Rev. 4:1 – After this I looked, and there in heaven was an open door. The first voice that I heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2Immediately I was in the Spirit, and there in heaven a throne was set. One was seated on the throne, 3and the One seated looked like jasper and carnelian stone. A rainbow that looked like an emerald surrounded the throne (HCSB).
With Christ’s letters to the seven churches now complete, John is given a glimpse into the throne room of heaven. Twice in the first verse John uses the words “after this.” Those who hold a futurist view of Revelation point to these words as a clear transition from “what is” to “what will take place after this” (Rev. 1:9). In other words, with the start of Revelation 4 we are taken beyond the church age and into the interlude before Christ’s return. Many futurists see this as a seven-year tribulation period that begins shortly after the Rapture of the church, or the bodily removal of all New Testament saints, alive and dead, from the earth (see 1 Cor. 15:51-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). The voice of Jesus, telling John to “Come up here,” previews the day when Jesus will step into the clouds of heaven and call His church to meet Him in the air. Additionally, futurists argue that since the church is not mentioned from Rev. 4-19, the church is in heaven with Jesus while an unprecedented time of tribulation falls upon the earth.
But there are other points of view. Preterists, for example, teach that since John is told in the first century that these things must “quickly take place” (v. 1) and that “the time is near” (v. 3), we should be prepared for a first-century fulfillment of the things described in Revelation, specifically the Jewish crisis of 66-70 A.D.; the war between Rome and the Jews; and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. Preterists, you’ll recall, tend to hold to an early authorship of Revelation, which allows for these things to take place in John’s lifetime. Historicists see John’s vision as a call to pay heed to God’s sovereignty over history and the authority of Christ to unveil the future. Spiritualists reject the notion that the words “after these things” mean this is what will happen next. Rather, the entire church age, depicted from an earthly standpoint in chapters 1-3, may now be viewed again – this time from a heavenly perspective. In any case, the first three verses of Rev. 4 are rich with imagery and meaning.
Next: An open door … a unique voice … and in the Spirit