Section: Chapter Three - The Seven Churches, Part 2
FOUR - HEAVEN
(1) After these things I
looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and (2) the first
voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me,
said, (3) "Come up here, and I will (4) show you what must take
place (5) after these things."
1. After these things I
looked = introduces a new unit in Johns vision sequence. After
these things is clearly a textual marker. However, care should
be exercised when stating what is actually indicated by this marker.
The exact same phrase is used in Revelation 7:9; 15:5 and 18:1. Whatever
else the marker indicates, it does not indicate a temporal shift.
This does not mean that a significant amount of time has transpired
between the units of material. Rather, the marker indicates that John
received the vision in units of material. Revelation 1:1-3:22 is the
first unit. Revelation 4:1-7:8 is the second unit. Revelation 7:9-15:4
is the third unit. Revelation 15:5-17:18 is the fourth unit. The last
unit of material John saw is contained in Revelation 18:1-22.
2. The first voice which
I had heard = connects us back to chapter one. The first voice John
heard was that of "one like a son of man." This is none
other than the Lord Jesus, Himself. As He has detailed His role as
Judge of the church, He indicates to John the next sequence of events
to follow. He is judge of the world.
3. Come up here = indicates
that John must leave earth and enter heaven. On three separate occasions,
John will be invited to a place to see a revelatory vision (4:1; 17:1;
21:9). The fact that John is called up into the heaven should not
be pressed at this point. While this unit begins in heaven, it ends
Unfortunately, some pretribulationists
have tortured this verse to support their notion of the timing of
the Lords removal of the elect from earth to heaven. However,
this view is usually argued by laymen who merely repeat what they
have heard others say. There is no exegetical or scriptural basis
for this claim.
4. Show you = this particular
verb is used eight times in the book of Revelation (1:1; 4:1; 17:1;
21:9, 10; 22:1, 6, 8). In six of the eight cases, an angel interprets
the events seen by John (17:1; 21:9, 10; 22:1, 6, 8). In this particular
vision, however no interpretation is necessary. John clearly sees
the events and understands their significance (5:1, 2, 6, 11; 6:1,
5. After these things =
"after what things?" is an important question. Pretribulationists
like Robert L. Thomas attempt a divorcement between the "church
age" and the events that constitute Revelation 4-19. Thomas states,
"The prophecies [of Revelation 4-19] will describe what will
happen after the period of the church has run its course (Thomas,
Revelation 1-7, 337)." Thomas exegesis is clearly
There is no textual basis
to claim that the "church age" has ended at Revelation 3:22.
The are no explicit passages of Scripture that make such a claim.
The argument that Revelation 4-19 does not involve the church is one
of silence. It goes like this: the absence of any reference to the
church between Revelation 4:1 and 18:24 means it is not involved in
the events that constitute this section. Therefore, the church must
be raptured to heaven.
This is called an argument
from silence. It is not an argument at all. This type of logic can
cut both ways. The term church is also absent from Revelation
20-21, which deals with the millennium and eternity future. The term
church is never used to designate an entity in heaven. It is
as if the church disappears from history after Revelation 3. However,
this is clearly not the case.
A fundamental point of
apocalyptic literature is to use nothing that would allow the unwanted
to discern the meaning of the essential message. Leon Morris writes,
There appears to have
been times when it would have been politically unwise for them to
have done so. They evidently trusted that their friends would be
able to discern their essential meaning, and that their enemies
would not be able to do so. (Morris, Apocalyptic, 38)
It would have been very
unwise for John to so identify the church with the future destruction
of the kingdoms of the world that the world could easily discern it
from his apocalypse. The Revelation was written to comfort Gods
people, not provide ammunition for their destruction. We have seen
what the enemies of God will do with a little information detrimental
to their future (Matt 2:1-12, 16-23).
The fact that the term
church does not appear in Revelation 4-19 does not mean that
the entity itself is not represented in these critical chapters. All
would agree that the reference to wife in Revelation 19:7 designates
the church. Revelation 20:4 records, "Then I saw thrones, and
they sat on them." This group must contain at least a portion
of the church given the Lords promise in Revelation 2:26b-27
and 3:21 that overcomers will reign with Him during His physical temporal
kingdom on earth (Matt 19:27-30).
There are at least nine
different references to the church in Revelation 4-19:
1. Every tribe and tongue
and people and nation, 5:9c
2. A kingdom and priest, 5:10
3. Fifth seal martyrs, 6:9
4. A multitude, 7:9; 19:5-6
5. Bond-servants, 11:18; 19:2, 5
6. Our brethren, 12:10
7. The rest of her children, 12:17
8. Saints, 13:7, 10; 14:12; 18:20, 24
9. Wife, 19:7
Each of these designations
will be defended as we confront them in context. Please see relevant
chapter and verse.
Immediately I was (1) in
the Spirit; and behold, (2) a throne was standing in heaven, and (3)
One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper
stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the
throne, like an emerald in appearance.
1. In the Spirit = the
capitalization of spirit by the translators suggests that John
is in the Holy Spirit, which is certainly true. However, this is not
what John is attempting to communicate here. All believers have opportunity
to be in the Spirit, but that does not mean such a one will receive
revelation from God. This phrase "is an idiom indicating that
Johns revelatory experiences took place not "in the body"
but rather "in the spirit," i.e., in a vision trance
Revelation 1-5, 283).
2. A throne was standing
in heaven = the Greek literally says "and behold a throne was
set in the heaven." The difficulty arises with the timing of
the verb ekeito. This verb is used 25 times in the New Testament.
In the predominate number of cases, it refers to the recent past,
as in John 2:6. However, it can refer to the indefinite or distant
past, as in 1 Thess 3:3. John uses the term nine times. Seven occurrences
refer to the recent past (John 2:6; 19:29; 20:5, 6, 7, 12; 21:9).
One reference can refer to recent past or distant past depending on
ones interpretation (Rev 21:16).
There is only one occasion
in Scripture that records God the Father taking a seat (Daniel 7:9).
Daniel describes the Ancient of Days in the context of the final period
of human history, as we know it, taking a seat prior to the judgment
of the little horn. Daniels thrones are thrones of judgment
(Dan 7:9-10). Revelation 4 records the Lambs reception of the
contract of judgment, which is indicated in the large scroll. Therefore,
the scene John is shown occurred in the recent past. For it is only
after the Lamb has been slain that He is worthy to open the seals.
Chapter 4 has been described
by some as the throne-room scene. This is fitting. What follows in
Revelation 4 is clearly focused on a throne. First, John focuses on
the One seated on the throne. Second, he focuses on what is around
the throne. Third, he indicates what flows out from the throne. Fourth,
he points out whats before the throne.
3. One sitting on the throne
= God the Father.
Around the throne were twenty-four
thrones; and upon the thrones I saw (1) twenty-four elders sitting,
clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.
1. Twenty-four elders sitting
= around the throne. They form a complete circle. Twenty-four thrones
encircle the throne of God. They face Gods throne.
The identity of these individuals
is tortured. Few pay attention to the textual details, but focus on
wide speculations that feed the fires of non-literal interpretations
of the Revelation. What does the Revelation say about these beings?
Taken in order of fact:
a. They form the first
circle around the throne of God, 4:4a
b. They are called elders, 4:4b
c. They are twenty-four seated on twenty-four thrones, 4:4c
d. They wear white garments and gold crowns, 4:4d
e. They fall down and worship God, 4:10
f. They sing hymns to God, 4:11
g. They make comments to John, 5:5
h. They have harps and censers full of incense that are said to
represent the prayers of the saints, 5:8
i. They explain things to John, 7:14-17
The Jews would have readily
understood the entity elders. Both the meaning and significance
of the term would have been plain to Johns Jewish audience.
However, John does not use the Greek article with this noun, which
indicates that the readers were not familiar with this particular
group of beings.
That the elders
are angelic beings would not be questioned if it were not for a poor
translation of Revelation 5:9-10 in the King James Version of the
King James translation
of Revelation 5:9-10:
And they sung a new song,
saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals
thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God
by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we
shall reign on the earth (Italics added).
New American Standard translation:
And they sang a new song,
saying, "Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its
seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy
blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
"And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests
to our God; and they will reign upon the earth" (Italics
The difference is easily
KJV = "us, us and
we" vs. NASB = "men, them, and they"
The central issue concerns
the Greek manuscripts used as the basis for our English translation.
In terms of the sheer number of manuscripts, a reading with us
is favored in verse 9. This would support the King James translation.
However, following this same reasoning results in a contradiction
with the last part of verse 10. The verb "they shall reign"
is clearly third person plural. In other words, "they shall reign"
and not "we shall reign," which is a first person plural
Now a good English student
knows that subjective and objective pronouns must agree in number,
i.e., singular with singular and plural with plural. Since we believe
that John did not make mistakes when recording his prophecy and that
Scripture does not contain contradictions, we support a harmony of
There is very little debate
that verse 10 should read "they," and not "we."
A guiding principle of biblical interpretation is to interpret the
difficult in light of the clear. Reasoning back to the first part
of verse 10, we conclude that the phrase "You have made us"
should read "You have made them." This would necessitate
that verse 9 should read "You have redeemed them."
This is the only reading
of verses 9-10 that removes any possible contradiction, which is reflected
in the New American Standard translation. This interpretation also
answers the question concerning the identity of the elders. At least
we are able to say that they are heavenly beings and in no way can
be identified with the "church."
(1) Out from the throne come
flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder.
1. Out from the throne
comes = John indicates that these storm indicators are a continual
phenomenon. It is fitting that sights and sounds, which frighten all
on-lookers, continually represent an invisible God.
And there were seven lamps
of fire burning (1) before the throne, which are the (2) seven Spirits
of God; and before the throne there was something (3) like a sea of
glass, like crystal; and (4) in the center and around the throne, (5)
four living creatures (a) full of eyes in front and behind. (b) The
first creature was like a lion, and the (c) second creature like a calf,
and (d) the third creature had a face like that of a man, and (e) the
fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures,
(f) each one of them having six wings, are full of (g) eyes around and
1. Before the throne =
Johns description moves now to the scene before the throne of
2. Seven Spirits of God
= See comments at Revelation 1:4d.
3. Like a sea of glass,
like crystal = the floor of Gods throne-room.
4. In the center and around
the throne = describes the location of the four living creatures.
The phrase "in the center" is problematic. It is hard to
understand how these creatures could be in the center of the throne.
It is better to understand them as stationed in the four directions
of the compass: east, north, south and west.
5. Four living creatures
= Cherubim. These heavenly beings are described in similar language
in Isaiah 6:2. Ezekiel 10:20 explicitly identifies "living creatures"
a. Full of eyes = the
ability to see in all directions is necessary when one is charged
with the responsibility to protect the holiness of God.
b. Like a lion = forthcoming
c. Like a calf = forthcoming
d. Like a man = forthcoming
e. Like a flying eagle = forthcoming
f. Six wings = forthcoming
g. Eyes around and inside = forthcoming
And day and night (1) they
do not cease to say, " Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, (2) the
Almighty, (3) who was and who is and who is to come."
1. They do not cease to
say = Not only are the Cherubim everywhere watching, but they are
always praising God. This is a fabulous job. Natural human response:
it must get tiresome after a while. Angelic response: its never
tiresome when God is the object of praise. Wait until you see Him.
2. The Almighty = panto
(all) krator (powerful) = is the first self-designation God
used for Himself in the Bible. Genesis 17:1 records, "Now when
Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said
to him, 'I am God Almighty
Scholars are not sure of
the basic meaning of the Hebrew term. It could refer to the breast
or to a mountain. Regardless, the incomparability of God in
power and might is foremost. The Cherubim constantly remind all who
would approach Who it is they draw near unto.
3. See Revelation 1:4.
And (1) when the living creatures
give glory and honor and thanks (2) to Him who sits on the throne, to
Him who lives forever and ever,
1. When the living creatures
give glory and honor and thanks = the word when indicates that
this is not a repeated action. This action will happen once. As John
sees the vision, it has not occurred yet. Revelation 5:13-14 records
the fulfillment of this event. It occurs in the context of the Lamb
breaking the seals, which temporally relates to the Seventieth Week
of Daniel. This event will mark the beginning of the final sequence
of events associated with Revelation 6-19.
2. To = this preposition
has two objects. Both refer to God the Father. The repeated reference
to Gods eternality serves to remind the reader that Gods
judgments are just. He has watched over all human history and consequently
knows all the details related to the case.
(1) The twenty-four elders
(2) will (a) fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and (b) will
worship Him who lives forever and ever, and (c) will cast their crowns
before the throne, saying, "worthy are You, our Lord and our God,
to receive glory and honor and power; for (3) You created all things,
and because of Your will they existed, and were created."
1. The twenty-four elders
= this will be the response of the twenty-four elders to the praise,
honor and glory of the living creatures.
2. Will = indicates a future
a. Fall down before Him
= this is the first of a two-part action.
b. Worship Him = this is the second of a two-part action. In ancient
worship, one both bowed and offered verbal praise.
c. Cast their crowns before the throne = some in misidentifying
the twenty-four elders have suggested that believers will cast their
crowns before the throne of God. However, this is poorly defended
3. You created all things
= of all the possible comments available to the twenty-four elders,
they focus on the fact that God alone is creator of all that is. This
statement can be dismissed, but it cannot be discredited. Creation
is a work of God, the Father and not an accident or the result of
It is clear that chapter
4 is dedicated to the exalted God who sits on the throne. This is
none other than God, the Father. Chapter 5 will focus on the Lamb,
who is none other than God, the Son.
Section: Chapter Five - The Large Scroll