Revelation 4-6, Take a Trip to Heaven
I remember in Exodus 33 when God asked Moses what he would like to see, Moses said, “Show me your glory”. All Moses needed was to see God’s glory, and the Apostle John also got to see God’s glory, first in the appearance of Jesus in Revelation 1:12-16. Now in Rev. 4-6, John would be taken “in the Spirit” to see the glory of God in heaven. Some questions we could all ask ourselves are “What would it take to set us free from the world’s idolatries? What would it take to free us from the world’s perspective? What would it take to get us to go “all in” to serve the Lord?” I think for sure seeing the glory of God would do it. We have plenty of precedent in the lives of Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Stephen, Paul, Peter, and John. Normally heaven is closed to us, but numerous times in the last 4000 years the door was opened and people like Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Paul, and John got to see into heaven and testify about it. Amazingly, all these different men writing 100s of years apart saw basically the same thing. Now, the door of heaven is open for John to reveal to us the glory of God. I think the book of Revelation is meant to move the churches to the same kind of commitment and change in life by letting us see the glory of God as described and witnessed to by these credible men. Before we can be prepared for the horrific events in the judgments of Rev. 6, we need to see the glory of God through John’s eyes. Rev. 4-5 prepares us for the catastrophic judgments that will take place in “The Lord’s Day” as the prophets called the end of this fallen world.
Therefore, Rev. 4-6 open up, reveal the events prior to the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. The second coming of Christ is the greatest event in future history, so there must be dramatic events that cleanse the world in preparation for the setting up of the Kingdom of God. God will judge and punish evil through a series of judgments that are detailed on a scroll in heaven. That scroll is currently sealed, but all heaven is currently waiting eagerly in anticipation of the breaking of the seals on the scroll so that the events that are commanded by God on the scroll can take place. But before that happens, we get to take a trip to heaven with John.
Revelation 4—the Throne of God
John often uses the phrase “after these things” to mark the beginning of a new vision. In Rev. 4:1, it marks the transition from the church age of Rev. 2-3, to the future things in Rev. 4-19. The author saw the door of heaven, which is normally closed to humans, open up. This is the same thing the other authors of the Bible saw as well, but apparently heaven is closed to us now because of sin. John heard the same commanding voice of Christ that he heard in Rev.1:19, and he was called up to heaven to see the future events of the end times. The central focus and theme of chapter 4 is the throne of God that John saw, and in v.3 John attempts to describe the glory of God radiating from the throne like a bright rainbow of colors. The throne is a symbol of God’s rule and authority. God has complete power and control of the universe—which is comforting in light of what’s about to happen in chapter 6. I am reminded what another witness, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:16, “God dwells in unapproachable light which no man can see (through)”.
Around God’s throne were 24 thrones in which 24 “elders” were seated. I believe these are the representative leaders of the church then in heaven reigning with Christ. The church was repeatedly promised to rule with Christ (1 Cor.6:2-3, 2 Tim 2:12, Matt. 19:28, Luke 22:30, Rev. 2:26-27). The Greek word here translated elders is only used in the New Testament to refer to the leaders of the church. The white garments they are wearing represent the imputed righteousness of Christ given to Christians as explained in Rev.2:10 and Rev. 19:8. Also only the saints are promised crowns (2 Tim.4:8), which we see them wearing and cast down before the throne in v.10. We know from Rev.8:2 that the seven spirits of v.5 are angels, and the “four living creatures” of v.6 are the cherubim, which is an exalted order of angels also seen in Ezekiel 10:15.
The scene in heaven here in Revelation 4 is all about worshipping God through repeated hymns of praise that progress from a quartet in v.8 to the 24 elders in v.10, and then in Rev.5:11 the entire heavenly host is singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty…and Worthy art Thou our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power.” Clearly the focus in heaven is on the throne of God and in who God is and what He is doing—it is ALL about Him. I can’t help but compare what is going on in heaven with what goes on down on earth. In heaven we see the beauty and glory of God, we hear the continuous worship and praise of God. Everyone is serving God and giving full attention to God. They are praying for God’s will, anticipating the justice of God, and giving all credit to God. But on earth we see only personal ambition, selfishness, deception, and ruthless competition for money and power and fame. War is a way of life on earth, and we are appalled by the violence, depravity, and perversions. We can boil it all down to—IN HEAVEN IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD, BUT ON EARTH ITS ALL ABOUT ME.
Revelation 5—Who is Worthy?
There have always been pretenders to earth’s throne who tried to conquer and rule the world. The first was Satan who was thrown out of heaven, but became the “god of this world” (2 Cor.4:4) in a temporary sense. Satan has inspired many humans to try their hand at conquest like Alexander the Great, Caesar, Attila, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler, and many others, but they all failed. Only one individual has the right, the power, and the authority to rule—Jesus Christ. One day He will take back what is rightfully His from Satan and all the rebels both angelic and human. The heavenly host recognize that no one else is worthy of ruling. Jesus is earth’s rightful ruler pictured in Revelation 5 about to return to redeem the world from sin, death, and the curse. The author John gets to see into heaven in the future where all the angels and elders are anticipating the opening of the book of God’s divine judgment. It will be necessary to “cleanse” the earth with judgments to prepare it for Christ’s coming. This is the moment that all the prophets and all Christians have longed for as Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:14, “the redemption of God’s possession”.
In Revelation 5:1, God has a scroll or book in His hand in which all the judgments coming upon the earth are decreed. This scroll has seven judgments all sealed with God’s seal. It is God’s seal upon His will for planet earth. Before the judgments can come, someone must be found worthy to break the seals and pour out the judgments on earth. That person must be perfectly holy and have all the authority of God. The question is asked in v.2, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break the seals?” John began weeping in fear that no one measured up, but he is told to stop because Jesus has overcome and been proven worthy to open the seals. John was weeping because the failure to find a redeemer would mean a continuation of evil and death in the world. Jesus is referred to with many names here in v.5-6, the Lion, the descendant of David, and the Lamb who was slain but who is alive. Who alone can be a lion, a descendant of David, and a sacrificial lamb? In v.7, Christ takes the scroll from God and prepares to open it, which causes a mighty reaction from the heavenly host. The head angels, then the elders, and finally all the angels and living creatures broke out into a mighty chorus praising the Lamb, and proclaiming that Christ as the perfect sacrifice has purchased with His blood all the believing people on earth. Paradise will be regained, but first Christ must bring righteous judgment upon an evil idolatrous world. The stage is set for the final event to begin.
Revelation 6—the FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE
Try to imagine a series of scrolls inside each other all wrapped up and each sealed by a separate seal of God. Jesus will break each of the seven seals of judgment one at a time for John to see. Each time Jesus breaks a seal we are told of the events surrounding that judgment. The first four seals that He breaks are visualized as four wicked looking horsemen that will forever be known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The whole Bible has long predicted an end time scenario that the prophets called “The Day of the Lord”. The world has always been a dangerous place, and the human race has always had a sense of a storm coming. Even today our Homeland Security or CIA constantly tell us that an attack is imminent. Its like being in a canoe or raft on a river and you hear something in the distance that gets louder and louder, and in the back of your mind you know that up ahead around the bend is a huge waterfall. The easiest way to understand the Four Horsemen in Rev.6:2-8 is to just imagine World War III. A huge world war of unprecedented destruction with all the bad things that happen as a result of war, like famine, hyper inflation, disease, and great death. This will occur during the end times before the return of Christ in which one fourth of the earth’s population is wiped out. Let us examine the horsemen: In v.2 we see a rider on a white horse with a bow which some think represents Christ, but this is unlikely since Christ remains in heaven as the only one able to break the seals during all the end time judgments. This warrior carries a bow, but Christ carries a sword (1:16,19:15), and this rider is on earth, but Christ will not return until the end in Revelation 19. This rider is the counterfeit Christ who desires to conquer the world. He is the beast of Rev.13, the antichrist. The red horse of Rev.6:4 represents the horrific war that takes away any peace on earth. The rider on the black horse of v.5-6 is more cryptic, but appears to symbolize famine, rationing, and high prices for even base food. The fourth rider of v.8 is on an ashen horse and we are told it represents widespread death such that a fourth of the world’s population will die. Does the Word of God foresee a large scale war with weapons of mass destruction being fought? We must realize that only in our day and time are there weapons that could destroy about 1.75 billion people. People in John’s day would have thought that impossible, and no good psychic would have predicted that.
The judgments of Revelation 6 are linked to chapters 4-5 as we are focused on the glory of God at the throne of God. God the Father has His plan for the redemption of planet earth in the form of a scroll with judgments separated by seals that can only be opened by Jesus Christ who has proven Himself worthy by atoning for the sins of all believers on earth. In ch.5 the Lamb (Christ) took the scroll, then a great worship service broke out in heaven, which should prove to us that these coming judgments are actually a good thing in the view of everyone in heaven. Then in Rev. 6, Jesus opens the seals to begin that end time period that Jesus told His disciples about in Matt. 24:21, “the great tribulation”. In seal one, the rider of the white horse is a messianic pretender and God actually allows him to wear a crown and make war on earth. Do the people of earth deserve these judgments? Absolutely, these judgments are righteous justice by God allowing evil people to do exactly what they want. These messianic pretenders have been followed by gullible people around the world since ages past. The people won’t worship the true God so He “gives them over” to reap what they have sown. Ambitious men have always had a desire to rush to war so now God gave them the sword with which to wage the worst war ever.
Notice the progression in Rev.6:1-8. God will give the first horseman the crown, allows the second to take peace away, permits terrible living conditions by the third rider, and gives authority to bring death and Hades by the fourth horseman. The people on earth refuse to honor and worship God so God gives them over to their false gods. The prophet Isaiah 23:9 explained God’s judgment this way, “The Lord Almighty planned it to bring down the pride of all the honored of earth and to humble all who are renowned on the earth”
P.S. The Wednesday night Bible Study on Revelation at PCBC will not meet January 20, but will resume in Ellis Parlor on Jan.27