Revelation 4

The letters to the seven churches ends with a picture of Jesus standing at a door and continually knocking; saying if you hear him knocking and open the door Jesus will enter for intimate fellowship with the believer. Then chapter four begins with a vision of a door standing open and a voice calling to the apostle to come up to heaven and Jesus will show him what will take place “after this”.

In Rev. 1:19 John is told to write down what he sees, what is now and what will take place later. Chapter four begins the account of what happens next; John uses the phrase “after this” four times in Revelation (4:1, 7:9, 15:5 and 18:1) which seems to indicate that John received the vision in units of material. As we continue in Revelation it is as if we are crossing through that open door to get a glimpse of heavenly realities.

Jesus calls John up into heaven; we are instantly reminded of God calling Moses up on Mount Sinai to receive the Law, the description of “flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder” a remembrance God’s demonstration of his wonder and power in the desert.

Some interpreters see the rapture of the church in John’s call to “come up here” combined with the phrase “what will take place after this”. This pre-tribulation view interprets all that follows, the terrible judgments poured out on the earth are not for the church to experience because the church will have been removed by that time. However, a simple reading of Rev. 4:1 would not reveal this as the rapture of the church unless you are specifically looking for phrases that could fit that preconceived interpretation. A plain interpretation is that John was called up into the throne room of God in a spirit filled vision.

John describes what he sees as a throne room with someone seated on the throne; he describes it as brilliant unapproachable light reflecting colors of the rainbow. The colors of the throne room are reminiscent of the High Priest’s breastplate: Jasper is a white stone the stone of Ruben the first tribe of Israel, Carnelian is a blood red stone of Benjamin the twelfth tribe and Emerald is the stone of the tribe of Judah – Jesus’ tribe.

Surrounding the Throne of God are 24 thrones and seated on those thrones are 24 elders. These 24 elders represent a complete number of believers in heaven worshiping and serving God. Many understand them to represent the 12 tribes of Israel of the Old Testament and the 12 Apostles of the New Testament. The elders are dressed in white and have gold crowns on their heads; they are the crowns received by those who have remained faithful and have overcome.

Before God’s throne are seven lamps blazing and what John describes as a sea of glass clear as crystal. In the center surrounding the throne are four living creatures, covered in eyes, with six wings; the first looked like a lion, the second like an ox, the third like a man and the fourth like a flying eagle. The creatures never rest day or night, the continually say “Holy, holy, holy is the lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”

In orchestrated worship every time the creatures praise God the twenty-four elders fall down to worship the LORD laying their crowns at the feet of the Living God. I see many connections to our previous chapters when Jesus is encouraging the churches to persevere through their trials and hold on to the truth, rejecting false teachings and the culture that entices them away from Jesus. Their reward for overcoming is: to eat from the tree of life, to not be hurt by the second death, to be given a new name and a white stone, the authority to rule over the nations, to be dressed in white, with a crown as a reward and to be acknowledged before the Father by Jesus. John now sees into the throne room of God to witness the heavenly worship already happening, the celebration of those who overcome and most importantly the worship of Christ the center of it all. While the church struggles to overcome – heaven celebrates because the work is finished, The Lamb has Overcome!

Laodicea – Revelation 3:14-22

We come to the last letter to the churches in Asia Minor, the letter to Laodicea. Some scholars say that this letter sums up all the others, a fitting conclusion of the message from Christ to the Church. Laodicea was the wealthiest city in the region during Roman times, they were well known for banking establishments, a medical school and a fine textile industry. The major weakness for Laodicea was a lack of adequate water supply; there are ruins of an aqueduct used to pipe water from Hierapolis. Hierapolis was six miles away and has a world famous mineral hot springs, known at the white castle, with towering white terraces can be seen from a great distance.
Again, Jesus Christ delivers the message to the church; He identifies himself at the Amen, the Faithful and True witness, the originator of God’s creation. Jesus’ final message to the churches is clear, He is God, the Amen, “the appointed heir of all things, and through whom He created the world”.
The Laodicean church was expecting to be congratulated and praised; after all they had it all wealth, position and beauty. But instead they hear: “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot-far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, ’I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless”. There was a gap between how they saw themselves and how Christ sees them; they were ensnared in the self-indulgent culture of their day. Sound familiar?
Jesus says, “You are neither cold nor hot – you are lukewarm. I wish you were either cold or hot!” Over the years we have heard many studies admonishing us to be hot or cold for Jesus and that to be lukewarm is the worst possible temperature – in the context of this message to Laodicea, “hot” and “cold” doesn’t refer to their spiritual temperature. Jesus speaking to the church gave them a concrete message, they were not “hot” like the healing waters of Hierapolis and they were not “cold” like the refreshing waters of Colossae. They were neither offering healing to sick souls or revitalization to believers under duress. They were like the lukewarm waters that will make you sick if you drink them; the church at Laodicea was producing nothing of real worth. “You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 7:16-19
The Laodiceans thought they had it all, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth and I need nothing” but Jesus told them they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. They relied on their money, their fine clothing and medical cures – Jesus says instead of prosperity you are pitiful and poor, instead of fine clothing you are naked and instead of healthy eyes you are blind.
Finally Jesus offers them advice: “buy gold from Me so you can become rich! Buy from Me white clothing so you can cover your shameful nakedness, and buy from Me eye slave so you can see!” This is gold that is pure, because it has been refined by fire – refined by suffering which produces spiritual wealth. White garments that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb – to be clothed in righteousness and Eyes that have been restored and healed to spiritual vision, to really see the Truth – Jesus.
This advice is not the easy way of living; it is not absorbing the culture to fit in or get ahead, it is remembering what Jesus taught and repenting. Jesus calls the church to be earnest and repent, He then offers this invitation – I am standing at the door and knocking! Jesus is saying to these self-deluded believers, who have loved the world more than Jesus, that if they will open the door He will come inside and stay with them. Jesus is offering restoration, continual fellowship and permission to share with Jesus His inheritance. What a glorious invitation!