Revelation 4:1-11 Part 3

1)     After these I looked and, lo, a doorhaving been opened in the heaven and the sound, the first that I heard as atrumpet, speaking to me saying “come up here and I will show you what isnecessary to take place after these”.

2)     Immediately I did come in spirit and, lo,a throne set in the heaven, and upon the throne One sitting,

3)     and the One sitting like stone, jasperand sardonyx in appearance, and a rainbow round about the throne like emeraldin appearance.

4)     And round about the throne twenty fourthrones, and upon the thrones twenty four elders having been clothed in whitegarments, and upon their heads gold crowns.

5)     And from the throne coming forthlightnings and sounds and thunderings, and seven fiery lamps ablaze before thethrone that are the seven spirits of God,

6)     and before the throne as glassy sea likecrystal, and in midst of the throne and round about the throne four creaturesbeing entirely of eyes front and back,

7)     and the first creature like unto a lion,and the second creature like unto a calf, and the third creature having theface as of man, and the fourth creature like unto a flying eagle,

8)     and the four creatures one by one of themhaving six wings each, being entirely of eyes around and within, and they haveno pause saying “holy holy holy Kurios The God The Almighty, the Was and the Isand the Coming.

9)     And whenever the creatures will presentglory and honor and thanksgiving to the One sitting on the throne, to the Oneliving into the ages of the ages,

10)  the twenty four elders will prostratethemselves before the One sitting on the throne, and they will adore the Oneliving into the ages of the ages, and they will cast their crowns before thethrone, saying

11)  “worthy are You, the Lord and our God, toreceive the glory and the honor and the power; for You, You did create all, andby Your will they are, and they were created”.


At the trumpeting sound of Almighty Godcommanding John to “come up here”, John writes “I did come”.  A door had been opened in the heavenfor John to “come”.  For he was tobe shown what is necessary to be done “after these”.   “After these” refers directly to the messages to theseven Churches. 

John says, “immediately I did come inspirit”. 

We see the very same thing written by theapostle in chapter one verse ten, which reads: “I came to be in spirit in the Lord’s Day, and I heard a greatvoice as a trumpet behind me saying, ‘write what you see in a scroll and sendto the seven Churches…,’”

John was “in spirit” on the Lord’s Day;he hears the very same trumpeting voice of God as Israel heard at Sinai; he isgiven messages to seven Churches; and now (chapter four), “in spirit”, He seesa “door having been opened in the heaven”, and he hears the same trumpet soundof God telling him to “come up here”. 

And “I did come in spirit”, he says.  He was “in spirit” on the Lord’s Day;it’s still the Lord’s Day, and he’s still “in spirit”; and he sees the doorhaving been opened in the heaven, and he hears the same trumpeting voice thathe heard before, recorded in chapter one and verse ten, who spoke the messagesto the seven Churches!  There isabsolutely no break here; it’s the same day, it’s the same trumpet sound, it’sthe same “in spirit”.  So don’t beinfluenced by the chapter-change that’s been imposed upon this letter.

Now.  By God’s Word, through enlightenment by Holy Spirit, we onceagain have to move ourselves away from concepts that we’ve heard so many times,and that have been embedded in our minds… concepts that cause Christ’s “littleones” to be caught up in paralyzing dilemmas, paradoxes andcontradictions.  We have to stopimposing ourselves on God’s Revelation. It’s called “self-idolatry”!

As we saw last Lord’s day, our Lord has shown John these things.  And the purpose was to show all of His little ones what wasnecessary to be done in quickness, for the time is near!   And since God is showing us these things, it’s not right to make ourselves the subject ofwhat’s being shown.  Wesubjectively interpret, rather than objectively receive, what’s being shown tous, and it ought to be just the opposite.

So, why do we immediately begin to askquestions like, “was John’s body left standing on the isle of Patmos while hewas away?”  Or this one: “was John‘raptured’”?  Or, “did God causeJohn to be ‘as dead’, and he dreamed all of this?”

It reminds me, once again, of the sevenand a half years we spent in the Gospel of Matthew where we see Jesusperforming “mighty works”. Theologians call them “miracles”… evangelists call them miracles….pseudo-mysticsand healers call them miracles. But they’re only miracles from our standpoint; they’re not miracles fromHis.

The first one that immediately jumps intomy mind is the feeding of the thousands of Jews following Him.  The few loaves of bread and the fewfish fed all of them full, and there was plenty left over for the Gentiles,elect from every nation, who were yet to be brought in.

You see, God doesn’t interrupt andinterfere with what He’s made… that’s what brings about the human idea ofmiracles.  Rather, instead of‘breaking in” and “interrupting” what occurs “naturally” (a blasphemous,human-generated concept of who God is and what He’s made), God providentiallycontrols all that He has made. There are no boundaries or limitations.  Since He made it all (and it’s His), and since He sustainsit all, He can, and does, do with it when, where and how He wishes.  It’s only miraculous to us! 

If you would like a thorough reading ofthis concept, please go to the last four chapters in which God teaches Job tothink in exactly this manner.

So, when we come to a passage such asthis one at the beginning of chapter four, we have to receive it as Revelationfrom God; and it is “self-referential”. It is not for us to be self-referential.  God is showing us, and we are to receive what He shows.  We are to receive what He shows, andwe’re not to impose what we think about it from our own reference point.

The apostle John was “in spirit” on theLord’s Day; it’s still the Lord’s Day at the beginning of chapter four.  And John is still “in spirit” as hesaid in chapter one.

So, let’s do what we always do, and seeother passages in which the term is used, rather than jumping to conclusionsabout John’s body being left inert (like in a wax museum) on an island in theAegean Sea!  Let’s be shown whatGod wishes us to know about this; and let’s then be content with what we’reshown.

Once again, John was “in spirit” on theLord’s Day.  He was caused to hearthe trumpet voice of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, which many had heard before.  And he was caused to see Him in all Hisresurrected and ascended glory, which he describes for us.  He received messages to seven Churches.  And while “in spirit” he sees a dooropened in the heaven, and the same trumpet sound commands him to “come uphere”.

“In spirit” is a term revealed to usquite often in Scripture, and not just in the newer testament; it’s also commonin the older text as well.  And anexcellent example of it is in the Proverbs.  Listen to it at chapter fifteen:

1) A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir upanger.

2) The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouthof fools poureth out foolishness.

3) The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the eviland the good.

4) A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perversity thereinis a breach in spirit.

And who could ever ignore the lengthypassage in Ezekiel in which the prophet writes – not only of the glorious sightof God on His throne in the heaven, but also being taken, in spirit, to the valley of the dry bones.  And then, still in spirit, being escorted to see a fullydesecrated temple in Jerusalem.

The first (the valley of the bones) is apersonal view of what our God is capable of doing – and, yay, what He is goingto do – for dead people in raising them to new life.

The second, the personal view of thetemple of God which had been defiled and profaned by the idolatrous princes ofIsrael.

The first of these a prophetic view ofwhat God was going to do, and the second a close-up and personal view of theobscene blasphemy that had occurred – and was occurring – inside God’s man-madethrone room!  And, as Ezekiel says,all of this he was made to see and hear while “in spirit”.

There are many in the newer Scripture,and I want to give you several of these. The first is that most well-known passage called “the beatitudes at thebeginning of Matthew chapter five:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In the sermon on this verse, which isposted on the Church’s web site, we saw that there is a condition which ourLord Jesus called poverty in spirit. Absent preaching that sermon again here, let me just summarize it foryou by saying that it is a condition – in spirit – in which a sinner is causedto understand his own plight before God. And upon being brought to that understanding, the kingdom of heaven ishis.

Then I would like for you to hear a partof the confrontation between the pharisees and our Lord in Matthew chaptertwenty two.  During thisconfrontation in which the pharisees were attempting to trick Jesus intocommitting some blasphemous statement, Jesus turns the tables on them bybecoming the interrogator.  Here isHis question:


41)    While thePharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,

42)    Saying,What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David.

43)    He saithunto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,

44)    The LORDsaid unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thyfootstool?

45)    If Davidthen call him Lord, how is he his son?

46)    And no manwas able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth askhim any more questions.


KingDavid, in spirit,calls his future son “Lord”.

Next is a passage in the Gospel of John,chapter twenty-four:


23)    But thehour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father inspirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

24)    God isspirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.


I hope you can see a pattern emerginghere from God’s Revelation having to do with worship.  But let’s go further. Listen to Paul’s admonition to the Church at Philippi, chapter three:


1)       Finally, mybrethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed isnot grievous, but for you it is safe.

2)       Beware ofdogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

3)       For we arethe circumcision, which worship God in spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and haveno confidence in the flesh.


The analogy of Scripture holds true innearly every case, that being “in spirit” and being in a state of worship areclosely connected.  And the apostleJohn, in verse ten of chapter one said, “I was in spirit on the Lord’s Day” when the ascended Christ Jesus appearedto him and spoke to him.  And thatwas also true (being in spirit on the Lord’s Day) when he saw a door havingbeen opened in the heaven.

Now.  All of us have to be aware that Paul, the apostle to whomthe crucified, resurrected and ascended Jesus appeared, spoke one time of thekinds of things we read here in our text. His words are written in the twelfth chapter of his second letter to theChurch at Corinth.  He was writingto the Church about visions and revelations from the Lord, and warning theChurch about those who boast of such things.  And he mentions a Christian brother who was brought up intothe heaven and saw and heard unutterable things.

And the reason I bring it up is becausethe apostle admits to the Church that he couldn’t explain it.  He didn’t know how it happened, and hewasn’t about to speculate about it.

And right after he said that, he alsomentioned that he was given a “thorn in the side” in order that he couldn’t boast of anything!  So we’re not either.

The Revelation to John doesn’t say “how”;it only says “why”.  And it saysthat he was “in spirit” on the Lord’s Day, which  means that he was in a state of worship on the first day ofthe week when Jesus Christ appeared to him and spoke to him.  And he was still in spirit on the sameLord’s Day when Jesus Christ brought him into the heaven to show him what wasto be done in quickness, for the time was near.


That’s as far as I want to go in the textthis morning, because there has been a question or two that probably need to beaddressed; and this is a good time to do it.

The primary issue that we need toapproach has to do with Trinity, for there have been some blank stares comingback at me.  And please rememberthat, although we have much clear Revelation from God, there is much more thatis unapproachable.

But the commanded cry from Israel was“Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our Godis One!”  Christianity is arevealed “monotheism” (in creation as well as in Scripture).  That means “one God”.  And all human religion, no matter howblatantly blasphemous and idolatrous it is, derives its thought from God’srevelation of Himself in His creation and in His inspired, written Revelation,all of which is Christian (and nothing else).  But the nature of man is sin.  And since that sin is pernicious, the human distortions ofGod’s revelation of Himself are myriad.

One of the more contentious articles, orprecepts, of the Faith is God’s revelation of His “threeness”.  In other words, He is One; and He ismany.  That is “axiomatic” to theFaith.

The creeds, in all their variety, werehammered out in the councils through Church history in order to combatdistortions in God’s revelation of His threeness.  The Athanasian Creed is a great example of that.  Didactic as its content appears tocontemporary readers, its opening sets out the essential principle that thecatholic Faith does not consist in the first place in assent to propositions,but 'that we worship One God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity'. All elseflows from that orientation.

The first half of thecreed confesses the Trinity (one God - three Persons). With didactic repetitionit ascribes divine majesty and characteristics to the Father, Son, and HolySpirit, each individually. At the same time it clearly states that, althoughall are individually divine, they are not three gods but one God.  Furthermore, although one God, theFather, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct from each other.  For the Father is neither made norbegotten; the Son is not made but is begotten from the Father; the Holy Spirit isneither made nor begotten, but proceeds from the Father and the Son.

The WestminsterConfession follows that line of thought in the second chapter: 


I. There is but one only, living, andtrue God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit,invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal,incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute;working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and mostrighteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful,long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity,transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; andwithal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who willby no means clear the guilty.

II. God has all life, glory, goodness,blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himselfall-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He has made, norderiving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto,and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom,and to whom are all things; and has most sovereign dominion over them, to do bythem, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleases. In His sight allthings are open and manifest, His knowledge is infinite, infallible, andindependent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent, oruncertain. He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in allHis commands. To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature,whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them.

III. In the unity of the Godhead there bethree Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God theSon, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten norproceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghosteternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.


Even so, there is a distinct differencein the way God’s revelation of Himself is viewed by the Church.  And the difference is between theAugustinian/Calvinist view (on the one hand) and the Byzantine, or Eastern,Church view (on the other).

In Byzantine theology a firm distinctionis made between the works of God's nature (i.e., the generation of the Son andthe procession of the Holy Spirit) and the works of God's will (e.g., thecreation of the world).  The former (the works of His nature)are ascribed to the Person of the Father inasmuch as He is the Cause of the Existence(but not of the Essence, which is communicated, not caused) of the other twoDivine Persons and thus is the Personal Principle of the common and undividedpossession of one and the same Divine Nature by the Three Persons.  The latter (the will of the divinePerson), on the other hand, are held to be common to the Three Divine Persons: for as Theirnature is one and undivided so also is Their will; and thus, as St. Gregory ofNyssa says: "Every divine operation touching on creation, and named accordingto our various conceptionsof it, has its origin from the Father, proceeds through the Son, and isperfected in the Holy Spirit." So, "the Father does all things through the Word in the HolySpirit; and thus the unity of the Holy Trinity is preserved."

I tend to appreciate the Eastern Churchformulation; but you can see the difficulty in approaching the Person ofGod.  All of our formulations arelacking; and these – the best of many – have shortcomings.

But, as creations of God, we at least canbe “shown” the work of God through the Word, perfected by Holy Spirit.  And that’s exactly how we have toapproach the text of John’s Revelation. When the Christ is the subject matter of the Revelation, He is God.  When Holy Spirit is the subject matter,He is God.

The work of God through the Word is shownto us in different ways; that is, for example, the Lamb Slain – or the King ofKings.  The “perfecting” of thework of God is also shown to us in different ways; for example, the seven fierylamps, or the seven lampstands in the tabernacle.

The point here is for us not to beparalyzed by what we read and hear. The very “essence” of the Person of God is unapproachable; but His“work” is shown tous.  And we need not turn away fromit exasperated.

As we close this morning here is a quotefor you from a brother in the Church at Sardis.  This is from about 175AD:


"For since, in the wisdom of God,the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly ofwhat we preach to save those who believe."  1 Cor. 1:21. Faithful to the example of the Apostle, who preached the Gospel ofChrist and Him crucified "not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross ofChrist be emptied of its power" (1 Cor. 1:17), the early Christians didnot seek to 'conceal' – let alone, 'resolve' – the paradox of the cross.  Rather, they sought only to 'express'it – this supreme paradox – in a fitting manner, so that the content of theword of the cross, the very message of salvation, might not only be preservedintact, but also might be displayed in all its glory all the more visibly forwhat it truly is and mustnecessarily always remain, namely: "folly to those who are perishing, butto us who are being saved... the power of God."  1 Cor. 1:18. 

"Though He was incorporeal, He formedfor Himself a body after our fashion, appearing as a sheep, yet still remainingthe Shepherd; being esteemed a servant, yet not renouncing the Sonship; beingcarried in the womb of Mary, yet arrayed in the nature of His Father; treadingupon the earth, yet filling heaven; appearing as an infant, yet not discardingthe eternity of His nature; being invested with a body, yet not circumscribing the unmixedsimplicity of His Godhead; being esteemed poor, yet not divested of His riches;needing sustenance inasmuch as He was man, yet not ceasing to feed the entireworld inasmuch as He is God; putting on the likeness of a servant, yet notimpairing the likeness of HisFather.  He sustained everycharacter belonging to Him in an immutable nature:  He was standing before Pilate, and at the same time wassitting with His Father; He was nailed upon the tree, and yet was the Lord ofall things. ...

"The earth shook, and itsfoundations trembled; the sun fled away, and the elements turned back, and theday was changed into night:  forthey could not endure the sight of their Lord hanging on a tree.  The whole creation was amazed,marveling and saying, 'What new mystery,then, is this?  The Judge is judgedand holds His peace; the Invisible One is seen, and is not ashamed; theIncomprehensible is laid hold upon, and is not indignant; the Illimitable iscircumscribed, and dost not resist; the Impassible suffereth, and doth notavenge; the Immortal dieth, and answereth not a word; the Celestial is laid inthe grave, and endureth!  What newmystery is this?'  The wholecreation, I say, was astonished; but when our Lord arose from the place of thedead, and trampled death underfoot and bound the strong one, and set man free,then did the whole creation see clearly that for man's sake the Judge wascondemned, and the Invisible was seen, and the Illimitable was circumscribed,and the Impassible suffered, and the Immortal died, and the Celestial was laidin the grave.  For our Lord, whenHe was born man, was condemned in order that He might show mercy, was bound inorder that He might loose, was seized in order that He might release, sufferedin order that He might feel compassion, died in order that He might give life,was laid in the grave that He might raise from the dead."