Revelation Chapter Four, What will take place Later
The Firstfruits Rapture and the Heavenly Throne (chap.4)
Rev 4 (KJV) 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 show thee things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 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, 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.
This chapter describes the Firstfruits Rapture and the heavenly throne, as those who participate in this rapture are gathered around the throne in heaven. The 24 elders and the four living creatures are not only redeemed people, but they are faithful Christians who have earned crowns and thrones. The Main Harvest Rapture does not occur until Rev. 7:9-17 at the middle of the tribulation period.
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 show thee things which must be hereafter.
a. "After this" is after the Church Age and John looks up to heaven and he sees the "Open Door" into heaven. This is the same open door that was promised to the church of Philadelphia in Rev. 3:8, and John's rapture is the fulfillment of the promise to the Philadelphia church in Rev. 3:10 that they would be kept from the "hour of temptation" because of their faithfulness (i.e., "kept the word of my patience"). This is the same open door that the five wise virgins in Matt 25 went through because they had the extra measure of oil (i.e., they were spirit-controlled Christians). The door is closed on the five foolish virgins who represent the churches of Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea.
b. This is the out-resurrection (i.e., exanastasis) that Paul was working to attain to in Philippians 3:11. This is the "better resurrection" that Christians sought in Hebrews 11:35. This is the "strait gate" (i.e., narrow door) that Jesus exhorted his disciples to work very hard to enter (Matt 7:13; Lk 13:24). Jesus warned his disciples that many believers would work very hard to enter this narrow door, but they would not be able to enter (Matt 7:14). The Parables make it clear that the reason many Christians will not be able to enter in at this door is because they worked in the power of the flesh rather than the power of the Spirit.
c. The Christians who hear this voice "as it were of a trumpet" are those Christians who "watch and pray always" that they might be accounted worthy to escape the "hour of temptation" (i.e., Tribulation) (Lk 21:36).
d. Jesus even taught his disciples in the Lord's prayer to pray that they would not be brought into tribulation (i.e., lead us not into temptation; Mat 6:13). This phrase means that we are to pray that the Lord will not bring us into tribulation. The Greek word for temptation is peirasmos and it is identical to the word for temptation in Rev. 3:10. Thus, even the Lord's prayer exhorts us to pray that we will escape the tribulation. Jesus also exhorted his disciples in Gethsemene to "watch and pray" that they enter not into tribulation (i.e., temptation or peirasmos).
e. John was summoned directly to heaven to observe the things which were to take place after the end of the Church Age (i.e., hereafter).
2. And immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
a. John was instantaneously caught up to heaven, and he saw a throne "being set" at that very moment. The picture is of the placing of the throne as well as the throne itself and the place of it being set. It is a parallel with Daniel 7:9 where thrones are set (not cast down as the KJV shows).
b. There is no mention of the name of the one who sits on the throne, but we know it is Jesus Christ in his glory.
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.
a. The jasper and the sardine stones were the 12th (i.e., last) and 1st stones on the breastplate of the High Priest in Ex. 28:17-20). The Jasper is a translucent stone of various colors that resembles fire and the sardine stone is the precious stone with a red hue (i.e., ruby). Fire is the symbol of judgment and red the symbol of blood atonement or grace. Everything in chapters 4-6 is preparatory for judgment (i.e., fire) but even the judgments are mingled with God's grace. It is only at the end of the tribulation during the vials that a brief period of judgment without grace will be poured out upon the earth.
b. The rainbow around the throne is a constant reminder of God's covenant with Noah that God will never again destroy all life from the planet. It is significant that only about half of the world population will die during the seven-year tribulation period. God will keep his promise that He made with Noah. The rainbow that John sees completely encircles the throne. In looking down on a rainbow from an airplane, the rainbow is a complete circle.
c. The emerald is green and relates to the earth. The rainbow covenant pertains to the earth as well as the life on the earth. The earth will never again be totally destroyed (ruined or marred) like it was during the flood. The idea that this world and its creature inhabitants are to pass away into oblivion is the foolish notion of poets. We have here the special pledge and covenant of God that has been rehearsed in nearly every summer shower since the flood encircling the very judgment throne itself. The judgment throne is not one of destruction but of conservation. God is going to redeem the earth, not destroy it.
d. The jasper and sardine project the terrible glory of consuming fire along with the grace of God, but the soft green of the emerald above offers promise and hope and mercy during a time of wrath. It is redemption over-spanning the appearance of consuming fire.
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.
a. Around the throne of Jesus were 24 other thrones (same Greek word thronos) and 24 elders or mature believers were seated on these thrones. The white raiment represent the righteous deeds or acts of the saints, and the crowns of gold are the stephanos (i.e., crowns) that Christians earn by their faithfulness to the Lord.
b. These 24 elders represent believers who have qualified to reign and rule with Jesus Christ in the kingdom of the heavens. Twelve is the number of earthly government and 24 is twice twelve and represents heavenly government or the government of the heavens over the earth.
c. Resurrection time is coronation time, and no one can be crowned until he has been resurrected, or translated if living. Therefore, this is proof that there is a resurrection/translation at the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period. It is equally certain that everyone in this resurrection/translation is an overcomer because of the crowns and regal thrones.
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.
a. The “lightnings and thunderings and voices” are the precursors of the approaching judgments of God, which will be unleashed upon the earth. The book of Revelation is clear that these judgments from God do not commence until after the seven seals are opened. Thunders and voices are intimations of judgments in Psa. 29:3-5 and the promulgation of the law includes these signs and others in Exodus 19. Exodus 19:16 shows the effect on the people: "All the people that were in the camp trembled."
b. The "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne" denotes the fullness of the Spirit in governmental action. The Spirit here is not seen in His varied services in the Church, but in regard to the Holiness of God. The Spirit is represented here in regard to the righteous character of the throne. Everything inconsistent with this purity must be judged. These seven lamps will search out and expose everything contrary to God's Holy nature.
c. The seven spirits of God have already been discussed. The sevenfold ministry of God the Holy Spirit is found in Isaiah 11:2. The all-consuming fire of judgment will act within the plenitude of the sevenfold spirit of God. Everything will be in perfect accord with the perfect justice and righteousness of God.
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.
a. The glass sea is an allusion to the laver in the tabernacle (Ex. 30:18-21) and the molten sea in the temple (1 Kings 7:23-37). The purpose of both was to cleanse God's people on a continuous basis to maintain their holiness. Here the water has solidified and this represents a fixed state of holiness "before the throne." The glass points to a settled or fixed state of holiness while the "like unto crystal" intimates that this state is in accordance with God in His holy nature. Glass is a manufactured article produced by exposing sand (i.e., the people of God) to extreme heat (i.e., the fires of judgment). Crystal is a natural production representing divine purity, which is innate in God (Ezek. 1:22).
b. The four beasts (i.e., living creatures) sing the same song that the elders sing (Rev. 5:9-10), and they give praise for the Lamb having died for them, and for redeeming them by his blood. They are redeemed, glorified men who are in the midst of the throne, and around the throne. They are more intimately associated with the throne than the 24 elders, as the 24 elders sit on their own thrones. "In the midst of the throne" indicates that the four living creatures are an integral part of it. "Round about the throne" shows that they are externally connected with the throne. Thus, the four living creatures may be viewed as vitally connected with the judicial authority of God, even though separate and apart from it.
c. "Full of eyes before and behind" demonstrate intuitive intelligence or the fullness of spiritual discernment. This group of redeemed individuals is in the highest level of the kingdom of the heavens. The 24 elders are in the second highest level of the kingdom. It appears that the four living creatures are analogous to the Bride of Christ, and the 24 elders are analogous to the Bride's court. Both will be taken out of the earth at the firstfruits rapture of Philadelphia Christians, and neither will have to experience the tribulation (i.e., the hour of temptation).
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.
a. The four living creatures are described as being like the four creatures depicting Jesus according to the four gospels. In Matthew Jesus is portrayed as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the King of the Jews. This pertains to his reigning and ruling in the kingdom. The four living creatures will share in this.
b. Mark pictures Jesus as the suffering servant (i.e., the calf or the ox). Jesus came to suffer and die as a servant. Jesus had to suffer before he reigns as king, and this is applicable to his disciples also.
c. Luke depicts Jesus as the Son of Man and this pertains to his human nature. The four living creatures also have a human nature.
d. The book of John delineates the divine nature of Jesus Christ, and the eagle is a symbol for this nature. The four living creatures have become Godly or Christlike in their character. They have suffered with Christ, and they will now reign with Christ in the highest level of the kingdom. They are able to share with Christ in his throne.
e. Israel marched under the four banners of the Lion, the Ox (calf), the Man and the Eagle. Judah's standard was the Lion, Ephraim's standard was the Ox, Reuben's standard was the Man, and Dan's standard was the Eagle. These were the representative tribes, and the rest were marshaled under these four standards.
f. Ezekiel's vision of the four cherubim in chapter one of Ezekiel was a vision of them that cover, protect, and guard. They were the executors of the will of the Spirit of the throne. They operated with a complex series of wheels, high and dreadful rings, and full of eyes. The wheels picture earthly operation. The cherubim were angels. The living creatures are redeemed men, glorified, and related to the judgment throne in heaven, and to the future affairs of the kingdom on earth. The four living creatures will reign from the heavenlies over the earth, and they are the cherubim of the new order. Therefore, they are connected to the throne of the new order.
g. Ezekiel saw four cherubim and four is the number of the scene of their ministrations, which is the earth. Four is representative of many as there were many thousands who ministered over the earth (Psa. 68:17)
h. The four living creatures also represent many thousands of glorified ones who have the distinction of sharing the throne of their divine redeemer. They will be the ministers and executors of his will throughout the ages.
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.
a. They have six wings instead of four (Ezekiel's vision) to demonstrate the widespread authority over all the nations instead of just Israel.
b. "Full of eyes within" signifies a picture of the inward spiritual perception of the governmental purposes and acts of God. They are fully capable of reigning and ruling with the justice and righteousness of God.
c. They require neither sleep nor rest, and they are the leaders in the praise and worship of God Almighty. The four living creatures have replaced Lucifer who was the praise and worship leader of God before Lucifer fell.
9. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
a. As the praise and worship leaders of heaven, it is the responsibility of the four living creatures to determine the appropriate times for praise and worship.
b. "him that sat on the throne" is, of course, Jesus Christ in his power and glory.
c. "who liveth for ever and ever" establishes that Jesus Christ will exist forever as the resurrected and glorified God-Man as the King of the Universe.
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,
a. In following the lead of the four living creatures, this verse establishes that the 24 elders are subordinate to them. This is very significant since the 24 elders are pictured as occupying high level positions in the kingdom. The term elder itself indicates spiritual maturity. The elders also occupy thrones, and they wear crowns. The number 24 is twice 12 so it indicates heavenly administration or heavenly government over the earth. The number 12 represents earthly government.
b. The crowns are thrown at the feet of Jesus because it was his life lived out in the 24 elders that made it possible for them to win the crowns. There is a big difference between being "in Christ" and having "Christ in you." Every Christian is "in Christ," but not every Christian has "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). "Christ in you" pertains to the coming kingdom and not the new birth experience, which causes one to be "in Christ". "Christ in you" is something for Christians to hope for so they will share in his glory. It is not guaranteed to every Christian. It is the "hope of glory." Contrary to popular teaching, a hope is not something that is certain.
c. Romans 8:24-25 explains the hope of the glory of Christ. This hope is able to save our soul. The salvation referred to in this Scripture is not spiritual rebirth but soul salvation. The Scripture is as follows:
Rom 8:24-25 (KJV) For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
NOTE: No Christian should hope that he has been born again. He should know this from the assurance he receives by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
d. It should be clear that all 24 elders had "Christ in" them, so they have now realized the "hope of glory," which is to share the glory of Christ and reign in his coming kingdom.
e. The four living creatures have realized a higher position in the kingdom than even the 24 elders have.
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.
a. The 24 elders respond to the lead of the four living creatures in giving glory, honor and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ as creator and King of all creation.