Everything that there is to know about heaven is already revealed in the Word of God and what is concealed is concealed by the sovereign will of God.
Revelation 4:1-6 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.
Have you ever thought about the afterlife or what heaven looks like?
This past summer my younger son, Asher, was playing with his sisters who were two years old at the time. Suddenly he started yelling “You are not dead; you are not dead.” Rather than interfering, I decided to observe and learn what was happening. Apparently, Asher was in charge of sending people to heaven. The problem was, Zara was following his rules, but her twin sister, Shiloh, wasn’t. Zara pretended to die to go to heaven and Shiloh simply chose to walk to heaven in a predetermined area of our backyard.
It was morbid playing but what I observed was that our fascination with Heaven begins early on. Since it intrigues our curiosity, people make money out of that. Many books have flooded the market with stories of trips to heaven and back. When people ask me if I have read such and such book on a trip to heaven, my answer is always no. Why? Because, if God wants to give us a glimpse into heaven that should be in His book and not in some bestseller book.
The problem is not human curiosity about heaven but seeking answers in the wrong book. People need to know that the only book that gives a glimpse into heaven is the Bible.
As we continue our series, “Uncovering Revelation,” verse by verse, Revelation 4 reveals that Jesus chose to give His church a glimpse into heaven. Revelation 1:3 tells us so that we may be spiritually alert and watchful for the return of Jesus. As the end times draw near, Jesus said in Matthew 24:11 “…many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”
The big idea here is that everything there is to know about heaven is already revealed in the Word of God and what is concealed is concealed by the sovereign will of God, so do not fall for any person or any book that claims to know more about heaven than what is revealed in the Bible.
Only God’s Word gives us a glimpse into heaven. Anyone can paint their desired picture of heaven. The question we should ask is not what heaven looks like but rather what heaven is about. Revelation 4 tells us that heaven is about the throne of God. The key word in Revelation 4 is “throne.”
In 11 verses of this chapter, we see the word throne 14 times. All references refer to the throne of God except two in verse 4. Any time a word, phrase, or concept in the Bible is repeated it is there to get our attention because it is important. The emphasis on the throne tells us that heaven is about the throne of God.
Revelation 4:1-6 outlines three truths about the throne. Revelation 4 is a transition chapter that gives us a glimpse into heaven showing the power, position, and purpose of the throne.
The Power of the Throne
In verses 1-2, Jesus brings John up into heaven to give him a glimpse by showing him things beyond Revelation 1-3. This means John is no longer on earth but in heaven. What we have here is a heavenly view that begins with God’s throne room in Revelation 4-5, and later, Revelation 6 moves to show God's judgment on earth.
Revelation 2-3 were Jesus’ direct communication with His church. That was the last time that Jesus spoke to the church on earth. I am sad that chapters 2 and 3 are over because no longer will the Lord speak to His church directly. Though each church received a specific commendation, condemnation, caution, and counsel, all of them were challenged to listen to the Spirit and overcome.
From here onwards, the ride is not just about to get bumpy, but devastating. Blood, darkness, death, and plagues are about to enter this vision. The good news is that the church will be taken up into heaven to be with the Lord. That is the precious truth of the rapture that many are uncomfortable with.
In the ESV translation, Revelation 4:1 reads, “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
Three Truths About the Rapture
First, the absence of the church. Verse 1 starts and ends with the same phrase “after this.” In Greek, that is Meta Tauta. This same word is found in Revelation 1:19 which reads, “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.”
Chapter 4 begins with meta tauta to connect the reader back to Jesus’s statement in Revelation 1:19 to show that we are entering the period when the ministry of the church in chapters 2-3 is finished.
From here until the end of Revelation, the church is never mentioned in its relation to the world. The only time we will ever see the word, church or churches, is at the end of the book as the concluding general statement of Jesus that has nothing to do with the chronological order of the book.
In Revelation 22:16, we read “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
Naturally, the question is, what happened to the church? Where did the church go?
Jesus promised to the faithful Philadelphians in Revelation 3:10-11, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.”
The hour of trial mentioned was no ordinary trial that believers are expected to go through in our life on earth, but the unbearable trial, the great tribulation, that Jesus promised to keep His church out of.
So where is the church? With Jesus. This is good news. Revelation 12:12 says, “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
Second, the opening of heaven. John saw “a door standing open in heaven.” So far in Revelation, we have seen three doors.
The first door was the opened door in Revelation 3: 8. That door was the door of opportunity to share the gospel so many can escape the great wrath on earth in the hour of trial but also the eternal wrath of God. By the time the third division of John’s vision begins in Revelation 4, the church has been raptured and the door of opportunity to share the gospel has been shut and what Jesus shuts no one can open. However, this does not mean people will not be saved on Earth. They will be saved, but not by the witness of the church for the church will have been raptured. We will discuss in the coming chapters how God is planning to redeem Israel and other nations in the absence of the church.
The second door was the closed door of the church in Revelation 3:20. The closed door represents the human heart where Jesus stands with his nail-pieced hands and knocks, and when we open the door of our heart Jesus comes in to live in us. Unless we open the door of our heart nothing can save us from great wrath on earth in the hour of trial but also the eternal wrath of God.
The third door is the one John saw standing open in heaven in Revelation 4:1. It is interesting that in Revelation 3:20, the door of the church on earth was closed on Jesus but the door in heaven is always open for the church. John did not see it open; it was already open because it is always open to all believers.
In the entire book of Revelation, only two times was heaven opened: here in Revelation 4:1 to receive John, and later in Revelation 19:11 when Jesus and His saints, that is the church, come out of heaven to war against the nations.
These two openings represent the rapture and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Some argue that it is not a reference to the rapture.
They are welcome to hold their views but as I have said at the beginning of this series, it all depends on your method of interpretation. Whether you are a Preterist, Idealist, Historicist, or Futurist, you have to answer the question of how could Jesus come with saints in Revelation 19:11 if they were not in heaven to begin with?
And why would He promise to keep them out of the hour of trial, the great tribulation, if they were left to suffer the wrath of the devil on earth? I believe the first opening is symbolic of the rapture hence the absence of the church on earth beyond Revelation 3, and the second opening of heaven in Revelation 19 is the second coming of Jesus. There are two separate events in the life of the church and two separate comings of Jesus. One is hidden from the world and the other is visible.
Third, the voice of Jesus. Jesus commands John to come up. John testifies it was the sound of the trumpet.
In the Old Testament, the trumpet was used to either call the assembly for worship or battle.
In the New Testament, we have some clear texts that can help us to connect the dots here. First Corinthians 15:51-52. It reads, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
It all will happen in the twinkling of an eye at the sound of the loud trumpet. Could the trumpet sound here and the one speaking to John like a trumpet in Revelation 1 and now in chapter 4 be the same?
At the command of Jesus, the dead will rise and the living will be given new bodies. Our bodies are made for Earth and earth is made for our bodies, but Jesus will give us new bodies for heaven.
First Thessalonians 4:15-18 reads, “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord he will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
The Latin word that is used for “caught up” is raptus from which we get the word rapture. Many professing believers deny the rapture and the literal reign of Jesus for 1000 years on Earth. However, we cannot deny what the Scripture teaches. It is pitiful to even imagine that like the church in Laodicea, on Sunday after the rapture, many churches will gather together for worship as if nothing happened. It is because they were given time, but they locked Jesus out in the cold.
Do not lock Jesus out of your life, your theology, and your practice of faith.
Do not deny what is taught loud and clear in the Word and do not give in to itchy ears to seek after some mystery knowledge.
Everything that there is to know about heaven is already revealed in the Word of God and what is concealed is concealed by the sovereign will of God, so do not fall for any person or any book that claims to know more about heaven than what is revealed in the Bible.
Only God’s Word gives us a glimpse into heaven, not some bestseller. We are at the very end of the time and at any time Jesus will appear to take His church into heaven.
The geopolitical situation has never been as ripe as it is now for the return of Jesus. If you look at what is going on in the Middle East concerning Israel, you may say it is not new. You may say there is always something going on. I would agree, but it has never been this bad. Ever since the Nazi regime we have not seen the type of organized intense hate against Israel that we see today. Everywhere in the world masses are mobilized against Israel.
Why do billions of people hate Israel so much? Such a small country, about the size of our state of New Jersey. Why do nations demand the annihilation of Israel? We know that Israel has to exist, so how is Israel going to defend against so many enemies and attacks from all directions?
The answer is right in this book that we are studying, the book of Revelation. God will defend. God will fight. God will fulfill all promises to Israel. God will destroy her enemies because the God of Israel sits on the throne. But before all that happens this book promises the rapture which means the church will be taken out of earth.
The next blogs will continue with the “Power of the Throne” in Revelation 4:1-5, and then look at the “Position of the Throne” in Revelation 4:6-8a, and then finish Revelation 4 with looking at the “Purpose of the Throne” in Revelation 4:8b-11.
1. In Revelation 4:1-2, why was John taken up into heaven? How is John taken up into heaven similar or different from Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), and Enoch (Genesis 5:24)?
2. In Revelation 4:3, why did John not name the one sitting on the throne? Why does John describe the one seated on the throne with jasper and carnelian? Also, what does the rainbow around the throne mean? What does the symbol of a throne teach us (read Isaiah 6:1)?
3. In Revelation 4:4, what is the significance of the number 24 and the meaning of 24 thrones and 24 elders?
4. What are the seven torches of fire in Revelation 4:5?
5. What does “before the throne, there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal” in Revelation 4:6 mean?
Deeper Study Questions
1. How does the heavenly scene described in Revelation 4:1-6a help you to know the power of God?
2. How does knowing that God sits on His throne for eternity help you with your everyday situations?