The First Sight

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

 

The book of Revelation puzzles many who read it. It seems strange and sometimes bizarre. Many avoid the book because the contents elicit fear about the predictions of things to come. However, the book of Revelation is the only book of the Bible that promises a blessing to those who read, hear, and apply its contents. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3).

Revelation opens with the last remaining apostle of Jesus, the Apostle John, “in the Spirit the Lord’s Day.”[1] The Roman government arrested and exiled John to the prison island of Patmos for preaching the disruptive Gospel of Jesus Christ.[2]

The initial recipients of the book were seven churches in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.[3] To these, the risen Christ addresses individual letters.[4] These churches existed in John’s day, but because of the commendations and reproofs Jesus gives to these churches, some have seen in them patterns of each throughout church history.

John then describes his first glimpse of Jesus as though in a vision. This is not the Jesus John remembers during His earthly ministry. This Jesus is awesome to behold. John says, “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (Revelation 1:12-16). The dazzling sight caused John to fall at His feet in awestruck fear, but that tender, familiar voice reassured him of the One he loved. “… Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:17-18).

John saw Jesus in the midst of seven lampstands holding seven stars in His right hand. Jesus explained to him that the seven lampstands represented the seven churches and the seven stars represented the seven angels, i.e., messengers or pastors, of the seven churches.[5] The image reminds us that Jesus dwells among His churches and that He keeps and protects the pastors of His churches in His right hand (a position of power). This should also serve as a warning to pastors. Just as Jesus’ right hand protects His messengers, He also has the power to crush the pastor that fails in his responsibility to Jesus’ Bride, the Church.

As noted earlier, Jesus dictates direct messages to each of the seven churches. Immediately following the last word to the church of Laodicea, John looks up and sees an open door in heaven and hears a sound (Greek: phōnē) like that of a trumpet that said, “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:1-2, emphasis mine).

Many see the Rapture of the Church in these verses. John is commanded to “come up here” and “immediately” he sees the throne of God for the first time. From this point forward, the Church no longer appears on earth until Christ returns with His saints in Chapter 19.

There are many who teach that the Rapture is not taught in the Bible. They correctly argue that the word “rapture” appears nowhere in the Bible. However, neither do the words bible or trinity, yet no one will argue that these concepts are not taught in the Bible. “Rapture” translates the Greek word harpazō into the Latin raptus meaning “to seize; to catch away or up; to pluck, pull, or take by force”. This is what happened to John. He was on the earth and “immediately” he was caught away into the throne room of God.

Jesus gave us the first promise of the Rapture before going to the cross. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine). Paul teaches of the time when the trumpet shall sound and our corrupt bodies will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. The dead in Christ will rise from their graves, and we who are alive will join them to meet Jesus in the air.[6]

John enters the presence of God and his first sight is the throne of God. The person seated on the throne appears not as a human or any other creature, but rather as a glorious splendor. Of Him, John says, “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald” (Revelation 4:3). The Bible teaches that God has no human form, except in the form of Jesus. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24, emphasis mine). John was given a privilege that even Moses (or anyone else for that matter) was denied. Moses, who spoke with God face-to-face as with a friend,[7] wanted to see God in His glory, but God denied his request, “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20, emphasis mine). Yet, somehow John saw God in all of His glory and did not die. In our corrupt human bodies, we cannot withstand the glory of God’s presence. However, at the Rapture, our bodies will be transformed in such a way that we can be in the presence of God in His full glory and not be harmed, just like John.

The scene overwhelmed John. There were lightnings, thunders, and voices. Around the throne of God, John saw 24 thrones upon which seven elders sat wearing white robes and crowns of gold.[8] Some suppose these represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. Others suggest that they merely represent believers of all the ages. In either case, the white robes represent the righteousness of Christ conferred on them. The golden crowns are stephanos, which are “victors crowns” awarded to them for conquering sin, not through their own righteousness, but through the blood of Christ.

John then sees seven lampstands around the throne defined as the “seven spirits of God” Some suggest that these seven lampstands represent seven attributes of the Holy Spirit as described by the prophet Isaiah. “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him [i.e., Jesus], the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:2, emphasis mine). We know that the Holy Spirit indwells believers and thereby indwells the Church. In the first chapter, John sees Jesus in the midst of seven lampstands, which represent the churches. Now, these same lampstands (i.e., churches) are seen around the throne of God. I see the lampstands representing both the Holy Spirit and the churches wherein the Holy Spirit resides. The attributes described by Isaiah certainly apply as well.

Around the throne is a crystal sea. It is difficult to know what John saw in this. It is all strange and wonderful and beyond words to describe. John could only relate what he saw by his limited earthly vocabulary. But then he sees four strange creatures full of eyes and with six wings each. One “beast” had the head of a lion, the second the head of a calf, the third the head of a man, and the fourth the head of an eagle.[9] The eyes represent the omniscience of God and the four different heads represent all of God’s creatures: wild animals, domestic animals, human beings, and avian life. All of God’s creation never ceasing to praise Him day or night “saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).

John then observed that when these praised God, the 24 elders prostrate themselves and cast their victor’s crowns before the throne saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

With the focus on the throne, John spots something new. “And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1, emphasis mine). By its description, we know that this “book” is actually a scroll – perhaps parchment – with writing on both sides, rolled up and secured with seven seals. Many suggest that this scroll represents the title dead to the earth and the kingdoms thereof. When God created the earth, He gave dominion over the earth to man whom He created in His image on the sixth day of creation.[10] However, man lost that dominion when he sinned in the Garden of Eden.[11] The dominion of earth transferred to Satan. Paul calls him the “god of this world.”[12] When Satan tempted Jesus, he offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world if He would only bow down and worship him. “And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Luke 4:6, emphasis mine). However, his ownership is only temporary.

Then John saw and heard a strong angel proclaim, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (Revelation 5:2). And no one in heaven, on earth, or under the earth was found worthy to take the scroll and break the seals. The situation was dire indeed. All of God’s creation hung in the balance and there was no one to come to the rescue. John says, “And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (Revelation 5:4).

John’s tears were soon assuaged. “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof,” John says, “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth” (Revelation 5:5-6). John the Baptist saw this Lamb come to him to be baptized in the Jordan and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He was slain on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and rose again on the third day.[13] Horns represent kingdoms and the Lamb has seven representing completion. All the kingdoms belong to Him. He is “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16). Seven eyes suggest omniscience with all the attributes of the seven Spirits of God.

Only the Lamb, by virtue of His sacrifice, is worthy to take and open the scroll. “And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne” (Revelation 5:7). When the Lamb took the scroll, a great celebration broke out in heaven. The four living creatures and the 24 elders prostrate themselves before the Lamb. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

Then the rest of heaven breaks out in praise, “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:12-13).

Worthy indeed! I cannot imagine how John must have felt at the first sight of heaven and the throne of God. I cannot wait to see it for myself!

The 14 chapters that follow bring us back to earth and the events that will transpire during the seven-year Tribulation. The scenes are horrific. However, the Church, the Bride of Christ, will not experience the horrors of the Tribulation. The Church, as we saw will be around the throne of God and not on earth. Will you be there or will you experience the horrors that are coming upon the earth? Your ticket out of here was purchased by Jesus more than 2000 years ago. All you have to do is accept it. Check out my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Revelation 1:10

[2]  Revelation 1:9

[3]  Revelation 1:11

[4]  Revelation 2-3

[5]  Revelation 1:20

[6]  1 Corinthians 15:50-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

[7]  Exodus 33:11

[8]  Revelation 4:4

[9]  Revelation 4:6-8

[10]  Genesis 1:26-28

[11]  Genesis 3

[12]  2 Corinthians 4:4

[13]  1 Corinthians 15:3-4

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, End Times, Eschatology, Gospel, Heaven, Holy Spirit, Origins, Rapture, Resurrection, Satan, Second Coming of Christ, Theology, Worship

One response to “The First Sight

  1. Pingback: The White Horse | Ernie's Musings

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