A Study of the Book of Revelation
Chapters 4 and 5 are a picture of the church in Heaven.
When we pass chapter 3, the church is not mentioned any more. It is for this reason that I believe the church will not go through the Tribulation.
Always remember to distinguish between the church and Israel.
When the rapture of the church takes place, it will mark the beginning of the seven year Tribulation.
The striking similarities between the elements of verse 1 and those in 1 Thess. 4:13-18, which record the Rapture of the church, cannot be coincidence.
Here, as a representative of the church at large, John envisions being caught up into heaven to view the future.
This event symbolizes the catching up to heaven of all born-again believers before judgment begins. That this is a sign of the Rapture of the church is believed for the following reasons:
1. The word “church” does not appear again in until Rev. 22:16, after judgment is completely finished.
2. There is an obvious transition between chapters 3 & 4. Chapter 3 speaks of the churches; chapter 4 of judgment. Ch. 3 is set on earth; ch. 4 in heaven. Ch. 3 closes the division of the things which are; ch. 4 opens the division of the things which shall be hereafter.
3. The first vision of Christ in Revelation pictures Him in the midst of the seven lampstands (which the book itself interprets as the seven churches). In chpts 4-19 Christ is pictured in heaven (4:1-2; 5:5-6). It is certainly logical to believe the church is there with Him (Jn 14:1-3).
4. The promise made to the Philadelphian church was that it would be kept from the hour of trial (3:10). In order to escape the terrible judgment of Revelation chpts 4-19, the church must be translated to heaven before that time (1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:9).
For these and other reasons, it appears that John’s vision of himself being caught up from earth to heaven is a symbolic representation of the Rapture of the church before the events of the Tribulation described in chapters 4-19.
1. ¶ After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
“After these things” – means the outline given in Chapter 6.
“I saw four angels” – four living creatures, these are holy angels or God’s special angels.
“Four corners of the earth” – This is a technical term for the four points of the compass: north, south, east and west.
An angel is standing at each place to give direction, and to judge the various segments of the human race. They are holding back the winds of judgment. This is the doctrine of grace before judgment.
Why are the angels holding back the winds of judgment? Because the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are going out to proclaim the message of God.
Remember, the church has been raptured and there are no believers on earth, but many are going to hear the message of these Jews and believe.
2. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
The first thing John envisions in heaven is a throne. This is not symbolism, but a judgment scene set in heaven. This throne is neither the Great White Throne of Rev. 20:11 nor the Judgment Seat of Christ of 2 Cor. 5:10. The one sitting on the throne is none other than God Himself. This is clear from the symbolism of verses 3 and 5 and from the direct reference to God in verse 8.
“Immediately” – in a moment and twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:52)
“I was in the spirit” refers to being spirit filled.
“Throne was set in heaven” is talking about the judgment throne.
“One sat on the throne.” – Jesus Christ is the one on the throne here. Later it will be God on the throne.
There is not going to be three gods. The only one we will ever see will be Jesus Christ. You will see the hand of God, but not God (John 1:18)
When you see the word GOD, it is translated from Elohim. Elohim is plural meaning God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
When you find the word LORD it may be God the Father, or the Son or Holy Spirit. You can tell by the context. This is translated from Jehovah.
3. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
“He that sat” is Jesus Christ.
“To look upon” – this is not a verb, but a noun and means that his eyes almost popped out of his head. Special attention to what you are going to see.
“Jasper” – this is a translucent stone, another kind of diamond.
“Sardine stone” – comes from the hills of Sardis, and was a famous blue diamond. They are only found in that part of the world.
The jasper stone, mentioned in verse 3 and explained in Rev. 21:11 is a crystal-clear white stone representing the purity and glory of God.
On the other-hand, the sardius stone is ruby-colored, a blood red. By this is pictured God’s redemptive nature.
These two stones are the first and last stones in the breastplate of the high priest. This pictures Jesus dressed as our High Priest.
The “rainbow round about the throne” had great significance. The significance is given in Genesis 9:12-16. No one had ever seen a rainbow before the flood. The rainbow means “God keeps his word”.
The first rainbow was the sign of a promise from God. Every time you see a rainbow it speaks of the perfect character of God. God is saying “This is my perfect character, you can count on me.”
The colors are a little different from other rainbows in this case. Green in nature speaks of eternal life. The Word of God abides forever.
Just as a rainbow is the joint production of a storm and sunshine, so the eternal life of the believer is a production of a storm and sunshine. The sins of the world poured out on Christ is the storm. Salvation provided for all men is the sunshine. The rainbow is therefore a token of the grace of God.
The first thing John saw in Heaven was Jesus Christ in all His glory. Green, a secondary color, is a combination of blue and yellow. Yellow reminds us of what Christ was in eternity past, His deity in eternity past.
God cannot die – Deity cannot die. But Christ was physical also, a perfect man without an old sin nature, minus the imputation of Adam’s sin, minus any acts of sin.
So this color green stands for Christ, and all that He is in His perfect character.
4. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
John saw 24 thrones and 24 elders. The word elders is presbuteros and means leadership, the one in charge or the one with high rank. This shows rank.
These elders are sitting dressed in white raiment. They had crowns on their heads – they are 24 special angels.
Opinions vary as to who these elders may be. The most logival identification is that they are the raptured church. They are representative of the entire church. As the officials of the church today, no better symbol than the elders could be used in this vision to represent the whole church (Acts 15:6; 20:17; James 5:14).
5. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
The throne itself has an emerald-colored rainbow completely encircling it, and out of the throne proceed lightnings and thunderings. Here again is a contrasting picture of God.
We have two sign of judgment – these come from nature. Lightnings and thunder and voices.
Lightning and thunder gives warning of a coming storm. Voices refer to the sound of the wind.
The storm here is the coming judgment of God from Heaven to the earth and is referring to the Tribulation.
Seven lamps and seven spirits remind us of the perfect essence qualities of God. Speaks of the perfection of God.
“Fire burning” – this speaks of the harsh judgment.
6. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
There is one more group around the throne that needs identification. They are the four beasts. They are described in detail in verses 6-7. We are not referring to grotesque animals but rather living creatures of diverse characteristics.
“Sea of glass” – this is referring to the church at rest in Heaven.
“Like unto crystal.” – On earth, the sea is a picture of unrest, but in Heaven, it is calm.
“Four beasts” – Beast is zoa in the greek and is used for creatures in the angelic kingdom. It is the highest of the living creatures and means four elect angelic creatures.
“Eyes before and behind” – indicate super intelligence.
There are two kinds of angels in the Bible: Cherubim (Ezekial 1 & 10) and Seraphim (Isaiah 6).
Cherubim were the most beautiful beings ever created by God. Remember, Satan was a cherub.
Seraphim is the reflecting angel, reflects God’s glory.
These four living creatures are a combination of both seraphim and cherubim.
7. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
There are four types of flesh that live on the earth: man, wild beast, domestic beast, and fowl.
First beast is like a lion, king of beasts. Matthew presents Jesus as a lion and king. This represents the tribe of Judah.
Second beast is like a calf or ox and means serving one. Mark’s gospel presents Jesus as the servant or serving one. This represents the tribe of Ephraim.
Third beast had a face of a man. Luke’s gospel presents Jesus as a human. This represents the tribe of Reuben.
Fourth beast like a flying eagle. This is a picture of God and His strength. John’s gospel presents Jesus as the Son of God. This represents the tribe of Dan.
These verses are the reason the gospels appear in the order they do in the Bible. Actually, Mark’s gospel was written first.
These beasts are going to fall down and worship Jesus.
8. ¶ And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
“Four beasts” means four living creatures.
“Six wings” – a description of the Seraphim (Isa. 6).
“Full of eyes” – super intelligence
“They rest not” – constantly praising the Lord.
“Saying, Holy, holy, holy.” These four living ones proclaimed the triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
These four living creatures are heavenly cherubim (Ez. 10:15, 20). They complete the symbolism that every living creature in heaven will praise God, both earthly and heavenly beings.
Both the raptured church, represented by the 24 elders, and the heavenly angels, represented by the four living cherubim, will one day praise the Lord as He ought to be praised today.
9. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
This tells us of the universal worship of God in Heaven. Christ is worshiped as the eternal creator.
“Glory” – this is a recognition of the character of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Honour” – refers to the person of Christ, the one who redeemed us.
“Thanks” – refers to the work of Christ.
Note that Power is not here but in verse 11.
10. The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
The activity of the 24 elders gives us a clue as to our own activity in heaven. They cast their crowns before the throne as they praise the Lord God.
These are not crowns of royalty (Gr. Diadema) – these are the crowns (Gr. Stephanos) of faithful service during this life.
What better way to praise and honor God than to cast at His feet the tangible evidence of our heavenly reward?
When the 24 elders cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus and worship Him as creator, then the redeemed church joins in praise.
The living creatures in the past verses represent the grace of God and the 24 elders represent the judgement of God.
The alternative of grace is judgment.
Everyone must decide whether Christ will be their Savior in time or their judge in eternity.
Because the 24 elders represent judgment, they are going to sing a song in verse 11 that will include power.
11. 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.
Power is added to the three mentioned in verse 9.
Power refers to the authority of Christ to judge.
They see His power and recognize Him as judge.
This verse is a song.
Clark, Neal. Survey of the Book of Revelation. Pensacola, Florida: Thee WFBI Press, 1999. Print.
Falwell, Jerry. Liberty Commentary on the New Testament. Lynchburg, VA: Liberty Press, 1978. Print.