|John's introduction to Heaven
General: Up to this point in scripture, as described in v1:19, John was to write of things that were, things that are, and things to be. Chapter 1 was about things that were; chapters 2 and 3 told about things that are and the church age; Chapters 4 and on tell about things that will be after the church age. This is one of the key verses in Revelation. It clearly defines the prophetic nature of the book. However, not all persons believe that nature of Revelation. Some believe the book just points out the relationship of God and man and the wrath of God toward human sin. Many believe that Jesus changes His nature of love by being a "soldier" on a white horse. "God loves us so much He could never kill as He does in Revelation." As we will find out in this study, those who believe that God cannot be wrathful do not, can not, believe God is righteous. In addition, they simply do not know the Old Testament (OT), the prophecies of the OT, and the teachings of Jesus.
Churches had received ample instructions from others before John. Paul left divinely inspired directions to seven churches also (Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica). He also wrote four pastoral (to and about leaders of the church) letters (to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). Four other apostles also wrote seven epistles. It was nothing new to instruct the churches to the early Christian leaders.
Prophecies of the OT were known but not understood. Prophecies centered around the nation of Israel. It was hard for early Christians to understand the prophecies in the OT with relation to end times. Also, the prophecies of the OT seem to have been "short-termed" rather than looking into the future of unknown length. Even the prophecies of Daniel, Isaiah, and the others focused on Israel and were not understood to be long term. Remember that the prophecies in Daniel were "sealed" Dan. 12:4 [scripture]; 12:4 [commentary] until a later, God determined, time when they could and would be understood. The New Testament (NT) persons had more of an advantage to even understand a prophecy because there were fulfillments of prophecies that they could actually go back to in Israelite history. Jesus tried to clarify many things; but, most still did not understand, even the apostles. There was a big turn in the lives and faith of Jesus when He arose. Jesus was going to come back. All Christians in the old times thought Jesus was going to quickly come back, maybe in their lifetime. So do we; but, this it 2000 years later. So Jesus' second coming simply was not understood.
Thus, we can look at the first three chapters of Revelation as being the last great instructions to the churches. NOW, He is going to tell us what will happen. It is up to us to take the time, faith, and prayer to realize what God is telling us. He apparently believes this is the time to "unveil" or reveal to us what has been a mystery.
v1: Jesus clearly defines from now in the book that the information being supplied to John is for things to come ("things which must be hereafter.") The door open into Heaven accompanied with a strong like-a-trumpet voice. John is being called into Heaven by Jesus bright, distinctive, trumpet-like voice. It is relatively clear that the sequence of events of chapters 4 and on are after chapter 3. What happened to the churches? If one goes back to the letters, the things that were said happened.
The purpose of Revelation now is to show and tell the great events of the future. The miraculous demonstrations of Jesus to John with the rather bizarre show of symbols are the ways the information is transferred to John. Since John "sees" what is going on, he understands more and can write accurately. The only problem is to make sure the future readers can, in some way, understand also. Remember, in most cases, John says "like", "just as", "as of", etc. to say these things are not literal but are symbolic. Watch the words carefully in scripture. Each word is critical. If it is not symbolic, it is literal.
John is taken to Heaven before being shown the items JUST AS all believers will be taken to Heaven BEFORE the Tribulation?
I Thes. 4:13-18)
v2: The trumpet-like voice gives an invitation to John. Just as stated by Paul (1 Cor. 15:52) "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye", John is now in the spirit (dream, vision, or actually drawn to Heaven). The exact mode is not known. However, by most evangelicals and other conservative scholars, this is the symbol or representation of the rapture (defined in Definitions section of this web site). Others believe this is just a representation of a dream. As a matter of fact, much of what John "sees" and "hears" are interpreted as a dream by many loose translators and more liberal scholars. However, as one who believes in prophecy and the more literal approach to the Bible, the context and rest of the book of Revelation greatly clarifies and enhances the belief that John went through a rapture-type experience. John was translated in both space and time. This is not at all impossible for God to cause to happen. If one has ANY belief of the Second Coming, one has to believe in the ability for God to transcend time and space.
This subject of heavens is not appropriate for this study. However, to summarize, there are considered by scholars to be three heavens. We know there are more than one heaven from Gen. 1:1. The translation of the word for heaven is plural for all common Bibles except the KJV and Century Bible.. The word shamayem or shawmeh can be inclusive of more than one heaven (like the word sky which could include more than one heaven). The multiple heavens normally refer to the atmosphere as we know it for the first. Then there is what is above our atmosphere and includes all the universe. Finally, there is the heaven that is the abode of God. When John ascended into heaven, he definitely went into the third heaven, or God's abode.
The throne may be the 'judgment seat of Christ" referenced in other text (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). This is a place to speak about salvation. There are many questions related to a "judgment seat" when, if we were "born again" (repented of all our sins, accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, AND making the decision to turn your life around (the actual meaning of repentance - Greek metanoia). There IS a judgment for those saved; but, it is not a judgment for salvation. This will appear a little clearer as we continue our study of Revelation. There will be a judgment for works. Oh, Oh, we are judged for our works??? Remember, we do not get salvation from works. We are saved by the loving, unearned, grace of God. Also remember, Jesus, Paul, and James said that a faith without works is dead. That really means that one who has truly converted to a follower of Christ not only is faithful but WANTS to do good works for Christ. These good works are, most likely, the judgment works with which Jesus will be working. There does appear to be "level" of duties and responsibilities for us in heaven and/or the coming millenium (see Definitions). Those duties and responsibilities will probably be commensurate on our actual works to further Christianity and love of mankind.
(Dan. 7:9 [scripture]; 7:9 [commentary];Matt 5:16; 12:36; Rom 3:18; 1 Cor. 3:11-15; Gal. 6:7; Col. 3:24-25; 2 Tim. 1:9; 4:1-8; Rev. 22:12; James 2:14, 17-20)
v3: "He that sat was to look upon as jasper and a sardine stone" - Jasper, in John's area was very clear; might even have been diamond - probably refers to the brightness of the vision on the throne. Sardine, a stone found in the area of Sardis (one of our seven cities of Rev. 2,3), was blood red - probably refers to the wrath of God to follow or the sign of the blood that was shed by Jesus for us.
The rainbow was a reminder of God's mercy - remember the covenant with Noah after the flood. The sight of emerald was green usually indicative of mercy and probably soothed John. The rainbow is significant in more than the Noahic covenant. It was used in Ezekiel's vision of the glory of God (Ezek. 1:28). A third time is here in Revelation 4:3 and again in 10:1. These were all associated with the presence and character of God.
(Dan 7:13-14 [scripture]; 7:13-14 [commentary]; Rev. 20:11-15
v4: This verse says that there are 24 thrones around the main throne. Although it is very clear in the Bible that no one, except Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God's heavenly creations (angels), has seen God, it is clear from verse 3 that John saw what would be a human-like appearance in form so John would know what was going on. But John did not see the divine character and presence as evidenced by John seeing "jasper" and "sardine" stones. John saw enough to know what or who he was seeing.
The word used in Greek for "seats" is thronos which means thrones. Therefore, the term "seats" used in the KJV and Aramaic should be upgraded to "thrones". Most other versions of the Bible use "thrones". Since the word throne is used for the Elders, they must be very important. This, of course, refers to a high level of the persons who sit in them.
As usual, white raiments are symbols of cleanliness and purity. "Stephenos" in the Greek means the "Victor's Crown of Leaves". This is similar to the term "diadem" which is a term used for a twisted, hand-made crown. It was used for competitive events in ancient days. Therefore, the term is usually used to indicate an earned crown, not decreed or inherited. It then follows that the crowns were for elders who have in some way earned their positions. (i.e. these 24 were representing those who earned the position or were rewarded for following Christ.)
Why are there 24 elders? The Israelites used 70 elders (Exod. 24:1). There were 24 orders of priests; however they were not called elders. Some have said they represented the 12 patriarches and the 12 apostles. However, that is not likely in light of the fact that the apostles were to judge the tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28) . The term elder has been used to be relative to administration and seems to refer to a chronological connotation (1 Peter 1:1,5). There are conversations between the elders allowing them to be real individual men, not just symbolic (such as symbolic for all believers) (Rev. 5:5; 7:13). It is interesting and very probably the answer that from Genesis on, there are 24 patriarches in the line of the promised seed. They are listed below with the first occurrence scripture:
These 24 could properly be placed or decreed as elders by God.
Of course, there is always the possibility that God did not mean for them to be known until the end or judgment time because they probably earned their level with God (not salvation) by their works. We will be in that category also. There will be more on this later in the study.
Rev. 21:12-14; Acts 2-:17; Rev. 2:10; 3:11
v5: The sightings and sounds of this verse would be the sounds of judgment. This is so even though in verse 3 there is the sight of grace and peace (rainbow). This is now the time of judgment. The number seven comes up again two more times. It again represents completeness. The heritage for the seven lamps probably came from the Tabernacle in the wilderness of Moses. There were seven lamps of oil on top of the lampstand. Now the seven spirits of God is a little more difficult to explain. Again, the number seven refers to divine completeness and perfection. It appears by most scholars that the term "seven spirits" signifies the Holy Spirit in its divine perfection and ministering in fullness. The exact definition of "seven spirits" is still very much in question with all scholars.
Rev. 3:11; Acts 2:33
v6: The sea of glass like crystal was a sign of smoothness, clarity, and perfection. Referring to the sea as glass was not unusual. Also, it probably was completely around the throne area separating the throne area from all else. The sea could be representative of the laver (cleansing and washing basin) in the tabernacle (Exod. 30:18-21) . Also, sea in the temple (2 Chron. 4:2-6) is used for cleansing. The four beasts were full of eyes before and behind. This is a sign to indicate seeing all everywhere. Why were they beasts? Our term of "beast" usually is a term meaning ugly and bad. If one goes back to the original Greek, the word zoon is used. This literally means "living creatures". (This is the base word for our word "zoology". They are close to God. So none of the associations with beasts is bad in this context. So, the correct term for the four are living creatures. Albert Barnes seems to believe the words lend themselves to seeing the four creatures under the throne holding up the throne. Perhaps the creatures are pointed in the four directions so that the one could see all around the throne.
It is not a point of salvation to "see" the descriptions; however, since God put these descriptions in, He was trying to give us a picture we could somehow see and possibly understand. It is important to note that there is no reason to believe these are not real anymore than believing the elders are not real. They are real beings that are used by God in His perfect way. Also, remember, at this time we are in heaven, God's home. They are specially created, possibly a form of angel.
v7: Here the descriptions of the four creatures are a little more clearly defined. These creatures should not be confused with the beasts of Daniel 7. Those were signs of the country and leadership of the countries. The significance in Revelation are similar to the signs in Ezekiel Ezek 1:5-10.
As we shall see later, horns were symbols of power. We already know that seven was the symbol of completeness. Hence, complete power symbol. Seven eyes - completeness, perfection of vision. Eyes (front, back, around) symbolic who sees, knows, perceives, and understands all.
Even Christ has been depicted as:
The calf is primarily used in the Bible as a sacrifice, which is a sin offering. One of the most best known incidents is the Golden Calf of Moses. In this context it stands for endurance.
The creature of man symbolizes intelligence.
The eagle is a well known sight in the Holy Land. So the symbol was known. The eagle was known for its swiftness. It has very keen sight. They are exalted in the Bible (Isaiah 40:31). It is symbolizing the speed of judgment.
v8: Further description now begins to narrow the vision to what these creatures are. Each of them had six wings. They were full of eyes for complete, perfect vision. They did not rest, ever. All they ever said was "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." The only creatures that can do that are those made by God. The only winged creatures are the cherubim and seraphim. The descriptions also follow descriptions in the Old Testament, especially Isaiah (Isa. 6:2). Therefore, the description of a six winged creature fills the requirements for a seraphim. The primary job for a seraphim is protection watch and praising. These creatures spend all their time saying praises to God. By the way, there is nothing in the Bible that ever says that angels sing. They praise and raise their sounds; but, they do not ever sing scripturally.
Review angels paper in Daniel.
v9: Chapter 4 of Revelation starts the symbolic nature of the rapture. At this point, if appears the saints (all believers) have been "taken" by Jesus, the sins have been purged, and new "forever" garments were on, and the rewards have been given. To reiterate the "rewards", these are not rewards to be saved. These are rewards of levels into heaven in accordance with what the believer did with his belief in Jesus. If the believer stayed in his little home and never saw anyone (assuming he was able to physically), he can be saved by repenting and accepting Christ as his Lord and Savior. However, if you compare that person with a person who is "born again" or "regenerated" and then dedicates his life to Christ in helping people (for no personal satisfaction, just because Jesus told him to do it in the "Great Commission") or in some way furthers the kingdom of Jesus. Obviously, this person is saved also; but, he will be given something higher for God. We don't know what that is; it just appears (we will see this later) that the "judging" of believers will be to determine a "level".
The creatures are not redeemed. They never were lost. So they give thanks. It appears the thanks is given for their creation and for the saving grace God gave believers. There are three "thanks" references in the Bible that apply to the "throne-room" scene (this verse, Rev. 7:12; Rev. 11:17). The elders are a party to all three "thanks".
v10: The elders now show their reverence toward God. They fall down in front of the throne and worship God. Possibly when the creatures started their praises to God, the elders are signaled or they feel it is the right time to praise God by direct worship. They leave their own "throne" and prostrate themselves in front of God. The crowns being removed can mean that the crown is cumbersome; so they take the crowns off. The more reasonable interpretation is this action being an act of being humble. They do not rate a crown in front of the "most crowned" of all.
v11: The elders not proclaim what we should be proclaiming every day. God is worthy to receive the highest glory and honor. He has all power. He created all there is strictly for His pleasure. The word "pleasure" comes from the Greek thelema which means "will". Therefore, since He is in need of nothing, He did not "need" us or anything we can give. He created us from His own will and for His own pleasure and glory. We are the recipients of His love and grace. Since He was able to create and did create, He deserves all the glory and honor we can give.
|Return to Revelation TOC||email to Bill|
|Return to BJM Master Home Page|