Summary: View of Heaven from one who was actually there, unlike some of the stories we hear in our day.
2b. The things which are (in heaven)
(4:1) Come up hither. Oh the strange work that popular theologians have done with chapter 4 , verse 1. In this simple passage, John is addressed by Jesus, and told to come up to heaven for further revelations. Incredible to me is the notion that here, Jesus is actually calling His entire Church to Heaven! The statement is made by believers in this interpretation, pre-tribulation rapturists all, that , from this point on, the Church is absent in the book of Revelation! And when it is pointed out in several places that believers are indeed on earth, the response is made that these believers are really not the Church , but “tribulation” saints, whatever that means. A conclusion is made, and facts to the contrary are explained away. This is not good exegesis, to say the least!
Evidence. For those who desire to look at it, the evidence for the Church being in the book of Revelation after chapter 4 is strong:
1. Definition. First, we assume that by “Church” we mean the saints, or as in Daniel, “holy ones”, a term used over 40 times by New testament writers to refer to the Body of Christ, the people of God. We also assume we are talking about a people who have been promised by Jesus, Paul, and Peter a life of persecution often ending in martyrdom .
2. Passages that don’t say “Church” but are Church:
5:8, The worshipers in Heaven pour out before God prayers from the saints.
6:10-11, martyrs are here received to God and told that their fellow-martyrs will soon join them. They have been slain for the Word of God and their testimony.
7: 13 ff, the same believers referred to in chapter 6 are now standing before the Throne, having come out of the Great Tribulation by means of martyrdom.
8:4, The prayers of the saints are now seen as incense.
12:11, The same saints as in chapters 6 and 7 are seen in a flashback in the context of the Beast who persecuted them.
12:17, Those who keep the commandments of God, as brother John loved to talk about in his writings (John 12:49-50, 13:34, 14:15,21,31, 15:1-12, I John 2:3-8, 3:22-24, 4:21, 5:3-6, II John 4-6) and have the testimony of Jesus Christ, are distinguished here from the persecuted Israelites who are in the process of being hidden and sealed, and therefore unreachable by antichrist. He now vents his fury on the only “saints” left, the Church.
13:7, As in Daniel 7, the man of sin is seen here being given the authority to conquer the saints. He overcomes their body, and they overcome him by going straight to Jesus.
14:6, The everlasting Gospel is being preached all over the world. I wonder who does this job? A company of angels? The 144,000? Why not the same group that has always preached it?
14:13, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. To die in the Lord is to be a member of Christ. Members of Christ are the Church.
15:1-4, Singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, those who died in the Lord, those who seemingly were conquered by antichrist, now are around the Throne.
16:15, In the worst of the worst hours comes a message from Heaven: I am coming. Keep your garments clean! Who is He talking to, if not the Church?
18:4, Also in the midst of devastation, God’s people are called out, but not up, first. Who are they? The Church!
3. Passages that all persons agree are the “Church” but still don’t use that word:
19:7, The marriage is announced. We know this is the Church! But the word “Church” is not used.
19:14, The armies of Heaven follow Jesus to earth. Everyone agrees this is the Church. But the word “Church” is not there! .
20:4-6, They live and reign with Christ 1000 years. Who? Everyone knows it is the victorious Church. But not by the word “Church” .
22:17. Once more, the word “bride”, not “Church”.
Neither is the word “church” used in all the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John. Nor does Paul mention it to Titus. Jude does not mention it at all. What does that mean? Nothing. By the way, Jude uses the word “saints” to say the same concept.
What a holy people are described in fourteen out of eighteen chapters of Revelation, portions which are supposed to be “Church-free”! Who among us is claiming some priority over these saints, some separation from them? Is it only those who have not dug deeply into God’s Book and have rather relied on the shallow teachings of men? Oh, brothers and sisters, these saints are ours!
4. The wrath of God is not for the saints! Paul says God’s people are not appointed to wrath ( I Thessalonians 5:9). Indeed! And 2 chapters before (3:3, 4), he tells us to what we are appointed in this life: “...that no one should be shaken by these afflictions ; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we should suffer tribulation just as it happened…” Trouble is a way of life for the believer, and the Lord delivers him out of it all! As to the word “wrath”, God’s anger and judgment on sin: Noah and Lot were on the planet when the wrath fell. Both were kept from it. In the Book of Revelation, the pouring of wrath is reserved for those end-of- all-things manifestations, especially the coming of Jesus, at which time, God’s people will indeed be caught up to be with Him. From other wrathful times, such as the bowl judgments, God’s people are excluded, as were Noah and Lot.