Bible Study Series: Revealing Jesus in Revelation
Revelation Chapter 4: A Glimpse of Heaven & Eternity
by I Gordon
- The Suddenness of Eternity
- The Sights of Eternity
- The Sensations of Eternity
- The Sounds of Eternity
Sound good? I hope so! Believe me... the reality of this definitely is and will be good whether this study does it any justice or not!
- I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven - Heaven is opened only twice in the book of Revelation. Once here, to receive John, and once in Rev 19:11 where Jesus and the saints come out of Heaven to make war against the nations. So the first opening is for the believer going up and the second is for Jesus and believers coming down. These two openings represent the rapture and the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. And let me add that if we want to be part of this first open door to heaven we need to have first opened the door of our own heart to the Lord as indicated in the letter to the Laodiceans! (Rev 3:20)
- And the first voice which I had heard... speaking with me - In Revelation chapter 1 John sees the Lord Jesus in glory (Rev 1:12-20) and then here, hears the Lord telling Him to come on up! In like manner, at the Rapture, it is the Lord who personally comes for His bride 'For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first..' (1Th 4:16)
- The first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet - John heard a voice like a trumpet just as believers will hear a trumpet at the rapture (1 Thes 4:16, 1 Cor 15:51). The trumpet will sound, drawing the congregation of God together ready to set out on a new, very exciting journey!
- "Come up here" - John is given the command to 'Come up here'. At the rapture there will be a loud command (1 Thes 4:16) from the Lord and it could well be 'come up here'. As mentioned earlier Daniel, Ezekiel and Isaiah were all given a vision of heaven but only John was actually commanded to 'come up here'. Why? Again, because this is all a picture of what will happen to believers at the rapture. It will not be some amazing experience while we remain here. We are going up!
- "And I will show you what must take place after these things" - Revelation 4:1 twice says 'after these things'. So... what things? And why emphasize and repeat this? The Greek is 'meta tauta' and it is the same exact phrase that Jesus used in Rev 1:19 where he gave His outline to the book of Revelation. Rev 1:19 "Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.
1. 'the things which you have seen' is the Vision of Jesus (Rev 1:12-20)
2, 'the things that are' is the Church age (Rev 2-3)
3. 'the things that take place after this' is that which occurs after the Church age (ie: Tribulation, Messianic Kingdom, Eternal State)
Chapter 4 begins something new in the book of Revelation. It begins the third part. It is the transition point. There always comes a time when God says enough, as He did in the days of Noah and the flood, and He will do it again at the end of the Church age.
And how will it change? What will we experience? Well, let's start with the first things we shall see. Let's start with the sights of eternity.
The jasper of the Revelation is not the opaque stone we know by that name. It is later described as clear as crystal (21:11). It is probably the diamond, the most brilliant of all the precious jewels. The other stone is blood-red and may really be the ruby. Thus the two together give the idea of glory and of sacrifice. Remembering that many of the first readers of the Revelation were converted Jews, we might ask what these stones would suggest to them. Surely every instructed Hebrew would instantly recall that they were the first and last stones in the breastplate of the high priest (Exodus 28:17-21). These stones were engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel, arranged according to the births of the twelve patriarchs; so the ruby (sardius) would suggest at once the name Reuben, “Behold a Son,” and the Jasper Benjamin, “Son of my right hand.” It is Christ enthroned, the Son about to reign in power who is before the seer’s vision.
H.A Ironside, Notes on Revelation
- The name 'elders' in scripture is used of Church leaders (Tit 1:5), not angelic beings
- The elders have never been seen or mentioned as being in heaven before (ie they were not seen by Isaiah, Ezekiel or Daniel's vision of heaven) but only show after the 'rapture' type event of Revelation 4:1-2.
- The elders are seated on thrones (which angels never are) which was a promise in Revelation to the church (Rev 3:21)
- The elders are dressed in white (speaks of redemption and purity) which was promised to the church (Rev 3:4)
- The elders have victors ('stephanos') crowns like those who have competed in the games and been rewarded. Again, this was a promise to the church (Rev 2:10)
Though, to be fair, I'd probably get the heebie-jeebies if I went fishing and pulled this thing up! But as odd as Mr Blobfish is, he has nothing on angelic beings with four faces! Or those described in Revelation as being covered with eyes front and back! In both cases I wouldn't know where to look and you'd definitely feel like you are being watched! But oh the sights we will see on that day. If you think there are strange and incredible sights and creatures down here, wait till you get to heaven!
So you have the throne which the Father and the Son sit upon. Surrounding that is the elders, representing believers. You've also got myriads of angelic beings, full of joy, in the presence of their King. And four living creatures covered with eyes front and back. Goodness... and this is just the sights before us.
- The power of God - The verse says that from the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Have you ever been in full-on thunder storm? I mean actually being outside in the storm, not while you are hiding under your bed! As a kid I had a newspaper-round before school and another one after school. I remember one day delivering the papers after school when a full on thunder storm hit. There was forked lightning all around with almost instantaneous loud claps of thunder. Needless to say, I set a record on the time taken to deliver the papers that day! It was impressive. Not my time... the storm. The power was both frightening (especially when you are out on your BMX delivering papers!) and awe inspiring at the same time. Well in our scene of heaven, a small glimpse of God's power is seen here. Lightning and thunder come from the throne, that is its source, signifying the immense power of the One sitting there! Thankfully, for believers, this throne is a throne of grace! (Heb 4:16) But for the unbelieving world this is but a glimpse of the judgements, seen later in Revelation, that come upon the world.
The One who has power over powerAs an application, we should remember that Jesus' power protects our lives today. According to scripture we 'are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.' (1 Pet 1:5) Let me give you a recent example of this. My nephew Jack, who is a Christian, is currently doing his electrician apprenticeship. Last Thursday he was digging a hole outside a new home when he put his spade right through the live mains cable running to the house. The electricity immediately went up his spade blowing it to pieces and throwing Jack meters backwards. And yet he was perfectly fine! Shocked yes, literally and probably mentally... but no electrical burns, pain or damage at all. His boss, with a long history as an electrician, cannot understand how Jack is still alive. Let alone having no signs of the electrical shock! All you can say is that the power of electricity is immense... but there is One who has power over such power, and that is the all-powerful One!
- The Spirit of God - What other sensations will we experience in heaven? Also before the throne are the seven spirits of God. This is the Spirit in all His fullness. At the moment the believer is said to have received the first-fruits of the Spirit who is a pledge or guarantee of the fullness still to come (Rom 8:23, Eph 1:13-14). So what sensations will you experience in Heaven? The fullness of God's Spirit. The fullness of joy. The fullness of love. The fullness of all that the Spirit is. Goodness!
- The peace of God - Despite the awe-inspiring power shown in the lightning and thunder, there is also what looks like a sea of glass, clear as crystal, before the throne. I used to surf quite a bit when I was younger and the second question after 'is there a wave?' was always 'is it glassy?' A glassy sea comes from a calm, still, wind-free day. Listen - in this life the wind, the waves and seas roar. Both naturally and figuratively. You will have trouble. The nations and the wicked are likened in scripture to a troubled sea and we can definitely see the roaring of these seas today.
'Alas, the uproar of many peoples Who roar like the roaring of the seas, And the rumbling of nations Who rush on like the rumbling of mighty waters!' (Isa 17:12)
'But the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt. (21) "There is no peace," Says my God, "for the wicked." (Isa 57:20-21)
But there, before the throne, is calmness you have never experienced before. No panic, no turmoil, just a sea of glass, clear as crystal... perfect stillness and peace. All troubles will be behind you on that day, for all time, never to rise again. And they will be replaced by the peace of God in all its fullness!
Now, I'm not making this up! : ) That will be the experience of all believers. A sense of God's power, the fullness of His presence and His perfect peace. So what about the sounds? What will we hear?
"Once during her reign, England’s Queen Victoria listened to a chaplain preach a sermon about the second coming of Christ. Those near the royal box noticed that the queen’s eyes were filled with tears. When the service ended, she asked to see the chaplain alone. Seeing her great emotion, he asked why she was so moved. She replied, “Because of what you said about the coming again of the world’s rightful King, I wish still to be here when He returns that I might lay my crown at His blessed feet!”
1Co 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
- What are the sights of eternity? Firstly, Jesus... seated upon His throne as King of the Universe. Imagine seeing Him! Secondly, believers... close to the Lord surrounding the throne. May you be there and see those you love there. Thirdly, angelic beings and wonderful creatures... all in joyful assembly as they bask in God's presence.
- What are the sensations of eternity? The power of God with lightning coming from the throne, the fullness of His Spirit and His wonderful peace!
- What are the sounds of eternity? It is the sounds of praise. It is the sound of thanksgiving. It is the sound of the greatest worship, singing and rejoicing you have ever heard or participated in!
Some this is taken from another study I wrote on the 'Sudden ending'. There is more on this theme than I can write here so I would encourage you to read that study as well if interested: https://jesusplusnothing.com/series/post/TheSuddenEnding
On the third heaven, Nelson's New Illustrated Commentary states: "It was common to speak of three “heavens”: The first is the atmosphere where the birds fly; the second is the place of the sun, moon, and stars; the third is where God dwells."
Jesus Himself emphasized the 'suddenness' of this event at His coming:
Mar 13:32-37 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (33) Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. (34) It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. (35) Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming--in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning-- (36) lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. (37) And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!"
Who is represented by these twenty-four elders? They cannot be angels. Angels are never seated upon thrones (not seats, as in the Authorized Version), nor are they crowned, nor can they sing redemption’s song as the elders do. There is only one possible meaning. They represent the redeemed, the saints in glory. They are priests (clothed in white) and they are kings (crowned); they are the royal priesthood in the presence of the throne. And why twenty-four? It points us back to the work David did for the temple. He appointed twenty-four courses of the priests (1Ch 24:1-31). Twice twelve would suggest the saints of the Old and New Testaments.↩
Many people have pointed out how these four living creatures seem to also point to the four gospels as shown below:
Lion (pictures the King)
Mathew's gospel is written primarily to the Jews. It starts with Jesus' genealogy to prove Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, a son of David. It contains frequent quotes from the Old Testament to prove the Messiahship of Jesus. It shows Jesus is the King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah
Ox (pictures a servant of man)
Man (pictures His humanity)
Luke's gospel presents the humanity of Jesus. He is often called 'the Son of Man' in this gospel and gives many stories that are not found anywhere else.
Flying Eagle (pictures His heavenly origin and divine nature)
John's gospel presents Jesus as God! Not just a servant, not just a man, not even just the Messiah... But God Almighty, the I AM, Yahweh, from the Old Testament. The Word who is God.