Monday, January 27, 2014

What’s Next? A look at Revelation 4 and Heaven

The book of Revelation opens with an inspired outline of the entire book! In chapter 1:19 John was told to write of the “things which you have seen,” that was the vision of chapter one. “The things which are” referring to Revelation 2-3, the special messages to the seven churches AND “The thing which will take place after this” covering the events described in Revelation 4-22. What John heard in Revelation 4:1 substantiates this. In Revelation 2-3 we see a three-fold message. First, we see messages to churches in Asia Minor that existed. Then we also see this to be symbolic of different types of churches today. But lastly we see a Historical prophetic view of the church.

If Revelation 1:19 is God’s inspired outline of the book of Revelation, then Revelation 4 ushers us into the third division, “The things which will take place after this.” In fact that is exactly what God said to John when He summoned him to heaven! Through John’s experience in chapter 4:1-2, we have illustrated for us what will happen to God’s people when the Church Age, the Day of Grace, has run its course. Heaven will open, there will be a voice and the sound of a trumpet, the saints will be caught up to heaven (1 Cor. 15:52, 1 Thess. 4:13-18). The God’s judgment of earth can begin. But before God pours out His wrath, He gathers His own to Himself reminding us of promises like those found in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and Revelation 3:10.

These verses help us to learn a little more about what is going happen next. Let’s look a little closer at these verses in Revelation 4. Chapter 3 ends with a closed door and Christ outside the professing Church at the close of the Church Age. Revelation 4 begins with an open door in Heaven. This scene illustrates for us what is going to happen when Christ calls His own to Himself. The church is not mentioned from chapter 6-18.

“After these things” what things? The things indicated in Revelation 1:19 which cover the church age seen in chapters 2-3, after the church age is over. What happens? This begins with a trumpet, where have we read of a trumpet before? Back in 1 Thessalonians 4:12-17 where Paul writes, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 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 in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

This brings us to the subject of the Rapture. What is the Rapture? The rapture is that future event when Jesus Christ will descend from Heaven to resurrect the bodies of departed believers, and to transform and translate the living believers immediately into His presence in a moment of time to live with him forever. Some have said the word rapture is not in the Bible. But that really depends on what kind of Bible you have. If you have a Latin Bible the word rapture is there. It is rapturos, which is where we get our English word Rapture which comes from the Greek word Harpuzo. The word Harpuzo actually appears in the Bible many times. Just because a word is not in the Bible doesn’t mean we should throw out the teaching. The word, Trinity is not in the Bible, but we believe in the teaching of the Trinity. Here’s one for you, the word Bible is not in the Bible either, and so does that mean we throw it out?

Going back to 1 Thessalonians 4 we see this word Harpuzo, “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 in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” This word caught up is harpuzo, it means to be caught up quickly. In 1 Thessalonians 4 we are told that the truth of the rapture is given to us to inform us (v 13), and to comfort us (v18).

But does this word harpuzo appear anywhere else in the Bible. Yes, it actually appears 13 times in the New Testament. John 14:1-3 the Lord Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. The word receive there is harpuzo. Again in 1 Corinthians 15:52 we read, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, 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.” Here we see it again. 

Is there any example in Scripture of anyone being caught up like this? Yes several, Enoch in Genesis 5:24, Hebrews 11:5. Elijah is another example of this in 2 Kings 2:11. Even in the New Testament we see this word again in Acts 8:39. This same word is used again for the Lord Jesus in Acts 1:9-11.

When will the rapture take place? The Bible doesn’t say when the rapture will take place. We do not know but when it happens it will be so quick that we cannot measure it (1 Cor. 15-51-52). But the Bible teaches us that there will be a bodily resurrection.

Going back to Revelation 4 where is John? He is in Heaven, the very throne Room of God, the dwelling place of God. This is what Paul called the third Heaven (2 Cor, 12). Like Paul, John has a hard time explaining this scene. What does John see? How does he describe it?

The first thing the Lord seated on His Throne (4:2-3). The word Throne is used 14 times here. Sardis and Jasper are used to describe the Lord, which interesting enough were the first and last stones on the breastplate of the High Priest. In Revelation 21 the Jasper stone is described as being clear and speaks of clarity or absolute purity and perfections of the Lord. The Sardis stone is a fiery red which speaks of warm feelings of love.

He sees the twenty-four elders who had crowns of Gold upon the heads. These elders represent those Old and New Testament saints who have been rewarded for faithful service. The Bible speaks of at least five crowns that believers receive. Crown of Life, Crown of Righteousness, and Crown of Rejoicing, What happens to those Crowns (v10-11).

John also sees ominous storm warnings (v5). These are indications of a coming storm and reminders of God’s awesome power and judgment to come. From the safety of Heaven John sees the coming storm brewing on earth. But we are safe in God’s presence when the storm hits.

What are we doing before all this happens? We will be worshipping (v10). But what else will we being doing in Heaven? Revelation 7:15, 22:3 says that His servants will be serving him day and night. What exactly that service entails we are not told. But we will be worshipping and serving the Lord. That is exactly what we should be doing now this side of Heaven!

We know the Rapture could take place any moment so how do we prepare for what is next? By living lives of worship and service for Him now! Coming back to the illustration of Enoch, Enoch walked with God. What does that mean? What does that look like? Walking implies constant forward energy. We are instructed over and over in Scripture about our walk. We are to walk worthy of the Lord, walk worthy of the calling, walking in the Spirit. But really what does it mean to walk with God? Amos 3:3 might help give some insight, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” We don’t want to walk ahead of Him or behind Him. The verse in Amos 3:3 really has the idea a set fixed time to meet or to make an appointment. If we are going to walk with God we must keep our appointments with God, this means we need to spend time with Him, to fellowship with Him daily, spending time in prayer and in His Word.

If the Lord was to come today, would you be ready?

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