Revelation Series #6
Front Row Seat: Taken to the Beginning of The End
Remember the outline that Jesus gave us for this book. He told John to write down:
1. the things which you have seen
2. the things which are now
3. the things that will be after this, or after these things
With that outline he covers two of the three points in the first three chapters. Chapter 1 is “the things which you have seen.” That’s the revelation of Jesus Christ as it’s laid out for John in front of him there. Chapters 2 and 3 are “the things which are now” talking about the church, and not only the church in John’s day but the church all the way up until the end. He (Jesus) says write the things which will be “after these things” or after those letters to the churches, after the understanding of the church. This brings us to the next of the three divisions of this book, the largest division that starts in chapter 4 and goes all the way to the end. Obviously, there are different ways to break down chapters 4 to the end but it is one section, “the things which will be after these things.”
We are going to focus on only one verse today, verse one. But we are going to get there in a minute. Turn to Matthew 24. We are going to look at several scripture before we come to Revelation 4:1. We are going to talk about the phrase or term, whether you buy into it or not, The Rapture of the Church. The word rapture actually comes from a Latin word, “raptume” which literally means “to take away” or “to transport” or “to snatch away”. When you think of someone who is “enraptured”, perhaps a boy with a girl, you think of someone who has been “carried away” by his love for her or by seeing her. Good and accurate use of the word. The word rapture is never found in the scriptures. It is a word that is used to explain an understanding of the scriptures.
As we go through this study we will talk about a lot of the ways to view this. I’ll share the conclusions that I’ve come to and why I’ve come to those conclusions. There are sections, and this is probably one of the chief ones, where there is room for disagreement. Many times we grow up believing what we were taught. But at some point along the way, we have to “put aside childish things” and believe things for a reason. And because somebody said so is not a good enough reason. We want to study it for ourselves and come to a conclusion that we feel is an accurate conclusion that matches up with scripture, resonates with the Spirit that dwells within us, God’s Spirit.
If you were to talk with most people about the rapture of the church, most believe will be one. The when and the why are where people disagree. There are three ways that people look at the rapture.
1. Pre-Tribulation Rapture. That means taking out the church before what the Bible is going to call, beginning in and after chapter 4, the tribulation and the great tribulation: the tribulation being the first 3 ½ years and the great tribulation being the last 3 ½ years. So, the “when” of a pre-tribulation person would be before the tribulation. Why do those people believe it is going to happen before the tribulation? They believe that it’s going be what is referred to in Revelation 3:10 when it says, “because of your faithfulness I will save you from this hour of trial.” We will look at several other scriptures about this: “God has not appointed you for wrath,” II Thessalonians 5. “There is therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1.
- Mid-Tribulation Rapture. In other words, 3 ½ years in, they believe the church will be taken out. Why? Much of the same reason as before, they don’t believe God has destined us for the greatest of His wrath, but they don’t see it happening in the first 3 ½ years. Some would relate the two witnesses that we study later not as real people, but as the church.
- Post-Tribulation Rapture. They believe at the end of the seven years, but before Jesus comes again, the final battle and judgment, that the church will be caught up and then come right back down. Why would they put it at the end? Most probably because they don’t believe it’s going to happen before the tribulation and they don’t believe it’s going to happen in the middle, but they do believe it’s going to happen because the scripture says it will.
READ Mt. 24:3-14
What are the signs of the end:
- Extreme deception (false christs)
- Wars and rumors of wars
- Famines and earthquakes in various places
- Gospel to the whole world
Now, we would all agree that all these first three things are happening and they seem to be happening increasingly, more and more and more. But, has there ever been a time since Jesus was here that these things have not happened? No. There is no doubt that these things are pictures of getting close to the end. At the same time, they have always been happening. We need to be careful when we say, “Oh it has to happen now because of . . .” We are assuming that we know what Jesus says we won’t know. That is the end. The time of the end. Jesus said that no one knows the time, only my Father who is in heaven. As we’ve said, as a means of illustration, that there is a clock in the back room of God’s office and it’s counting down to the end. God knows exactly when it’s going to happen.
Jesus said the gospel will be preached to the whole world and then the end will come. Imagine what that sounded like to the disciples. As little as their understanding of the world was for them to think that they had to get the gospel out to the whole world. Differing times during history when people must have thought, “We’ll never get the gospel out to the whole world.” Yet today, look at this prophecy in particular; when Billy Graham preaches and they broadcast it in 23 African nations all at the same time, when multiple millions of people can see and hear the gospel at the stroke of one channel on the television, when people can sign onto the internet anywhere in the world and find the gospel, it’s getting close.
One other thing is I don’t think we can ever say, “Jesus could not come today.” Because He could. Certain things may have to happen for the tribulation to kick in to full gear, but it doesn’t have to be before Jesus comes and takes His church out.
Turn to I Corinthians 15 – when you think of the word “mystery” what do you think of – unknown, unsolved problem, something we can’t figure out. Do you think of evil, suspense, danger? When we think of a mystery we think of a riddle, an enigma, evil, suspense, being scared. When the scripture talks about mystery it’s not really talking about that, it is talking about something that is only known in the mind and heart of God. And it is only revealed when God wants to reveal it and how God wants to reveal it. So when we talk about a mystery in scripture we are not talking about something that is unknown to God. It will be revealed when and as He wants it to be revealed. When He reveals His mystery He does it to encourage us and to give us strength.
READ I Cor. 15:51-57
Let me stop here. We quote that verse a lot but if we don’t see what comes on either side of it we don’t understand where the victory comes from. The victory comes in understanding this mystery. The power comes in knowing what God is trying to get us to see.
READ I Cor. 15:58
Great verse. We quote that verse, “stand firm”, but why should I stand firm if I’m scared to death? It is hard to stand firm when you are fearful. Paul wrote these things and we’re going to read something else Paul wrote. Then God gave John a revelation so we don’t have to be afraid.
Let’s talk about this mystery. Go back to verse 51 and following. What’s the mystery? “We will not all fall asleep.” Remember he is not talking about lying down and taking a nap. It’s a picture of death. Our body sleeps but our spirit doesn’t. “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”. Our body sleeps, our body goes into the grave but our spirit does not. It goes immediately either to be with the Lord or to be separated from the Lord depending on whether we know Him. “But we will all be changed.” Isn’t that good news? Look at somebody you love and say, “You’re gonna be changed.” Amen. That’s good news. So what’s going to happen here, what’s the pattern? In a flash, in a twinkling of an eye. Now I’ve read this verse for years and never noticed the difference. Dr. Criswell said He didn’t say in the blink of an eye, He said is the twinkling of an eye. Blink of an eye is pretty quick but that’s not what He said. He said in the twinkle of an eye. What’s the twinkle of an eye? Here’s the way Dr. Criswell described it. “Twinkling is the sudden something that happens when you recognize someone.” When you see somebody you know and you know who they are. That’s faster than a blink. It’s almost imperceptible. It’s that recognition of someone you know. In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye what does He say is going to happen?
- Trump will sound
- Dead rise imperishable (talk about what if someone dies in a fire or cremated, etc. tradition vs. theology – 100-300 years in the grave no difference that someone cremated, but in the flash the dead will rise first and made imperishable)
- Mortal clothed with immortality – shoulder not going to hurt anymore, amen
If we begin to understand this mystery, then we can stand firm know that our work is not in vain in the Lord.
READ I Thess. 4:13-18
Remember ignorant does not mean stupid, it means uninformed. In Thessalonica they were having a hard time. They thought they were in the tribulation. Believers should not grieve like other people grieve. Because we have something other people don’t have. We have hope. What are the things that these verses say are going to happen?
- Lord will come, those who preceded us will come with Him (their spirits)
- Dead in Christ will rise first (bodies and be caught up with their spirits)
- Voice of the archangel
- Those still alive be caught up with Him (means snatched away – same definition as the word rapture) in the clouds and be with Him forever – purpose - to encourage, to give hope
READ II Thess. 2:1-2
When the “Day of the Lord” comes we will know it. The Day of the Lord is used several times in scripture. Daniel 12:1, Jeremiah 13 talks about the Day of Jacob’s trouble, same thing, I Thess 2:2 we just read, Joel 1 and 2, and Isaiah 13 all talk about the Day of the Lord or the time of the Lord. Like we would say, ‘I’m going to have my day in court.” We’re not necessarily talking about one day we’re talking about going to have our say-so. When it talks about the Day of the Lord it’s talking about when Jesus has the final word. When Jesus gets the final say. Man has thought they were in charge, satan has thought he was in charge and the Day of the Lord is when Jesus gets the final say. We will call that time the tribulation, the great tribulation, Armageddon, the final judgment. That seven-year period, the Day of the Lord. He was saying that time is coming and you need to know what I’m talking about. You need to know that you don’t need to be afraid or ignorant about the Day of the Lord.
READ II Thess. 2:3-7
“what is holding him back” – this is critical. v. 7 “the secret power of lawlessness” in KJV, “the mystery of iniquity”. We know that the power of evil is here right now but something is keeping it from having its full power and it’s full strength.
“He who holds it back” Let stop right there for a minute. The man of lawlessness is coming but he is being held back. There is a restrainer. We need to see what this is, this is very important. There is a restrainer and it calls him, in the KJ a masculine word, he or the masculine one who is holding him back. Now the church is always referred to as what gender-wise? She, referred to as the bride of Christ. So it might not be the church or is it? The one who restrains him is not the church, it is the Holy Spirit.
READ II Thess. 2:7-12
The man of lawlessness - the son of perdition, the anti-christ. The restrainer is the Holy Spirit. This is very important. Where does the Holy Spirit dwell? I Cor 6:19-20. Eph. 1 & 4 tell us that we have the gift of the Holy Spirit as a down payment guaranteeing what is to come. John 14:27 – what is the peace that Jesus leaves with them? The Holy Spirit. Who is the down payment – the Holy Spirit that God has placed within us.
Now let me ask you something. Is Jesus an Indian giver? You’ve gotta get this, this is really important. This is important to the whole process and why I believe what I believe. If the Holy Spirit has to be taken out of the world because He is restraining the man of lawlessness, the only way the Holy Spirit can be taken out and God be who God is, is for the church to be taken out. Because the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we are not going to wake up one day and say, “Where did the Holy Spirit go?” Listen, in the Old Testament that happened. The Holy Spirit left Saul because Saul was disobedient. The Holy Spirit left Samson because Samson was disobedient. Pre-Christ the Holy Spirit was given as an impartation for a specific thing. The only person in the Old Testament that it never says the Holy Spirit left was David. It says he was a man after God’s own heart. After Calvary, after Jesus says “I’m leaving” and “I’m sending one to you” but “I can’t send Him to you until I leave” talking about the Holy Spirit and “I’m giving Him to you as a down payment guaranteeing what is to come.” Now if He took the Holy Spirit from us then He might take heaven from us. You guys with me on this? This is good news!
Now, if the Holy Spirit it taken out then who can possible retrain the man of lawlessness? You think you can restrain the man of lawlessness? No, you can’t. I can’t. The Bible says that the archangel Michael wouldn’t even fight with satan. He said, “The Lord rebuke you.” If the archangel Michael can’t take him, you and I can’t touch him. But the Holy Spirit can. So if the Holy Spirit has to be removed, we don’t have any choice, we gotta go too. So when the Holy Spirit leaves, we’re gone too. That’s good news. I wanted to get you there. I wanted you to know I’m not just making stuff up.
READ I Thess. 5:9
Remember there is a difference between wrath and punishment. There’s even a difference between wrath and temporal judgment. Wrath is God’s bowl of judgment poured out on sin. If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you do not have an appointment with wrath. You’ve seen those bumper stickers: No Jesus No Peace; Know Jesus, Know Peace, let’s do:
No Jesus, Know Wrath; Know Jesus, No Wrath
READ Romans 8:1
In John 3 Jesus said, “I did not come to condemn the world.”
READ Revelation 3:10
No Hour of Trial
Ok, now I’ve said all of that to get us to Chapter 4 verse 1. If I didn’t say all that then we’ve have to argue about why do you think the way you do about chapter 4 verse 1.
A major transition has happened here. He’s talked about the churches. After chapter 4 the church is never mentioned again on earth in the book of Revelation. From this point on, the church is never referred to except in heaven and that is in chapter 19. In Revelation it talks about the tribes of Israel, references are made to Israel, the twelve tribes, all of the twelve tribes are named. You might say, now wait a minute. Paul talks about how those of us who are Christians are neither slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile so in a sense we are all part of the “New Israel”. But the church is never referred to by tribe name. The church might be included in Israel as the big picture but the church is never singled out as one of the twelve tribes because the twelve tribes have to do with the physical human ancestry of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. So when it refers to Israel in the rest of Revelation and it talks about people being from each one of the twelve tribes, from Reuben, from Manasseh and on and on, that’s Israel. That’s real, live people that are descendents of Abraham. Not gentiles, talking about Jews.
READ Rev. 4:1a (first sentence)
Let’s talk about that for a moment. There are two doors mentioned in the book of Revelation. One is in chapter 4:1 and one is in chapter 19:11. 19:11 says, “I say someone seated on a horse, on a white horse.” In 19:11 when this door opens, someone is coming down. That’s Jesus. Faithful and True is written on His thigh. He’s coming down for judgment; he’s coming down to complete, to finish up His day. When this door opens (4:1) someone is coming up.
Openings to heaven are significant in scripture. In Malachi when Jesus says, “trust me, try me, proved me” when talking about finances. If you will trust me with your tithes and offerings and see if I won’t open up the windows of heaven and pour out blessing on you. When Stephen was dying he looked up into heaven and saw one that looked like the Son of Man. And he said, “Receive my spirit.”
The door was open. Why was it open? To receive Stephen up. Paul says he was caught up in the third heaven. First heaven would be the sky. Second heaven would be the stars, etc. Third heaven would be heaven as well think of it. So that he could receive special mystery from God. He was “caught up”. When the doors open to a Middle Eastern walled city it opens up to let somebody in or let somebody out. No other reason to open the doors. Why? They were there for protection, protection of those inside, and protection from those on the outside. The doors were not opened for any reason.
Back to 4:1, “I saw a door open.” Either somebody is coming in or somebody is coming out. Rev. 19 somebody is going out. Guess what, I’ll give you a hint, we are going out too. Some time before 19 we are going to go up.
I titled tonight, “Front Row Seat” because that’s what I believe we are going to have. We’re going to have a front row seat.
READ Rev. 4:1 (first sentence again)
If you were letting just one person in, you’d crack the door and let him in. Some of you aren’t getting this; you are going to get this on the way home. If you are just letting John in, you open it enough to let him and tell him to come on in. Why? It is the wall to the city. You’ve got to see this the way people would have seen it in that day. You don’t just throw the doors open to let one person in. But is says I say the doors to heaven propped open. Why? Some folks are coming in. Now see if this sounds familiar from the scriptures we just read.
READ Rev. 4:1 (second sentence)
Like a trumpet, sound familiar. Says come up here. That’s God saying, “Come up here” “Get out of there” You have not been appointed for the wrath that I’m about to pour out. After these things - In a twinkling of an eye.
When you talk with great athletes they will describe that when they get “in the zone” everything seems to slow down. Let me tell you what I think, just what Pastor thinks. I can’t back this up with scripture because it says a twinkling of an eye. But I think it’s going to slow down for us. It’s going to happen “that fast” but the way it was described by Paul in so much detail it was like he could see it. And I think it’s going to slow down. Why? I think God wants us to rejoice. God doesn’t want us going, “What happened?” It’s going to happen “that fast” but we are going to experience every millisecond of it. I believe that. It’s just like God. Because God at His heart wants to be praise, wants to be worshipped. God wants to be appreciated. Why do you think He give us grace, because He wants us to get it. So when He gives us this Parousia, this catching up, I don’t think He wants us to miss a bit of it. So I think for us, it’s going to slow down a bit and we’re going to think, “Oh, this is it!” It takes just that long for us to recognize something and yet at the same time we’re going to recognize it. We’re going to see those dead bodies go up first and we’re gonna say, “Oh, this is it!” It may happen “that fast” but I think we’re gonna get it. We’re going to experience it. And on the way up, we’re going to be “high-fiving” and saying, “This is it!”
READ Rev. 4:1 (second sentence)
After this. After what? After the church is gone. After the restrainer has been taken out. After this. Let me show you what’s going to happen. Come on up here and I’m going to give you a front row seat.
From Dr. Criswell - Four reasons why he believes that as the Church of Jesus Christ, alive at the point of tribulation, why we won’t go through it.
- Outline of Revelation - doesn’t make sense for us to be left. “After this” why would we be here? John in the twinkling of an eye, was “transformed”, transported over 1900 years, to past now, and set down in heaven.
- The Mystery of Iniquity – II Thess. 2 – the secret of the man of lawlessness. The restrainer lives in us and if God takes the restrainer out without us, that’s not the God I know. God wouldn’t take the restrainer away from us. It doesn’t match up with the New Testament. It wouldn’t match up with the revelation that God has given.
- The Illustrations of the End that are in Scripture
- Luke 17, as in the days of Noah
1. Enoch – removed, O.T. is all about revealing the N.T., law about revealing grace
2. Noah – saved through – redeemed in it, a picture of those in tribulation coming to faith in Christ
- Lot – II Peter 2:8-10 – compromiser, yet one of God’s own
1. angel said “I can’t do anything till you get out” - come up out of there
2. with him out judgment fell – the restrainer out
4. Scripture of Comfort and Hope
a. Who are you looking for, the antichrist or Jesus Christ? Titus 2:13 “look for the blessed hope”, not Armageddon or tribulation but Christ our hope. Hope doesn’t disappoint.
b. Maranatha – the Lord is at hand – disciples greeted each other
It’s just like our God. It matches us with everything we see about Him. It’s our hope, it’s our joy, it’s our strength, it’s our peace, and it’s our promise. That’s why Paul said, “Stand firm, then.” Your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Hold unswervingly to the hope that you have. Stand firm, then, in the Lord Jesus Christ. I Cor. 15:58, “Knowing that your work in the Lord is not in vain.” Hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess. We don’t have a message of wrath for us because we have not been appointed for that. If we look in God’s calendar book I can guarantee you that there is a day that says, “Wrath begins today.” The good news is the day before it says, “My church is coming home.”
Wednesday Night Bible study Fall 2005-Spring 2006
The following resources were used among others in preparation
Revelation Four Views: A Parallel Commentary – Steve Gregg
W.A. Criswell Expository Sermons on Revelation
Dr. J.A. Seiss Expositions on Revelations
MacArthur Bible Studies: Revelation – John MacArthur
Dr. David Jeremiah Expositions on Revelation
The Pulpit Commentary: Revelation
Wiersbe: The Bible Exposition Commentary