Sermon for Sunday September 9th, 2012
Study on Revelation 4 by Bruce Ball
There are three views on the Rapture. That we will be taken up before the Tribulation period; that we will be taken up halfway through the Tribulation period; and that we will not be taken up until after the Tribulation period.
There seems to be some scriptures that can be made to fit any of these scenarios, but I feel there are more scriptures that compel us to believe we will be taken up before the Tribulation, or to a “pre-trib” belief.
This study pertains to the period of time after the church has been Raptured out of the earth, and John describes humanity without the church.
VERSE 1 –
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
In chapters 2 & 3, John was dealing with church history, or those who have received Jesus as their Savior. But in chapter 4, we find that the church is not mentioned again until chapter 19, at which time we see they are referred to as the Saints being in heaven.
So, when verse 1, above, says “after this” it means after the church age, or after the church has been called up and out of the earth. The “door standing open” depicts Jesus opening up heaven and telling John to come in so he can learn what to write in the book of Revelation.
Many believe that this is also a picture which shows how we will be called to meet Jesus in the Rapture. In short, anyone who opens the door of their heart when they hear Jesus knocking will have the door of heaven opened to them and Jesus will invite them into His house just as they invited Jesus into their hearts.
And what John will see next is the beginning of the Great Tribulation.
“At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.”
The Holy Spirit immediately came upon John and he immediately saw God sitting on His throne in heaven. In verse 3, John tries to describe the non-describable beauty of God.
The thought here is that during John’s time, believers were being persecuted regularly and to keep safe, they had to be on the run, constantly moving from one location to another. But here in heaven, John is seeing the Ruler of everything seated on a throne that does not have to be moved and will always be there. It is an encouragement to believers that we can believe in something that will not change but will forever be dependable.
John describes a rainbow that surrounds the throne and shines like an emerald. The rainbow shines, but not as a warning sign depicting danger of any kind; it shines as the perpetual light of grace and mercy and love, encouraging us to come even closer.
“Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.”
Who are the 24 elders? They are not angels, because they have been redeemed. We know this because they are dressed in white clothes and crowns. In REVELATION 19:8, we learn that the Bride of Christ (Christians) is dressed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.
Most likely the 24 elders represent the 12 patriarchs of the Old Testament and the 12 Apostle of the New Testament. On each of the gates into New Jerusalem are the names of the 12 patriarchs, and the 12 foundations are the names of the 12 Apostles. They would thus symbolize all of the O.T. and the N.T. believers.
They sit in God’s presence here in chapter 4, but later in Revelation, we will see them seeking John out, inviting him into their topic of conversation and asking him questions to provide enlightenment and information, and to spark spiritual discussion.
Notice the difference in duties between these elders and those who serve as elders in our churches today. The heavenly elders continually sit before God; they seek others out and include them into the realm of the Godly; and they discuss the Lord with them.
Too many times, earthly elders are bogged down with board meetings, running for a higher church office, or spending their time directing programs. None of these are bad, though, unless they replace our time of prayer and worship in God’s presence.
“From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God.”
Today, we have the weather channel on TV and radio to warn us when storms are approaching, but in years gone by they had to rely on the sound of thunder and the visible sign of lightning. John was and heard lightning and thunder coming from the throne of God. This signifies that a terrible storm is on its way!
I can just hear the people of John’s day crying out, “Something terrible is going to happen! Why doesn’t God do something?” And in response to them, I can imagine John saying, “God is doing something. He is getting ready to pour out a storm of justice upon the peoples of the earth.”
The 7 lamps of fire burning before the throne speaks of the 7-fold nature of God’s Spirit, listed in ISAIAH 11:2. They are a very true picture of the light of the Holy Spirit.
“Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.”
The sea of glass was not a literal sea because John said he saw something that “looked like” a sea of glass. That may depict a vast area of perfect calm, evenness, and peace. This would be representative of heaven itself.
There were 4 creatures that had eyes in front and in back of their heads. This illustrates not only that these creatures guard God, and worship Him with their very presence at all times, but also how God can see everywhere; in all four corners of the earth. Nothing we have ever said, done, or thought has escaped Gods’ attention.
“The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle.”
The four faces of these beasts (lion, ox, man and an eagle) correspond to the four Gospels.
In MATTHEW, Jesus is described as a majestic and omnipotent King, such as the lion is in the jungle. In MARK, Jesus is represented as an ox, or a servant to help others. In LUKE, Jesus is described as the Son of Man, and in JOHN, He is shown to be as an eagle, representing total sovereignty and superiority over all.
“Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."
To show you how different are the things of God than the things of man, we look at the creatures who are described as having 6 wings and think that is bizarre. But in heaven – in God’s territory – what seems odd to us now will make perfect sense when we are there and see it for ourselves.
The four creatures were always looking in every direction, and that includes the direction where God was. They saw something very worthy to look at, and that caused them to always be in the mode of worship. They say Holy, Holy, Holy, as they honored the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They rise, see Him again and bow once more in praise and awe, as they are overwhelmed by the beauty of His holiness. Full of vision and insight, they can’t take their eyes off the One who is holy.
“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and 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. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:' You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’ “
There is so much desire in heaven to worship our Lord that each time the creatures begin to worship Him, the 24 elders do the same. By taking off their crowns and laying them at the feet of God, they are showing that they might have some authority, but they surrender it all to the Lord. By taking their crowns off and laying them at the foot of God’s throne while they bow down to His authority over them and begin to worship Him, they signify that they are His humble servants and live to worship Him. Those are the same thoughts we need to feel even before we get to heaven.
As faithful servants, we will also have crowns when we get to heaven. Have you ever thought about what kinds of crowns will be available to us? The crown of righteousness will be given to those who long for, and are ready for, His return. They will be looking and waiting for His appearing. They will get ready and keep ready, for they will never know just when He will return, and the most important thing in their lives is for them to be ready for Him when He beckons. Each one of us should be in that number tonight.
The crown of life will be given to those who love Him, for it is only God’s love that “endures all things” according to 2 CORINTHIANS 13:12. Those who spend time with the Lord, seek Him, and maintain an intimate relationship with Him are going to have abundant life.
1 PETER 5:4 tells us that the crown of glory will be given to those who are in service to Him, the Pastors who care for their flocks, the teachers who teach His word, the missionaries and evangelists who reach out to include others in the His Kingdom.
The crown for soul winners will be given to all those who share the faith, who reach out to the lost, and plant the seeds of life in their spirits with the Word of God.
The crown for the martyrs will be given to those who lay down their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ, and to those who are willing to die for the Lord. It will also be given to those who will lay down their worldly lives and desires so they can live for Jesus. Paul tells us to run the race so that we may win the prize, in 1 CORINTHIANS 9-24.
A crown in Heaven will determine our “job” in Heaven, and where we will spend our time throughout eternity. What do you think your “job” will be?
LET US CLOSE IN PRAYER