperor at the time of John. Domitian saw himself as both Lord and God and demanded others to view him as this also. In every public area there was a throne for him to sit on even before you got near the actual Throne Room. The public area was decorated not only with frescos of all kinds of mythological creatures but the surfaces were reflective so that the paranoid Emperor could keep his eyes on everyone.
Out of that context John is having a vision of the Throne Room of Heaven and he hears a song:
“In the centre, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”(Revelation 4 v 6-8)
He sees 4 creatures and their eyes are everywhere, they see everything, nothing is hidden. This isn’t paranoia this is power. Day and night they never stop worshipping with this song.
Some speculate on who they represent; the nature of God; the 4 gospels; the 12 tribes of Israel; 4 corners of the world or the whole animal kingdom. No one knows. They are in John’s vision and he is again struggling to describe what he saw, ‘was like a …’ is hard to fully grasp. John not only has an earthly context but he has a Scriptural one too. They have similar descriptions of the Seraphim of Isaiah’s vision (chapter 6) and the 4 creatures of Ezekiel’s vision (chapter 1). What we can say is around the throne are created beings, both animal and human in description. Perhaps it is the song that is of most importance.
God is Holy. God is Powerful. God is Eternal. ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come’.
He is bigger than any context that earth brings. Man may flex his muscles. Pride and arrogance are all around. World leaders threaten one another. There are powers and paranoia in every corner. But don’t be afraid. There has been a song sung since time began. A song for your Lord and God, the only Lord and God.