The End of the World: “We Shall Behold Him” – Revelation 4

Prop the door open to Heaven, and excitement spills out! Sometimes only a song writer can capture the truth in a way that stirs us deep within! Listen to the words:

The sky shall unfold, preparing His entrance. The stars shall applaud Him, with thunders of praise. The sweet light in His eyes, shall enhance those awaiting, and we shall behold Him, then face to face! The angel will sound, the shout of His coming, and the sleeping shall rise, from there slumbering place. Then those who remain, they shall be changed in a moment… and we shall behold Him, then face to face! O we shall behold Him, we shall behold Him, face to face in all of His glory! O we shall behold Him, yes we shall behold Him, face to face, our Savior and Lord! (written by Dottie Rambo, sung by virtually everybody!)

Another Gospel song writer wrote of his own experience in Heaven through the eyes of a dream:

I dreamed of a city called Glory. It was so bright and so fair! As I entered that gate, I cried “holy!” All the angels met with me there. They carried me from mansion to mansion, and oh, all the sights I saw… but I said “I want to see Jesus! He’s the One who died for all!” When I entered the gates of the city, my Loved ones all knew me well! They took me down the streets of heaven. All the saints… were too many to tell! I saw Abraham, Jacob and Isaac. I talked with Mark, sat down with Timothy… but then I said, “I want to see Jesus… for He’s the One who died for me!” I bowed on my knees and cried “Holy!” I clapped my hands and sang “Glory! Glory to the Son of God!” (Words and music by Jimmie Davis).

For the follower of Jesus –  there is a day coming soon, when the next great move in the Heavens will change things dramatically here on earth. It is not EARTH that forces HEAVEN – it is the other way around. We are NOT primarily physical beings… we are spiritual beings. The physical world is the illusory one… it will vanish one day like a mirage on a hot roadway. I am not making it up… the Bible made it plain long ago. It is the HOPE of every believer. It is our SUSTAINING TRUTH… we are not at home here on this earth, and we need not feel like we have missed a thing when we turn from things offered here that would not delight our Savior.

  • We have a home.
  • We have a future.
  • No amount of suffering can take that from you.
  • No word of cancer can remove that solemn promise.
  • No painful rejection by one that you have faithfully loved can mar that reality.
  • Because we have a SAVIOR, we have a HOME.

Key Principle: God told us what is next for us. We are headed HOME! No matter what the world does to us, no mater how hard life appears – it is temporary here.

John saw it. He walked there in his spirit. He revealed it by the permission of our Savior…. And God carefully preserved it since the first century when it was written down in a penal colony in the middle of the Aegean Sea. He recorded it in the fourth chapter of Revelation:

Revelation 4:1 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.”

Don’t skip the truths in the midst of the excitement of the passage. John looked UP. He heard a voice, but it was the sound like a TRUMPET. The believer that was here on the earth – the writer who informed us of the seven churches that were offering a testimony of Jesus Christ, spread in different cities of the world of his time, now saw what was to come after the church’s mission was over. He had been told what to write in Revelation 1:19. He was to write about the brilliant and unmatched vision of the Risen Savior. That is what the church of Jesus needs today – a clear view of the Risen, powerful, majestic ruler of our lives. He is not just JESUS – He is God the Son – Master of my heart. If the church can embrace that one truth now, we will live differently than the world about us, not because of a LIST, but because of a dynamic relationship with a LIVING. RISEN and EMPOWERING CHRIST.

Next, John was told to write to a cyclical letter God’s church. It included encouragement, but it included sharp warnings to walk with God. Chapters two and three are filled with God’s desires to reach lost people through the espoused bride of the Son, that awaits the trumpet call for her wedding. Now, finally… we enter the last part of the Book of Revelation, where John was commanded to write the things which come “meta tauta” (literally “after the things which are”) – the story of God’s next step after the church’s flawed but essential work was complete.

Don’t skip the timing of these things… it was after the church had run her course. Don’t skip the place of this… it was from Heaven above. Don’t skip the last words of the verse… WHAT WAS UNFOLDING MUST TAKE PLACE after the church did her work.

When you look carefully at Revelation 4:1, you recognize the passage tells us that a door opened in Heaven – initiated by the owner of the Celestial city –  a “trumpet sounding call” beckoned the believer who was recording the vision upward – and the room he entered was clearly the very throne room of the God of the Ages.

God is not aloof, and He is not unaware of our situation. God is not responsive to what man is doing, the plan is in His hand – not ours. The next great move, when the church has completed her work, is His to initiate. Heaven’s doors open when Heaven’s king opens them.

This vision of John wasn’t completely strange news to the believers of the first century. The Apostle Paul apparently had the experience of going to Heaven in his spirit (which, by the way, is the way we will all go!). In 2 Corinthians 12:2 he wrote “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.”

On first glance it looks like Paul was speaking of someone other than himself, but most students of Scripture accept that Paul is writing about his own experience either on the road to Damascus years before (Acts 9:1-9, 22:6-11) or subsequently. Paul asserted the claim that he had seen the risen Christ both in his conversion and in his training (1 Cor. 15:1-10, cf. Gal 1:12). Not to get off track, but… Why didn’t he just say it was HIM who went to Heaven? There is a simple explanation. Because the church at Corinth was being bombarded with questions concerning Paul’s real authority in his absence from them (1 Cor. 9:1-14, 2 Cor. 10-11) and the questions were being fired by those who claimed intimate spiritual revelation through ecstatic experiences (see 1 Cor. 3, 4 and 12). Paul was cautious about using his experience to assert authority, though he seems to admit he was this man (12:7 “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!).

Not only was the idea of glimpsing into Heaven not new, but the idea that Heaven would invite believers to the open door was also not new. Again, God used Paul to explain how believers were gathered into the throne room of God from the churches around the globe. Paul was writing his first Epistle that God put within the Christian Scriptures – the First Letter to the Thessalonians. Paul was in his mid-forties, and his writing career was a response to the problems he encountered in the second mission journey, recorded in Acts 15-18. Paul was forcibly removed from Thessaloniki and later dislodged from Berea by attackers, and he fled the believers before he was assured of their strong foundation in Christ.

To that church he offered what became the first three chapters of the letter – a short autobiographical note of what God was doing with him (1 Thess. 1-3). In the last section of the letter (1 Thess. 4-5), Paul offered a series of instruction on the difference between a believer and a non-believer in their actions and world view. Three important instructions were made plain:

  • Believers should be characterized by a life of sexual purity. In an Empire that was rife with sexual perversion, legal prostitution and public degradation – believers should stand out. They should stand out in their speech about sex, their loving and enduring marriages, their faithfulness to their covenants and their spouses. Real love is PURE love (1 Thess. 4:1-10), Paul argued.
  • In the same way, believers should be characterized by faithful and constant attentiveness to their work on their job. They were to work to care for their own needs, and not seek the benefits of the government or others in the society. They were to be GIVERS and not TAKERS (1 Thess. 4:11-12).
  • Finally, believers were to be characterized by a whole different view of DEATH. They were allowed to sorrow and mourn, but not like people in the world. They were to understand that those who died in Christ were not DISADVANTAGED. They were not “MISSING OUT” on life – they were living the BEST life. Here is what Paul shared:

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. …15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”

Did you hear that? The VOICE of the Archangel sounds like what musical announcing instrument? That’s right – a TRUMPET. Paul recorded that a trumpet voice, an archangel voice will someday – maybe today – sound aloud. The bodies of those who have died having received Jesus as Savior while on earth will come up from the earth. The matter of the bodies will somehow Divinely be reformed and repatriated to the spirit that has dwelt with the Lord since they left the earth.

When a man or woman who has trusted the work of Jesus on the Cross for salvation dies he or she is “absent from the body” but his spirit is consciously in the present of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:8). They await the restoration of a body – but a resurrected body devoid of the ravages of the sin nature and its effects. They get the body that was theirs in the heart of God before the Fall in the Garden ever occurred. It is a perfect, new version of them. Same personality – different nature.

God back to John’s description in Revelation 4:1. He is called up to Heaven the way we will be called there. He is an “advance man” that tells us what will happen on our arrival.

Revelation, as a letter, was an experience out of its TIME. God allowed John to do what you and I will do, but to do it in the Spirit BEFORE, so that the future will be familiar if we take the time to study it, and be blessed by it (Rev. 1:3). Look at what John saw, and we will see ‘WHEN’ in the future he dropped into the scene:

Revelation 4:2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 3 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.

Before we move to far into the throne room, it is possible to know at what point in the story of God’s redemption of man we have locked on. John enters to worship already going on. John enters a program already in progress… First, One is sitting on the throne, seated above the colorful glass sea that surrounds it. He appeared as the blood red jasper stone or another stone like it called the sardius stone (used later as a symbol judgment, cp. Rev. 6:4). A bow of green (perhaps denoting life) surrounded His throne – or perhaps it is the full spectrum of color, but the SHAPE was of a tooled emerald (as in surrounding the throne). This is God the Father, the Judge of all, the Life giver to all, the complete circle of beginning and end! Though these words help us to anticipate our Father, they don’t help place the timing of the story.

For that, we must see the others who are in the room. Keep reading: Revelation 4:4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.

Note that surrounding the throne of God are the TWENTY FOUR ELDERS SEATED ON THRONES. Look at what they are wearing. That is the clue we need to set their identity and the timing of this interruption in Heaven by John. They were twenty-four in number. had on white garments and were crowned with gold. If you kept reading in the scene, they were singing praises as redeemed ones from all over the earth in Rev. 5:8. They were enthroned.

Their description has left the door open to some debate about their identity. Let’s consider carefully the noted description:

Because they were Twenty-four in number, there are many who attempt to indicate this must be saved people of all ages – Jewish and Gentile. That does not fit the scene unless this event was contemporary to after the time of the Tribulation, for Daniel 12 was clear that Jewish believers who died prior to Jesus’ coming would not be resurrected with those IN CHRIST that we looked at in 1 Thessalonians. Rather, they would be raised AFTER the Tribulation:

Daniel 12:1 “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. 3 “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. 4 “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.

Daniel was told that after a prolonged time of Gentile domination (described in Daniel 11) Michael, the angel characteristically associated with the Jewish people in the Heavens, will stand up to defend the beleaguered Jewish people. A time of TRIBULATION will pummel them, but those who are in the Book of Life will endure to the end. Zechariah and Paul both say that all the Jewish people “will be saved” that outlive the Tribulation, marked by God and in belief of Him “whom they have pieced”:

  • Romans 1:25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.” 27 “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.
  • Zechariah 12:8 “In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. 9 “And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. 10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. 11 “In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.

The point of the Twenty-Four appears to relate to the PRIESTHOOD serving at that time in  Heaven.

Ezekiel, who also describes a vision into Heaven, in Ezekiel 8:16; Ezekiel 11:1, saw twenty-five men between the porch and the altar, with their backs toward the temple, and their faces toward the earth. Remember that the priesthood of the Temple was divided into twenty-four “courses” (1 Chronicles 24:3-19), and Ezekiel also saw the High Priest – making the total number 25. Remember that 1 Peter 2:9 specifically calls the church age believer a PRIEST. Remember that Hebrews 4:14 says “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession…”

We can see them doing the work of priest in Revelation 5:8ff.

By their praises, we can also tell something about their PAST. Revelation. 5:8 says: ”…the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” They have been redeemed FROM MANY NATIONS of the earth. They are the priests of Heaven BEFORE the Lamb opened the book and brought on the Great Tribulation (Rev. 6:1).

The fact they are sitting on thrones must denote judgment. They are crowned with a STEPHANOS or “victor crown”, not a DIADEM or “ruler crown”.  Paul warned the church at Corinth that would be a future job of believers: 1 Corinthians 6:1 Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?

They are clothed in White Robes: This is the garment of the priests. It is also the marker of those who have been judged as “righteous” (like in Rev. 19:14 “And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.”)

After all is considered, it appears as though John has dropped in on the worship ministrations of the Redeemed of the Church Age, who have already been JUDGED, and now served as Priests and Ministers before the Holy One on the throne. They praise Him for His SAVING WORK on their behalf. They have OVERCOME in this life, and now LIVE BEFORE GOD!

What an exciting scene. John got beckoned to Heaven, but he missed how the believers were called there. He missed their trumpet sound. He missed their judgment…. But if you know Jesus as your Savior, YOU WON’T MISS IT!

God’s Word says that every man and every woman faces two kinds of judgment: one for SIN, and one for WORKS. The believers and the unbelievers will face BOTH. For the believer, SIN was judged at Calvary, and we will see experience the results of that in STAGES.

  • First, when you are saved, you are given the SEAL of the Holy Spirit and the INHERITANCE PROMISE of Heaven.
  • When you DIE, your spirit immediately goes to be with the Lord, while your body awaits your eventual redemption of the FLESH.
  • At the moment God decides to begin His work on the people of Israel, a trumpet will sound and call both living and dead believers in Christ to the marriage supper of the Son.
  • Believers in Christ will stand before the JUDGMENT SEAT of CHRIST, in order to have awards, recognitions, and judgment of our works (a good word of this is found in 1 Cor. 3 and 2 Cor. 5).
  • Believers like David, Moses and Daniel await the redemption of their bodies until after the celebration of the Son’s wedding in Heaven, (according to Daniel 12). Their resurrection and judgment marks the beginning of the Great Kingdom of Jesus in Revelation 20, when God literally fulfills all His Kingdom covenant contract with the Jewish people.

To close the scene, go back to Heaven and stand there with John. See the flashes of lightning and hears the peals of thunder. Gaze at the lamps, the seven Spirits of God (cp. Isa. 11). The Spirit of the LORD; The Spirit of wisdom; The Spirit of understanding; The Spirit of counsel; The Spirit of strength; The Spirit of knowledge; The Spirit of the fear of the LORD.

Watch your role as you praise the Lord for His redemption and cry out to Him WORTHY IS THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN. Listen to the voices that echo ‘YOU CREATED ALL THINGS’. No doubts about the beginning. No fears about the end.

Look hard at your white robe. Are their crowns in your hand to throw to your King? Have the works of YOUR LIFE been judged at the BEMA seat worthy of His love, His magnificence, His faithfulness. Are there TEARS in your eyes for you have “suffered loss” when the works of your life were burned and found selfish, deficient and worthless? ARE YOU READY FOR THE KING TO TAKE YOU HOME? My friend, the KING IS COMING, and YOU SHALL BEHOLD HIM!

THE KING IS COMING (Bill Gaither – Gloria Gaither – Charley Millhoff) © ’71 Gaither Music

The market place is empty – no more traffic in the streets… All the builders tools are silent …no more time to harvest wheat. Busy housewives cease their labors… in the courtroom –  no debate. Work on earth is all suspended… as the King comes through the gate!

Happy faces line the hallways – those whose lives have been redeemed. Broken homes He has mended… those from prison he has freed! Little children and the aged hand in hand stand all aglow! Those who were crippled, broken, ruined dressed in garments white as snow! I can hear the chariots rumble, I can see the marching throng! The flurry of God’s trumpets spells the end of sin and wrong! Regal robes are now unfolding! Heaven’s grandstand’s are all in place! Heaven’s choir is now assembled … they start to sing Amazing Grace!

Oh the King is coming! The King is coming! I just heard the trumpets sounding and now his face I see! Oh the King is coming! The King is coming! Praise God he’s coming for me!

You see, God told us what is next for us. Believer, we are headed HOME! No matter what the world does to us, no mater how hard life appears – it is temporary here.