Summary: Third in a series of ten from Revelation, this brings us to Heaven in John’s second set of visions.
Last week I used the last few verses of Revelation 3 as our benediction:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with [them], and [them] with me.
21 To [those] who overcome, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 [Whoever] has ears, let [them] hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Jesus says, “Here I am!” Standing at a door (not an impenetrable wall, not a ladder that must be climbed, not a gate that requires a toll or special key, just a door) knocking, seeking entrance, Jesus promises that if we hear his voice and open the door, He will come in. More than merely entering, He will dine. With the rich imagery of Communion in mind, we might even be able to taste the meal.
Christ invites us to commune with Him, to revel in His company, to enjoy Him now and for eternity… not only inviting us, but making the way for us by His own Body and Blood. He knocks and speaks and when we, by His grace, respond, He treats us like family.
The passage goes on to say that we who are His, we overcomers, are given the right to sit with Him on His throne. This is what the Spirit says to the churches.
That was last week in chapters 2 & 3; now what do we find in chapters 4 & 5?
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
In chapter 3 Christ walked through the door into our hearts and lives, just as He did in His incarnation. Now in chapter 4 Christ pulls us through the door to the other side.
In chapters 2 and 3 we saw Christ among us, the Church, in our time and in our space: our side of the door.
Now, through the experience of John transmitted to us through this most experiential form in this apocalypse, we are brought out of our time and space and into eternity.
The Gospels are this side of the door. Jesus stepped into our time and into our space. This Revelation, this apocalypse for the church, is now taking us on the eternity side of the door.
What we’ll experience through this apocalypse is fantastic and other-worldly. It is mind-blowing in that it simply must, in reality, include dimensions that we cannot adequately understand or explain limited as we are in our time and in our space. But experience it we must as we are confronted with this conclusion to God’s Word.
At once I was in the Spirit
I mentioned last week that this phrase is important, especially as we are looking for structure in the apocalypse. “In the Spirit” introduces four distinct sections, even scenes, in the apocalypse. We saw the phrase, first in 1:10 and it introduced us to the scene of Christ among the Churches. Now we see it here again in 4:2 and introduces us to the scene of Christ in Heaven.
When we read, we generally think in a linear fashion. We start at the beginning and read the sequence of letters and words and sentences and paragraphs and chapters to the end. When we read the Gospels, for example, our linear minds work just fine. The story follows a timeline. When we read the Epistles, too, our linear minds work just fine. The ideas generally flow logically, one to another.
When we read this apocalypse, we may be best served by adding other perspectives to our tried-and-true linear processing. We can add dimensions… even more than just a third dimension. Even in what we’ve read so far there is sound, light, smells, icons, allusions to other scripture. This is rich writing.
There is certainly a linear flow here, but there is more. These “in the Spirit” section breaks can be seen as something that sort of telescopes.
“The relationship between these collections of visions exists in a ‘telescoping’ dynamic by which each subsequent collection picks up the climactic themes and images of the previous one and unpacks them in greater detail.” [Herms, 150]
I think of this in terms of balloons. The fist vision, “Christ Among the Churches” gave us the central idea. Think of that as the first balloon. Now we’ll blow up another balloon inside the first. As we pump air into this second balloon, both balloons will now expand. As the second takes form, the first get’s bigger too. As the second get’s bigger, it remains contained in the first.