By Dustin Abbott
In this chapter the transition is made from the early stages of past and present in the Book of Revelation to the meat of the matter: the hereafter. It is at this juncture that the transition is made from the plateau of earthly perspective to a view of the heavenly. John enjoys an experience similar to the catching away, where he is transported from his earthly surroundings and vision to the very throne room of God. This chapter is devoted to describing the wonders contained therein.
(1) After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
The phrase “I will shew thee things which must be here” clearly indicates that the discussion of things past and present is complete, and the time has come to discuss the future. Philadelphia was promised an open door into heaven, and now the same door is opened in John’s vision. It is a portal into the everlasting. He is caught away from earth into heaven, the intangible, immortal abode of Almighty God. The second indicator that this is representative of the catching away is the voice “as it were of a trumpet.”
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (I Thessalonians 4:16).
The sound like a trumpet that John hears is the trumpet that will literally wake the dead. After this reference, the saints, including the dead in Christ, will not be seen upon earth until the second coming of Christ when they return to earth with Him. John and the raptured saints of his vision are transported to the presence of the Almighty.
This event is central to our hope as Christians, and it is imperative that we have a proper understanding of the events and the details regarding the catching away of the saints. (See supplement on the catching away.) There is literally no other thing left to be fulfilled before this event. It could happen at any moment!
(2) And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
John says that he was immediately in the spirit, which illustrates the speed of the catching away. The transition from earthly mortality to heavenly immortality takes less time than that of the twinkling of an eye. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed’ (I Corinthians 15:52). The catching away will be instantaneous, leaving the earth in shock and disbelief. There has been a lot of supposition about this event and its results upon the earth, and there is certainly some validity to many of these assumptions. The process is instantaneous and universal, which means that somewhere cars will be left without drivers, classrooms will be left without teachers, and even planes left without pilots. It is likely that the catching away will be international catastrophe for the remainder of the earth’s inhabitants.
This verse in entirely essential to John’s theme of this book: the revelation or unveiling of Jesus Christ. This verse cannot be adequately explained by those that hold to a Trinitarian view of the Godhead and even less by those of Tritheistic bent. There is only one throne that is in heaven. There is only one that is sitting on this throne. Who then is upon this throne? John 1:18 states that “No man hath seen God at any time.” Add to this the fact that John 4:24 states that God is a spirit; as such He is imperceptible to the eyes, impossible to touch, and beyond the grasp of human senses. On numerous occasions God stated that He made the thick darkness or literally space devoid of matter and physical substance as His abode (Deuteronomy 5:22, II Samuel 22:12, I Kings 8:12, II Chronicles 6:1, Psalms 18:11, etc.). Although God is large enough to measure all the waters of earth in the (figurative) palm of his hands (Isaiah 40:12) and makes the universe His throne and the earth His footstool (Isaiah 66:1), He also requires no physical space at all to dwell in.
Ever since the fall of man, God has attempted to bridge the gap between the natural and the supernatural. His desire has always been to have intimacy with mankind, and He will not be distant and intangible throughout eternity. The one that will sit upon the solitary throne in the heaven will be the personification (the express image) of God, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:3). John interchangeably describes the one on the throne as God or Jesus throughout this book without error, for they are one and the same. No other explanation is plausible or even desirable. Our friend for eternity will be our intimate Savior who also happens to be the great, omnipotent God of creation. God will visibly sit upon this throne. There will not be multiple thrones for multiple gods, for there is only one God, and there is no division in Him! All of the Godhead physically dwells in Jesus Christ! (Colossians 2:9).
(3) 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.
The mixture of these two types of stones is often seen throughout Scripture. Jasper can be different shades, although it is thought to be the dark green type in both the breastplate of the OT high priest and in the foundation of the New Jerusalem. Jasper is a highly translucent stone and if backlit, light shines brilliantly through. The jasper represents God’s holiness and perfection. The sardine (sardius or carnelian), a brilliant blood red, is representative of His fiery judgment. Only God is both perfect and pure enough to give completely just judgment. Many erroneous judgment calls have been made by humanity because of our imperfections: hidden agendas, personal problems, lack of knowledge, bribery, pressure, etc. Only God’s judgment is truly righteous, for He is both unbiased and personally flawless.
As a counterbalance to God’s perfection and ability to judge, there is a rainbow around the throne, reminding us that God is a covenant God, one that honors His promises to man. God’s understanding and compassion for man is shown by the fact that the predominant color shown is green, the easiest of all colors upon human eyes. Although God is both perfect and a righteous judge, He balances these qualities with compassion for mankind. The rainbow represents God’s promise of escape from destruction and judgment, His mercy to mankind.
It is interesting that John did not attempt to describe the one on the throne in human terms, for in this setting the prevailing aura was that of majesty and power, not at all like the Son of man with whom John was so intimately familiar. This Jesus was more like the one that he had seen on the mount of transfiguration, bathed in brilliance and glory. God cannot and will not be pegged down or even categorized by man. When John first saw Him in chapter 1, He was so awe-inspiring that John fell as dead. Swift as lightning, though, Jesus changed from awesome God to gentle Savior and friend, restoring John’s spirits. C. S. Lewis summed it up well in his incredibly intelligent and theologically sound Chronicles of Narnia series where he typecasts Jesus Christ as the great lion Aslan (who is sometimes viewed as a lamb). On many occasions some character will make the comment, “Well, he’s not a tame lion, you know.” In essence, He cannot be contained nor controlled by mere humanity. The humanity of Christ can be understood, but the deity of Christ is beyond human comprehension.
(4) And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
The Levitical Priesthood worked in stations of twenty-four, and when these twenty-four men were on duty they represented the entire Levitical body. The twenty-four elders are similarly representative. They represent the whole of the caught away church body. Further symbology is found in comparing the two groups of twelve that comprise the whole of God’s dealings with man—the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles of the Lamb. It is unlikely, however, that these twenty-four are physically the twelve tribal patriarchs of the OT and the apostles of the new. For one, John would have been among them had this been the case, which he makes no mention of. Furthermore, Revelation 5:8-9 states that the twenty-four elders sang a song of praise, for they had been redeemed out of every nation, kindred, people, tongue, etc. This indicates that the twenty-four are rather representative of the whole of God’s plan and God’s people. This represents a complete harmony of the two testaments and plans, God’s Church of the ages. The Church will not be seen on the earth again until they return with Jesus at Armageddon. We will ever be with the Lord (I Thessalonians 4:17).
The description of these men coincides perfectly with that of the Church, for they have been clothed in white raiment, as is promised the believer (Revelation 3:5) and are wearing crowns of gold. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Timothy 4:8). (See also I Corinthians 9:25, James 1:12, I Peter 5:4, Revelation 2:10.)
(5) And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
The lightning, thundering, and voices are all representative of the power and authority of God. This description is often used in Revelation to give the reader a sense of the powerful presence of the Almighty. It gives a sense of what being in His presence is like. A similar account is given of Sinai when God spoke to Moses on the mountaintop (Exodus 20:18). The seven Spirits are continually around the throne, representing the ministering angelic body that does the bidding of God and also the character of God.
(6) And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
Before God’s throne, there is a sea of purity, smooth as glass. What a great contrast to the many troubled waters that the harlot in chapter 17 sits upon. Water has always been a part of man’s relationship with God. It began with ritual cleansing in the OT and led to baptism by immersion in the NT God is clean and pure, so it only stands to reason that we should also be clean before coming into His presence. Cleansing is always required before you get to God. The vision that John sees is consistent with this biblical theme.
The use of the word beasts in the Authorized Version (KJV) is a poor rendition of the Greek, and the designation “living creatures” used in other translations is more fitting. The word beast is never used in a positive fashion in Scripture; having beasts around the throne of God is hardly fitting. These living creatures are the epitome and personification of worship around the throne of God. There is a similar description of these living creatures in Ezekiel 1 and Isaiah 6. They are represented as always being in the presence of God and being the vehicle that often transports Him. Praise literally moves God! They are angelic creatures, called seraphim or cherubim. They are full of eyes, representing the omniscience of God. (“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth” [2 Chronicles 16:9].) The expression “eyes of the LORD” or “eyes of the Lord God’ are used well in excess of twenty-five times throughout Scripture.
(7) And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
Each of these living creatures is representative of the mightiest of their kind. The lion is the king of the wild creatures of the jungle and field. The calf (or the ox) is the greatest and mightiest of the domesticated animals. Man is the pinnacle of God’s creation. Man was given dominion over the whole earth. The flying eagle is the greatest of the creatures of the air. Each is the greatest in their kingdoms, yet they all constantly acknowledge the superiority of the one that they are in the presence of. This is the ultimate example of praise, for they are not naively, dumbly, or robotically praising God, but are rather praising Him out of the knowledge that no matter how great the creation is, the creator is always far greater. Psalm 47:7 says, “For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.” True praise is not dumb or blind, but is performed with understanding. Those that praise with understanding realize that praise is never dependent upon emotions or circumstance, but rather upon the fact that the Creator and Savior is always worth of praise!
(8) And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
These living creatures follow the types given in Ezekiel and Isaiah. In the previous passages the seraphim or living creatures were the transportation of God. Throughout the OT, He was found in the midst of them. They have six wings, and in Isaiah we discover the use of those wings. With one pair they cover their eyes in humility because of the great one that they are in the presence of. With the second pair they cover their feet in purity and holiness, for the one they serve is the epitome of those qualities. With the final pair they fly to do the Lord’s bidding (Isaiah 6). True biblical servitude is revealed in these qualities: humility, purity, holiness, and a willingness to serve.
The praise exuding from the living creatures is continual. In fact, the original language describes a great continual round, where there is never a pause for even an instant in the worship. They continually make mention of His Holiness and His permanence. We must remember that God is continually surrounded by holiness, and to please Him we must also approach his throne in the beauty of holiness (I Chronicles 16:9, Psalm 29:2, 96:9).
(9) And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
(10) The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
This beautiful, awe-inspiring picture of worship moves the collective body in the throne room to worship as well. Worship is the vehicle that moves God. It is no wonder that the Scripture tells us that He inhabits praise (Psalm 22:3). True praise begets praise; it is infectious! The resounding praise of the living creatures inspires the twenty-four elders (and likely the entire church body) to an impromptu worship session. The whole of those assembled are in awe of the Almighty upon the throne.
The church body will continually be inspired to worship. The royalty that has been bestowed upon us will seem so petty in the presence of the true King of kings. We will not attempt to hold onto our kingship, but will cast our crowns at the feet of the Almighty. The worship in the throne room only inspires further worship. God inhabits the praises of His people! (Psalm 22:3).
(11) 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.
The one that sits upon the throne reigns not only as Savior of all but as Creator of all. In the case of all humanity represented in the throne room, He is not only their Creator but also the one who redeemed them back to Himself. He is worthy of every bit of praise that could ever be offered Him.
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Colossians 1:16-17).
The great philosophical question of the purpose of life is answered in this verse. Why am I here? To bring pleasure to my Creator. What is the purpose of life? To bring pleasure to the giver of life. How do I bring Him pleasure? By worshipping and loving Him from a willing heart. It is that simple. This book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ!
This article “The Catching Away” was excerpted from the book Revelation Unveiled by Dustin L. Abbott. It may be used for study & research purposes only.