To review: Revelation 1:19 provides a threefold outline to the book:
- Part 1: The things that you have seen (The present ministry of the enthroned Christ following His resurrection and ascension). This is chapter 1 of the book.
- Part 2: The things that are (the present age of the church, represented by the seven churches of Asia) – chapter 2-3
- Part 3: The things that will take place after this (the Great Tribulation and subsequent events) – chapters 4-22
So with chapter 4, we’re coming to the third great section of Revelation (4-22), and we’re on the verge of the unleashing of the Great Tribulation. Chapters 4 and 5 take us right up to heaven, to the presence of God Himself, and show us what will take place in heaven just before the Great Tribulation is unleashed on earth.
Verse 1: In my opinion, verse 1 is where the Rapture of the church takes place in the sequence of events in Revelation. Verse 1 is a symbolic view of the rapture as John is caught up into heaven in his vision. It seems to me there are seven indications here of the rapture. The first two and last two words of verse 1 are the same: “After this.”
- “After this…” – After the church age, which is described in chapters 2-3.
- A door was opened in heaven, indicating someone is going to suddenly enter.
- The sound of a trumpet. According to 1 Thessalonians 4 and other passages, the rapture of the church will be preceded by the sound of a trumpet
- A command to “Come up here.” That’s the commanding shout of the rapture.
- “I will show you what must take place after this”—that is, I will show you the Great Tribulation, which will happen after the rapture of the church.
- From this moment, there is no reference in the book of Revelation to the church on earth until the Lord comes again. The church disappears. The events of the Great Tribulation are described without any reference to the church on earth.
- The 24 elders seen later in the chapter seem to be symbolic of the raptured church.
Verse 2-3: Whenever we see the heavenly throne portrayed in the Bible, it’s a scene to be carefully studied. Examples include: Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1. The One sitting on the throne is God the Father. The Son and Spirit will be introduced later in these two chapters (Revelation 4-5). Jasper is a translation of a Greek word referring to a clear diamond-like stone. Some commentators take this to be a reference to diamond. It’s also the word used to describe the heavenly city in chapters 21-22. Carnelian was a ruby-like stone.
Verse 4: The 24 elders likely represent the church, the redeemed of all the ages, from the Old Testament era (represented by the 12 patriarchs) to the church era (represented by the 12 apostles). I’m not saying that these 24 figures really were the patriarchs and apostles, only that the 24 are a symbol of all the redeemed of all the ages. They are dressed in white, which represents the righteous acts of the saints (Revelation 19:8), and they have crowns of gold on their head. This indicates the judgment seat of Christ had already occurred, perhaps immediately after the rapture(Romans 14:2; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Now the church of all the ages, symbolized by the 24, are worshipping God in heaven on the eve of the Great Tribulation on earth
Verse 5: The seven spirits of God represents the Holy Spirit. In Isaiah 11:1-2, the Holy Spirit is described in a seven-fold way.
Verse 6: The great square upon which the throne is situated is called the “sea of glass” or “platform or expanse of crystal.”
Verse 6-8: The living creatures represent a kind or variety of angel that surrounds the throne. These are very similar to the seraphs in Isaiah 6 and the cherubs in Ezekiel 1. Their hymn of praise is given in verse 8, and they are the worship leaders around the throne. The angels lead in the antiphonal first stanza and the elders reply with the second stanza (verse 11).