The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants – things which must shortly take place… Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. – The Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:1,3 (NKJV)
Many readers of this profound book of prophecy overlook that God gave this Revelation of Jesus Christ TO Jesus! His purpose in doing so is to show His servants things which must shortly take place, and that we are blessed as we keep those things which are written in it. May God grant us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation as we make time to study this book and apprehend the astounding purposes He has for His Bride in heaven in the very near future; may we hear, understand, and keep what the Spirit says to the churches, for the time is near. Amen.
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The Outline of Revelation
Jesus actually outlines this book when He tells John Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this (1:19). The revelation is quite visual: note all the words pertaining to vision (show, see, seen, saw, looked, etc.) as we study it…
Write the things which you have seen: After the prologue, Chapter 1 describes what John had just seen in the Spirit:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyratira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands. In the midst of the seven lampstands, One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him I fell at His feet as though dead (1:13-17).
Note that the phrase One like the Son of Man is from Daniel’s OT vision of Messiah during His enthronement in the courts of heaven to judge the antichrist (Dan. 7:3, see Part 6: The Thrones and the Court).
…the things which are: Chapters 2 and 3 are the Lord’s words to the seven… angels (messengers, pastors) of the seven churches (v. 20) in the present: these are Jesus’ seven epistles, if you will, to seven particular churches in Asia at that time. Some prophetic Scriptures describe more than one future event. In this case, these epistles also describe seven particular characteristics of the Church as it changed/changes throughout the Church Age. Of course seven signifies perfection, and The Revelation of Jesus Christ contains a multitude of sevens.
...and the things which will take place after this: The remaining nineteen chapters (up to the epilogue in 22:6-21) describe the entire Lord’s Day (v. 10) and perhaps beyond – that is, not a single day, but everything that must occur once the Church Age ends at the glorious transformation and translation of the saints into heaven. The vast majority of this book is spent detailing the things which will take place in the Lord’s Day (bringing to mind the OT term the Day of the Lord).
Note that although The Revelation of Jesus Christ is dedicated to the seven churches (1:4, 11), scholars have found that it contains well over 400 allusions to the OT, which should be of vital significance to the sealed Jewish remnant of 144,000 (7:4). The omnipresent Holy Spirit will likely lead them to this key book after the Church is raptured, and the OT allusions should facilitate their understanding of the prophecy.
The Church and the Trumpet Call of God
Importantly, although the words church and churches appear numerous times throughout the first three chapters pertaining to the Church Age, they do NOT appear in the prophetic passages of Chs. 4-22. We understand now that this is because the Church remnant will be transformed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, and translated from earth to heaven at the trumpet call of God as described by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:51-53 and 1 Thess. 4:13-18. The Jews, Gentiles, and foolish virgins with insufficient oil in their lamps to whom the Lord says, I do not know you (see Matt. 25:1-13 and Part 7) will remain on earth, but there will be no church.
The trumpet call of God is described herein by John as the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” (4:1). The resurrection and instantaneous transformation of the dead saints, and the seizing up and instantaneous transformation of the living Church remnant are not specifically described here in Chapter 4.
I suggest, though, that the transporting of the Church overcomers from earth to heaven is alluded to by what happens to John as he is suddenly brought from hearing Jesus’ words to the churches on earth to beholding and passing through a door standing open in heaven in verse 4:1. This pivotal verse transitions from the second part of the book describing the things which are to the remainder of the book describing the things which will take place after this.
Let’s back up a bit and listen closely to what Jesus, who described Himself as the door (John 10:9) says about doors to the churches of Philadelphian and Laodicean character at the end of the Church Age.
To the Philadelphian church which endures persecution from the synagogue of Satan (the self-righteous, the religious elite), Jesus says:
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, “These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens: I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth…” (3:7-10, emphasis added).
We see that He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens promises to deliver the persevering persecuted Church remnant from the great tribulation through the open door He has set before them: the door standing open in heaven (4:1): Himself. Oh, praise Him with me now…
To the lukewarm end-time Laodicean church which believes it is already wealthy and needs nothing (the self-righteous again), Christ exhorts:
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (3:20-22 emphasis added).
Praise God for His long-suffering for His beloved people, essentially promising them passage through that open door in heaven to the thrones of His court judging antichrist IF THEY first repent and open the door to their hearts to Him! And they must do so before the appointed time that only the Father of the Bridegroom knows! (See Matt. 24:36 and Jewish wedding custom discussed in Part 7.)
The Transformation of the Church
Now, the very next two verses are paramount, translating John from the Church Age to the Lord’s Day, from earth into the throne room. He is transported through a door standing open in heaven when he hears the voice like a trumpet for a second time. Here is how God’s word flows without the man-made chapter break:
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” After these things [pertaining to the Church Age] I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard [in 1:10] was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne… (3:21 – 4:2 emphasis added).
I offer that John is actually taken immediately in his vision from the Church Age while he is on Patmos to the next age in the divine purpose, the Lord’s Day. In other words, when John says in 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, he doesn’t mean this revelation occurred on either a Sabbath or a Sunday as most readers assume, but that the Holy Spirit transported him forward in time to the Lord’s Day – Christ’s entire Second Advent.
Strong internal proof of this is that Jesus’ voice is likened to a trumpet in both instances. For those of us in the Church, this trumpet brings to mind 1 Thess. 4:16 and 1 Cor. 15:52; for the 144,000 Jews reading this prophecy during the time of Jacob’s trouble it should bring to mind the fearsome long trumpet blast of God at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19:13, 16, 19).
John’s body was not actually transformed as he went through the door into heaven – it is just that the prophet passed through that blessed door in the Spirit just as the resurrected saints and the overcoming Church remnant alive at the time will do on the Lord’s Day.
The transformation of the Church is not described in this book, for it was already described to us via Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians: Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:51-53).
Hallelujah! And the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” (Rev. 22:17)