What Must Take Place After This
Revelation 4:1-11 | Key Verse 4:1
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’”
In chapters 2 and 3, seven letters were dictated to John to deliver to the seven churches of Asia Minor. Individually as well as all together, these letters teach us much about the Lord’s will for his church and people. As we mentioned earlier, there is a controversy regarding who the churches represent. Do they represent actual churches that did exist at the time, or do they represent the church in history from the first century until what… until the tribulation, until the millennium, until the end of time? We do not know for there is much interpretation regarding what the churches actually represent. One interpretation is that each church represents an era in Christian history. According to that interpretation, we ourselves are currently living in the age of the Philadelphia church. The same interpreters believe that the rapture would come first to snatch up all Christians to heaven, and then the final age of the apostate church of Laodicea would finally begin to usher the end of time. However, there are many dangers in taking such a staunch stand on any fixed way of interpretation. It limits the message which the author wants to convey to his people of all generations. As for us, the message given to the church at Laodicea is grand and relevant. Often we find ourselves in the place where the Christians of Laodicea were. We find ourselves neither hot or cold but rather lukewarm at heart, lukewarm to faith and to the grace given us through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. If we hold to the interpretation that the message to the apostate church at Laodicea is a post Christian message for those who are not taken by the rapture, what then? Shall we ignore the message because it does not apply to us? We can’t and we shouldn’t. We Christians become lukewarm at times, compromising our faith and becoming almost as the non-believer in our actions. The message to repent is therefore relevant and life-giving and we thank God for his harsh words of warning to them and to us. Furthermore, one of the greatest words were given the so called apostate church of Laodicea— that glorious invitation to the righteous and the sinner alike: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (3:20)
Regardless of what interpretations we may find from here on to the messages of the book of Revelation— and we must be very careful how we interpret them— there are some things that are absolute and cannot be negotiated nor interpreted in different ways. For example, the fact that after chapter 3 of the Book, the church no longer is mentioned. The next mention of the church— where that church is called “the harlot”. After that, the church is mentioned but only in the context of the bride to the bridegroom, Jesus who ransomed it with his blood. There is another thing we cannot ignore in all this, and that’s the fact that when Jesus began to talk to John in the first chapter he said in Chapter 1:19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” And in chapter 4:1 he tells John: “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’” We cannot deny that the Lord himself now moves on to a time beyond the church, in some unclear future where things must begin to take place. There is a strong feeling that what comes after chapter 3 are events that take place in the future, a time or times towards the end of time. But regardless of whether this is true or not, we want to study the rest of the book with an eye to learn the things of God that God would have us learn so that we may better understand and serve him.
In this chapter, we see a picture of heaven. We see a picture of the throne of God— the throne God has been sitting on from eternity to eternity. We see a picture of what goes on around the throne of God. We see a picture of worship— the truest most complete and perfect picture of worship. The picture of the throne of God had always been missing from our world since we cannot see God with human eyes. But the picture of worship in the world has been abundant yet insufficient since God is perfect and we worship him around the world in the imperfection of our beings. Chapter 4 here is essential therefore in gaining a picture of worship that we may emulate in our lives. But before we actually get the worship scene in heaven, the chapter holds a wealth of teachings that convict our hearts and draw us nearer to God in repentance and in faith.
Read verse 1 again. “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’” After this refers to the end of receiving the letters he was to distribute to the churches. Then John looked and he saw before him an open door in heaven. There are several references in the book of Revelation to a door. And the implications many differ, but we cannot deny that Jesus himself is forever the only gateway— the only door— to the kingdom of God, to the very heart of heaven. And that never changes. Jesus once said: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.” (John 10:7). Jesus also said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) Truly no door can open to heaven to the very heart of God’s kingdom without Jesus, for he alone is the one who made this possible by his death and resurrection. Whoever wants to enter heaven must enter through the Door Jesus. When John looked he saw the door standing open in heaven.
Then John heard a voice he had first heard speaking to him when the vision started. The voice was like that of a trumpet and it was unmistakably the voice of Jesus. What did that voice say to him? Look at verse 1 again. “Come up here” were the first words the voice said to John. “Come up here” was an invitation to John to come up to heaven to the place where God is King over the heavens and the earth and all that exists. From the beginning of time God has been inviting his people to “come up here”. It is an invitation to draw near to God while we still have the opportunity and the privilege to draw near to God. There is a time and times in a person’s life to draw near to God and there is a time when it is no longer possible for that person to draw near to God. There is always a time to “come up here” while a man or woman are still living, for in life God gives us many chances to draw near to him, and to come up where God is. How can that be possible? It is impossible, but God Almighty made it possible through the sacrifice of his Son. There was a time when no man could come to God. There was a time when sinners needed to atone for their sins by the sacrifices of animals, and by endless good deeds, by obedience to the Law of God and the law of conscience. But even that was insufficient for a man or woman to draw near to God. But what was impossible for men to do, God did by sending his One and Only Son. When Jesus died on the cross, and rose from the dead, not only the heaven was open for the sons of men, but any repentant sinner who puts their faith in Jesus may draw near again to God. Drawing near to God is no small thing. It is the gift that is available while it is still day, while Jesus is still offering forgiveness for sins, while Jesus is still calling our sinners from the world. A day is coming when no one who has not drawn near to God through the new birth will be ever able to. The day is always today in our lives.
Look at what the voice like that of a trumpet said to John when the voice called him heaven-ward. The voice said “Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this.” This was the promise of Jesus to open John’s spiritual eyes to see what will take place in heaven and on earth. It was a promise of clarity that his eyes would no longer see the heavens and the earth from the human perspective but that he would see all things from heaven, with the heavenly perspective. We live in a world corrupted by all the unholy things of life. Even the most devout of Christians cannot fully see the heavens from God’s point of view. For this reason we study the Bible and pray; for this reason we labor in our daily lives to do what Jesus has taught us to do; for this reason we learn to be humble that we might have a glimpse of the most humble of all— our Lord Jesus; for this reason we struggle to be holy that we might see him who is holy. For this reason we struggle hard to take our eyes off the world and to fix our eyes on Jesus who is with us now and who is at the same time sitting on the throne in heaven. For this reason we do all this— that we might change the way we look at things in the world and see them through God’s eyes. And that is not easy. It is not easy to see the face of God when we are suffering, when we are wretched, when we are wayward, when we are in the throes of temptation. But we must never forget the promise of God, that once we enter through the door of heaven, we will be able to see things as God himself sees them. No wonder the great Christians of time were able to lay down all the things of the world that they might simply serve God and his purpose. No wonder Bible teachers and shepherds can put aside their pride in order to serve God’s flock. No one missionaries can go out to difficult and hostile places leaving behind then comforts of life. It is that when a man or woman go up to haven in their spirits, when their hearts are set on heaven, the world looks different. The past looks different. The present looks different. And certainly the future and all that will come to pass looks different.
We must see all things from heaven’s perspective. In this world things look grim and hopeless at times. At times they look good and promising. But that changes so much that we have a hard time to truly see what God wants us to see. The best way is to develop a heavenly perspective on things. We must rise up to heaven in our very hearts and souls, in prayer, in daily Bible reading, in daily meditation and application of the word of God until the gospel itself shapes up our hearts and souls and minds, until we can bring to submission before Christ our thoughts, our feelings, and our very lives and lifestyles. Unless we do this, it is likely that we continue to see the world as the dominating glittering farce that it is, and then get caught in its snares. When the disciples marveled at the stones of the temple, they were seeing things from the worldly perspective, they saw the temple as imperishable. But when Jesus saw the temple, he saw the corruption of sin setting in to the very fabric of the temple. He saw the corruption of sin eating away at the heart of his people, now in greed, now in pleasure, and now in the luxuries and offerings of the world. And when Jesus beheld the temple, he did not see the magnificence of the temple, but rather he saw the broken heart of God over a humanity and people lost to Satan. So Jesus saw the temple from the heavenly perspective, and saw that such things cannot last long. Truly nothing of man lasts long. Nothing of this world ever lasts long enough. Men live and die to enjoy the world only momentarily then to die and after that to face God’s judgment.
I have seen in my life young men and women who think they have God under control in their lives, who are too blind to see that their very heart is corrupt and rotting away within them. I have seen them in their arrogance and in their self righteous attitudes believe that they have access to God (some even think they have access to God because they simply know of Jesus and believe what they heard of him); they believe that God would gladly welcome them for the deception that they are good or semi-good people. In their worldly perspective to live a double life mixing God with the world seems good and natural and healthy. But in their worldly perspective they cannot see that their souls cannot live both in God and in the world but that their souls are wasting away with the things of the world that they so freely enjoy. They cannot see that they cannot live in heaven unless they listen to Jesus— deeply listen to his words— be born again through humility and faith. For unless men and women come to Jesus as they are, not as ordinary nor extraordinary people, but as sinners who deserve nothing but condemnation, unless they weep for their sins, unless they ask his mercy, they cannot enter heaven. This is the perspective that only those who are in Christ Jesus can see and have. My heart breaks sometimes for the careless way people live and the careless words they speak with authority as if this world and its ways are the final authority. When John went up to heaven to see things from God’s perspective, he saw the final and absolute authority. He saw what was and is and is to come— all through the eyes of him who rules heavens and the earth. We must learn how to see things not from our own limited perspective— as clear as it may seem at times— it is vague and false. But we must strive to see things through God’s eyes. And no one can see through God’s eyes, unless he or she enter heaven itself through Jesus. Again, we reflect here on the word of God, and on prayer, and the working of the holy spirit for that is what our Lord taught us to do.
Read verse 1 again. “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’” We need this heavenly perspective in order to understand what is yet to come in the book of Revelation— especially we need the heavens eyes to interpret this glorious chapter and learn the true essence of worship. May God enable those who have not yet entered the door through Jesus to enter while it is still open. May God help those who have not drawn near to God yet to heed his invitation and to “come up here” to heaven. And may God help all of us to see the world and all that has happened, is happening and is yet to happen from heaven’s perspective. May God bless you to see heaven’s vision as we study Revelation. Amen.