My favorite thing about the book of Revelation is reading it in one sitting. It takes a while, sure, but if you put in the time, then you will come to see that the book moves along like a roller coaster. One moment everything looks bleak (trough of the coaster) but before you know it John describes something incredible that takes our breath away (crest of the coaster). In fact, we have already gone up and down one hill on this best of all roller coasters. The description of Jesus in 1:10-20 was essentially the chain-lift hill to prepare us for the rest of our journey. And then, beginning in 2:1 and progressing through 3:22 we went down and up little hills, culminating in a long drop as we read about the state of the church in Laodicea.
We come to another high point in our text today. John writes in Revelation 4:1-5,
After this I looked, and there in heaven was an open door. The first voice that I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit, and a throne was set there in heaven. One was seated on the throne, and the One seated looked like jasper and carnelian stone. A rainbow that looked like an emerald surrounded the throne. Around that throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones sat 24 elders dressed in white clothes, with gold crowns on their heads. Flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder came from the throne. Seven fiery torches were burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God.
Things look bleak when we view the church in the world, but John–inspired by Jesus–wants to encourage us to persevere. The glory of God is worth any suffering we might endure on earth.
The first thing to note about this text is that we are again presented with the Trinity.
- Jesus is the one John “had heard speaking to me like a trumpet” (cf. Revelation 1:10, 12ff.)
- God the Father is the “One seated” “on the throne.”
- The Holy Spirit is the “seven fiery torches,” “the seven spirits of God.”
So, lest anyone tell you that there is no place in Scripture where the members of the Trinity all appear together simultaneously, here is yet another example of a place in which they do appear simultaneously.
Some people will try to say that Jesus’ words to John, “Come up here,” refer to the rapture of the church. (I will admit i was of similar opinion when i first read this passage; but i also found several other places throughout the book where i thought the rapture was being described.) This is not the rapture of the church. This is Jesus inviting John to get a glimpse of heaven, as the text clearly says: “I will show you what must take place after this.”
Again, we must ask, “After what?”
John just finished describing “the holy, catholic church”–the church throughout history–based on examples from seven historic churches in Asia Minor in the first century. When John writes, “After this” in 4:1, he is saying, “After I wrote those seven letters, dictated by Jesus, the following happened.”
So when Jesus says, “I will show you what must take place after this,” He is saying, “When you pass from history to eternity, this is what you will witness.” Jesus is not saying that everything from this point in John’s Revelation is still to come. He is saying that this present picture of heaven will not be experienced until after we are victorious in life (cf. the end of each of the seven letters) or die apart from Him and are forced to face Him for judgment.
John is at a loss for words when He gets into the throne room of God. He is forced to use similes to describe God the Father. Note: John does not give God any anthropomorphic similes. God is not an old man with a grey beard. He is like many costly stones, and the brilliance of His glory casts a rainbow around the throne room. This is the glorious Being we will face one day. We will bow before Him.
Twenty-four is twelve doubled. Israel had twelve tribes; Jesus had twelve disciples. These are the elders of our faith. And while we can’t be dogmatic and assert we know the exact identity of these twenty-four (John is seeing the vision and he was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus), we do know King David appointed twenty-four priests for duties in the temple (cf. 1 Chronicles 24:7-18).
Regardless of the specific identities of these twenty-four, they are likely priests (cf. 1 Peter 2:9)–potentially representative of all God’s people–and they are sitting. Priest-work is done. Jesus accomplished it!
Their clothes are white because they were made righteous by Jesus’ sacrifice, and they are wearing crowns because they were victorious.
This throne room is a glorious sight. One day you will stand before this glorious God. Are you going to be found wearing white before Him? Or are you going to be cast out for failing to believe in Christ while you walked this earth?
Jesus came to earth, He lived, and He died. But He didn’t stay dead. He rose again, and He calls to you today, “Come up here.” He wants you to see the glory of heaven as recorded in Revelation to encourage you to place your faith in Him. He is worthy. All other ventures will fall short.
Trust Him today!
And enjoy the roller coaster of adventure that faith in Him places you on.
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.
The next entry can be found here.