Jesus Christ is the Only Way to Heaven /The Throne Room in Heaven (Revelation Chapters 4-5)
The Future-The End Times / The Things That Will Take Place After This
We now embark on a long journey into the future. In the outline of Revelation 1:19, we are about to chart a course in “the things that will take place after this.” From the standpoint of the 21st century, all that occurs in the Revelation from this time on will be future – the end times. Beginning with chapter 4, things to come are unfolded. Chapter 4 and 5 are the introduction and background to the broad scope of prophetic events in the rest of the book. To some degree they provide (act as) a table of contents for the chapters that follow.
Revelation 4:1 reads, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” The striking similarities between the elements of this verse and those of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, which record the rapture of the Church cannot be coincidence. Here, as a representative of the Church, John envisions being caught up into heaven to view the future. This even symbolizes the catching up to heaven of all born-again believers before judgement begins – the seal, trumpet and bowl judgements (Rev: 6-16). That this is a sign of the rapture of the Church is believed for the following reasons:
(1). Beginning with 4:1, the Church does not appear again until we get to Revelation chapter 19 – the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven and the Second Coming of Christ back with His church.
(2). There is an obvious transition between chapters 3 and 4. Chapter 3 speaks of the churches; chapter 4 of judgement. Chapter 3 is set on earth; chapter 4 in heaven. Chapter 3 closes the division of “the things which are”; chapter 4 opens the division of “the things which must take place after this.”
(3). The first vision of Christ in Revelation pictures Him in the midst of the seven lampstands (which the book itself interprets as the seven churches). But in chapter 4-19, Christ is pictured in heaven (4:1-2; 5:5-6). It is certainly logical to believe the Church is there with Him (John 14:1-3).
(4). The promise made to the Philadelphia Church was that it would be kept from the hour of trial (Rev. 3:10). In order to escape the terrible judgements of Revelation 4-19, the Church must be translated to heaven before that time (1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:9).
For these and many other reasons, it appears that John’s vision of himself being caught up from earth to heaven is a symbolic representation of the rapture of the Church before the events of the Tribulation period described in chapters 4-19.
The Throne of God
The first thing John envisions in heaven is a throne. This is not symbolism, but a judgement scene set in heaven. This throne is neither the Great White Throne of Revelation 20:11 nor the Judgement Seat of Christ of 2 Corinthians 5:10. The one sitting on the throne is none other than God Himself. This is clear from the symbolism of verses 3 and 5 and from the direct reference to God in verse 8. John’s senses are immediately struck by the person on the throne. Verse 3 records, “And He who sat there was like a jasper and a Sardius stone….” The jasper stone, explained in Revelation 21:11, is a crystal-clear white stone representing the purity and glory of God. On the other hand, the sardius stone is ruby colored, a blood red. By this is pictured God’s redemptive nature.
The throne itself has an emerald colored rainbow completely encircling it and out of the throne proceed lightnings and thunderings (v.5). Here again is a contrasting picture of God. This is a throne of judgement, depicted by the lightning and thunder but mingled with God’s righteous judgement is His mercy, represented by the rainbow (Gen. 9:13-16.)
Those around the throne of God are equally interesting. Verse 4 says, “Around the throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones I saw 24 elders sitting, clothed in white robes and they had crowns of gold on their heads.” The seats upon which these 24 elders sit on thrones which indicate they are given positions of authority. Who can these elders be? The most logical identification is that they are the raptured Church. The fact that they are crowned and enthroned suggest that they are saints who have been judged and rewarded. They are representative of the entire Church. As the officials of the Church today, no better symbol than the elders could be used in this vision to represent the whole Church. (Read Acts 15:6; 20:17; James 5:14). We know that Israel had elders and that elders were appointed in the early churches to rule and to represent the entire church (see Titus 1:5). Their role was clearly understood by the people in John’s day. These 24 elders stand for the total church from Pentecost to the Rapture. Therefore, what we read and see here is that the church is in heaven in Revelation chapter 4 before the Tribulation period begins.
The activity of the 24 elders gives us a clue as to our own activity in heaven. The elders rise and bow down before God and worship Him (v.10). To worship means to ascribe honor to and that is exactly what the elders do when they say, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created (v. 11).”
Another activity of the elders is seen in verses 10. Here they cast their crowns before the throne as they praise the Lord. These are not crowns of royalty. They are the crowns that have been won in the area of faith. They are the crowns of faithful service during this life. What better way to praise and honor God than to cast at His feet the tangible evidence of our heavenly reward.
Now, some people have surmised that these 24 elders are angels, but they are not, since Revelation 5:10 makes a distinction between angels, beasts, and elders. Others think that they inanimate symbols. But they’re wrong again. The elders cannot be symbols because symbols do not talk to one another (see Revelation 5:5). From Scripture we understand that Elders are representatives of God’s people. For instance, every minister is an elder of his church. But why 24 elders? Twelve is God’s governmental number – the number that denotes the rule of God on earth (four is the earth number. Three is the divine number. Three times four is twelve). Here, we have twelve times two, which is twenty-four. These twenty-four elders are the dead in Christ and living saints who have been transformed from earth into heaven. You only have to notice how John describes these elders. “They are saints clothed in white and wearing crowns on their heads.”
There is one group around the throne that needs identification. They are the four beasts, or as the word is more correctly translated “living ones” or“living creatures(vs.6-7).” These are not grotesque animals but rather living creatures of diverse characteristics. The first is like a lion, the second like a calf, the third has a face like a man, and the fourth is like a flying eagle. Each of them has six wings and are “full of eyes” which depicts their incessant activity in praising the Lord.
These four living creatures are heavenly cherubim. Ezekiel writes of living creatures and identifies them as cherubim (Ezek. 10:15, 20). They complete the symbolism that every living creature in heaven will praise God, both earthly and heavenly beings. These four living ones “rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is, and is to come” (4:8).
Both the raptured Church, represented by the 24 elders, and the heavenly angels, represented by the four living cherubim, will one day praise the Lord as He ought to be praised today.
Chapter 5 finds John viewing another majestic sight. In the right hand of God, sitting on the throne, is a book which has been written upon both inside and out. In the days of John, books were usually scrolls rather than leaf books as we have today. When a scroll was completely filled with writing, it would be rolled a little way, a seal placed on it, rolled a little more and sealed again. When it was completely rolled, there would be seven seals securing its message. To unroll the scroll and reveal the contents, the seals must be successfully broken.
This sealed scroll recalls the ancient Jewish custom of the kinsmen-redeemer (Ruth 4). Under the Law, when an owner of property allowed another to take possession of it, a sort of mortgage deed was given to the original property owner. This was a sealed scroll which stated that at some future date a kinsman or an heir could reclaim that property if the purchase price is met. The landowner’s representative must be a legal kinsman and be worthy of the right to purchase the property. When he had paid the stated purchase price, then, and only then, could he break the seals on the scroll. This worthy seal-breaker was called the “redeemer” for he had gained the property from the hands of another.
But here a grave problem arises. John sees a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose it seals (5:5)?”Since this is the title deed to the universe and only the purchaser of redemption can receive it from the hand of God, an intensive search is made to discover a man worthy to open the scroll. Verse 3 indicates that though heaven, earth, and the nether world (underworld) are searched, no man worthy is found. By sin all men have forfeited their worthiness to open the scroll.
This caused John to fall into uncontrollable despair and much weeping (v. 5). No man was found worthy to receive the scroll from the hand of God. Was this to be the end of the revelation? Was it possible that the scroll would have to remain sealed and its message unknown?
Suddenly one of the elders said to the greatly sorrowful John, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals (v.5).” Then John looked up and “in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he came and took the scroll out of the right hand of him who sat on the throne. (vs. 6-7).”
Here was the answer to the angel’s question, “Who is worthy to open the scroll, and to loose it seals?” The Lamb is worthy. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has qualified Himself to open the scroll. This is none other than the Lion (Gen. 49:10) from between the feet of Judah, and the Root of David (Isa. 11:1), the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6-7), the Lamb of God (John 1:29). This is Jesus Christ the Lord. The title deed is in the hand of God and only Jesus has paid the purchase price. He has purchased all things by His death on Calvary’s cross. Since Jesus alone has paid the price for redeeming God’s property, He is the only one who is able to take the scroll out of the hands of God. On the cross the title to the redeemed souls of the universe was purchased with Christ Jesus’ blood and now He steps up and receives the scroll in one of the most dramatic scenes of history. Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, claims those for whom He has died and immediately the four living creatures and 24 elders sing a new song, a song of praise to the Redeemer. They sing, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth (vs. 9-10).” Even the angels 10,000 times 10,000 strong, who could not sing the new song of redemption, join in the celebration of praise to the one worthy to receive the scroll by saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessings(v.12)!”
Finally, every creature in heaven, on earth and under the earth sing honor and blessing to the Lamb. Yes, Christ Jesus humbled Himself, came to earth in the form of a man and died for you and me. “Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phi. 2:9-11).”Yes, this is exactly what will happen when the worthy Lamb receives the title deed to the universe from God the Father. As believers, we will be there to witness this great event. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Jesus Christ is the Only Way to Heaven
>Oscar Leske / F/B – Signs of Our Times