Thursday, April 14, 2011

Revelation Chapter Four, Part 1 of 4

4:1 After this
To find the proper context for this opening verse in chapter four we should return for a moment to chapter one. As Jesus was about to begin the narration that John would record to send to the seven churches in Asia our Lord told him this: “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this,” Revelation 1:19. The things which John has seen are right before him: the risen and glorified Christ coming to him in the power and majesty of His inherent deity. The things which are regards the church age, or the dispensation of grace. That began the day of Pentecost when the disciples received the indwelling Holy Spirit, the promise from the Father, Luke 24:49; John 16:7; Acts 2:3-4. If the church age is in fact “the things which are” then what could be “the things which will take place after this,”?

As Jesus manifested to John on Patmos, so does He throughout the church age to those who receive by faith the indwelling Spirit sent from God. This was an overwhelming message to the seven churches of Asia: Christ was amidst (in the middle of; within) the churches. The church is the manifestation of Christ on earth; we are the body of Christ, and through us Jesus Christ lives and carries out His ministry on earth, and to enable us to be vessels which hold such treasure He has given us of His Spirit, Romans 8:9. The indwelling Spirit is the better thing God had reserved for saints dwelling in this age, Hebrews 11:40. No longer would the Holy Spirit merely abide with saints; He would indwell them and from within the life of Christ would form and manifest as Christians matured in the faith and were sanctified in the spirit.

It is not coincidental or repetitive that we see twice in this verse that John wrote “After this (after these things, NKJV),” and then at the end of the verse, “I will shew thee things which must be hereafter (I will show you things which must take place after this, NKVJ).” Again, what does that phrase mean? Revelation 1:19 alluded to the fact that there was a series of dispensations, or times, coming. John was living in a present time, which would cease; and something would come “after this.” This verse is important to comprehend because it teaches the pre-millennial Rapture of the saints BEFORE the events of the Tribulation begin.

4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither
After this (or after these things, NKJV), John looks and sees a door open in Heaven. He just received the messages for the seven churches of Asia. The seven churches are models of the seven types of churches that would be encountered throughout the church era: what is wrong with them spiritually, and what the Great Physician Jesus Christ prescribes as the remedy. When your congregation is suffering and lacking spiritual power, these seven churches listed in chapters 2-3 are a guide for what is ailing you, and what your Lord commands to rectify the spiritual ailment. From doctrinal coldness to spiritual deadness to material obsession, Jesus knows His people, and knows what is wrong, and how it may be corrected. The seven churches are also (I believe) a pattern of how the majority of churches will conduct themselves through the time of our Lord’s absence on earth, with Laodicea being the last and the worst. The Holy Spirit seems to indicate a general departure from the genuine faith as people abandon the God of the Bible and erect their own gods. We are warned of the outcome of such behavior, 1st Timothy 4:1-3; 2nd Timothy 3:1-9; 4:3-4; Luke 18:8.

John hears a voice calling to him like the blast of a trumpet, calling him up. In the very next verse (verse 2) John is in the spirit in Heaven instantaneously, and the first thing he sees is God! This is a perfect picture of the Rapture. We read: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them (the resurrected dead) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord,” 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17. Before commenting we shall also quote the other verse of Scripture outside Revelation that speaks of calling the saints with a “trump”: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep (euphemism for death), but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed,” 1st Corinthians 15:51-52.

Now there are some who claim that the saints will be raptured mid-way through the Tribulation, when the seventh trumpet judgment sounds. This is faulty exegesis. Because the word “trumpet” is used both in Revelation and in these passages does not automatically imply they speak of the same incident. The trumpet we are considering is not a “judgment;” it is a call for the saints to come home. Like John heard the words “Come up here” and was immediately brought into Heaven, so shall all saints on earth be caught away by this sudden summons which shall leave the earth destitute of the indwelt church of God and ripe for both the reign of Antichrist and the judgment of God Almighty.

In both of the preceding passages Paul writes that the dead shall be brought with Christ (1st Thessalonians 4:14) and that the dead shall be raised to meet Christ. How can the dead come with Christ, AND be raised from their graves? Simple; the spirits of the saints who died before the Rapture are brought with Jesus where they have been waiting, Philippians 1:23; 2nd Corinthians 5:8. The bodies of the saints who died will be resurrected with immortal bodies like the kind our Lord presently possesses, 1st Corinthians 15:42-44. We who have not died will instantaneously be transformed from a body of sinful flesh to a spirit-body that will suffer sin and death no longer, as the aforementioned verses already indicated.

4:1 Come up hither
This is the command to meet our Lord in the air, 1st Thessalonians 4:17. This command is seen later in Revelation. “And they (the unregenerate on earth) heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them (God's two witnesses), “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them,” Revelation 11:12. There can be no argument about this verse: the two witnesses were brought miraculously to life and raptured to Heaven before the astonished eyes of the godless masses. When the Rapture comes it will be unseen, unlooked for, immediate and invisible. Christ warned as much when He said, “I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left,” Luke 17:34-36. If the Rapture will be invisible and unnoticed, why are the two witnesses seen? I offer an explanation our Lord gives: “Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out,” John 12:30-31. The Rapture is God’s removal of His children before judgment rains down on this world, like Lot was taken from Sodom so he wouldn’t suffer the judgment of the ungodly—that is, the unsaved, Genesis 19:22. The visible removal of the two witnesses was God’s display to provoke a change of heart in the men and women who beheld this miraculous event before the second half of the Tribulation, the Great Tribulation, began in earnest.

2 comments:

  1. Great post, Ian.

    Too many have viewed the seven churches as representing different ages and having no relevance to today.

    Like Lot, Noah was separated out before destruction came. Many times, God sent his people to another place to protect them and the rapture is exactly that, a way of protecting those who serve him.

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  2. Great post Ian.

    Congratulations on the opportunity to pastor. I'll be praying for you.

    For years it was taught that the seven churches represented church ages and had no relevance to today, with the result that they were largely ignored.

    Like Lot, Noah was sent into the ark before the disaster struck. You're right, the rapture is God protecting his servants from destruction.

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