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Revelation 4:1

Having completed the letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, John is called up to the throne room in heaven where he is given a vision of God the Father on His throne.

After these things
The phrase is μετὰ ταῦτα [meta tauta] and indicates a transition from “the things which are” (Rev. Rev. 1:19+), the letters written to the Seven Churches of Asia in chapters 2 and 3. John enters upon the second of the two major time periods into which this revelation is divided: “the things which will take place after this”. See Structural Outline.

a door standing open
Standing open is ἠνεῳγμενη [ēneōgmenē] , perfect tense: “a door already having been opened.” The door was opened prior to John seeing it and now stood ajar. In Revelation Rev. 3:8+ Jesus set an open door before the Philadelphian church. This door is not for evangelism, but provides passage for John to heaven to be shown the events recorded hereafter.

There are numerous parallels between this passage and the vision recorded by Ezekiel. Ezekiel did not mention a door, but said “the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God” (Eze. Eze. 1:1). The “heavens were opened” at Jesus’ baptism (Mtt. Mat. 3:16; Luke Luke 3:21), the stoning of Steven (Acts Acts 7:56), Peter’s vision of the unclean animals (Acts Acts 10:11), and at the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. Rev. 19:11+).

the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me saying
This is probably better translated as: “The first voice I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said.”1 This is the voice John heard at the first, on the Lord’s day, which sounded like a trumpet (Rev. Rev. 1:10+).2 See commentary on Revelation 1:10.

Come up here
Having written the letters to the churches, John is called “to Heaven that he might look down upon all that should follow from the point of view of Heaven itself. . . . Any true understanding of the course of world events must be based on Heaven’s perspective of those events. Further it may be said that here is a typical teaching in the very act of John’s translation to Heaven for the vision that is to follow. . . . all believers will be caught up to Heaven before the judgment is actually poured out upon the earth.”3 Yet many commentators are averse to seeing any possible connection between the experience of John recorded here and the Rapture of the church:

There is no convincing reason why the seer’s being “in the Spirit” and being called into heaven typifies the rapture of the church any more than his being taken into the wilderness to view Babylon indicates that the church is there in exile. The phrase relates to the experience of the seer, and not necessarily to that of the church.4

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. There is no need to search the Apocalypse for a direct mention of the pretribulation Rapture of the church, when the doctrine is clearly stated elsewhere.5

Many Premillennialists see the Rapture of the Church in this verse, but this requires somewhat of an allegorical interpretation. Following The Golden Rule of Interpretation , this verse merely contains an invitation for John to come to Heaven in vision (Rev. Rev. 4:2+) in order that God can show him the things which must come to pass hereafter.6

We concur with Smith that this text cannot prove anything about the Rapture and that the pretribulational timing of the Rapture rests upon other passages and Biblical teaching, but we cannot agree with Tenney that this passage has not even a typological relationship to the Rapture. Nor do we agree with Fruchtenbaum that recognizing typology here is akin to allegory. Are we “allegorizing” when we understand the serpent on the pole in Numbers Num. 21:1 as a type pointing to the cross? By this measure, Jesus would have to be said to be an allegorical interpreter (John John 3:14-16).

As Smith even recognizes, there are significant parallels between this verse in its setting and the Rapture:

  1. Like John, the saints will hear a verbal command at the Rapture (1Th. 1Th. 4:16).
  2. Like John, the destination of those raptured is heaven (John John 14:1-3; 1Th. 1Th. 4:17).
  3. Like John, those raptured are in Christ —members of the Church which was created on the Day of Pentecost (1Cor. 1Cor. 12:13).
  4. John hears a voice as a trumpet. The raptured saints hear a voice and a trumpet (1Cor. 1Cor. 15:52; 1Th. 1Th. 4:16).
  5. The command John hears, “Come up here!”, also attends the resurrection of the two witnesses (Rev. Rev. 11:12+).

The context also emphasizes the transition between “the things which are” and the “things which will take place after these [things]” (Rev. Rev. 1:19+). John has just finished writing the seven letters to seven churches dictated by Jesus. These letters are full of the church. Yet the word church (εκκλησία [ekklēsia] ) in the last verse of chapter three is the final appearance of the word until Revelation Rev. 22:16+—long after “the things which must take place” introduced here. Surely the similarities between this passage and aspects of the Rapture coupled with the dramatic transition which attends the introduction of this chapter are more than pure coincidence!

We find it puzzling why believers are content to recognize subtle typology concerning Christ found in Abraham’s offering of Isaac (Gen. Gen. 22:1) or the serpent on the pole in the wilderness (Num. Num. 21:1), yet are unwilling to allow for seeing typological hints concerning the Rapture in other passages such as this? If Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi are understood to represent Jesus, the Church, and Israel in the book of Ruth, why is it considered out-of-bounds to notice similar parallels between this verse and what is taught elsewhere concerning the Rapture of the Church, especially given its context? We believe this bias against understanding typology of the Rapture in this verse wrong-headed and believe that the Holy Spirit intended to support here what is explicitly taught elsewhere. See Rapture.

I will show you
This is the primary purpose of the Revelation being given John (Rev. Rev. 1:1+, Rev. 1:19+; Rev. 22:6+). The scenes in the book of Revelation often follow a pattern where a heavenly setting is described followed by an earthly setting:

Each Vision “in heaven” is preparatory to the Vision afterwards seen “on earth”; and what is seen “on earth” is the carrying out of the Vision previously seen “in heaven.” The one is mutually explanatory of the other. The heavenly Vision explains what is going to take place upon the earth; and the utterances in each heavenly Vision set forth the special object of the earthly events which are to follow. The former Vision of each pair, is therefore, the key to the latter.7

As with all of history, it is critical that the interpreter of events transpiring upon the earth has access to the perspective of God. For without His perspective, all is chaos and disarray. All the more so at the end of history when events upon the earth become extremely chaotic and destructive—seemingly without purpose or plan. Yet as is shown John and conveyed to us, the events are carefully orchestrated and initiated by God Himself as He finally moves His hand to take back that which was lost in the Garden and legally regained at the cross. It is from this heavenly perspective that the great events of judgment in the pages to come must be understood. To those saints living during the time of the end, John’s revelation—wherever a copy might be procured—will be of inestimable value!

things which must take place after this
The things to come are sure for they must take place. God’s prophetic word cannot be broken (John John 10:35). This is why the sword extends from the mouth of Jesus—the will of God, once having been spoken forth, is unstoppable (Rev. Rev. 1:16+; Rev. 19:15+). After this is perhaps better translated after these [things]. It is the same phrase which begins the verse: μετὰ ταῦτα [meta tauta] . This verse follows “the things which are” and Jesus is now introducing the next major topic—the things which are yet future to John’s time.


Notes

1 New Electronic Translation : NET Bible, electronic edition (Dallas, TX: Biblical Studies Press, 1998), Rev. 4:1.

2 Many red-letter Bibles seem unwilling to identify the voice as being that of Jesus for they render the words of this voice in black but the words of the voice speaking in Revelation Rev. 1:10-11+ in red. An exception is the KJ2000 Bible, http://life-equals-jesus.org/Couric/KJ2Khome.html, available from http://www.spiritandtruth.org/download/tools/index.htm.

3 Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 88.

4 Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957), 141.

5 Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Rev. 4:1.

6 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 165.

7 E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), 211.

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