Summary: An easy-to-understand study on Revelation 4.
There are three views on the Rapture. That we will be taken up before the Tribulation period; that we will be taken up halfway through the Tribulation period; and that we will not be taken up until after the Tribulation period.
There seems to be some scriptures that can be made to fit any of these scenarios, but I feel there are more scriptures that compel us to believe we will be taken up before the Tribulation, or to a “pre-trib” belief.
This study pertains to the period of time after the church has been Raptured out of the earth, and John describes humanity without the church.
VERSE 1 –
“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 chapters 2 & 3, John was dealing with church history, or those who have received Jesus as their Savior. But in chapter 4, we find that the church is not mentioned again until chapter 19, at which time we see they are referred to as the Saints being in heaven.
So, when verse 1, above, says “after this” it means after the church age, or after the church has been called up and out of the earth. The “door standing open” depicts Jesus opening up heaven and telling John to come in so he can learn what to write in the book of Revelation.
Many believe that this is also a picture which shows how we will be called to meet Jesus in the Rapture. In short, anyone who opens the door of their heart when they hear Jesus knocking will have the door of heaven opened to them and Jesus will invite them into His house just as they invited Jesus into their hearts.
And what John will see next is the beginning of the Great Tribulation.
“At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.”
The Holy Spirit immediately came upon John and he immediately saw God sitting on His throne in heaven. In verse 3, John tries to describe the non-describable beauty of God.
The thought here is that during John’s time, believers were being persecuted regularly and to keep safe, they had to be on the run, constantly moving from one location to another. But here in heaven, John is seeing the Ruler of everything seated on a throne that does not have to be moved and will always be there. It is an encouragement to believers that we can believe in something that will not change but will forever be dependable.
John describes a rainbow that surrounds the throne and shines like an emerald. The rainbow shines, but not as a warning sign depicting danger of any kind; it shines as the perpetual light of grace and mercy and love, encouraging us to come even closer.
“Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.”
Who are the 24 elders? They are not angels, because they have been redeemed. We know this because they are dressed in white clothes and crowns. In REVELATION 19:8, we learn that the Bride of Christ (Christians) is dressed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.
Most likely the 24 elders represent the 12 patriarchs of the Old Testament and the 12 Apostle of the New Testament. On each of the gates into New Jerusalem are the names of the 12 patriarchs, and the 12 foundations are the names of the 12 Apostles. They would thus symbolize all of the O.T. and the N.T. believers.
They sit in God’s presence here in chapter 4, but later in Revelation, we will see them seeking John out, inviting him into their topic of conversation and asking him questions to provide enlightenment and information, and to spark spiritual discussion.
Notice the difference in duties between these elders and those who serve as elders in our churches today. The heavenly elders continually sit before God; they seek others out and include them into the realm of the Godly; and they discuss the Lord with them.
Too many times, earthly elders are bogged down with board meetings, running for a higher church office, or spending their time directing programs. None of these are bad, though, unless they replace our time of prayer and worship in God’s presence.