Sunday, October 12, 2008

Revelation 4, John Gets Raptured

This marks the beginning of John’s incredible journey into the future, starting at the throne room of God.

v.1-2 "After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, 'Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.' Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne."

With the messages to the Church complete, John is taken in the Spirit into the presence of Almighty God Himself. Let's put ourselves into John's place and see if we can experience this rapture with him. Imagine for a moment that you are John.

You're on Patmos, no more than a few feet away from Jesus, listening to His every word. Then after some time (you don’t know how long) the voice of Jesus ceases, and you’re attention is drawn toward a parting of the sky, the call of God's voice, and the Holy Spirit’s seizure and instantaneous translation of your body from the realm of the physical into the supernatural.

Okay, that’s where we'll begin this chapter, with John standing before the throne of God. Before we move on, though, allow me to explain why I believe that this event is an anti-type of the yet-future advent of the rapture of the church.

(1) I'm convinced that the great tribulation concerns Israel, not the Church. We will read more about this in Chapter Six when we cover Israel's "Seventieth Week". (2) I accept our Lord’s instruction for John, that he “write the things which take place after this” (Rev.1:17), to mean those things that take place after the age of the church has been fulfilled. (3) I see John’s ascent into heaven following the letters to the Church intending to signify the rapture once the age of the Church is complete. (4) The Church is never seen on earth throughout all the grim events of the tribulation, and when represented, only as being in Heaven. (5) I accept the idea that Scripture teaches of a rapture (I Cor.15:51; I Thess.4:16-17).

Rapture can happen in our lifetime, dear ones. The next breath we inhale here on earth might very well be exhaled in heaven in the presence of Jesus. It's a wonderful thought.

"Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober" (I Thess.5:6)

v.3 "And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald."
John describes the beauty of God by comparing the brilliant light emanating from Him to the translucent colors of precious stones.

The rainbow (Heb. qesheth, "a bow") surrounding God’s throne is familiar to us as the token of the covenant God made with Noah when he exited the ark (see--Gen.9:13-16); proclaiming peace between God and man. It's probably included here by the Holy Spirit to convey the great mercy and love of God toward man in Jesus Christ.

v.4-5 "Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed with white robes and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightning's, thunderings, and voices. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God."

As he beholds the throne, it becomes clear to John how magnificent it is. Not only is it crowded with light and a wide spectrum of colors, but there are lightning flashes and thunderclaps, voices, and groups of spirit-beings.

Around the throne are twenty-four elders seated upon smaller thrones, each draped in a white robe and wearing a golden crown. Who are they? I tend to agree with some commentators that these are the twelve patriarchs from the twelve tribes of Israel plus the twelve Apostles (the full representation of both the whole Israel and the whole Church). They are clothed in the same white robes Jesus will give to all of us who enter heaven, each wearing the crowns Jesus has given them as a reward (check—2 Tim.4:8).

The "seven Spirits of God" is the Holy Spirit (see notes—Rev.1:4).

v.6 "Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back."

Having seen the One upon the throne, those seated around the throne, the thundering and lightning’s coming from the throne, and the Spirit before the throne, John describes what he observes at the base of the throne: a "sea of glass" as clear as crystal.

Rather than a vast translucent ocean of water, most commentators believe that this “sea of glass” alludes to the Tabernacle laver called the Sea. According to Scripture, the Sea (a great basin of water) was the temple furnishing where the priests of Israel ceremonially cleansed themselves whenever they were required to minister at the tabernacle (I Kings 7:23; Ex.30:18-21). This was, as it probably is here, an anti-type for the Lord Christ Jesus Himself, in whom we are made eternally clean, pure, and holy by the washing of His blood (Rev.1:5).

Finally, in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, John sees “four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back." The term, “creature” is an unfortunate translation because these aren’t beasts like those that the term creature denotes. These are highly alert angelic beings of the highest rank and order and would better be described as the "living ones".

v.7-8 "The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!' "

As other symbols revealed in Revelation, the uniquely distinct forms and features of these "living ones" isn't intended to be a literal resemblance, but characterizations of something far more significant. When I refer to my truck as a "work horse", for instance, you would understand that it describes the sturdiness and reliability of my vehicle, and not a literal horse. This is how we must consider the symbols. In this case, the four “faces” of these angelic beings are characterizations of Jesus Christ.
  1. The "lion" – this speaks of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed…" (Rev.5:5)
  2. The "calf" (a beast of burden) – this speaks of Him as the suffering Servant. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…" (Mark 10:45)
  3. The "man" – this speaks of Christ in His incarnation as the Son of Man, the God who became Man. "Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men" (Phil.2:6,7)
  4. The "flying eagle" (the greatest of all birds) – this speaks of Christ in His Deity as the Son of God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…" (John 1:1,14)

Okay, now let’s consider the uniqueness of their employment. They yield both life and breath inside a ministry of praise to Almighty God—non-stop, without rest, day and night. Listen to them:

"Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!" He is Lord, Jehovah, the God of Redemption; He is God, the Strong One with all power in Himself; He is the Almighty, Creator, the One Who is the source of life, strength, and nourishment.

Little wonder that one whose heart has beheld God could refrain from declaring,
"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord…" (Ps.150:6)
v.9-11 "Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne saying: 'You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power. For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.' "

This chapter closes with a breathtaking scene. With nothing in themselves worthy to offer Jesus for His Great Work, the elders remove their crowns and lay them at the feet of God. They offer only that which He has given them, their crowns.

Here's a thought, dear ones.

Whereas a crown of life was promised to the overcomers in Smyrna (2:10), an admonition to hold fast to their crowns was given to those in Philadelphia (3:11). In other words, crowns can be gained or lost; we can enter heaven with a crown or without a crown. Perhaps we should contemplate the moment we behold Jesus and consider whether we will possess a crown as an offering to Him, or simply stand in His presence empty-handed. With such a glorious opportunity to revere Him, it would be sad for us to miss it.

No comments: