Monday, January 19, 2009
Revelation 4:1 - 11
Chapter four begins the prophetical future. Remember chapter 1, verse 19: Write the things which thou has seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter. That text presented three tenses and informed us that the Book of Revelation is written in chronological order: the past- chapter 1; the present-chapters 2 and 3 (the history of the seven churches to the present time); and the future-chapters 4 through 22.
Now let's take a peek at what's coming.
Verse 1: After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
John states, After this. After what? After the completion of the history of the seven churches. After this, John sees a door opened in heaven and hears a trumpet-like voice loudly and victoriously crying, Come up hither. This is the rapture of the church of Jesus Christ. When it occurs, multitudes from all kindreds. people, tongues, and denominations will meet the Savior face to face.What is the Rapture? It is the literal, visible bodily coming of Jesus Christ to call out of this world, literally and bodily, every born-again believer-first the dead, then the living. First we see that Jesus is coming bodily. Remember the cultists of bygone days who said that the Lord was about to return? Clothed in white sheets, they sat on the mountainsides in anxious anticipation-but Christ didn't come. Date-setting is wrong! But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only (Matthew 24:36).
Because of their embarrassment, these cultists immediately stated, Oh, we were right; Christ did come, but it was an invisible manifestation. He came as a spirit. Not so! When Jesus Christ returns, both in the Rapture (chapter 4) and at His Revelation (chapter 19), He will come literally, visibly and bodily. Proof? Acts 1:9-11: And when [Jesus] had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. The Lord will return exactly as He left.How did He leave? Let's see. In Luke 24:39, Christ appeared to His disciples and said, Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Then, in verses 41 and 42, He went on to say.Have ye here any meat [food]? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. The Lord Jesus Christ possessed a new resurrected body-a body that could be seen, a body that could be touched, and a body that could partake of food-a literal body! Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above [or over] five hundred brethren at once...After that, he was seen of JamesàAnd last of all he was seen of me also (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). No doubt about it, when He returns and the shout, Come up hither, is given, we will see Him. At this glorious moment, we, too, shall receive new bodies. The Bible teaches in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Notice that the dead in Christ shall rise first. (Perhaps this is because they have six feet further to rise-to the level of the living. Ha!) Then all of us together are caught up into the heavenlies to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the twinkling of an eye. You don't believe it? Then listen! Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [be dead], but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we [the living] shall be changed. Watch it. For this corruptible [the dead in Christ]àmust put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). How fast is the twinkling of an eye? Close your eyes for a moment. Open them. That's it! General Electric Company tells us that the twinkling of an eye is eleven one-hundredths of a second.Just that quickly, at that blessed moment, we shall be changed to be like Jesus. David said, I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness (Psalm 17:15). John adds that when we see Jesus, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2). Then Paul chimes in and states: [He] shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body (Philippians 3:2 1). This, then, is the Rapture.Some Christians say they do not believe in the term rapture. They argue that one cannot find the word rapture in the Bible. Interestingly, one cannot find the term Bible in the Bible either, but I'm holding one! Listen carefully: The word rapture, in English, comes from the Latin, rapio, which means a snatching away. We have just learned from God's Word that all Christians, living and dead, are going to be snatched away in the twinkling of an eye, so whether one knows it or not, one believes in the Rapture.
The Bible also clearly teaches that there is a difference between the Rapture and the Revelation of Christ. We need to fully understand this truth because it is the basis for understanding the Book of Revelation, prophetical truth, and the placement of signs. Simply stated, there are two aspects, or stages, in the process of Christ's second coming, and both begin with the letter r. We have already designated the first phase as the Rapture. The second phase is called the Revelation. Chapter 4 describes phase one, while phase two is described in chapter 19. The intervening chapters-6 through 18-basically cover a seven-year period called the Tribulation. The Rapture (chapter 4) precedes the Tribulation, and the Revelation (chapter 19) follows the seven-year period of judgment. Chapter 4 is a meeting in the air, whereas chapter 19 is a return to the earth. Chapter 4 removes the believer from the judgments described in chapters 6 through 18, and chapter 19 restores the believer to his earthly sojourn as he returns with Christ to planet earth. The Come up hither of Revelation 4:1 is synonymous with the call of 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.Immediately following this event, the inhabitants of planet earth experience seven years of incomparable judgment. This judgment ends with the Battle of Armageddon, at which time the door of heaven is again opened (see chapter 19, verses 11 through 16) in order that the believer may exit heaven with Christ for the return trip to earth.
This return of Christ with His saints is called the Revelation, and comes from the word revealing. At that time the Lord will reveal himself to all humanity, so why not call this event the revealing, or revelation, of Christ? Let's not quibble about the labels concerning the Rapture and the Revelation. The truths are there; believe them! The labels only help one organize the teaching systematically.The question often arises, Will the church of Jesus Christ be on earth during the Tribulation hour? The answer is an emphatic, NO! The Church is mentioned sixteen times in the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation, but is not found in chapters 6 through 18-the Tribulation period. Why? First of all, the Tribulation is Israel's time of suffering. Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it (Jeremiah 30:7). And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people [Israel]: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people [Israelites] shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book (Daniel 12:1).
Secondly, the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel's prophecy involved Israel. Why wouldn't the seventieth week? The Bible is plain: Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people [Israelites] and upon thy holy city [Jerusalem] (Daniel 9:24). That is why the signs in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 17 and 21 have to do with Israel and the Middle East.
Third, during the Tribulation hour, the people involved are instructed to pray that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day (Matthew 24:20). Israel is eternally identified with the Sabbath day (see Ezekiel 20:12,20).
Fourth, when Christ returns to Jerusalem (see Zechariah 14:4), all the tribes of the earth mourn (see Matthew 24:30). The mourners are the twelve tribes of Israel, numbering hundreds of thousands of individuals who were brought to repentance by the preaching of the 144,000 Jewish representatives from each of the twelve tribes (12,000 per tribe).
Finally, the persons experiencing the woes of the Church are never called a synagogue, but rather the church (Acts 2:47).As already stated, the Church cannot be found in Revelation 6 through 18, the portion of the book describing the horrible Tribulation hour. Israel, however, is seen in the midst of the holocaust (see Revelation 12:1-5). This correlates with the elect of Matthew 24:22. Jesus said, And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. This elect group is not the Church but Israel, for God has two elect groups upon earth-the Church and Israel. First, let's look at the Church. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love (Ephesians 1:4). This chosen group is called the elect in 1 Peter 1:2. However, the Church, the bride of Christ, elected to be His sweetheart and wife for all eternity, is not in view in Matthew 24:22. Instead, this text has Israel, the wife of Jehovah, in mind. What? How can that be? Where was Israel chosen? In Genesis 12:2,3 God said, And I will make of thee a great nation, and l will bless thee, and make thy name great and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.In Deuteronomy 7:7 and 8, the Israelites were again reminded of their elect status: The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers...[He chose you]. This oath that chooses Israel as an elect group of people has never been abrogated: For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance-or without change of mind (Romans 11:29). Because of God's unchanging covenant or oath, Romans 11:26-28 declares, And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, there shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins...as touching the election (the elect), they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.
When God chose Israel as His elect wife, He chose her forever because the calling of God is without change of mind. Though Jehovah's spouse has often committed spiritual adultery by turning to iniquity and idolatry, still Jehovah loves her because God abides faithful. There is no doubt about it, Israel is the elect group mentioned in the Gospels for whom the days of judgment will be shortened. Israelites are the ones who will pray that their flight for safety will not be on the Sabbath (their day of worship); who will suffer persecution in their own synagogues (only Jews meet in synagogues); and who have the name of Jacob, and who will experience Jacob's time of trouble (see Jeremiah 30:7), for Jacob is Israel (see Romans 11:26).Hence, a period of seventy weeks is determined upon Israel (see Daniel 9:24). The nation of Israel has seen Jerusalem compassed [about] with armies (Luke 2 1:20), and will again observe the armies of the world posed against Jerusalem for the final war as God gathers all nations against Jerusalem to battle (Zechariah 14:2). This definitely is not the Church. All Christians slipped out through the open door in the fourth chapter before the judgments of heaven and earth began to be unleashed in the sixth chapter. They were evacuated when the shout, Come up hither, was given.There are those who say that Revelation 4:1 is an exclusive picture of John the Beloved in a vision, being caught away in the presence of God. Therefore, they reason, this has nothing to do with anyone else, including the Church. This argument is fallacious because chapter 4, verse 10 states: The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne. When will believers be crowned? Immediately after the Rapture. Proof: Thou shalt be recompensed [rewarded] at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14). Again: And when the chief Shepherd shall appear [His coming], ye shall receive a crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4). Obviously, the Judgment Seat of Christ must take place before believers are crowned. Then they lay these crowns at Christ's feet, in verses 10 and 11, meaning they were already in His presence. The only way they could have gotten there is through the Come up hither of verse 1. We must also remember that John, the representative of all of God's people, is shown the things which must be hereafter and the things that will happen, both in heaven and on earth. Chapters 4 and S picture that which takes place in heaven, while chapters 6 through 18 picture that which occurs on earth-the Tribulation.
Verse 2: And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
Again, as in chapter 1, verse 10, the Holy Spirit takes complete control of John in order to give him the most glorious vision in all time or eternity-the Lord Jesus Christ upon His throne. Most of us have not personally met many kings, queens, or presidents, but such introductions will become absolutely meaningless when we see Jesus in His majestic splendor. Praise God, that day will soon be here. We are going home imminently. Amen and amen!
Verse 3: 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.
Here we see a comparison of Christ with two precious stones-the jasper and the sardine. The jasper is clear as crystal (chapter 21, verse 11) and is likened to the light of the holy Jerusalem which comes from the glory of God (chapter 21, verse 23). Imagine, glory is that which first strikes our eyes as we see the Lord Jesus Christ. The sardine is red, the color of fire. This undoubtedly speaks of the righteous wrath of God and the judgment that is to fall in chapters 6 through 18. The rainbow, resembling an emerald, proves that the impending judgment will not come through a flood (because of God's promise to Noah in Genesis 9:13), but that it will be a holocaust of fire. After describing the throne and its occupant, John indicates the presence of another group situated in the very presence of the Lord...
Verse 4: And round about the throne were four and twenty seats; and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
These are not angels, for elders always depict members of the human race. What members? The redeemed. They are also in resurrection bodies, as is the Lord, for they sit down. An immaterial spirit cannot sit, for a material body is necessary in order to sit on a material throne. Christ possesses such a new glorified body (see Luke 24:39), and when we see Jesus we shall be like him (1 John 3:2). The elders are also clothed in white raiment. One could not put a coat on a spirit very readily, for it would continually fall to the floor! The Book of Revelation cannot be spiritualized. These are real people! In fact, since the Judgment Seat took place immediately after the Come up hither of verse 1, these individuals are already wearing the crowns which they will place at the Master's feet in verse 11.Who are these twenty-four elders? Some believe they represent the twenty-four groups or orders within the Levitical priesthood. This, in turn, represents all believers in Christ for, through Him as High Priest, every Christian is a member of the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). Others believe the twenty-four elders represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles-for a total of twenty-four. In other words, they say the elders represent God's people of all ages. This is a good possibility since Revelation 21 describes the New Jerusalem, the names of the twelve tribes inscribed on the gates, and the names of the twelve apostles found upon the twelve foundations (see verses 12-14). Regardless of the view one holds, the four and twenty elders represent the children of God in the presence of the Lord, before the horrible Tribulation begins in chapter 6. A preview of the judgment about to be unleashed upon the entire globe is found in the following verse.
Verse 5: And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God.
Lightning, thunder, and voices speak of judgment. Rumblings resound through the heavens as the saints are informed of what is about to occur on earth.The present hour is so late, prophetically speaking, that this very scene could happen soon. We may go home momentarily to become the very participants around the throne! Jesus is coming and His appearing is at the door (see Matthew 24:33). But wait! The seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God, picture the Holy Spirit in all His perfection, for seven always denotes flawlessness in the Bible. (Note the seven characteristics of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11:2.) This blessed Holy Spirit is also involved in the impending judgment. Each member of the Trinity is righteously indignant over earth's inundation with wickedness and participates unitedly in the twenty-one seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments which occur in chapters 6 through 18.
Verse 6: And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
Although thunderous judgment will soon be released upon earth, perfect peace surrounds God's throne. The glassy sea pictures calmness, a sea untroubled by winds and storms. This is the Church at rest in heaven before the storm occurs upon earth. Hallelujah!
Verse 7: And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
Verse 8: And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
These verses are symbolic. Always take every word of the Bible literally unless God specifically indicates that it is figurative. In these texts we find the words, like a and as a, expressing symbolism. The term beast is Zoon in the Greek, and means a living creature. These are literal, created beings. At this point, the symbolic and figurative expressions depict their strength and knowledge. Thus, they have eyes before and behind to see all things clearly and accurately. By comparing the characteristics of these living creatures with Isaiah 6:1-3, we see they are undoubtedly seraphim-angels of God-created to praise, exalt, and adulate the Lord. These beings are not monstrosities. Instead, they are a picture of beauty. Within each species there is always a leader-the lion among wild beasts, the calf among domestic animals, the eagle among birds, and man among all creatures. This is the portrait set before us-angels in all their magnificence praising the Lord, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. This threefold adulation of holiness is for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit-the three in One (see 1 John 5:7). The description-which was, and is, and is to come-is the title of the Father (chapter 1, verse 4), the Son (verse 8), and also the Holy Spirit who always was, and is, and is to come, for the Trinity works unitedly. The praising of God by these living creatures is contagious and the entire group of God's people, pictured by the twenty-four elders, joins them.
Verse 9: And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
Verse 10: The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Verse 11: 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.
This is one of the most glorious moments in heaven. The crowned saints lay their rewards at the feet of Jesus. They lay aside their rewarded glory to add to His glory, thereby ascribing all glory to Him. They know that their victories came only because of His power working within them. (My full-length audio cassette, The Judgment Seat of Christ, contains detailed teaching on this subject.) The praise session is concluded with the words, Thou art worthy, 0 Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Imagine, both the angels and the elders praise God for creating them! This proves there will be no evolutionists in heaven. Instead, they will join with Darwin in singing songs about their ancestors-the monkeys-in a place where air conditioning does not exist. Jesus is coming! Prepare! Be with the blessed host when the greatest praise festival in the entire universe and heaven occurs.