John's vision of God's heavenly rule

Rev. 4:1-11     John has a vision of God ruling from his throne in heaven. Around the throne are four living creatures resembling a lion, an ox, a man and an eagle.


The Four Living Creatures

The four living creatures surrounding God’s throne in John’s vision (see Revelation 4:7) have been identified by Christians down the ages as symbols of the four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – who wrote the gospel (‘Good News’) accounts found in the New Testament.

Matthew’s symbol is a man – symbolising his gospel’s emphasis on the humanity of Jesus who came to earth as a human being at Bethlehem.

Mark’s symbol is a lion – representing the kingship of Christ, the ‘Lion of Judah’ (see Revelation 5:5).

Tomb of St Luke, Ephesus

Tomb of St Luke with a cross above a bull, Ephesus  (Revelation 4:7)


Luke’s symbol is an ox (or bull) – pointing to the sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary (Revelation 4:7).

John’s symbol is an eagle – a vivid depiction of the words of revelation given by Jesus, the ‘Word of God’ (see John 1:1), flying directly to John from heaven. In many Christian churches today, the lectern (the reading stand) holding the Bible (the Word of God) is fashioned in the shape of an eagle with outstretched wings (Revelation 4:7).


The Lamb of God reveals the deeds of mankind

Rev. 5:1-14     In John’s vision, Jesus – the ‘Lamb of God’ (see John 1:29) – takes the scroll recording the deeds of mankind.

Rev. 6:1-16     The Lamb (Jesus) opens the first six of the seven seals on the scroll.

Rev. 7:1-8       A symbolic number of Jewish believers – twelve thousand descended from each of the twelve tribes of Israel – are marked by a sign on their foreheads to show they belong to God.

Rev. 7:9-17     The Jewish believers are joined in worshipping God by numerous Gentile believers from every nation and language on earth.

Rev. 8:1-5       The Lamb (Jesus) opens the seventh seal and the prayers of the faithful believers rise to God like incense.

Rev. 8:6 - 9:21 Six of the seven angels announce the coming of the ‘Day of Judgement’ by sounding their trumpets (see Matthew 24:31).

Rev. 10:1-11   John sees another angel in his vision, and he is told to proclaim the message on the small scroll that the angel is holding.


Famine and plagues

Rev. 11:1-14 The ‘end times’ are preceded by persecution (see Revelation 11:2) drought-induced famine (see Revelation 11:6) and plagues (see Revelation 11:6 & Matthew 24:6-9).

Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified, is overrun by ‘a beast’ (a reference, no doubt, to the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Roman emperor Vespasian in 70AD) (see Revelation 11:7). The city is then likened to Sodom (a city of sexual immorality – see Genesis 13:13; 19:5) and Egypt (where the Jewish inhabitants were subjected to immense cruelty before being led to freedom by Moses – see Exodus 1:11-14) (see Map 30).


John's Vision

Map 30  John's Vision


Rev. 11:15-19 The seventh angel sounds his trumpet, and John sees inside God’s temple in heaven.

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