What does Revelation 4:3 mean?
ESV: And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.
NIV: And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.
NASB: And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.
CSB: The one seated there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian stone. A rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald surrounded the throne.
NLT: The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones — like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.
KJV: And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
Verse Commentary:
John continues here to explain the vision he saw when transported, in some sense, to heaven through the Spirit of God. This verse tells us God appeared with the likeness of precious jewels. Each carries a certain symbolism that we are meant to understand.

The jasper stone John saw refers to a clear jewel, perhaps resembling a diamond. It portrays God's absolute purity and perfection. The carnelian was ruby red. It portrays God as our Redeemer. Israel's high priest wore the jasper and carnelian and ten other gemstones on his chest (Exodus 28:17–21). Each of the twelve stones represented a tribe of Israel. Just as the high priest wore the tribes of Israel symbolically on his chest, so Jesus, our High Priest carries us Christians on His heart. Jasper and carnelian are also the first and last gems, respectively, on the high priest's garments. This description not only reinforces that God is the "first and the last (Revelation 1:8; 22:13)", it also identifies Jesus as God, as both perfection and our redeemer.

John also indicates that an emerald rainbow circled God's throne. An emerald is green and symbolizes life. The rainbow first appeared to Noah and his sons after the Flood as a token of God's promise to refrain from sending another flood to destroy the world (Genesis 9:8–17). The emerald rainbow around God's throne likely indicates that His promise of eternal life is guaranteed.
Verse Context:
Revelation 4:1–6 describes the apostle John's experience of being in the Spirit and being transported to heaven. There, he sees the radiance of God described as precious jewels. Further, he sees twenty-four other thrones, occupied by twenty-four elders. He also witnesses seven burning torches and a sea of glass in front of God's throne. Near the throne are four creatures that ascribe threefold holiness to God.
Chapter Summary:
John reports in the opening verse of Revelation 4 that he saw a door open in heaven and heard a voice beckoning him to come up to heaven. From heaven's vantage point John would witness future events. Upon his arrival in heaven, John saw God. He was sitting on a throne surrounded by twenty-four other thrones. A sea of glass lay in front of God's throne, and four living creatures were beside the throne. When the living creatures ascribed honor and praise to God, the elders who occupied the twenty-four thrones fell down and worshiped God. They cast their crowns before Him and praised Him.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 3 concluded the description of ''the things that are'' (Revelation 1:19). Chapter 4 begins the final section of Revelation, regarding ''the things that are to take place after this'' (Revelation 1:19). Chapter 1 describes the appearance of Jesus to John on the island of Patmos, at which time He commanded John to write to seven churches in Asia Minor. Chapters 2 and 3 provide us with the contents of Jesus' letters. Whereas chapters 1–3 relate events on earth, chapters 4 and 5 describe what John saw in heaven. Because the word ''church'' does not appear in this ''after this'' section of Revelation, we may assume the church does not experience the judgments described in chapters 6 and beyond.
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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