INTRODUCTION - REVELATION 4:1-11

INTRODUCTION - REVELATION 4:1-11

   This is the second volume in a four-volume set of study guides on the book of Revelation. Could one book of the Bible be covered in one study guide? Of course-but when the book is filled with as much drama and detail as Revelation, it takes four volumes to do it justice.

   The book of Revelation has 22 chapters, and this series of study guides has 43 lessons-an average of almost 2 lessons per chapter of the book. If you are beginning your study with this volume, you would do well to secure volume 1 in the series in order to get the proper background from Revelation 1-3.

   That said-what does volume 2 of Escape the Coming Night cover? In one sense, the same message as volumes 1, 3, and 4: how to escape the dark night of sin and judgment that is soon to overtake planet earth. Soon has been a relative term for nearly 2,000 years. Revelation was probably written in the last decade of the first century -around 95-100 A.D. That means the Church has been anticipating the unfolding of the events of Revelation for over 1,900 years.

   As with all things related to End-Times prophecy from Scripture, their unfolding is imminent. That means they could begin at any moment; there is no aspect of biblical End-Times prophecy standing in the way of the next major event on God's prophetic calendar: the Rapture of the Church. Before 1948, that statement could not

Have been made with equal certainty. While many of the events of the book of Revelation will affect the entire world, the focal point of the book is the nation of Israel and Jerusalem in particular. And prior to 1948, Israel was still in the diaspora-the scattering of Jews to the nations of the world following the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities and the destruction of Jerusalem by Roman armies in A.D. 70. How could events affecting the Jews in Israel take place if the Jews were not in Israel? But in 1948, with the reestablishment

of Israel as a homeland for the Jews, the stage was set for the imminent unfolding of the events of the book of Revelation.

   And those events begin with the gathering of the Church of Jesus Christ to her Lord at the Rapture-the physical removal of hundreds of millions of people from the face of the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18). One of the last Scriptures studied at the conclusion of volume 1 in this series was the promise made by Jesus Christ to

The Laodicea church-emblematic of the current stage of Church history: "I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth" (Revelation 3:10). It is that "hour of trial" to which we are introduced in volume 2 of Escape the Coming Night.

   The "hour of trial" is a seven-year period known as the Tribulation, or "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). It is a time when Israel is judged for her rejection of her Messiah and when the world is judged for her rebellion against God and His Son. The Church's present posture is to "wait for [God's] Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10). This volume Covers Revelation 4:1-11:14: the beginning of destruction upon the earth, how many are saved and many are martyred during the Tribulation, how God's wrath produces hell on earth, and the appearance of the Beast (the Antichrist, the Man of Sin)-the Satan-empowered world ruler who will ultimately meet Jesus Christ in history's greatest battle, and lose.

A LOOK INTO HEAVEN

Revelation 4:1-11

In this lesson we get our first glimpse of what heaven will be like for the Church.

OUTLINE

It's amazing how many" experts" there are on heaven who have never read one of the most detailed accounts of what it will be like. When a door is opened into an unknown realm, the wise will take notice and learn. Such a door is opened into heaven for all who have eyes to see.

I. The Rapture of the Church

A. The Sequence of Events in the Book of Revelation

B. The Silence Concerning the Church in Chapters 4-19

C. The Spirit of God's Transfer from Earth to Heaven

D. The Similarity Between 4:1-2, 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Thessalonians 4

E. The Symbolic Presence of John in Heaven

II. An Open Door in Heaven

A. Seated Upon the Throne Is the Triune God

B. Surrounding the Throne Is a Rainbow

C. Sitting Around the Throne Are the Twenty-Four Elders

D. Sounding Forth from the Throne Are Lightning’s and Thunders and Voices

E. Spread Before the Throne Is a Sea of Glass

F. Situated in the Midst of the Throne Are the Four Living Creatures

G. Singing to the One on the Throne Are the Creatures and the Elders

A LOOK INTO HEAVEN

Revelation 4:1-11

In this lesson we get our first glimpse of what heaven will be like for the Church.

OUTLINE

It's amazing how many" experts" there are on heaven who have never read one of the most detailed accounts of what it will be like. When a door is opened into an unknown realm, the wise will take notice and learn. Such a door is opened into heaven for all who have eyes to see.

I. The Rapture of the Church

A. The Sequence of Events in the Book of Revelation

B. The Silence Concerning the Church in Chapters 4-19

C. The Spirit of God's Transfer from Earth to Heaven

D. The Similarity between 4:1-2, 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Thessalonians 4

E. The Symbolic Presence of John in Heaven

II. An Open Door in Heaven

A. Seated Upon the Throne Is the Triune God

B. Surrounding the Throne Is a Rainbow

C. Sitting around the Throne Are the Twenty-Four Elders

D. Sounding Forth from the Throne Are Lightning’s and Thunders and Voices

E. Spread Before the Throne Is a Sea of Glass

F. Situated in the Midst of the Throne Are the Four Living Creatures

G. Singing to the One on the Throne Are the Creatures and the Elders

 

OVERVIEW

   I began my first Christian vocational ministry as a youth pastor. My first assignment was to teach the 200 members of the youth group a series on Bible prophecy. I daresay what was true decades ago is still true today:

Prophecy is not on the list of the top five things teenagers are most interested in. So I did everything I could think of to make that series of messages appealing to our group.

   In one of our Sunday evening youth services I had a group of guys dress up like newspaper boys and break into the service with bags of papers shouting, "EXTRA!EXTRA!READALLABOUT IT!MILLIONS MISSING AROUND THE WORLD!" Someone at that time had published a fictitious newspaper called The Last News with headlines and articles about the Rapture of the Church-and copies of that paper were handed out by the newsboys. Of course, if you happen to still be in church the day those papers are passed out for real ... you're in

trouble! But that night at our youth meeting, it served to paint quite a dramatic picture of what will actually take place one day in the future.

   In the first volume of this series of study guides on Revelation, we examined the content of Revelation 1 3.Those chapters present a picture of the "Revelator," Jesus Christ and the Church over the last 2,000

years here on earth. We now turn our attention to the third major part of the outline of Revelation, "the things which will take place after this" (Revelation 1:19), beginning in chapter 4. The scene shifts from earth to

heaven as a result of something called the Rapture of the Church.

 

THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH

   Although the Rapture is not specifically mentioned in the book of Revelation, it is dearly alluded to in the transition from chapter 3 to chapter 4. It is the only explanation for how and why the venue of Revelation moves from earth to heaven. Several facts help us establish the truth of our assumption.

The Sequence of Events in the Book of Revelation

   By the time we reach Revelation 4:1, we have completed the first two segments of the book as outlined in Revelation 1:19:"The things which you have seen" (the view of the glorified Christ; 1:1-18) and "the things which are" (the condition of the seven churches;1:19-3:22).The second section, "the things which are," extends from the time of the Resurrection of Christ to the return of Christ for His Church. Sequentially, it is only reasonable to assume that “the things which take place after this” will occur after the age of the Church on earth.

   A key phrase links the third part of the outline in 1:19 with the beginning of 4:1. The phrase meta tauta, after these things,” occurs in both verses. Revelation 4:1 uses grammatical link to connect with the third part of the outline in 1:19. And John clearly says that heaven becomes the focal point: After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven” - 4:1. After the age of the Church on earth, attention is shifted to heaven.

The Silence Concerning the Church in Chapters 4-19

   Revelation 4-19 talks about one thing in its entirety-tribulation on earth. Everything is about judgment that is going to come upon the earth. And here is the most amazing thing about those chapters:

Not once is the Church mentioned. If it were on earth during a time of judgment like the coming Great Tribulation it would be mentioned. And if it is not on earth, there is only one place it can be--heaven.

   A phrase John uses seven times in chapters 2 and 3 is, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (3:6). But when that phrase is used in 13:9, it has changed: "If anyone has an ear, let him hear."

The Spirit is no longer speaking to the Church on earth-rather there is an invitation to "anyone" to grasp the message being given. Another important clue is how God is referred to in chapters 4-19.

The name by which Christians refer to God is "Father," (Matthew 6:9). But in Revelation 4-19, God is never called "Father." He is referred to as God, Lord, Almighty and other non-personal names by which He was known in the Old Testament. Why? Because His children are no longer addressing Him from earth; they are with Him in heaven.

The Spirit of God's Transfer from Earth to Heaven

   In Revelation 2-3, the Holy Spirit was in the midst of the churches on earth. But in Revelation 4:5 we find that the Holy Spirit is now in heaven before the throne of God. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 that someone who is now restraining "the lawless one" will be "taken out of the way." The lawless one is obviously the man of sin, or Antichrist; who will have free reign during the Tribulation period. The Restrainer is the Holy Spirit who works through the Church (salt and light) on earth.   But when the Holy Spirit; and wells, is taken out of the way, the Revelation 4-19 describes a time when, literally, all hell will break loose upon earth. That can only

happen because the Holy Spirit and the Church have been removed.

 

The Similarity between 4:1-2, 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Thessalonians 4

   The Rapture is described in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15.

There are three parallels between those passages and Revelation 4:1-2:

1. A Voice: Revelation 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:16

There is the voice of the Lord.

2. A Trumpet Revelation 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:52

There is the sounding of the trumpet of God.

3. A Change: Revelation 4:2; 1 Corinthians 15:52-53

There is a change from physical to spiritual.

 

The Symbolic Presence of John in Heaven

   When John is called to heaven by the Lord ("Come up here," 4:1), that is symbolic of the Church being called to heaven. Just as Jesus loves the whole world but loves the Church in particular, so He loved all the disciples but had a special love for John the apostle ("the disciple whom Jesus loved," John 21:20). When Jesus told Peter, "If I will that [John] remain till I come, what is that to you?" (John 21:22), He was in a sense saying that He was going to give John a view of His Second Coming. John's vision-based presence in heaven is symbolic of the Church's ultimate presence in heaven before the Tribulation.

 

AN OPEN DOOR IN HEAVEN

   Several things need to be noted before we discover what the Church will encounter in heaven. First; there is an open door (4:1). God wants us to know what is happening in heaven while there is tribulation on earth. Next, through the open door we see worship. That will be the primary activity in heaven. Finally, the key word,

or the central element; in chapter 4 is throne. It occurs twelve times in chapter 4 and is the element around which everything else in heaven revolves.

Seated Upon the Throne Is the Triune God               

The One John saw seated on the throne in verses 2-3 could only be described by comparison to earth's most beautiful objects, like precious stones such as jasper and Sardis. These were the first and last stones on the high priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:17-20) and picture the One who is Himself the first and last. Revelation 3:21 has Jesus promising the overcomers the right to sit with Him on the throne; and we know the Spirit is standing before the throne. So the whole Godhead-Father, Son, and Spirit-is found on the throne in heaven.

Surrounding the Throne Is a Rainbow

   An emerald green rainbow surrounded the throne John saw. The rainbow hearkens back to God's promise of mercy in Genesis 9:13-16never to destroy all living things again. While great judgment takes place on the earth during the Tribulation, the Church is safe in heaven, reminded of God's promise of mercy by the emerald-like

rainbow circling the throne.

Sitting around the Throne Are the Twenty-Four Elders

We can tell who the 24 elders are by cross-referencing other portions of Scripture.

1. By the Praise on Their Lips (Revelation 5:8-9)

In the song they sing, the elders refer to having been redeemed by "the Lamb." That can mean only one thing-the elders are the Church.

2. By the Clothes on Their Bodies (Revelation 19:7-8)

The elders are "clothed in white robes" (4:4), and 19:7-8 tells us it is the bride of the Lamb that is clothed in white robes of righteousness. The Church is the bride of the Lamb.

3. By the Crowns upon Their Heads (Revelation 4:4)

Of the two kinds of crowns mentioned in the Bible, the crowns the elders Wore are those which are a victor's crown (stephanos), not the crown of a king. The crowns worn by the elders represent the rewards given to the Church at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Again, the elders represent the Church.

 

Sounding Forth from the Throne Are Lightning’s and Thunders and Voices

   At Mount Sinai, when the Law was given, there was thunder and lightning and voices. But today, we do not approach a throne of thunder, lightning, and voices-we approach a throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). But once the Church is removed from the earth, the throne of God once again becomes the source of judgment (verse 5).

The day of grace is over, the Church is removed, and judgment again comes from God's throne upon the earth. Numerous times in Revelation 4-19 the manifestation of that judgment is seen (Revelation 8:5; 10:3; 11:19; 16:18).

Spread Before the Throne Is a Sea of Glass

I have not been able to identify precisely what the sea of glass before the throne represents (verse 6), but it is often associated with the throne of God in Scripture. Exodus 24:10 refers to a paved surface of sapphire under the throne of God, and Revelation 21:21 refers to the streets of the heavenly city being paved with pure

gold like transparent glass. The sea of glass before the throne appears to be a separator between God and all others-something to keep Him set apart.

Situated in the Midst of the Throne Are Four Living Creatures

   In and around the throne are four living creatures (verses 6-8) that are, I believe, the same ones Ezekiel saw

in his vision of heaven (Ezekiel 1:1,4;10:14-17)-cherubim (angels) of heaven, standing guard in the midst

of the throne (Genesis 3:24). Their role, as explained in Revelation, chapter 6, is to execute God's judgment upon the earth.

Singing to the One on the Throne Are the Creatures and the Elders

   Not only do the four living creatures lead in delivering judgment to earth, they also lead in worship (verses 9-11).And whenever the creatures give glory to God, the elders join in by falling down before the throne to worship God. The focus of the praise around the throne is the "creatorship" of the Son of God. The Father is just

about to send judgment upon the earth which, by the end of seven years, will leave the earth destroyed. But the problem is not the earth, it is with sin on the earth. So praise is offered to the One who "created all things" perfectly by His own will.

   In the midst of the thunder and lightning and voices, the angels suddenly burst forth with "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty" and all manner of praise to God. And the elders fall down and cast their crowns before the throne. The rewards we get for serving the Lord are going to get cast right back at the foot of His throne in heaven. Our crowns, our rewards, are all we have in heaven to offer Him, and so we will remove them and cast them before His throne. Because the angels were not redeemed from sin, they cannot worship with the Church by saying, "You are worthy, 0 Lord." The Church is going to have an intimacy of worship in heaven that

only the redeemed can understand.

   The best time to prepare for "second-person worship" ("You are worthy, 0 Lord") in heaven is to begin practicing it now. Find time today to say, "You are worthy, 0 Lord!"

 

INTRODUCTION - REVELATION 4:1-11