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Glimpse into Heaven, Part 2

The throne of God is established forever, and nothing is out of His reach.

 

Revelation 4:1-8 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.

 

And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

 

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

    who was and is and is to come!”

 

In 1988, a retired NASA engineer named Edgar C. Whisenant wrote a book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. His self-published book became a massive bestseller. That year, he sold more than 4.5 million copies. He predicted the Rapture to be between September 11 and September 13 of 1988, the dates on which Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration, began and ended that year.

 

He was so sure that he said, “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town. I would stake my life on Rosh Hashanah 1988.”

 

His later books predicted the Rapture in 1989, 1993, and 1994. However, none of them sold nearly as well as the first one—but that did not stop Whisenant from predicting. As long as there is money to be made people will continue to make us fools by predicting the future and the end time despite what the Bible teaches that “no one knows the day or the hour.”

 

The problem is not in seeking answers about the future and the end time. It is in not knowing that “no one knows the day or the hour” and that the Bible gives a glimpse into heaven.

 

As we continue our series, “Uncovering Revelation,” verse by verse, in Revelation 4, the glorified risen Lord Jesus chose to give His church a glimpse into heaven to prepare them “for the day and the hour that no one knows.” 

 

The big idea for us is, though “no one knows the day or the hour,” we are given a glimpse into heaven so that we may prepare for the future and the end times. In Revelation 4:1, we see that as the end draws nearer, the next event on the prophetic calendar is the rapture, but many professing Christians disagree and argue that the next event on the prophetic calendar is tribulation.

 

To understand all that we need to look at the seven years of tribulation. There are three views on the rapture: pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, and post-tribulation.

 

First, mid-tribulation. This is the belief that the church would go through the first half, which is three and a half years, of the tribulation, and then the rapture will take place so that the church may escape the Great Tribulation in the second half. Among other reasons, the phrase, “after the tribulation of those days” in Matthew 24:29, is a transition from the natural forms of tribulation in the first half of the seven years to the wrath of God in the second half. 

 

Second, post-tribulation. This is the belief that the rapture and the resurrection of all dead saints is one event at the end of the seven years of tribulation. The church will go through the tribulation and then the rapture will occur. Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodox, and many Protestant denominations hold this view. Generally, they support replacement theology in which the church has replaced Israel, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel. 

 

Third, pre-tribulation. This view says the church will be raptured before the seven years of tribulation begins. They see the Great Tribulation as a unique and intense unbearable future event completely different from all other tribulations in our lives.

 

I am not sure about the post-tribulation view but the other two make sense. Personally, I take a pre-tribulation approach because I cannot imagine anything worse than what I have personally faced and witnessed as a believer growing up in Pakistan. Anything humanly possible to persecute the church has been done to the church— kidnapping, enslaving, raping, beheading, stoning, and lynching are just a few examples.

 

I believe the church has endured and will continue to endure until the Great Tribulation. One long seven-year period of unimaginable agony when the earth will be hard-pressed in a way it has never experienced before— a time when Satan in his anger will pour out his wrath, and God in His righteousness will pour out His wrath.

 

Nevertheless, whatever position we take, our focus should be on Jesus so that no matter what day or the hour, He comes, He finds us ready. For this reason, Jesus gives the church a glimpse into heaven to show the majesty and dominion of the throne room of God and the judgment that is coming for every lost soul. 

 

“Throne” appears 14 times in Revelation 4:1-11, giving us a glimpse into heaven and showing three truths about heaven: the power of the throne, the position of the throne, and the purpose of the throne.

 

The Power of the Throne

 

As we continue with the first truth about heaven, the power of the throne, notice four propositions in verses 2-5 to see who is on, around, from, and before the throne to realize the incomprehensibility of the power of God:

 

First, on the throne. Verse 2 reads, “At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.”  John reports a fast trip to heaven, the dwelling place of God. There are three heavens: the one we can see with the naked eye, the celestial heaven with the sun, moon, and stars that we can see only with a telescope, and the heaven of heavens to where John was transported. No one goes there unless invited. For Christians, there are two ways to get there, death or the rapture. 

 

John sees one sitting on the throne but does not say who He is. Other scriptures tell us who sits on the throne in heaven.

 

In 1 King 22:19, the prophet said, “I saw the Lord sitting on His throne...”

 

Psalm 47:8 says, “God sits on His holy throne.”

 

God the Father sits on the throne. John uses a simile to describe God in Revelation 4:3, “And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian.”

 

Jasper is a crystal-clear stone, possibly a diamond. Diamond remains desirable even today. Ladies know that and men know that too. Therefore, they propose with a diamond ring and not a mood ring else the ladies will say “I am not in the mood today come back when you have a diamond ring.” 

 

Carnelian is a fiery red ruby, also known as Sardius named after the city of Sardis where it was found.

 

Jasper represents the desirability of God and carnelian represents the holiness of God. There is nothing more pure, precious, holy, beautiful, desirable, and glorious than God, so John resorts to comparisons to precious jewels and stones in his time. 

 

Second, around the throne. The second part of verse 3 says, “and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.” Rainbows are full circles but because of the horizon, we only see half the circle. The rainbow was a reminder of God’s faithfulness, mercy, and grace after the flood in Noah’s time. The rainbow around the throne points to the eternal nature of the throne and the one who sits on it. This means, God has no beginning and no end, and His throne is full of mercy, grace, promises, and faithfulness.

 

Verse 4 says, “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.” The elders are possibly the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel and 12 disciples— a combined representation of redeemed Jews and Gentiles made one in Jesus.

 

Some argue that since Israel is not saved in Revelation 4, it cannot be the tribes of Israel. I tend to think after the crucifixion when Jesus went down to Hades, He liberated the prisoners and took them with Him and that could quite literally be the heads of the tribes of Israel who died in the hope of the Messiah. Either way, the 24 elders around God’s thrones definitely make the throne of God the central piece.

 

Third, from the throne. Verse 5 says, “From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder,” Exodus 19:16 has a similar description. It says,On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightning and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.

 

This represents the judgment and wrath of God. The imagery communicates the fury and the judgment of God. God is getting ready to pour out His wrath on earth which will begin in Revelation 6, yet more evidence of the rapture so that the church will not face the wrath of God. 

 

Fourth, before the throne. Verses 5-6 says, “and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.” This we know to be the Holy Spirit from Revelation 1:4. Isaiah 11:2 lists the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit, which reads, “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him [the Messiah], the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord,” for a total of seven.

 

Not only before the throne was the Holy Spirit but verse 6 says, “and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.” This is not a literal sea but rather something that was indescribable for John. The leadership of Israel witnessed that too. In Exodus 24:10 we read, “and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.” Whatever it was, it was under the feet of God which reflected the glory of God saturating the heavens.  

 

On the throne, around the throne, from the throne, and before the throne tell us one consistent story that Heaven is full of God’s glory and that Heaven is theocentric. The God-centric heaven is established forever with splendor, majesty, beauty, and glory that no one can put into words. This is why God introduced Himself as I am who I am. Just as the Trinity cannot be described or explained, God cannot be described or explained either. 

 

We can face any challenge without any fear if we truly believe in the power of the throne because of the one who sits on the throne. God’s throne is established and occupied eternally. It permeates God’s faithfulness, promises, forgiveness, mercy, glory and grace. Soon in the book, we will see the throne of grace will become the throne of judgment and Christ will no longer be interceding but judging. Now let’s look at the second truth about heaven.

 

The Position of the Throne

 

Revelation 4:5b-8a says “And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

 

Ezekiel 1 and Daniel 7 mirror the imagery found here in Revelation 4. We will look at those two texts later to understand what all these faces and creatures are and why there are here in the courtroom of God in heaven.

 

One thing is clear— whether they are the elders or these creatures, all are in a state of worship. The whole environment in heaven surrounding the throne is worshipful and God is at the center of it. The throne of God is not in a royal place but rather in the temple.  Hebrews 8:5 says that the Tabernacle, the dwelling place of God on earth, was a copy and a show of the real one in heaven. God does not sit in a royal place but in a temple. Isaiah 1:6 says, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”  

 

Whenever the rapture is, we need to prepare by worshiping God and teaching our children to do the same because the moment we are taken into heaven, whether by death or rapture, we will worship God for eternity before the throne of God in His temple.

 

Yesterday my son, Arius's friend who is also seven was visiting. I was impressed when he said that the gospel of Luke says Jesus will come unexpectedly. Luke 21:34 says, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” The glimpse of heaven shows the power, position, and purpose of the throne to cause us to worship God and be ready as Jesus comes.

 

Commit to worship. Commit not to letting other activities stop you from gathering on Sunday with other believers for worship.

 

Develop a deep sense of adoration for the One who sits on the throne and is the only One worthy of worship, for He is holy, holy, holy the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come. 

 

I always thought that Jewish people do not say YAHWEH because His name is too holy. I was talking to a rabbi, and he said the name of YAHWEH is not spoken because no one knows how to pronounce it. The high priest used to utter it only once a year but after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, it has been lost.

 

Another rabbi said you cannot pronounce YAHWEH because it is the breath that you take. The example he gave was inhaling and exhaling without the lips or tongue touching. YAH is the inhale and WEH is the exhale.

 

Our every breath has to be for Jesus. Only then will we worship God in truth and spirit. Only then we will live and die for Jesus. Only then our very being will cry out holy, holy, holy the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come. 

 

His throne is established forever, and nothing is out of His reach. He is active— active in offering mercy, grace, and forgiveness but also active in pouring out judgment against those who do not worship Him.

 

Though “no one knows the day or the hour, a glimpse into heaven is enough to cause us to prepare as Jesus comes the second time.

 

Study Questions


  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?


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