Revelation chapter four is the beginning of the last section of Revelation. As I have already mentioned, Revelation is divided into three major sections: Revelation 1:19 “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter”. In other words, John wrote about the past (covered in chapter one), the present (covered in chapters 2 and 3), and finally the future which we are about the cover. Revelation chapter four is a transitional chapter in that the church is seen raptured into heaven and will not reappear on earth until the battle of Armageddon.
Concerning the rapture, there are many who, in an attempt to be as inclusive with the gospel as possible, assume that many are Christians when they are not. Although the apostle Paul spoke of ‘carnal’ Christians (and there is such a creature), many self-professing ‘Christians’ are not carnal, but natural, unregenerated sinners who are yet in their sin and if they died right now they would open their eyes as the rich man in hell. Consider the following:
(Statistical data is from CIA World Factbook, Census.gov, State Dept., and Adherents.com.)
Total World Population as of September 27, 2009= 6,786,759,644
US Population= 307,555,184
‘Non-Christian’ Religions of the World Population:
Muslim – 1.5 Billion
Secular/Non-religious/Agnostic/Atheist – 1.1 Billion
Hinduism – 900 Million
Chinese traditional religion – 394 million
Buddhism – 376 million
Primal-indigenous – 300 million
African Traditional & Diasporic – 100 million
Sikhism – 23 million
Juche – 19 million
Spiritism – 15 million
Judaism – 14 million
Baha’i – 7 million
Jainism – 4.2 million
Shinto – 4 million
Cao Dai – 4 million
Zoroastrianism – 2.6 million
Tenrikyo – 2 million
Neo-Paganism – 1 million
Unitarian-Universalism – 800 thousand
Rastafarianism – 600 thousand
Scientology – 500 thousand
TOTAL ‘Non-Christian’ Religions 4,767,700,000
‘Christian’ sects, denominations, etc.
Catholic – 1.13 billion
Eastern Orthodox – 225 million
Protestestants – 800 million
Pentecostals – 250 million
Baptists – 110 million
Anglicans – 77 million
Methodists – 70 million
TOTAL ‘Christian’ Religious adherents: 2.1 Billion
Other ‘Christian’ groups/cults/sects:
Mormon – 13 million
Jehovah’s Witnesses – 7.1 million
Quakers – 360 thousand
Monophysitism – 80 thousand
TOTAL OTHER: app. 20.5 million
By the time you take the world population and subtract those from the first group who chase after other gods instead of Jesus Christ (the Way, the Truth, and the Life) you are left with just over 2 billion people of the world population. When you consider that, of that number, Catholics (1.13 billion), Eastern Orthodox (225 million), and the “Other” category (20.5 million) total 1.26 billion and have belief systems that are predicated upon works for salvation. That only leaves 993 million or less than 15% of the world population that call themselves Christian and are members of denominations that at least state they believe salvation is by grace through faith. Of that 993 million, there are many who cannot even give you a scriptural definition of salvation and many who are members of their churches due to reasons other than salvation.
When you consider this, you realize that the true child of God is not in a majority and the enormity of the little phrase from Christ, “…narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Luke 10:2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. 3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. We need to have an urgency because we know His return is soon.
We now take you by way of the rapture into heaven itself to witness the crisis of a seven-sealed book.
Revelation 4:1 – The initiation. John now becomes the second of two recorded human beings who are allowed a glimpse of that dazzling kingdom in the sky called heaven. (4:1) “After these things” (meta tauta) is used twice here; it both opens and closes the verse. This repetition lends great importance to the phrase.
“And the first voice which I heard, a voice as of a trumpet speaking with me.” This is the sound which calls the church to meet Christ in the air. And whose voice is it? It is the voice of Christ. The voice of Christ is like a trumpet, and this is the voice that Paul wrote of in 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
- “At once (straightway)” denotes the brevity of time, which is one of the characteristics of the Rapture. Paul said that we are to be caught up “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (see 1 Cor. 15:51–52). A blink is a controlled movement of the eye and so it’s length of time is indeterminate, but the quickest blink lasts for a half second. A blink is a reflex action of the eye and lasts somewhere between 300 and 400 milliseconds. A twink is a reflected particle of light seen in the eye and thusly travels at the speed of light (983,571,056 feet per second) This equates to an infinitesimally small fraction of a second, or 1/6,000,000,000th of a second to make a person’s eyeball twinkle.
He sees the glory of the Father upon the throne. Revelation is a throne book, the word being used forty-five times, as compared with only fifteen other occurrences of the word in the entire New Testament.
Standing in awe of the the majesty of God, John could distinguish no form or give no description of the awesome One upon this throne, except to say, “He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone”. Here the jasper, a white stone, and the sardine, a fiery red stone, may refer to God’s two basic characteristics, his glory and his grace. These were also the first and last stones among the twelve that the Old Testament high priest bore upon his breastplate. These stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel, arranged according to the births of the twelve sons of Jacob. Reuben was the first tribe, which name meant “Behold a son,” and Benjamin was the last, meaning, “Son of my right hand.” This may be God’s way of reminding all creatures throughout all eternity of:
a. The incarnation of Christ (his humanity) via the jasper stone, Reuben (“Behold a son”). (Red for the sacrifice)
b. The exaltation of Christ (his deity) via the sardine stone, Benjamin (“Son of my right hand”). (White/clear for holiness and power)
2. He sees a beautiful green rainbow around the throne. The rainbow in Genesis meant no more judgment by flood. Here it is a sign of mercy and fulfillment of Habakkuk 3:2 O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.
3. J.Vernon McGee wrote: There has been a great deal of speculation as to who these elders are. The Greek word for “elders” is presbuteros. By the way, the word presbyterian comes from that, and I am reminded of the story about the little girl who came home from her Presbyterian Sunday school, and her mother asked her what they had talked about. “We talked about heaven,” the little girl replied. “Well, what did they say about it?” her mother asked. “The teacher said that there were only twenty-four Presbyterians there!”
Seriously, elders were representatives. We know that Israel had elders and that elders were appointed in the early churches to rule and to represent the entire church (see Titus 1:5). Their role was clearly understood by the people in John’s day. These twenty-four elders stand for the total church from Pentecost to the Rapture. Therefore, I can say with great certainty that here is the church in heaven. ( Luke 22:30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.) We see the church again in the next chapter.
“White raiment” is the righteousness of Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:21).
“Crowns of gold” indicates that the church will rule with Christ (see 1 Cor. 6:3). Crowns are also given as rewards (see 2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4) when the bema judgment, the judgment seat of Christ, takes place. Daniel saw these thrones being set up, but they were empty in his day. John sees them occupied now.
4. He hears lightnings and thunderings, which means that the awful storm of the great tribulation is about to unleash its fury. In the Old Testament at Mt. Sinai God thundered when he gave men his law. Now he does the same when he prepares to judge men for breaking that law.
5. He sees “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God”. Several suggestions have been offered to explain this verse:
a. It refers to the earthly ministry of Christ.
b. It refers to the sevenfold ministry of the Holy Spirit (restraining, convicting, regenerating, sealing, baptizing, indwelling, filling).
6. He sees a crystal sea of glass.
Dr. Donald Barnhouse has written concerning this sea:
“Before the throne there was a glassy sea, like crystal. The concordance immediately takes us to the temple built by Solomon after the model of the tabernacle. ‘And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from one brim to the other; it was round all about, and its height was five cubits’. This great basin, fifteen feet in diameter, was supported on the backs of twelve oxen of brass, faring outward. Here the priests came for their cleansing. Each time before they entered the holy place they stopped for the cleansing ceremony. But thank God the laver will be turned to crystal. The day will come when none of the saints will ever need confession!
One of the greatest joys in the anticipation of Heaven is that the laver is of crystal. I shall never have to go to the Heavenly Father again to tell Him I have sinned. I shall never have to meet that gaze of Christ that caused Peter to go out and weep bitterly. The laver is of crystal only because I and all the saints of the ages will have been made like unto the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Revelation, an Expository Commentary, p. 94)
7. He sees and hears the testimony of four special angelic creatures. The Greek for “wild beast” is therion. But here the word used is zoa (root word for zoology), meaning “living creatures.”
a. Who are these four living creatures? J. Vernon McGee writes:
“These creatures, of the highest intelligence, are in God’s presence. They resemble the Cherubim of Ezekiel 1:5-10; and the seraphim of Isaiah 6:2. Are they a new order of creatures in heaven that have not been revealed before in Scripture?” (Reveling Through Revelation, p. 43)
b. What is their purpose? Perhaps to remind all creatures throughout all eternity of the blessed earthly and heavenly ministry of Christ. This is suggested by their appearance:
(1) The first was like a lion. He communicates the office of Christ as King—as seen in the Gospel of Matthew.
(2) The second was like a calf. He communicates the office of Christ as a servant—as seen in the Gospel of Mark.
(3) The third was like a man. He communicates the humanity of Christ—as seen in the Gospel of Luke.
(4) The fourth was like an eagle. He communicates the deity of Christ—as seen in the Gospel of John.
Chapter four closes with the elders representing the church, bowing down before Him laying their crowns at His feet and crying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev. 4:11) Everything, including salvation, is for His glory. Our happiness is secondary. As brother Paris Reidhead once said, “Let me epitomize, let me summarize. Christianity says, “The end of all being is the glory of God.” Humanism says, “The end of all being is the happiness of man.” And one born in Hell, the deification of man. AND THE OTHER WAS BORN IN HEAVEN, THE GLORIFICATION OF GOD!” He alone is worthy!!
THINK ON THESE THINGS…