Study Notes

Revelation 4:1-1


For the last seven weeks, we've looked at the seven letters that Jesus dictated to the seven churches. We studied them historically and practically - both in their historical context as real churches that existed in the first century, and in their practical context - how we can learn from them and have application to our own lives.

There is, however, one more way to view these letters - and that is prophetically. It turns out that these seven letters in their particular order form an accurate representation of general church history.

Ephesus was the church of the apostolic age that lasted until about 100 AD. This was the age that the church was most doctrinally sound, putting false prophets to the test.

Smyrna was the age of the persecuted church, from 100 to 313 AD. During this time, up to six million Christians died from Roman persecution.

Pergamos was the Imperial church age, from 313 to 590 AD. Beginning with Constantine, idolatry and a corrupt priesthood began to enter the church.

Thyatira was the onset of the Catholic church, from 590 to 1517 AD. Blatant idolatry and spiritual fornication led by Jezebel become rampant in the church.

Sardis was the age of the reformation, from 1517 to 1730 AD. This is when Protestantism is born. They seem to be alive, but are inwardly dead.Some of the Christians walk in holiness, but the church as a whole hasn't gone far enough in breaking away from the sins of the Catholic practices.

Philadelphia was the missionary church age, which lasted from 1730 to 1900. Probably the most glorious time in church history, Jesus had nothing negative to say about it. Missionaries going out all over the world to spread the gospel. Holiness is a standard, and the church adheres to the Word of God.

Laodicea was the apostate church age, the church of this century. Much of the church today is lukewarm, but they think they're fine, that they are rich. Jesus is left outside much of the church, for they see no need for Him. Many liturgical churches have their traditions to lead them, many Baptist churches have their committees to guide them, many Pentecostal churches have their Spiritual goosebumps to stimulate them, many seeker sensitive churches have their programs to grow them. And many of these churches keep Jesus outside because He would destroy their traditions, dissolve their committees, rebuke their experience-based faith, and challenge seekers to repent!

That, in a nutshell, is the prophetic look at the seven churches.

Now remember, in chapter one, Jesus told John to write three things.

Rev. 1:19 "Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things."

Chapter one was the first section - John writing the things he had just seen. Chapters two and three were "the things which are," meaning the things of the church. The rest of the book will cover "the things which shall take place after these things."

4:1 After These Things

"After these things." The phrase is "met-AH TOW-tah" in Greek. This is the same phrase that Jesus used in verse 19 of chapter one. So we are now beginning the third - and longest - section of Revelation.

The third section is that which is "after these things." After what things? The things of the church - chapters two and three. Chapter four is the beginning of what we might call the "post-church" age.

You see, beginning with chapter four, the church is nowhere to be found on earth. The church has been mentioned 18 times in the first three chapters, but now will not be mentioned again until the very end when we are reminded that Revelation is written to the churches. What does this mean? It means that the events described in Revelation that happen to the earth have nothing to do with the church. It means that the church is missing from that future age. It means that something happens to remove the true church from the earth. That "something" is called the rapture - when Jesus instantaneously snatches up the church into heaven.

A Door Standing Open In Heaven

John saw an open door. This is the same open door that Jesus was holding open for the faithful church in Philadelphia - because they kept His Word and didn't deny His name. It was a door of deliverance and a door of service. Delivered from the wicked world to serve the Lord. It was the door through which heaven is entered.

John is about to experience prophetically and supernaturally the rapture of the church.

The First Voice Which I Had Heard

John is careful to identify that the voice he hears now is the same voice he heard in chapter one. It was the voice of the Son of Man, the First and the Last, the voice of Jesus Christ.

Like Of A Trumpet

The voice of Jesus sounded to John "like of a trumpet." What do trumpets represent Biblically? The sound of a trumpet first occurs in Exodus 19. Moses brought the Israelites to camp in front of Mt. Sinai, and God told Moses, "when the ram's horn sounds a long blast, the Israelites shall come up to the mountain."

Exod. 19:16 So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.

The trumpet sound was made to gather God's people together at His holy mountain. Then, in the book of Numbers, we read that

Num. 10:1-3 The LORD spoke further to Moses, saying, "Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out. And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the doorway of the tent of meeting."

So trumpets were used for God's people to be gathered together.

They were also used to sound the alarm:

Num. 10:9 "And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and be saved from your enemies."

Jesus' voice like a trumpet is signalling the rapture. He is calling His people to assemble to Him, and sounding the alarm to announce the coming battle. Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

1Cor. 15:51-52 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

And to the Thessalonians, he said,

1Ths. 4:16-17 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.

The rapture of the church happens with the sound of a trumpet, the voice of Jesus Christ calling the church to Himself in the air.

Come Up Here

That voice said to John, "come up here." When Jesus Christ raptures the church, what He will say is recorded in Isaiah 26...

Isa. 26:20-21 Come, my people, enter into your rooms, and close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while, until indignation runs its course. For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; And the earth will reveal her bloodshed, and will no longer cover her slain.

Remember that Jesus told us,

John 14:2-3 "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for 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 to Myself; that where I am, {there} you may be also.

Jesus is going to come again and will call us to Himself. The church will be caught up to safety through the door of heaven, and we will dwell in the rooms He has prepared for us until the tribulation runs its course.

Pre-Trib Or Post-Trib?

Many people teach that the church will not be raptured until after the Tribulation. That goes against everything that I see in Scripture. I want to give you seven examples of Scripture that tell me that the rapture happens before the events that we'll see in the rest of the book of Revelation.

#1 - The Lord Delivers The Righteous

Jesus said,

Luke 17:26-29 "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all."

What happened in the days of Noah? Great wickedness abounded. The Lord sealed the righteous in the ark BEFORE the judgment came. What happened in the days of Lot? The Lord took the righteous away from Sodom BEFORE the judgment came. In that case, the angel even went so far as to say:

Gen. 19:22 "Hurry, escape (to Zoar), for I cannot do anything until you arrive there."

The Lord has set a precedent that He always delivers the righteous before judging the wicked.

#2 - Rehearsing In Order

In our study of Leviticus 23, we found that the seven feasts of Israel were actually rehearsals of prophetic events. The Feasts of Trumpets fell between the Feast of Pentecost and the Day of Atonement. This showed us that the Rapture had to take place between the birth of the church and the end of the Tribulation. If this sounds completely over your head, then pick up the two tapes on Leviticus 23.

#3 - Like A Thief

Jesus said,

Luke 12:40 "You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect."

He is coming like a thief in the night, at an hour that is unexpected.

Mark 13:32 "...of that day or hour no one knows..."

Here's the catch: If I'm living during the tribulation period, I'll know exactly the day that Jesus is coming back. From the day that the antichrist commits the abomination that causes desolation, I'll simply count 3 1/2 years until Christ's return. From the time that "he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God" (2Ths. 2:4) it will be exactly 1,260 days until Christ comes conquering! If the rapture takes place at the end of the Tribulation, I'll know the day!

But if the Lord is coming before these events, snatching us away from this world in the twinkling of an eye, well, we're all going to be a bit surprised!

#4 - The Antichrist

The antichrist himself is another reason that the rapture must happen before the Tribulation. Paul, speaking of the antichrist, wrote,

2Ths. 2:6-8 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed...

The Restrainer must be taken out of the way. What is the Restrainer? It is a "he," so it is a person. And He has restrained evil from going full force on the earth from back in Paul's day until now, so the only answer possible that the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit as He works through the church. Jesus told us,

Matt. 5:13, 14 "You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world"

In order for evil to have full reign on earth, the preservative of salt must be nonexistent, the light that keeps out the darkness must be out. Before the antichrist can be revealed, the church must be gone.

#5 - Not Appointed To Wrath

The fifth reason I'll give you this morning is that the terrible things happening to the earth during these seven years are the wrath of God.

Rev. 6:15-17 And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?"

This wrath is poured out universally, throughout the earth. But the Bible teaches that the church is not appointed to wrath.

Rom. 5:9 ...Having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

1Ths. 5:9-10 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.

The church will not be present when God's wrath is poured out upon the whole earth.

#6 - A Doctrine Of Comfort

Also, the teaching of the rapture is to bring comfort, not fear. Paul said,

1Ths. 4:17-18 ...We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

If I tell you that the church is going to have to survive seven years of hell on earth before we are raptured, that the earth will be decimated, water will be undrinkable, 3/4 of the people will die, etc., before we are caught up, that's not very comforting, is it? The teaching of the rapture is to bring us comfort.

#7 - Concealed In His Tabernacle

We could go on for quite awhile, but I thought seven should be our limit this morning. The last reason I'll give you why I believe we won't be on earth during this outpouring of God's wrath is that we will be in the throne room of heaven:

Ps. 27:4-5 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.

Where will I be in the day of trouble? Concealed in His tabernacle - the heavenly throne room of God!

I Will Show You

And that is what we find happens to John. Jesus says,

Rev. 4:1 ..."Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things."

Like John, the church is raptured to heaven and gets a throne room view of the 70th week of Daniel, the time of Jacob's trouble, the judgment of the world.

As we study the book of Revelation, we too will get a throne room view of these things. If you have been born again, you need not fear what is to come upon the earth. But if you haven't given your life to Jesus Christ, then this will be a sneak-preview of your dismal future.

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