Chapter four begins the third division of this book. You will remember in chapter one that Jesus told John to write the things that “thou hast saw, the things that are and the things that will be hereafter.” This tells us that the book is written in chronological order, past, present and history.
John begins this chapter with the phrase “after this.” Well that brings up the question “after what”? After the time of the seven churches is fulfilled. After the church age is over John sees a door in heaven open and hears a voice from heaven cry “come up here.”
This cry is no doubt the rapture of the church. It will be at this time that the Lord will return to this earth and call away millions of believers who are upon this earth. This rapture will send the world into a state of panic. Millions of people will go missing. Airports, highways and hospitals will be shut down.
Husbands and wives will be missing from their beds. Workers will go missing from their job. Every child will be gone all at one time. This will open up the door for the man of sin to enter the scene with an explanation of what is going on in the world.
This rapture will be a literal return of Christ in bodily form to literally call believers to heaven. Many do not believe that Christ will come bodily to call away the church, but we are told in Acts 1:9-11 that Christ will return in like manner as He went away.
How did Jesus leave?
“Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” Luke 24:39
Jesus possessed a literal, physical body that could be seen, touched and heard. When Jesus returns He will have a body and those that are going to be called to meet Him will see him.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doeth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” I John 3:2
This time that we call the rapture is the first stage of the second coming of Christ. Some will say that the rapture is not a Bible teaching because the word rapture is not mentioned in the Bible. Well the word Bible is not mentioned in the Bible, but nobody seems to have a problem with it. The rapture is different however than the revelation of Christ which is the second return of Christ.
Described in chapter four Described in chapter 19
Precedes the tribulation Follows the tribulation
A meeting in the air A return to earth
Removes the believer from the Restores the believer after the judgment judgment
This call in verse one is the same call as in I Thessalonians 4:16-17. So this answers the question, “will the church be on earth during the tribulation hour?” The answer is NO! The church will not be on earth during the time of the tribulation. The church is mentioned 16 times in chapters one through three but is not mentioned in chapters 6 through 18, which deal with the tribulation judgments.
Why is the church not mentioned you may ask? First of all the tribulation is Israel’s judgment according to the scriptures.
“Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble: but he shall be saved out of it.” Jeremiah 30:7
“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince that standeth for thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book.” Daniel 12:1
Not only this but the first 69 weeks of Daniels vision was directed and spoke about the nation of Israel. If this is the case would it not make since that the 70th week also be toward Israel.
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” Daniel 9:24
Let me therefore state again that the church cannot be seen in the book of Revelation between chapters 6 through 18. You do see however the Jew and Jewish terminology mentioned over and over again.
Well, you say, I believe that the call of verse one is a call for John only and does not apply to all of the church. Well if this be true then explain to me chapter 4:10. This verse states that the four and twenty elders fall down before the throne and begin to cast their crowns at the feet of the Lord.
When are the believers to be crowned? After the rapture of course.
“And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:14
“And when the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” I Peter 5:4
It is obvious that the judgment seat of Christ must take place before the believer is crowned. If this be the case then when John sees these believers in chapter four they have already been raptured and crowned. And again these are the things that are to happen hereafter.
As John begins to see this vision the first thing that John sees in heaven is a throne. This throne was not vacant, but one sat upon the throne. Many may not agree with me on this but I believe that the scriptures teach that it is God the Father that is sitting on this throne.
Not only do we see the throne and the person upon the throne, but we also notice the rainbow around the throne. The first mention of a rainbow in the Bible is found in Genesis 9:13-17. In these verses God speaks to Noah and makes a covenant with him that He would never destroy the earth again with a flood. But this rainbow was only a semicircle. In fact the rainbow that you and I see today is a semicircle. The rainbow in heaven is a complete circle around the throne. In this world we only see half of things, but in heaven we will see the whole of things.
In Noah’s day the rainbow was a sign of a covenant based on the sacrifice of Noah in Genesis 8:20-22. The rainbow about the throne in heaven is also a sign of a covenant based upon a sacrifice. This is the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross.
Why is it so important for John to see this rainbow? This proves that God is a covenant keeping God. While he is about to bring great judgment upon the earth He will keep his promise made to Noah thousands of years before
Now notice these twenty-four elders. Who do they represent? We know that they are not angels or “living creatures.” These twenty-four represent those who have been redeemed from mankind. The name elder never is applied to angels in the Bible; neither does the Bible mention that angels will ever wear crowns or sit on thrones. Only redeemed men will wear crowns and sit on thrones.
I believe that these twenty-four represent the saints of the Old and New Testament. These are those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. More than likely the twenty-four represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles, meaning that these represent all redeemed from the Old and New Testament. This I believe is a good possibility for when we see the New Jerusalem come down from heaven in chapter 21 we are told that there are twelve gates that have inscribed on them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. This city also has twelve foundations each foundation having the name of one of the twelve apostles written upon it.
Lastly notice the living creatures. The word here used, “living creatures”, literally means living being. These are not angelic beings, for they are distinguished from the angels who are mentioned in a class by themselves in chapter five. Neither are these creatures’ redeemed men for they do not join in the song of redemption sung in chapter five.
These living creatures do not wear crowns nor do they sit on thrones. These creatures are the guardians of the throne of God and they accompany it any where it goes according to Ezekiel 1:24-28.
The first mention of these creatures is in the book of Genesis 3:24 where they are called cherubim’s. They are placed at the entrance of the Garden of Eden to prevent the reentrance of Adam or Eve.
Then when God gave the instruction to build the tabernacle to Moses He instructed Moses to build the Ark of the Covenant with two Cherubim’s upon it. These two were the guardians of the mercy seat or the place where the presence of God came down and meet with the people.
But it was not until Ezekiel’s vision that we are given a description of these creatures.
We also can gather from the scriptures that there must be some sort of order of living creatures. For example in Isaiah’s vision of the throne of God he saw a Seraphim or different order of living creature. This Seraphim had six wings and cried “Holy, Holy, Holy.” But they stood above the throne, while Ezekiel’s creatures stood under the throne and John’s stood in the midst of the throne.
In verses 9-11 the four beasts begin to rejoice and it causes the elders to break forth in praise. As they begin to praise the one on the throne they fall down upon their knees and begin casting their crowns before the throne. What a tremendous day this will be when the saved of all mankind fall down before the one sitting upon the throne and cast their crowns before his feet.
For more information on this chapter watch the lesson I taught live from Landmark Baptist Church. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/15911927