Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rushing Wind

Keith Green is one of my all time favorite songwriters, and this song is my very favorite Keith Green song.

I pray that this God speaks to you through this song like He has to me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Revelation Chapter 4, Part 2 - The Glory of the Throne

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.
Revelation 4:2-3 (NASB)
Verse two begins with the words Immediately I was in the Spirit. Remember that this was the way John described what happened to him in chapter one when he received his first vision. As was said when we looked at the meaning of this phrase there, every time that John uses this phrase in the book of Revelation he is taken somewhere by the Holy Spirit and shown a vision. Let’s look at what a few others have said about this phrase:
John stated that immediately he was in the Spirit meaning that experientially he was taken up to heaven though his body was actually still on the island of Patmos. 1
The Holy Spirit takes possession of John in a special way, and he immediately sees the eternal God sitting upon His throne in majesty and splendor. 2
This was not a dream. John was supernaturally transported out of the material world awake—not sleeping—to an experience beyond the normal senses. The Holy Spirit empowered his senses to perceive revelation from God. 3
There are a few things we can learn from this:
  1. This was a vision that was given to John by the Holy Spirit.
  2. John was actually taken to heaven to see this vision.
  3. This was not a dream; John was fully awake and fully aware of everything that was going on around him.
The next thing we see is that the place that John was taken was heaven, and he tells us that here he saw a throne, and One sitting on the throne. The Greek word translated throne here is the word thrónos, which is:
A seat, usually high and having a footstool [and is often used] as the emblem of royal authority.4
As we will see as we move through this chapter that is exactly what John is seeing; the One sitting on the throne is the One who is ruling.

As was just mentioned John sees more than just a throne; he sees One sitting on the throne. The One here is God the Father, which we know because of the context of the passage; we see the Holy Spirit before the throne, and we will see the Lord Jesus as the Lamb in Revelation 5:6, so the One on the throne is none other than God the Father. John MacArthur writes:
Though John does not name the One sitting on the throne, it is obvious who He is. He is the One Isaiah saw in his vision: ‘I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple’ (Isa. 6:1). The prophet Micaiah also saw Him on His glorious throne: ‘I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left’ (1 Kings 22:19). ‘God reigns over the nations,’ declared the psalmist, ‘God sits on His holy throne’ (Ps. 47:8). 5
Now in verse three John is going to try to describe to us the One who is sitting on the throne. Notice that in this verse John uses the word like two times. The Greek word John uses here is hómoios, which means a, “similarity in external form and appearance.”6

What John is saying here is this; the One sitting on the throne is similar in form and appearance to things we know; He is not these things but these things will give us a reference point that we can understand. Warren Wiersbe writes:
There is no possible way for human words to describe what God is like in His essence. John can only use comparisons. 7
So in this verse John makes two comparisons:
  1. He says the One who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius stone
  2. He compares the rainbow he sees around the throne to an emerald.
The first object that John uses to describe the One sitting on the throne is the jasper stone. According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, a jasper stone, as it is characterized in Scripture, “was most precious, and like crystal.” It then goes on to say:
We may also infer from Rev. 4:3 that it was a stone of brilliant and transparent light. The stone which we name ‘jasper’ does not accord with this description. There can be no doubt that the diamond would more adequately answer to the description in the book of Revelation. 8
Revelation 21:11 says, in speaking of the foundation of the New Jerusalem, Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. By taking the definition from Smith’s Bible Dictionary, and the description that we have here in Revelation 21, we can conclude that it was probably a diamond that John had in mind when he tried to convey what he was seeing. Nelson’s New Bible Dictionary tells us:
The diamond was not identified in the Mediterranean lands until the first century.9
So John would likely not have known that word; the closest thing in his vocabulary would have been the jasper stone.

The second object that John chooses to describe what he saw is the sardius stone. Again, Harper’s Bible Dictionary tells us that this stone was:
[A] deep orange-red chalcedony considered by some to be a variety of carnelian. 10
The sardius stone is most likely what we know today as a ruby. Matthew Henry writes:
The sardine-stone is red, signifying the justice of God, that essential attribute of which he never divests himself in favour of any, but gloriously exerts it in the government of the world, and especially of the church, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”11
The two stones chosen here by John to describe what he was seeing would have had a lot of meaning to those reading this in the first century as these were the first and last stones on the breastplate of the Jewish high priest. William MacDonald and Art Farstad writes:
In the high priest’s breastplate, the jasper represented Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and the sardius represented Benjamin, his lastborn. The name Reuben means “Behold, a son,” and Benjamin means “son of my right hand. 12
By choosing these two specific stones John could have also been making a reference to Jesus, God’s Son who is seated at His right hand.

One other possible reason for John to have chosen these particular stones is alluded to by John MacArthur in his commentary on Revelation; he writes:
It may be that those stones depict God’s covenant relationship with Israel; His wrath and judgment will not abrogate that relationship. 13
In other words, these stones, being the first and last on the breastplate of the high priest encompass all of Israel, the covenant people of God, and the use of these stones to depict the One John sees sitting on the throne is a reminder to us that as the coming judgments unfold the covenants of God will not fail. This can be further seen by the next image we get from John; at the end of verse three John says that encircling the throne is an emerald rainbow.

The rainbow is first seen in Genesis 9:13 where God tells Noah:
I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
Genesis 9:13
The covenant that God made with Noah (and every living creature) was that a flood would never again destroy the world. There are two important things to see here about this rainbow:
  1. The shape of the rainbow
  2. The timing of the rainbow
John tells us that he saw a rainbow around the throne. The word translated around here in the ESV and NASB is the Greek word kuklóthen, which means a circle and it could also be translated as surrounded (HCSB) or encircled (NIV). However you translate this word the picture that we have is of a rainbow that is a perfect circle surrounding the throne. Here on earth we never see a complete rainbow, we only see a portion of it, an arc, but here in heaven John sees a complete full circle rainbow, which symbolizes the perfection and eternality of God.

The next thing that I want you to notice about this rainbow is its timing, by that I mean the time when it appeared, or when it was shown to John. On earth we see rainbows after a storm, but this rainbow was shown to John prior to the storm of tribulation beginning.

Why would the rainbow appear before the storm? MacDonald and Farstad write that this rainbow:
Is a pledge that God will keep His covenants, in spite of the coming judgments. 14
And Warren Wiersbe adds:

Judgment is about to fall, but the rainbow reminds us that God is merciful, even when He judges. 15
So take some time out today and praise God for His mercy and thank Him for His grace.

Next time we will look at the Elders Around the Throne.

1 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary: An exposition of the scriptures (2:943). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
2 MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (Re 4:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
3 MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Re 1:10). Nashville: Word Pub.
4 Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.) (G2362). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
5 MacArthur, J. (1999). Revelation 1-11 (146). Chicago: Moody Press.
6 Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.) (G3664). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
7 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Re 4:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
8 Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
9 Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson.
10 Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, P., & Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). Harper's Bible dictionary. Includes index. (1st ed.) (907). San Francisco: Harper & Row.
11 Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (Re 4:1). Peabody: Hendrickson.
12 MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (Re 4:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
13 MacArthur, J. (1999). Revelation 1-11 (148). Chicago: Moody Press.
14 MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (Re 4:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
15 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Re 4:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Gospel Of Mark, Part 2 - Get Yourselves Ready

2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ”

4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Mark 1:2-8

In this passage we are introduced to John the Baptist, the messenger who was sent before Jesus to prepare the way. Here we must ask the question, what was it that John did ,and how did he prepare the way for Jesus to come and begin His ministry?

We are told in verse four that John was baptizing and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And in verse five we see that many were going to the Jordan river to be baptized by him and were confessing their sins.

So what we are seeing here is the people of Judea and Jerusalem coming out to John and being baptized by him as an outward public sign that they had repented of their sin and turned their hearts to God. The word Repent here comes from the Greek word metánoia, which literally means to change your mind. What this is telling us is that repentance involves thinking differently about your sin.

Think of it this way, when you repent you no longer view sin as being a minor stumble or as just being a mistake; you actually have a change of mind whereby you now see your sin as God sees your sin. In other words you now see your sin as the hideous, ugly affront to God's holiness and sovereignty that it truly is. You have a change of mind which then manifests itself in a change of direction - you turn your back on your sin, and you walk away from it, but more importantly you don't just walk away from your sin, you walk toward God.

We can see this concept more clearly spelled out in the following verses:
Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.
Acts 14:15 (Emphasis added)
And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles — to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Acts 26:15-18 (Emphasis added)

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
1 Thessalonians 1:9 (Emphasis added)

This is what John was teaching the people of that day, and the text tells us that he was preparing the way for the Lord; he was making the paths straight and calling the people to repentance (which, as we will soon see is the same message that Jesus preached). But this is not the only thing that John did; he did not just call the people to repentance (as important as that is) - he glorified Christ. Notice verses seven and eight; here we see that when John preached he said:
After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
John did not live his life to gain popularity, prestige, or power; he lived his life for one purpose only - to glorify Christ. That is an example we would all do well to follow.

There is one more thing that I want to point out in this passage that we might otherwise miss; verse two begins with the words "As it is written..." This is a good reminder to us that what we read here in the gospels regarding the life and ministry of Jesus was prophesied hundreds of years before it actually happened. For example, what we are reading right to the beginning of Mark's Gospel is the fulfillment of what the prophet Isaiah had written 700 years earlier. Several times throughout the gospels we read things like "as it was written" and this is to remind us that God does what He says He will do. We can take great comfort in the fact that God does what He says He will do and that all of His promises will be fulfilled. But we can also take this as a warning and and be assured that just as He fulfilled the prophesies concerning the birth and ministry of Jesus He will also fulfill the prophesies concerning the Second Coming of Jesus and His final judgment against sin; the Bible clearly teaches:
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Hebrews 9:27
And it says:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
Galatians 6:7
All prophesy will be fulfilled.

Yes, God will judge sin; each of us will either experience God's wrath ourselves, or we will come to Him through Jesus Christ who died on the cross and became sin for us. He took the wrath of God in the place of everyone who comes to Him in repentance and faith. As I have said before, This is the Gospel! That is what John preached, that is what Jesus preached, and that is what this book is all about.

Next time we will cover verses 9-11 of chapter 1 as we look at the baptism of Jesus.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Shaping The Modern World - By Chuck Colson

Today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday - it is also Charles Darwin's birthday. Here is what Chuck Colson had to say about the occasion on today's Breakpoint...

Shaping the Modern World
Mendelssohn, Lincoln, and Darwin

February 12, 2009

Two hundred years ago, three boys were born a few days apart in Germany, England, and the United States. All of them would become renowned and affect the lives of not only their contemporaries but of generations to come.

One would produce great works of art and revive interest in long-forgotten artistic treasures. One would lead his nation to a “new birth of freedom” and pay with his life. The third would be responsible for an idea that, intentionally or not, would rationalize the worst cruelty and oppression the world has ever seen.

Whose birthday is getting the most attention? Of course, the third one.

The three boys were the composer Felix Mendelssohn, born February 3, 1809, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, both born on February 12, 1809.

In his time, Mendelssohn was regarded as a kind of second Mozart: a child prodigy who, in an equally-short life, single-handedly revived interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Hopefully, you don’t need me to tell you about the importance of Abraham Lincoln. Still, judging by the way the 200th anniversary of their births is being covered, maybe you do.

For instance, the cover story of this month’s Smithsonian magazine purports to tell readers “How Lincoln and Darwin Shaped the Modern World.” According to the article, Lincoln and Darwin had “midwifed” a new world where “the hierarchies of nature and race and class that had governed the world” had been, if not overthrown, brought into question. In this account “evolution” and “emancipation” are co-laborers in this transformation.

Tell that to the tens or hundreds of millions of people murdered in the name of ideologies that cited Darwin’s On the Origin of Species as justification for their acts. The perpetrators of the gulags and the death camps didn’t hum “The Reformation Symphony” or recite the Gettysburg Address as they went about their grim tasks. But they did see themselves as acting in concert with the laws of nature: specifically, nature according to Darwin and his acolytes.

Likewise, “Social Darwinism,” far from weakening the “hierarchies of . . . class that governed the world” was employed to justify those hierarchies.

These social consequences are portrayed as after-the-fact corruptions of Darwin’s thoughts. Darwin’s ideas, we are told, is “humanism in flight” and “roomy enough for ordinary love to breathe in.”

But, as writer Peter Quinn has documented, that’s nonsense. Darwin’s own notebooks make it plain that he anticipated his ideas’ influencing “competition, free trade, imperialism, racial extermination, and sexual inequality.” He endorsed his cousin Francis Galton’s ideas about eugenics.

Yet, while we still debate whether Lincoln himself was a racist, little mention is made of the pernicious social consequences of Darwinism and even less about his complicity in these consequences.

Intelligent, secular, scholars argue about whether Darwin was right regarding the origin of species. What they can’t reasonably disagree with, however, is the destructive impact those ideas have had one particular species: man himself.

So for me, I’ll celebrate Lincoln today.

I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Gospel of Mark - An Introduction

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Mark 1:1
It is widely held that the Gospel According to Mark is the account of the ministry of Jesus as related to John Mark by the apostle Peter. This means that even though this Gospel bears the name of Mark it is in fact the eye-witness account of Peter who spent the three years of Jesus' earthly ministry front-and-center. Unlike the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Gospel of Mark skips the genealogies and the few events of Jesus' childhood that we know, and by verse sixteen of chapter one we have already seen Jesus baptized by John the Baptist, His temptation in the wilderness, and the beginning of His earthly ministry.

Verse one is an important verse and as we begin our journey through the Gospel of Mark it is important to point out right at the outset that:
  1. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ
  2. That Jesus is the Son of God.
We can see both of these things right in the first verse. Let's look at these one at a time:

First we see that what we are about to read is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Greek word translated gospel here is euaggélion, which Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament words says:
originally denoted a reward for good tidings; later, the idea of reward dropped, and the word stood for “the good news” itself.
What we have here is the good news of Jesus Christ. So we now have to ask ourselves, "what is the good news of Jesus Christ?"

The good news is that we can all have our sins forgiven. The good news is that Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, died upon the cross for our sin, and rose again on the third day. The good news is that Jesus said He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). The good news is that Jesus came to call not the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17). The good news is that Jesus came to take away the sins of the world (John1:29). The good news is that Jesus came to be the propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sin (1 John 2:2).

The good news is simply this: Jesus will forgive all of your sin - past, present, and future - when you repent and turn to Him. You don't have to clean yourself up first, you just have to abandon your own self-righteousness and follow Him. We can't earn this salvation, and we can't buy it - our sin deserves death but God offers us salvation as a free gift (Romans 6:23). That is good news! That is the Gospel! That is what we are going to discover as we work our way through this book.

The second thing we see here in this first verse is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. J.C. Ryle, in his book Expository Thoughts on the Gospels writes:
These words, "Son of God," conveyed far more to Jewish minds than they do to ours.They were nothing less than an assertion of our Lord's divinity. They were a declaration that Jesus was Himself very God, and "equal with God." (John 5:18)

The very God of the universe Himself took on human form and came to earth to pay the price that my sin deserved. Once again I say that that is the Gospel, the good news! And I am really looking forward to working our way through this book together. Please feel free to ask questions and post comments as we study together the Gospel of Mark.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Arthur W. Pink On The Fear Of God

One day last week my daily Grace Gem email was an excerpt from Arthur Pink asking several questions that all begin with the words, Why is it...? Since I have asked myself some of these same questions from time to time I thought it would be worth posting this and making a few comments myself.

A.W. Pink begins by asking the question:
Why is it that, today, the masses are so utterly unconcerned about spiritual and eternal things, and that they are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God?
I think we can all agree that this is a perfect description of the majority of the people in the world (and even in the "church," I'm sorry to say) today. So why is that? Is this just a symptom of living in the last days or is there something more going on here? The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy saying:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
We could look at this passage and say that this does not apply to the church, but to the world, and it certainly does sound like the world that we are living in, but before you come to that conclusion look again at what Paul said in verse five, "having the appearance of godliness..."This is what the world looks like today, but in a lot of cases this is also what the "church" looks like today.
Why is it that defiance of God is becoming more open, more blatant, more daring? The answer is, because "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18).

How many times have you heard it said that fear means respect or awe when the Bible tells us to fear God? There is a sense in which that is true, but when the Bible tells us to fear God I think there is also a sense in which fear means fear, and we have become so comfortable with God that we no longer fear Him. The Bible tells us that we are to fear the one who can destroy our soul in hell (Matthew 10:28); the Bible tells us that God is a consuming fire(Hebrews 12:29); the Bible tells us that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31) and yet we have no fear of God before our eyes.
Why is it that the authority of the Scriptures has been lowered so sadly of late? Why is it that even among those who profess to be the Lord's people, that there is so little real subjection to His Word, and that its precepts are so lightly esteemed and so readily set aside?
Is it because even though we say that we believe the Bible to be the inerrant, inspired, Holy Spirit breathed word of God we really don't. I mean if we truly believed that this was God's word to us - His people - wouldn't we live our lives differently? Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples, but when was the last time you actually shared your faith with the person waiting on your table at the restaurants you frequent?

The apostle Paul wrote that we are to flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18) and that no impurity is to even be named among us (Ephesians 5:3) yet how many of us are still entertained by the sexually explicit material that is broadcast into our homes every evening on the TV? Sure, it may not be X-Rated, but is it pure and does it portray the life that God's word calls us to?

There are many, many more things we could look at (but I am starting to feel conviction myself). I just want you to ask yourself this question, Do I really believe that the Bible is God's word and if I really do would I be doing .... ?

Arthur Pink then concludes with this:
Ah! what needs to be stressed today--is that God is a God to be feared! Happy is the person who has been awed by a view of God's majesty, who has had a vision of . . .
  • God's unutterable greatness,
  • His ineffable holiness,
  • His perfect righteousness,
  • His irresistible power,
  • His sovereign grace!

Time was, when it was the general custom to speak of a believer as "a God-fearing man". That such an appellation has become extinct--only serves to show where we have drifted. Nevertheless, it still stands written, "Like as a father pities His children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him!" Psalm 103:13

When we speak of godly fear, of course, we do not mean a servile fear, such as prevails among the heathen in connection with their gods. No! We mean that spirit which Jehovah is pledged to bless, that spirit to which the prophet referred when he said, "To this man will I will look--even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My Word." Isaiah 66:2

Nothing will foster this godly fear, like a recognition of the sovereign majesty of God!
I encourage you to take some time today, get alone, open your Bible, and see what you can learn about the majesty and sovereignty and holiness of God, because I can promise you that when you begin to see God for who He really is you will not be the same.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Another Great Sermon On Textual Criticism

Have you ever wondered if you can trust the Bible? Dr. Foskey says yes you absolutely can, and then proves it even while addressing difficult textual issues.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Revelation Chapter Four - Part 1

As we continue our study of Revelation we now come to the second of five visions that were given to the apostle John and recorded for us here in this book. The first of these visions was covered in chapters one through three where John saw the risen and glorified Lord Jesus, and received the messages to the seven churches. This second vision begins with an invitation to come up to Heaven, and to witness “what must take place after these things.”

John is not the first person in the Bible to be given a vision of Heaven, Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up (Isaiah 6), and Ezekiel had a vision of Heaven that, as we will see, is very similar to what is revealed here in Revelation chapter four. The apostle Paul also had a vision of Heaven, but he was not permitted to write of what he saw; all he tells us is this:
I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven 14 years ago. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I don’t know; God knows. I know that this man whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into paradise. He heard inexpressible words, which a man is not allowed to speak.
2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (HCSB)
Unlike the apostle Paul; however, John was permitted to write down what he heard and saw, and what we have here, beginning in Revelation chapter four, is the record of that vision. The vision begins with John being called up to heaven, and it ends in chapter seven with the sealing of the 144,000 witnesses just prior to the Rapture of the church. We have been given the privilege of accompanying John as he is taken to Heaven, so let’s join him now and witness what is taking place in the very throne room of God.

Warren Wiersbe writes:
The key word in this chapter is throne; it is used fourteen times. In fact, this is a key word in the entire book, appearing forty-six times. No matter what may happen on earth, God is on His throne and is in complete control.1
With that in mind I am going to borrow Dr Wiersbe’s outline for chapter four, which is as follows:
The Summons from the Throne (4:1)
The Glory of the Throne (4:2–3)
The Elders Around the Throne (4:4)
The Judgments Out of the Throne (4:5a)
The Objects Before the Throne (4:5b–11)2
Before we gat started there is one more key word that we need to be aware of; it is the word like. This word, which is used eight times in this chapter, is translated from the Greek word hómoios. This word can also be translated as similar, to resemble, or as the ESV translates it, had the appearance of. John uses this word to let us know that what he is seeing is similar in appearance to things we know, but not exactly; he is trying to describe things in terms that we will understand, but because there are truly no words to convey what he was seeing he must use words that we can understand.

So now that we have had a little preview of what is to come, and a road map of where we are going, let’s get started.

1. The Summons from the throne (Verse 1)
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things."
Revelation 4:1(NASB)
Chapter four begins with the phrase after these things, which requires us to ask the question, after what things? Back in chapter one John was told to write the things he saw, the things that are, and the things that will take place after these things (Revelation 1:19). This verse, as we saw when we studied chapter one, is the broad outline for the book. As we move now into chapter four we have already covered the first two points of this outline, and the rest of the book will deal with the third point; the things that will take place after these things.

The Greek phrase here is metá toutó, and it could also be translated as after this. This phrase, which is used twice in verse one, is a transition marker that it is telling us two things:
  1. That there has been a change in time
  2. That there has been a change in location,
We can see this by the use of the phrase Come up here. While chapters one through three took place in the past or present for John, from chapter four on this is all prophecy. Also, chapters one through three took place on the earth and chapter four takes place in heaven.

So chapter four begins with a summons; John is invited to come up to heaven and to see the things that would take place after the conclusion of the first vision he had just witnessed. In this verse John tells us, After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven.

The word behold here is the Greek word idoú, which is:
a marker used to liven up a Hebrew style narrative, to change a scene, to emphasize an idea, to call attention to a detail.” 3
This word could also be translated as look, suddenly, or now, and what John is doing here is pointing our attention to what he is seeing; he is directing our attention to the open door in heaven.

So let’s look at this door standing open in heaven. First note that John did not say he saw a door opening in heaven; the Greek construction here:
suggests that the door had been opened and left that way for John’s arrival. 4
John was not the first person to see a door open in heaven; this vision, as has already been noted, is very similar to the vision of Ezekiel:
Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
Ezekiel 1:1 (NASB)
This is also reminiscent of the vision of Stephen in Acts chapter seven; as he was being stoned for his faith and witness he said:
Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.
Acts 7:56 (NASB)
J. Vernon McGee tells us that this is one of four doors that we encounter in the book of Revelation: the first is in Revelation 3:8 where the church of Philadelphia was given an open door for ministry, the second was seen in Revelation 3:20 where we saw Jesus standing at the door knocking, waiting for someone to open and let Him in, the third door is the one we have here in verse one of chapter four, and the fourth is found in chapter nineteen verse eleven which is the open door Jesus will come through at His second coming. Speaking of this door Dr. McGee goes on to say:
John did not see this door opening as the Authorized Version of verse one suggests. This door was open all the time. It is the door through which all believers have come to God for over nineteen hundred years. ‘Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me’ (John 14:6). He also said, ‘I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture’ (John 10:9). The open door to heaven is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is also the One who will come to the door of your heart – that is the wonder and glory of it all. 5
As John looked he saw this open door in heaven, and then he heard a voice; the text tells us that this was the “first voice” he heard, “like the sound of a trumpet.” This takes us once again back to chapter one; while standing on the Island of Patmos John tells us he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day and he heard behind him “a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10). This voice turned out to be none other that the Lord Jesus Christ as we saw when we studied chapter one, and John is using the same imagery here again to make sure that we know that this is the same voice speaking to him here; the voice John hears is the voice of Jesus.

Next John tells us that the voice said to him “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things." We have now come to another point where there is some disagreement as to the meaning of the text: some see this invitation to “Come up here” as being the Rapture of the Church with John being a picture of the church. David Guzik, in his commentary on Revelation says:
The pattern is significant. Jesus is finished speaking and dealing with the churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, and all churches are comprehended in the seven. Now after dealing with the church, Jesus calls John up to heaven, ‘catching him away’ with a voice that sounds like a trumpet. All this happens before the great wrath that will be described beginning at Revelation 6. As that great judgment on the earth unfolds, John – a representative of the church – is in heaven, looking down on earth. 6
Warren Wiersbe adds:
This is a vivid picture of the rapture of the church… The fact that John is “caught up” at this point is another evidence that the church will not go through the Tribulation. Note how his experience resembles the rapture: (1) heaven is opened to receive God’s child; (2) there is a voice like a trumpet, 1 Thes. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:52; (3) it is a sudden event; (4) it comes at the end of the “church age” (chaps. 2–3); (5) it introduces John to the throne room of heaven; (6) it signals the beginning of God’s judgment on the world. 7
There are others; however, who say that this has nothing to do with the Rapture of the church – including many who espouse the Pretribulational position – for example, John MacArthur writes:
Some see in this command a reference to the Rapture of the church. However, the verse does not describe the church ascending to heaven in resurrected glorification, but John going to heaven to receive revelation. 8
Jerome H. Smith writes, in his book The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge:
This phrase is taken by many to prove the pretribulation Rapture of the church. This text, however, cannot prove anything about the Rapture, for to apply this to the Rapture one must take John to be a type of the church, the call to “come up hither” a type of the shout-command at the Rapture, and the third heaven as the destination of believers at the Rapture, all of which are tenuous connections at best. One cannot base a doctrine on a type, and proof of the timing of the Rapture must rest upon the direct statements of Scripture elsewhere. 9
And Robert Van Kampen, in speaking of the claim that this passage teaches a pretribulation rapture of the church adds
There is no exegetical or scriptural basis for this claim.10
The Greek word here is anabaínō, which means to, call for a specific act with a note of urgency.11 So we can conclude from the Greek word used here that this is not a reference to the rapture of the church, but was a call for the apostle John to come up to heaven for a specific purpose – the witnessing of his next vision.

And, as we have already noted the phrase after these things refers back to the outline given in chapter one.

Next time we will look at what John saw in this vision.

1 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Re 4:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1997, c1992). Wiersbe's expository outlines on the New Testament (806). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
3 Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.) (GGK2627). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
4 Rogers, Cleon L. Jr., Rogers, Cleon L. III.(1998) The New Linguistic and Exegetical key to the Greek New Testament; (pg. 623). Grand Rapids MI.: Zondervan Publishing House
5 McGee J. Vernon (c 1983). Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee Vol.5 1 Corinthians–Revelation Pg.929. Nashville TN.: Thomas Nelson.
6 Guzik, David. (c2001). Commentary on the book of Revelation (91). Simi Valley CA: Enduring Word Media.
7 Wiersbe, W. W. (1997, c1992). Wiersbe's expository outlines on the New Testament (806). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
8MacArthur, J. (1999). Revelation 1-11 (145). Chicago: Moody Press.
9 Smith, J. H. (1992; Published in electronic form, 1996). The new treasury of scripture knowledge: The most complete listing of cross references available anywhere- every verse, every theme, every important word (1510). Nashville TN: Thomas Nelson.
10 Van Kampen, Robert. Revelation Commentary Ch4 Pg1 (© Orlando Fl.: Sola Scriptura
11 Rogers, Cleon L. Jr., Rogers, Cleon L. III. (1998) The New Linguistic and Exegetical key to the Greek New Testament; (pg. 623). Grand Rapids MI.: Zondervan Publishing House