According to a writer for Newsweek, “81 per cent of Americans and 51 per cent of Brits say they believe in heaven – an increase of 10 per cent since a decade ago. Of those, 71 per cent say it is an actual place”. People want to believe in Heaven!
We talk about Heaven all the time, using phrases like:
- For Heaven’s sake!
- Heaven help us!
- Heaven knows!
- It was Heavenly…
- Heaven sent
- Match made in Heaven
- Heaven forbid!
- Heaven’s above!
- Move Heaven and Earth
- Heaven on Earth
- Stink to high Heaven
All of these suggest that Heaven is a good place, a place where the problems of this life fade away.
Rather perplexingly, despite our fascination with this place, seldom do we go to the ‘official tour guide’ to find out what Heaven is really like!!
In chapter 4 of Revelation we are given an incredible glimpse of this place, that for many is far more than an abstract hope, it is a promised certainty.
The verse-by-verse study notes below are from our journey through the Book of Revelation.
Bible Study Notes from Calvary Chapel Portsmouth’s verse-by-verse study of the book of Revelation – February 2016
Session 7 – The Throne Room of the Universe
As we have previously noted, the book of Revelation is divided up into 3 sections as explained by Jesus Himself in Chapter 1 verse 19: The things that John had seen – i.e. the vision of Jesus in chapter one; the things that are – the things that existed at that time, namely the seven churches that have been the focus of Chapters 2 & 3, which also depict the seven eras of the church throughout history, and finally… The things that shall be ‘after these things’ – the things that will occur after the churches; literally, after the church age, once the Church has been taken out of this world.
Jesus made a promise to His disciples in John 14:1-3 that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house – Heaven – and He would one day come again and take us from earth to that place. From numerous scriptures, it seems this will occur before the time of Tribulation, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, in an event often referred to as the Rapture. (1 Corinthians 15:52 / 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
The division of the book of Revelation, as noted above, supports this notion of a ‘pre-tribulation’ Rapture, where the Church will be taken to Heaven before the commencement of the Tribulation (also known as the ‘Day of the LORD’). Isaiah (Isaiah 13:9-11), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 46:10) and Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14) all underscore that the Tribulation will be a time of God’s judgment, when He pours out His wrath on this unbelieving and Christ-rejecting world.
It therefore follows that believers will not be here for this time of God’s wrath because we have already been declared ‘not guilty’ because of Christ’s completed work on the cross, where His blood was shed as payment in full for our sin. God’s wrath fell on His Son at Calvary (Isaiah 53:10), it will not fall again on the Church He has purchased. So, just as with Lot, who was removed from Sodom before the judgment fell (see Genesis 18:25), in like manor the Church will be removed – Raptured – prior to the Tribulation, just as Paul said: “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
The Structure of Revelation 4-22
The events we will read about in chapters 4 – 22 are all a prophetic glimpse at future events, as seen and recorded by John, starting in chapters 4 & 5 with a vision of the Throne room of the Universe! We find that thrones are mentioned 51x in the New Testament, with 39 of these occurring in Revelation, and 17 being found in chapters 4 & 5. The very first thing John notices – amidst all the wonderful sights in Heaven – is the throne, and more importantly, the One sat on the throne!
After talking to the disciples about the events of the Tribulation, Jesus said: “pray that you be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:36). It is the fulfillment of this that we will see in chapters 4 & 5 when the Church will indeed stand before the Son of Man. The events that follow, in chapters 6-19, are the ‘things that shall come to pass’, from which Jesus promises His own a way of escaping from.
The Tribulation will conclude with the Second Coming of Jesus and will then lead into a literal millennial (1000 year) reign of Jesus Christ on this earth. Is this important? Absolutely! Our whole view of scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament, will be affected by our understanding of these things, and the way we understand the many prophecies about this period of time.
Chapters 20-22 then take us into the Millennial kingdom where Christ will reign on earth, and then …“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev 21:3-4)
It is worth remembering that in the very first verse of the book of Revelation, we read that it is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass”
God wants to show us these things, He wants us to understand and have hope as the world around us appears to be coming apart at the seams. Once again, this book promises a blessing, He wants to bless us as we read, hear and retain the things written in this prophecy.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim 3:16-17)
‘Meta-tauta’ – this is the same word that john uses in Rev 1:19 – “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter:”
These things will begin to take place after the church age has come to a close.
…………. I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven:
Twice in this book we find that Heaven opens. Here there is a ‘catching up’, and in chapter 19 we have a coming down. Here it is John who is called up into Heaven, and in chapter 19:11-14, Jesus and the saints return to earth for the 2nd Coming.
…………and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me;
The first voice that John refers to is the voice of Jesus as we saw in chapter 1:10-11 “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last:”
………which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.
As if to underline the point, we are again told that the events John is about to see will happen ‘hereafter’-‘Meta-tauta’.
A picture of the Rapture? In this verse we have John, who could be seen as a representative of the Church, hearing the voice of Jesus as a trumpet, being caught up into Heaven. One cannot help to see the similarities between Johns’ experience here are the situation that Paul describes at the time of the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: hen we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
(1 Thess 4:16-17) Now, this could all be just a coincidence, but as the Rabbis say: ‘coincidence is not a kosher word’!
It is however interesting to note that the church is mentioned 19 times up to the end of chapter 3 – it is not mentioned again in the rest of the book. The Church is seen in heaven – as the Bride of Christ, but it is not apparently on earth during the Tribulation as we will discover.
And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
How quick is ‘immediately’? If this event is a preview of the Rapture, Paul says that we will be changed ‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye’. (1 Corinthians 15:52). Now that is immediately, wouldn’t you agree?
As an aside, the Greek word for ‘moment’ in 1 Corinthians 15:52 is ‘Atomos’ which means an indivisible unit of time. It is where we get our word Atom from. It is interesting that physicists have now discovered that time itself is a physical property, and as such there is a point at which it cannot be divided any more – it becomes ‘indivisible’.
One moment John is on earth, the next he is in Heaven. The first thing he notices is a throne, and one who sat on the throne. We are going to find that there are a lot of creatures, angelic beings and ‘things’ that are in Heaven, but John’s attention is immediately drawn to the throne and He who sat on it – the triune God. The other things, as we will see are enough to blow your mind, but these are secondary compared to the sight of the One on the throne.
We all have many distractions on earth that keep us from looking at Jesus first, but when we get to Heaven all of these distraction will be gone forever.
Dake says: “The first thing John saw in Heaven was the throne of God…….It is literal as much as the door is literal [in verse one]. The same things that prove that one is literal will prove that the other is literal. Some cannot conceive of God sitting on a real throne, but there is no such thing as a spiritual throne. We have no ground at all for making these scenes symbolical or unreal, and not as they were actually seen by John. Our misconception of things cannot disprove their existence…….If God could create literal thrones, heavens, planets, etc., it seems He should be able to sit on or in any of them He desires.”
And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone:
Matthew Henry comments:
“This jasper is a transparent stone, which yet offers to the eye a variety of the most vivid colours, signifying the glorious perfections of God; the sardine-stone is red, signifying the justice of God”
However, searching the internet for ‘Jasper stones’ adds confusion to the issue because they range from red to green to brown to blue to white etc – in fact almost any colour you can think of! Many of the original names for Gemstones have been altered by different cultures throughout history, so it is hard to be absolutely certain of the exact colours. But in Revelation 21:11 in regard to the New Jerusalem Jasper is described as being clear. Most commentators seem to agree that Sardine stones, which were apparently first discovered in Sardis – hence the name, are bright red in colour – judgment? / blood?
What we do know is that the Jasper stone was the last stone in the high priests breastplate and represented the tribe of Benjamin – whose name means ‘ the son of my right hand’.
The Sardine stone was the first stone in the breastplate and represented Ruben – the firstborn.
So, we have the first and the last! We can be sure that all these details represent some aspect of Jesus, who sat down at the right hand of the Father, and was the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18) and the firstborn over creation (Col 1:15) – not in the sense of being born first, but as having the rank of the firstborn, i.e no.#1
One suggestion is that these stones represent brightness and an array of colours almost beyond description. 1 Tim 6:16 says that Jesus is dwelling in unapproachable light. And we know from 2 Thessalonians 2:8 that Antichrist will be consumed by the brightness of Jesus’ coming. It seems that John could barely distinguish who was on the throne because of the brilliance and brightness of His person.
It is going to be an awesome sight – and one that we will defiantly need our new bodies for! Our existing bodies couldn’t cope, we would probably go blind – which may have been what happened to Paul. (Cf. his throne in the flesh: 2 Cor 12:7 / Gal 4:15 / Gal 6:11)
………..and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
The rainbow was given as a sign of the covenant between God and mankind after the flood. God keeps His promises and this rainbow – this time it appears to be just bright green – is an eternal reminder of God’s amazing plan to redeem a special people despite the wickedness of man. The unveiling of this mystery – the Church – declares the ‘manifold wisdom’ of God to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.
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.
OK, this is the big question. When we understand who the 24 elders are, so many other issues and questions get solved and many other passages of scripture make sense.
The options are Angels, Israel, The Church, some other angelic being, or we don’t know!
One hint is found in 1 Chronicles 24 & 25 where king David established 24 courses of priests and 24 courses of musicians representative of the entire nation. So it is reasonable to assume that these 24 elders are representative of a group.
They cannot be angels because Rev 7:11 says: “And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God” They cannot represent Israel because throughout scripture we find that Israel are on earth during the Tribulation. Jer 30:7 / Ezek 22: 18-22 / Dan 9:27 / Rev 12:1-6 / Matt 24:22 This leaves the Church as the only really viable alternative, and when we look at what we know about the 24 elders, the question is answered beyond any reasonable doubt.
Firstly, we know that the elders are clothed in white raiment – which is specifically given to the Church (Rev 3:4-5 / Rev 3:18 / Rev 19:8 / Rev 19:14)
Secondly, they have crown of gold on their heads – which again are only promised to the Church in scripture (1 Cor 9:24-25 / 1 Thess 2:19 / 2 Tim 4:7-8 / James 1:12 / 1 Peter 5:1-4).
(See Appendix A)
Thirdly, they are redeemed to God by the blood of the Lamb (Rev 5:9). This can only be the Church, as Christ’s blood was not shed for any angel or any created being except man, and then the fact that they are redeemed shows that these ‘men’ were the once who received and accepted the offer of salvation through the blood, hence became redeemed – i.e. the Church.
Fourthly, they are from every kindred, tongue, people and nation (Rev 5:9), which again proves them to be the Church – and clearly shows that the ‘24’ is used as in the OT, to be representative of the whole.
Fifthly, they are kings and priests to God and shall reign on the earth – as again is only promised to the Church (1 Peter 2:9 / 2 Tim 2:12 / Rev 20:6 / Rev 22:5).
Sixthly, in the other recorded visions of Heaven found in the Old Testament, Isaiah 6 / Ezekiel 1 etc, we observe that the other heavenly creatures are found – the Cherubim and Seraphim and Angels, but the 24 elders are not mentioned. Given the fact that both Isaiah and Ezekiel give us so much detail about what they saw, we must conclude that the 24 elders were not in heaven at that time. This confirms what Jesus said in Matthew 13, and what Paul said in Ephesians 3, that the Church was a ‘mystery’ hidden in ages past, but now is revealed to show the unparalleled wisdom of God throughout history.
Seventhly, the 24 elders are sitting on thrones. The word translated ‘seats’ in the King James is the Greek word ‘thronos’, which is better translated as ‘throne’ (as it is at the beginning of verse 4). Rev 3:21 “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” This promise is not given to any angel.
Finally, the term ‘elder’ (Greek – Presbuteros) is used sixty-six times in the new testament, twelve times in this book, and it is always used to describe older, senior, or elder in connection with seniority / maturity in the church. The term is never applied to any other being except man.
The scriptural basis for believing that the 24 Elders are representative of the Church is very clear. If the 24 Elders are not the Church then they must be a group not known or mentioned anywhere else in scripture, and it would leave the insurmountable problem of the whereabouts of the Church during the Tribulation.
Conclusion: When such clear information is given regarding their identity, it is difficult to see how anyone can deny that the 24 Elders are indeed representative of the Church.
So why then do some reject this view? Because it leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Church are in Heaven before the Tribulation begins. It also demonstrates that scripture should be taken as it is written – not allegorised.
The fact that it is a pre-requisite that the Church be Raptured before the Tribulation as is made clear by 2 Thessalonians 2:7 / Genesis 18:23-25 / Isaiah 26:20-21 / Zephaniah 2:3 / John 14:3 / I Thessalonians 4:16-17 / Luke 21:36 / 1 Thessalonians 1:10 / 1 Thessalonians 5:9 / Rev 3:10.
As we now, through John’s eyes, get a glimpse of Heaven’s throne room, we will discover that we are looking on the ‘original’ that Moses was given instructions to make a duplicate of in the wilderness – i.e. the tabernacle.
Ex 25:8-9 – And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.
Ex 25:31 – And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.
Heb 8:1-5 – Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
Rev 15:5 – And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
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.
Lightning and thunder usually precede a storm – and what a storm we find brewing here.
The seven lamps we have already met in chapter 1:4 and 3:1 are identified as being the seven (complete) Spirits of God. In the tabernacle of Moses we find the seven branched lamp stand (the Menorah) symbolic of the real thing that John is seeing here.
And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal:
This is the real laver that Moses was instructed to make a copy of. It is interesting that despite all the other detailed instructions given to Moses, no dimensions were given for the laver. The priests were to wash bodily in the laver before entering the holy place. In the New Testament the laver has given way to the Word of God, which we are to immerse in bodily – washed by the water of the Word (Eph 5:26) – There was no limit given for the laver, there is no limit to the cleansing power of the Word of God, and we know that this sea is vast from Rev 15:2
……….and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
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.
Isaiah calls them Seraphims, Ezekiel Cherubim. The best rendering is ‘living ones’.
The attributes of these creatures all point to Jesus, depicting His kingly nature, as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the ‘suffering servant’ as seen in the nature of an Ox – typically a beast of burden. The face of a man speaks of His humanity – the Word become flesh, and the Spiritual nature, like an eagle that soars above all.
We see this deliberate design intertwined throughout scripture in the arrangement of the Tribes of Israel as they camped around the Tabernacle, and also in the fourfold presentation of Jesus given to us in the gospels.
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.
3 x Holy because they are worshiping Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
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.
It seems an almost involuntary reaction, as soon as the 24 Elders hear the praise of the ‘four creatures’ they fall down and worship.
Now this is the moment we have all been waiting for! We cast our crowns before Him.
It is amazing how many churches sing ‘Crown Him with many crowns’ without having a clue! If fact it is even worse than that, because many churches would deny that the 24 Elders represent the Church, and yet they still sing the hymn.
How interesting that we praise Him for all He has created, to praise Him for all He allowed to evolve through chance mutations over millions of years doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?!
God is Creator and regardless what the world thinks and teaches, all those going to Heaven better get this issue sorted out!
The act of creation is attributed to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, confirming that the ‘one’ on the throne is the triune God.
Appendix A – The Five Crowns
In the New Testament there are 5 distinct crowns that are promised to believers as a reward for their labour. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Gal 6:9)
1 Corinthians 3 tells us that when we arrive in Heaven at the time of the Rapture we will be judged according to our works. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Cor 3:13-15)
In 2 John 8 we read “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.”
As we have seen in our study in Revelation 4, the crowns that we are given will be cast before Jesus feet as an act of worship. In Rev 19:12, at the Second Coming, Jesus is seen wearing ‘many crowns’ – could these be the ones that His Church have given Him? If so, this could be the only thing that we are able to give to Him that is not His already. The more crowns we ‘earn’ in this life, the more we will be able to give Him as an acknowledgement of deep love and gratitude to Him for all that He has done for us.
The number 5 represents completeness; these 5 crowns represent a life completely yielded to our Lord and Saviour in every area.
The Crown of Incorruption – 1 Cor 9:24-25 – Run the Christian race to win
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
The Crown of Rejoicing – 1 Thess 2:19 – The prize for Soul winning
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
The Crown of Righteousness – 2 Tim 4:7-8 – The prize for those looking for Him
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
The Crown of Endurance – James 1:12 – The prize for overcoming temptation
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
The Crown of Glory – 1 Peter 5:1-4 – The prize for faithful ministry
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
More next week…
May you be blessed and encouraged as you continue to study God’s Word.