About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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The Throne Of Heaven (ch. 4:1-11)

 

In Revelation 1:19 John is told to write what he has seen; what is now and what will be.  Many Prophetic Futurists say that what is now is in reference to the contents of chapters 2 and 3, meaning the letters to what they call to the seven churches.  Then, they say what will be is found here in Revelation 4:1.  They say this verse begins the future aspect to the book of Revelation.  I am not convinced of this.  What now is as seen in Revelation 1:19 might well be the portrayal of Jesus as the mighty warier as seen in Revelation 1.   

 

Verse 1 begins with the words "after this".  Like most things in the book of Revelation, these two words have been well debated.  Does "after this" refer to time, as in, this is what will happen about what John saw in chapter 3?  Thos who believe this usually believe the seven letters are seven letters directed to seven periods in church history.  This links the Laodicean letter to the last church of the age, just before the tribulation begins, as we're about to see in Revelation. 

 

On the other hand, at least at the moment, I believe "after this" is in reference to the sequence of the visions John is seeing, or, is apart of.  The seven letters was one thing he saw, and now, what he sees here in chapter 4 is the next thing he sees.  It has nothing to do with periods of history but simply the sequence of things John saw.   

 

In verse 1 a voice tells John to come up to God’s throne.  From there John will see the “things that must take place after this”.  The voice is said to sound like thunder.  I suggest that this clearly shows the power behind the voice.  You might remember that the voice of Jesus back in chapter 1 sounded like thunder.  Heavenly voices may sound like thunder to our mortal ears.  Once John heard the voice, he saw an open door into heaven.  The curtain had been drawn back and John literally saw what heaven was like.  Some suggest that this is not as literal as I suggest.  They say John saw a representation of what heaven is like, not the real thing, because heaven is a spiritual place, not a physical place.  That's a matter of interpretation.

 

Whether this coming up is a literal coming up into Heaven or simply a spiritually coming up in a vision has been debated for centuries.     

 

Some suggest chapter 4 and onward is actually a history of the church and the world prior to 70 A D when Rome destroyed Jerusalem .  This view is called the Preterist View.  The problem with this view in my thinking is that you simply can't fit all that is said in the book of Revelation prior to 70 A D.  If John wrote this book around 95 A D as many think, then all that he wrote would have already taken place according to the Preterist View.  In my opinion, if Preterists are correct,  and, if this book was written in or around 95 A. D., then Revelation is a book of history, not a book of prophecy.  This is one reason why Preterists have to date the writing of Revelation in and around 66 A. D.  At the moment, I lean towards an earlier dating of Revelaiton, but, I still have questions.  Whatever the case, I still view the book as predicting the future that did not come to pass in 70 A. D.      

 

Another view point of Revelation is called the Historical view.  This view sees the events of Revelation taking place right after the vision came to John, right up to the end of this age.  In other words, the book of Revelation is a book of history of the last two thousand years.  This view does not seem logical to me either since it is hard for me to believe the things written in Revelation have already taken place.     

 

Some claim that the whole vision that John saw is mere symbolic of the fight between good and evil and has no real prophetic significance.  This view is often called the Idealist view.  This view also has little logic in my thinking.  Revelation 4:1 specifically states that what John was about to see would take place in history future.  What John was about to see were real live historical events.

 

Still, another view is called the Futurist view.  This view claims that the events of chapter 4 through 19 are still in the future and will happen in the few short years before Christ’s return.  This is the view that I hold to.        

 

Also, some scholars who are of the Futurists view say that when John goes up into Heaven, as seen here in chapter 4, verse 1, this represents the rapture of the church prior to the horrific events of the tribulation period as we will see coming up next in Revelation.  We must realize that this thinking is interpretation.  The text does not specifically say this.  The text simply says that John was called up into Heaven.  The text does not say that you and I will be called up into heaven.  There’s no mention of a pre-tribulation rapture.  I do understand how and why some see this as the pre-tribulation rapture, especially if you view chapters 3 and 4 as being the history of the church.  At the last mention of the church in chapter 3 we now see John who represents the church in heaven, or so some say.

 

Those who believe that Revelation 4:1 speaks of the rapture of the church before the tribulation period will also say that the church is mentioned a lot prior to chapter 4, but from this point on to chapter 19, it is never mentioned at all. They thus believe the church has been taken out of the world in order for God to deal with Israel as had been predicted throughout the Old Testament.  Christians are spoken of on earth in these chapters, but the word church is not spoken of.  The Christians that are mentioned have become Christians during the tribulation period. 

 

From Revelation 4 to the end, this book looks more like an Old Testament Jewish writing, especially because of the imagery used.  Most Prophetic Futurists say this is the case because the tribulation period deals with God's last judgment on Israel in order to bring her to her knees in repentance.  With this in mind, I refer you to my comments concerning chapter 2 and 3.  Those chapters look just as Jewish and Old Testament as the remaining chapters of Revelation.  Those holding to the view that the seven letters are written to seven Jewish communities during the last seven years of this age will tell you that the rapture of the church does not take place here in Revelation 4:1 but at some point prior to Revelation 1:1.             

 

Over the years I have struggled with the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture, but in recent years I've come closer to believing the teaching.  I totally understand all of the reasons why most Prophetic Futurists believe Revelation 4:1 symbolizes the rapture of the church  , but still, the text does not say it.  So, I do question that there is a secondary meaning to verse 1. 

 

I believe I can safely say that since John is caught up into heaven, what he sees in the rest of this vision is from a heavenly perspective, not an earthly perspective.  I thus conclude that some of the things we see in the coming chapters that some say are symbolic are actually spiritual.  That is to say, some of the weird looking characters are demons and shouldn't be interpreted as being some kind of futuristic man made objects like high tech airplanes.  

 

The first thing John saw was the throne in heaven and someone
 sitting on the throne.  The text doesn't say at this point who is sitting on the throne.  However, I believe God the Father is the one on the throne.  I believe this is seen in verse 8 with the words, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God Almighty".

 

This is what Heaven is all about.  It’s not necessarily the
 mansions that we’ll live in, or the angels, or the golden streets.  It’s all about the One on the throne.  The significance of the throne is that the One who sits on the throne is the One who is the final authority over all things, both physical and spiritual.  There is absolutely no one greater than the one on this throne.  He has no rivals and He has no real competition.  He is supreme over all things. 

 

In verse 2 John says, “at once I was in the Spirit”.  This is clearly a spiritual experience for John.  Whether John was actually in Heaven or merely was part of a vision might be somewhat debatable.  No matter the case, what John saw was real.

 

It's important for us to know that as Christians we have the Holy Spirit living within us.  That being said, there is more to the Holy Spirit than one body can contain, and that is why John, although having the Holy Spirit inside of him, can say he was in the Spirit, as if the Spirit was outside of him.  Anytime the Holy Spirit comes on a person, or, any time one is in the Spirit, as seen here and throughout in the New Testament, something dramatic happens.  This occasion is no different.  Charismatics and Pentecostals should realize that being filled with the Holy Spirit is for a specific purpose.  It's not just meant to be a blessing or a spiritual high.  Every time the Holy Spirit comes on a person in the Bible, or, every time one is in the Spirit, the purpose is to do something specific in the service of the Lord.  John was in the Spirit to see the future and write it down for us to read.       

 

John doesn’t tell us who sat on the throne, only what the person looked like.  We can safely conclude that he saw God the Father sitting on the throne.  John’s description of God as precious stones gives us yet another majestic picture of who He is.   God is the Almighty God as we see Him portrayed here in Revelation 4, and, such a portrayal is purely an Old Testament style portrayal.  

 

Some suggest the rainbow around the throne is a reminder of the covenant that God gave to Noah, that He would not bring judgment to the earth with water again.  I'm not sure if that is the case or not.   Somehow I think the rainbow speaks of the majesty of God.

 

Verse 4 tells us that John saw twenty four other thrones around the throne of God.  On each throne sat an elder.  There is no full agreement to which these elders are, but most claim these elders to be men.  Some claim them to be angels, but not me.  Angels are never described as elders in the Bible.  Men are.  These elders are seen in verse 4 as wearing white robes and being redeemed.  This would make them men, not angels.  Angels have never been redeemed.  I believe Revelation 5:9 clearly suggests that these are men and not angels.  I think the elders are men who represent all of the redeemed. 

 

Some suggest these elders consist of twelve Jews, as in the twelve tribes of Israel , and, twelve Christians from the church age, as in the twelve apostles.  The text just doesn't give us any more details about these men, and I'm not prepared to speculate at the moment. 

 

There is one more thought I'd add concerning these twenty four elders. In 1 Chronicles 24 we see that the priesthood of Israel was divided into twenty four groups.  Most Jews reading John's account here might well have this in mind as they read about these twenty four elders.  Who knows, they might well be twenty four Jewish men.         

 

In verse 5 we see thunder and lightening coming from the throne.  To me this speaks of the almighty power of Jesus in judgment.  He not only has the power, as in authority, but He has power as in strength and might.  In the Bible, thunder often speaks of judgment, the judgment that will soon be seen in the book of Revelation. 

 

Also in verse 5 we see the seven spirits of God mentioned again as we did in chapter 1.  I believe this speaks of the sevenfold Spirit of God.  You can see my notes on Revelation 1:4 for more detailed information on this point. That being said, the Greek word translated into English as seven, is not seven fold.  It is seven, as in, seven spirits.  There might well be seven specific and distinct angelic spirits that are different from all other angels spoken of here.    

It is interesting to me that the Holy Spirit is symbolized as lamps in this part of the vision, while the churches, or as I would say, the people of God, whether Jew or Christian,  mentioned earlier were symbolized as lampstands.  The church, or, the people of God, is the stand for the Holy Spirit.  When Jesus tells some the people of God that they are in danger of losing their lampstand, He is saying that they are in danger of having the Holy Spirit taken from their midst, making them a mere organization.  They'd be lifeless.  In fact they would no longer be the real people of God.       

 

The seven lamps seen in verse 5 can easily be translated as seven torches.  When reading Revelation we should be careful not to think in terms of 21st century thinking.  These lamps that John saw didn't look like a lamp we have in our living rooms these days.  In like manor, we shouldn't view the throne seen in this passage as a big chair.  As a matter of fact, it can't be a big chair if you read verse 6.  There's too much happening within the throne to be a chair.  This is a heavenly throne, and heavenly things are nothing like earthly things.  This is a place where the essence, the immediate presence, of God is, and, John calls this a throne.  We can't begin to guess, or interpret, what John had in mind when he used the word throne here.   

 

In verse 6 John says that he saw “what looked like a sea of glass”.  That sounds like he wasn’t quite sure what this was.  It only “looked like” a sea of glass.  John doesn’t tell us what this is.  I’m not quite sure he knew.  Some suggest that what John saw were the believers before the throne.  This seems to be the most popular thinking among Prophetic Futurists.           

 

There might be something to consider when attempting to understand what John is actually seeing.  He said he saw something that looked like a sea of glass.  Remember, John is in the heavenly realm here, and being human, I don't think what he sees can be fully understood and comprehended.  If you notice, all the way through Revelation, any time John hears something it is very loud.  It might not be loud for those in heaven, but to John's frail human ears it is loud.  The same may be true when John sees things in the heavenly realm.  His frail human eyes may have a hard time focusing and actually seeing properly.  Thus, we have something that looked like a sea of glass but could well be the brilliance of the redeemed.    

 

From verse 6 through 8 John describes four living creatures that he saw between the elders and the throne. One looked like a lion.  One looked like an ox.  One looked like man, and the last one looked like an eagle.  These four creatures were singing praises to God.  Most people believe these living creatures are a type of cherubim or seraphim, which by the way, are two different types of angelic creatures.  One thing we should realize at this moment is that the angelic world is made up of all kinds of sub-categories of angels.  There isn't just one kind of angel.  There are probably many more types of angels than what we are presently aware of.     

 

You can read Ezekiel 1:6 and following to see what appear to be the same creatures.   In both cases there are four creatures.  One difference between the two descriptions is that John said each had one head, and each head was different.  Ezekiel saw each creature having four heads.  What might be taking place here is that each living creature had four different faces and Ezekiel saw all four on each creature.  Then, from John’s point of view he might have only seen only one face on each creature.  The difference is in the viewing angle.  John may have stood still and saw them while Ezekiel might have moved around and saw all sides of the heads.  All that being said, some suggest what Ezekiel and John saw were not the same creatures, but different creatures altogether.  Again, it is hard to know.  It is hard to be dogmatic.

 

Ezekiel saw each creature as having six wings, while John saw four wings.  Once again, this might well be a matter of physical perspective, that is, where John was situated in relation to the creatures.  Maybe he could only see four wings, but again, we might have two different sets of creatures here.      

 

In verses 9 and 10 we see that every time the four creatures give praise to God the twenty four elders do the same.  John says that they worshiped Jesus by falling down before Him and laying down their crowns.  True worship is when we lay down all that is important to us, even that which Jesus gives us, including our crowns to worship Him.  Worship is much more than mere singing songs.  Worship is giving all of who you are and what you have to Jesus.       

 

Crowns in the Bible often suggest rewards given to the redeemed.  This should tell you that these elders are in fact redeemed men and not angels as some might suggest.   

 

The song of the elders acknowledges the fact that it was Jesus that created all things and that all things find their existence in Jesus.  Here we see the Creator Jesus – the Great Eternal Word of God that spoke all things into existence.  This is the Jesus that we serve.

This is the creator Jesus we see in John 1:1 - 6.  We must know that Jesus has always existed in what theologians have called the eternal godhead.  In fact it was Jesus, the Word of God that spoke creation into being in Genesis 1.  When people speak of the Creator today, they should realize that the Creator is Jesus. 

 

There is a move among North American natives who are coming to Jesus.  In parts of this movement there is confusion about the one they call the Creator.  Genesis 1 and 2 clearly tells us that there is a Creator.  I have no real problem calling God Creator, that is, as long as we understand the Creator to be the Lord Jesus Christ. That being said, if we have this understanding, I really don't know why natives want to use the impersonal word "Creator" when we have the name of the Creator, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ

 

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