Revelation 4 begins another division of the revelation to John—a vision of “things which must be hereafter” (v. 1). The Revelator is permitted to gaze into heaven and behold the eternal throne of God the Father. John sees twenty-four elders seated around the holy throne, “clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold” (v. 4). We learn from modern revelation that “these elders whom John saw, were elders who had been faithful in the work of the ministry and were dead; who belonged to the seven churches, and were then in the paradise of God” (D&C 77:5).
Next, before his eyes and amidst the thundering and lightning surrounding the glory of God, John sees the seven priesthood leaders of the churches standing before the throne of God (see v. 5). He was privileged to see, before the throne, “a sea of glass like unto crystal” (v. 6), representing “the earth, in its sanctified, immortal, and eternal state” (D&C 77:1). Joseph Smith taught, “This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s” (D&C 130:9).
Also surrounding the throne of God were four beasts, each with six wings (v. 8) and “full of eyes before and behind” (v. 6). The wings represent power (to move, to act, and so forth), while the eyes symbolize the fact that the beasts are exalted and thus filled with “light and knowledge” (see D&C 77:4). What are the four beasts? They are actual creatures John saw in heaven, but they represent the fact that all creatures will be resurrected from the dead unto “the enjoyment of their eternal felicity” (D&C 77:3). In addition, “the four beasts,” wrote the Prophet Joseph, “were four of the most noble animals that had filled the measure of their creation, and had been saved from other worlds, because they were perfect: they were like angels in their sphere. We are not told where they came from, and I do not know; but they were seen and heard by John praising and glorifying God.” These beasts join with the twenty-four elders in shouting praise and adoration to the Father: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (v. 11).