(cf. Rev. 4:1-11)
Chapter 4 i think is the most beautiful part of the book of Revelation. The central purpose of this book is not the Second Coming. The central purpose is the sovereignty of God in history, and that is what chapter 4 is all about. It’s God as the Sovereign Creator in control of all things. It is obvious that this is a literary unit, and Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10 and Daniel 5:13-14 form the background of chapter 4 – a lot of colors, animals, and that kind of thing, characteristic of apocalyptic literature. And we need to find here the spiritual truth in Old Testament apocalytic language. The fact there’s a throne here is real significant. The word ‘throne’ is mentioned by John 47 times, while it is mentioned 62 times in the whole New Testament. So you see how much the book of Revelation uses it. The idea of ‘throne is very much related to Old Testament apocalyptic literature, but John must have been acquainted with inter-biblical apocalyptic literature that he draws much of his metaphors from 1st Enoch and 2nd and 3rd Baruch.
Now, “After this I looked,…” this phrase seems to introduce several visions; chapter 7:1; 7:9; 15:5; 18:1 and possibly even 19:1, though instead of seeing, he hears. So it’s a series of visions where they come all at one time, or separated by hours or days, we’re just not sure. A door was standing open; this is much like Ezekiel 1:1 verse 1, the idea being we could get into heaven and see God, and it’s in a verbal form (perfect passive participle) that meant that God is the One that opened it, not man. Here’s God revealing Himself, and it stayed open. It remained open for John to come in. In the book of Revelation, the word ‘heaven’ is usually singular, except one time in Chapter 12 verse 12 which may be a strong allusion to Isaiah. Now, that’s just unique because the rabbi’s argued over it; is their seven heavens or three heavens? We see Paul was caught up to the 3rd heaven in 2 Cor. 12. John seems to pull it down into 1 heaven where God dwells, and that’s the idea here. “And the voice i heard first like a trumpet…” Now he heard a voice like this back in chapter 1 verse 10. It was the glorified Christ – this seems to be an allusion to God coming down on Mount Sinai, whose voice is like a trumpet (cf. Exo. 19:10, 16). “…I heard him speaking… (present tense -continue to speak)…come up here and I will show you what must take place”. Dispensational premillennialism says this is the rapture of the church. Because the term church is not used until chapter 22 from this point, I think the concept of the saints of God is used throughout, and in my opinion the Saints is the concept of the church and so there’s nothing in the text here that implies a rapture of the church. It just says that John is caught up to heaven – avision. Be careful of reading too much of your presuppositions into the interpretation of this book. The symbols are hard enough, when you add your presuppositional systems on, it really gets tough. “…what must take place after this.” – In chapter 1, it said things that were, things that are occurring, and things that will occur, sometimes we’re not really sure which part of the revelation talks about each one of those; past present or future? But remember God is beyond time. He is not in a chronological sequence, and so it’s the spiritual truths here about God as creator, and as the Messiah, or as the Lamb. Those are eternal truths, and where we should put them in the sequence of things that happened, or happening, and will happen is uncertain.
Notice as it says, “Immediately i was under the Spirit’s power” – was this a trance or was he bodily taken somewhere? The allusion seems to be to Ezekiel, because much of this chapter deals with Ezekiel: Ezekiel 8:1-4, and 11:1 where Ezekiel was bodily taken from the river Kebar in Babylon to Jerusalem in the temple. Maybe that’s the idea of a bodily transportation, or like Paul’s trance in 2 Cor. 12:1-2. “…before me was a throne…” – This concept of the ‘throne of God’ goes back to the Book of Ezekiel chapter 1:26-28 the throne chariot of God where much of the allusions of this chapter is drawn from (see 1 Kings 22:19; Isa. 6:1ff; Dan. 7:9-14 are also throne room scenes). And so here we are in the very presence of God. The throne was set up, and One was seated on it, and verse 3 he begins to describe the One seated, but he doesn’t use terms because a Jew would be afraid to see God. He describes God’s in terms of certain gems or colors of light. “His appearance was like a Jasper…” now these ancient colors are very hard to lock down. They change names from country to country, and from period to period. This is a clear a kind of a crystal maybe like a diamond. We see it mentioned again in Revelation 21:11. We learn that Jasper and Sardius, both gemstones were contained in the breastplate of the high priests. Then there’s going to be a “rainbow like an emerald”. Now the Emerald is the jewel that was used to describe the tribe of Judah. This is very significant because of the Messiah who comes out of the tribe Judah. The idea of the ‘rainbow’ seems to go back to Ezekiel 1:28, but it’s not a regular rainbow like a refraction of normal light, but its greenish in color. Now whether it goes around vertically or around horizontally, we’re not sure. It’s a kind of cloud of glory to hide God to protect man from seeing God and dying. Some say this idea of a rainbow that goes back to Genesis 9:16 about the rainbow as God’s bow of promise put in the heavens that He won’t destroy the earth. Some say that’s God’s covenant, some see it as judgment is finished, and on and on. We’re not really sure what the exact allusion to is, but it’s a beautiful way to describe heaven.