Revelation Study: Chapter 4…
Link to additional PowerPoint Notes Revelation 4 & beyond
Chapter 1 of Revelation is about the past; chapters 2 and 3 are about the present. (John’s Day) From Revelation chapter 4 through 22 it is all about the future; the Tribulation and the 2nd advent of Christ. Recall that the seven churches in chapter 2 and 3 are Messianic churches of John’s time. The guidance offered in each letter also is for one wanting to live a Christ-like life; one that is approved of God.
We have completed our in-depth study of the seven churches, now we see the door of heaven opened (4:1). Some believe and I can appreciate their view that this verse is also a parallel to the Rapture. If this is so, we will see or live through chapters 1 to 4:1 then taken up to meet Jesus in the clouds in the rapture.
When a Christian dies, his or her soul and spirit goes to be with Christ, that is, in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8; also see Revelation 21:3-4). Our body remains in the grave until the resurrection of those who died in Christ (rapture). Later, those who die(d) without Christ will stand judgment at the Great White Throne after the Millennial Reign of Jesus in Jerusalem. For the Christian, judgment is at the end of the Church/gentile age, just before the Tribulation… the *Bema Seat Judgment of rewards. This is one reason I suggest locating events like the Rapture at this spot in the book of Revelation (4:1-2). There are at least 4 or 5 reasons for identifying it here.
*Bema Seat Judgment is often referred to as Christ’s Judgment Seat of Christians. This is the judgment of “the good and the bad done in the body”. This includes our promised rewards (II Thessalonians 2:19-20; Revelation 22:12; II Corinthians 5:9-10)
- The location or timing of this event as recorded in Revelation 4 is right for the Rapture. Chapters 4 & 5 present a vision in Heaven. Chapter 6 introduces the Tribulation period. John, the last of the 12 disciple of Jesus who was still alive, is a fitting symbol of the Church being taken out of the world just before the Tribulation begins. “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth“. (Rev. 3 v.10)
- The absence of any mention of the Church in the rest of Revelation indicates that it is no longer on earth during the Tribulation. There are 16 references to the Church in Rev. 1-3, whereas chapters 6-18, which cover the Tribulation, do not mention the Church once. Chapters 4 and perhaps 5 are departure chapters.
- The extensive use of *Old Testament language and symbols in Chapters 4-18 is an indication of Israel issues, not Church concerns or issues. This is understandable since the Church Age is the time of the Gentiles and that ends with the rapture. The Great Tribulation is the time of Jacob’s trouble also called the seventieth week of Daniel. Our Daniel bible study pointed this out. End Time is reserved by God for His final dealings with Israel. Some of these Old Testament symbols found in Revelation include the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the altar, elders, censers, cherubim, seals, trumpets, and *plagues. *just as it was so of Israel in Egypt prior to their exodus from bondage and headed to their Promised Land so it will be at the rapture when Christians are taken to their Promised Land… Heaven.
- There is similarity between the events of Revelation 4 v.1-2 and other scriptural teaching on the Rapture, such as 1 Thess. 4 v.13-18.
- Perhaps another connection with the rapture is the fact that there are similarities with it and John’s many identities: A son of Thunder (God’s wrath poured out), John the beloved of Christ (as is His Church), and John was a part of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples plus, his name in Greek means “Jehovah is gracious.” So will Jesus be gracious by the rapture of His church BEFORE the Great Tribulation.
* JIV, the church age ends in chapter 3 with the messages to the 7 churches. It is now all Jewish (ick) history yet to happen.
None of the above reasons is sufficient in and of their individual selves to suggest that Revelation 4 v.1-2 refers to the Rapture of the Church. When, however, all of them are considered together, I am inclined to believe that this inference is possible if not probable. The Rapture of the Church is not explicitly taught in Rev. 4 but definitely appears logically and chronologically correct being at the end of the Church Age and before the Tribulation.
The 7 churches were ALL Messianic-Christians; established by former Judaism followers via Paul and Peter. From chapter 4 forward, the intent of Revelation is to explain and inform God’s chosen of the Tribulation i.e. Jesus revealed. It is not far-fetched to accept that this is a Rapture passage for the church then comes a time when the Israelites will finally recognize their messiah.
John is the seer and is writing about future events even in his day. What better way to allude to the Rapture at this specific time, particularly since it is located right after the description of the Church Age and just prior to the revelation of the Antichrist. Remember that John is called to heaven to witness these things, just as the church rapture will call believers to heaven and ‘perhaps’ witness these things yet to come.
I find it both comforting and definitive doctrine when I read Matthew 24:31 that the Book of Revelation is in reference to the reunited Nation of Israel and not the church: And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect (Eklektos: by implication; his favorite, chosen, elect; Israel) from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (ESV). This may be the very same trumpet blast that calls Christians home to Heaven; rapture. Israelis will gather in Israel so that prophecy can be fulfilled when the nations of the world align themselves against *Jerusalem (*symbolic name for Israel and Israelis). To be fair, this verse could also mean the Christians from the four corners of the earth. I question this conclusion though because we are called to meet Christ in the clouds at the twinkling of an eye. No call goes out… just a meeting in the sky. (1 Thessalonians 4:16 & 17. Also see 1 Corinthians 15:52)
JIV: 4:17b states, “…and so ‘we will be with the Lord forever.’” If the Lord here is referring to Jesus Christ, this highly suggests we will return to earth with Him during His 1,000 year reign. We will be WITH HIM forever!
Also, look again at the opening words in verse 17. “After that, we who are still alive AND LEFT….” This specifically identifies those Christians who are left; i.e. those in Christ, not the entire world’s population. If it only read, “those who are still alive” it becomes a universal rapture of everyone. This just isn’t true. The Great White Throne judgment is their destiny.
On a third JIV (Jim’s Introspective View) note, the use of the word “behold” in Revelation 4:1 is an imperative. As a noun it would mean an essential or urgent thing. As an adjective it would be vitally important; crucial. This means Revelation 4:1 is a crucial turning point in what John sees. The Rapture???? The Tribulation!!!!! This is not a ‘behold’ that simply means to observe or look.
Might it also be feasible that the words “come up here for I have things to show you that are yet and must happen” will be true of the immediate 7 years after the rapture, things that are yet and must happen? Will we be able to see the rest of Revelation played out prior to the millennial reign but from the safety of heaven? This is something to think about, right? Don’t be too quick to conclude.
In Revelation 4:2 we read “in the spirit”. In the Greek this is πνεῦμα/pneuma. At first glance one might assume in the spirit means ‘apart from the body’. However, pneuma can also mean a mental disposition; a current of air. ONLY figuratively it means a spirit as one might conclude at first glance.
In Revelation 4:3 we once again see support for the Israel specificity of this book. It can easily be missed. John describes, in part, 4:3a “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone…”
Look at the two stones; jasper and sardine. What is their significance? They are the first and last stones in the breastplate of the High Priest. Why they are listed in reverse order, jasper (last stone) then sardine/odem/ruby (first stone), I do not quite grasp. Its significance may have something to do with ‘the last will be first and the first last’ (Matthew 19:30; 20:16). It may have something to do with reading Hebrew right to left. PS: Odem is also identified as sardine or ruby. Each name identifies the same stone. Also, Reuben (Sardine stone) was the first born and Benjamin (Jasper stone) the last born. Another symbolism: God is the alpha and the omega. Possibly in that the jasper is the last stone, this is significant in that this is also “the last straw” in God’s timetable for His created earth. The End of Time is then upon us? Remember that “time” itself is a creation of God (Trinity) back in Genesis 1:4.
Read right to left, top to bottom:
Reuben or the sardine stone is 1st. Benjamin or the jasper stone is listed last.
It would be easy to get lost in discussing the meanings of the different parts of the High Priest’s garb, but I will fight the temptation and stay in Revelation… (for now:).
Per the rainbow identified in Rev 4:3 we should be reminded of the covenants between God and Israel (his elect and chosen people; O.T.) and the Church (New Testament time of the gentile). After the deluge of Genesis 6-9, God made a covenant with ALL MANKIND; the rainbow covenant/promise. We find God beneath the rainbow council of elders John sees is seated in a semi-circle around the Great Throne in Heaven.
I hasten to take us back to the study of Bible Codes in a previous study and the meaning of each name within the Tribes of Israel; Reuben to Benjamin in birth order:
J.I.V. Reuben: Behold, a son will be born; He will love me but he will be unloved. Simeon: He has looked upon my affliction; He has seen my sin. Listen and obey him. Levi: Be joined together; share the Word of God over a great distance. Judah: Give praise to Yhwh, give thanks and confess sin [or] Dan: be judged of God. Naphtali: To struggle within [brings] self-inflicted wounds. Be swift. Gad: As a troop HE will come and prevail. Asher: [Be] blessed, happy in your good fortune. Dan: Be discerning in judgment, Issachar: There is a reward from God; Zebulon: a gift (zebed) or position of honor from God; (yizbeleni), redemption. [You will] Be paid your wage, be exalted. Your sins will be forgotten; Joseph’s two sons… Manasseh: forgetting the past; Ephraim: double will be your fruitfulness in this land of affliction; Benjamin: you will be on the right side of the Most High.
WOW! How much more direct need God be in His Holy Word and the direction he gave to His chosen people (and the church) via their very names put together as HIS statement and how things on earth will eventually end up. Note that there are 13 tribes as Joseph’s two sons added to the 11 brothers of Joseph equals 13.
JIV HUH moment. Might I be venturing too far off the coast of reality and the safe haven of the beach to think about the 13 original colonies; the 13 stars and stripes on our original flag; the war of separation between the North and the South with a President in both territories; the dollar bill with a pyramid on the left and a faint Star of David with 13 stars within it on the right; the fact that the eagle holds 12 arrows in its left claw and an olive branch in its right claw; the fact that the original colonies were semi-independent with State powers (confederacy) just as were the tribal territories of Israel under the judges; the fact that manifest destiny; i.e. predestination was the undercurrent driving American policy and philosophy per settlement of this land; that America was founded upon Christian principles and has now drifted far away?
Again, after chapter 3, the Book of Revelation is a pronouncement and revelation for and warning to the Nation of Israel, not the church. Perhaps the above possible bible code using the definitions, meanings and expressions of the 13 Tribes of Israel nails it as Revelation being about and for Israel AND the church.