This vision is preparatory to the revelations of "things which must be hereafter," which were given John in the series of visions following. Their divine origin, and, consequently, the deference with which they are to be received as a revelation from God, are demonstrated by this symbolization of the presence chamber of the Almighty.
The revelator had before heard a voice speaking to him, (1:10); and turning to look, he beheld the risen Saviour. He then writes the epistles which the Saviour dictated to the churches; and again he turns his eyes to the place where the voice spake to him.
The opening of a door in heaven, appears to be no part of the "things which must be hereafter;" and is, therefore, no symbol. It was doubtless an appearance of an aperture in the sky above, through which the revelator saw the vision. It indicates that he looked through and beyond the limits prescribed to human vision; and the summons to "come up hither," indicates that he was to have free access to the secrets there to be unfolded.
A "throne set in heaven," is a symbol of sovereignty there. Consequently the one who sits thereon is the Almighty -- his greatness, glory and majesty, being indicated by the "lightnings, thunderings and voices," the "rainbow round about the throne," and the resemblance to brilliant gems. It is the same Being, seen in vision by Ezekiel (1:28), round about whom was "as the appearance of the bow in the day of rain;" and who was explained to be "the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord."
The "elders" seated about the throne, and the "four living creatures," improperly rendered beasts, are representatives of the redeemed of our race; for they subsequently unite in the new song, saying to Christ, "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred and tongue, and people and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth," 5:8-10. The difference between the two orders, is not fully apparent. They have "vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints." The four beasts are evidently of the same order as the "living creatures" in Ezek.1:5; the cherubim of Ezek.10:20, and the seraphim of Isa.6:1. The entire hosts of the redeemed are thus represented as interested spectators in the visions which are to be unfolded.
The "seven lamps of fire," are explained to be "the seven Spirits of God," which, as before shown, is expressive of the Holy Spirit.
The "sea of glass," corresponds to the brazen sea, or laver, under the law, which stood at the door of the tabernacle, Ex.38:8. It was an emblem of purity. Before entering the tabernacle the priest must there wash. Those admitted on the sea of glass, are those who are purified and made white in the blood of the Lamb, 15:2.
With this preliminary representation, the first series of events extending to the final consummation, is shown under the symbol of: