Thursday, December 4, 2014

THE THRONE OF GOD (Revelation Chapter 4)

Revelation 4:1-5, “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.  And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.  From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.”

The twice-repeated words “after this” (Revelation 4:1) introduce that which corresponds to the things revealed to John which “are to take place after this” (Revelation 1:19).  Some say that what John saw, what is recorded for us in chapters 4-19, was fulfilled in what took place before John’s day.  Others argue that these events took place after John’s day but before our own.  But these events are yet to be fulfilled in any literal sense.  They are future to us. 

In language corresponding to the rapture of the church, John heard a trumpet and was at once caught up to the throne (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52).  The forthcoming chapters (chapters 6-19) will speak of judgment, but no reference to the church is made (the term church does not appear even once).  The transition that takes place here in chapter 4 is significant.  Jesus had spoken to the churches.  John was caught up into heaven with a voice that sounded like a trumpet.  All this precedes the tribulational events that will be described beginning in chapter 6.  As the great judgment on the earth takes place, John--a representative of the church—is in heaven observing all that happens (the words “I saw,” “I looked,” and “I heard” occur numerous times in the remaining chapters of the book).  Surrounding the throne of God are “twenty-four thrones” on which are seated “twenty four elders” (Revelation 4:4).  There is much debate regarding the identity of these elders.  The word “elders” translates the Greek presbuteros.  The same term is used in reference to church leaders (Cf. Titus 1:5).  Elders were appointed in the early church to lead and serve as representatives.  The elders were “clothed in white garments” (Cf. Revelation 4:4) such as were promised to the church in Sardis (Cf. Revelation 3:5).  J. Vernon McGee has said: “These twenty four elders stand for the total church from Pentecost to the Rapture.  Therefore, I can say categorically and dogmatically that here is the church in heaven.” 

John Walvoord says the same, “The invitation to John to “come up hither” is so similar to that which the church anticipates at the rapture that many have connected the two expressions. It is clear from the context that this is not an explicit reference to the rapture of the church, as John was not actually translated; in fact he was still in his natural body on the island of Patmos. He was translated into scenes of heaven only temporarily. Though there is no authority for connecting the rapture with this expression, there does seem to be a typical representation of the order of events, namely, the church age first, then the rapture, then the church in heaven…From a practical standpoint, however, the rapture may be viewed as having already occurred in the scheme of God before the events of chapter 4 and following chapters of Revelation unfold. The word church, so prominent in chapters 2 and 3, does not occur again until 22:16, though the church is undoubtedly in view as the wife of the Lamb in Revelation 19:7. She is not a participant in the scenes of the tribulation which form the major content of the book of Revelation. The familiar phrase “what the Spirit saith unto the churches” found in 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22 is significantly absent in 13:9.”

John was called through “a door standing open in heaven” where he was privileged “in the Spirit” to behold the throne of God (Cf. Revelation 4:1).  The term “throne” appears 10 times in this chapter and over 40 times in the book.  A throne represents sovereignty and authority.  God forever sovereignly reigns from His heavenly throne—“though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet” (Cf. Psalm 11:4).  Athiests and skeptics deny the existence of any supreme and sovereign authority.  Humanists mistakenly put man on the throne, it is God who reigns from His throne.  From the throne “came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder” (Revelation 4:5).  John MacArthur notes, “He is on the throne. From God proceed flashes of lightning, sounds and peals of thunder. What's the point here? The point is God is in a judgment mood, that is the point. God is in a judgment mood. Coming out of Him is fury.”  What is a throne of grace to the believer in Christ (Cf. Hebrews 4:16), will be a throne from which judgment pours forth upon those who “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).  The believer in Christ anticipates, in the “blessed hope,” an imminent, pre-tribulational rapture.  But judgment awaits those who refuse the King.

No comments: