4:1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven!
Introduction to the Chapter
Rev. 4 records John’s entrance into the heavenly throne room where God manifests His presence. John does not go there physically. He is drawn into the throne room in an “ecstatic state” similar to the experience of Old Testament prophets. Compare Isaiah 6:1-6. (see ESV below). The open door to heaven is common in Apocalyptic literature. It is not the rapture of the church, etc. that is so common in popular teaching about Revelation.
Comment about the Biblical View of Reality
I won’t bore you with a long philosophical discussion, but no longer do we in the Western World have a metaphysics which includes dimensions outside of the sensory world. (“Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality.”) Up to the period of the Enlightenment, reality included a view of dimensions beyond our space-time continuum, based upon Holy Scripture. Since that time, academics have insisted philosophy be separate from any considerations of Holy Scripture.
Scripture presents a Multi-tiered Cosmos
The cosmos is the created order God has established. Our space-time continuum is created and is accessible to our bodily senses. The other dimensions alluded to in the Revelation are created also, but are not accessible to our bodily senses. However, our lives in this world can be impacted by what occurs in those other non-sensory detected dimensions!
The different tiers are as follows:
(1) the Heaven of Heavens is where God manifests His Presence and where Christ’s physical body now dwells. (see Pech below for a scholarly discussion of this view.)
(2) heavenly places is where holy angels dwell. They have access to our world, also.
(3) the space-time continuum include the stars and galaxies, i.e. the heavens we can see with our body senses.
(4) hades where evil, fallen angels dwell. They have access to our world, too.
The Chart above illustrates dimensions beyond our body senses of which Scripture alludes. They are not wide apart but impinge upon one another. I will not be dogmatic about this figure, but I am trying to illustrate spiritual realities beyond the physical. I have not pictured “Hell” (gehenna) yet since it is not in view in this section.
There are “Seen Things” and “Unseen Things”
Carl Sagan’s quotation, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” contradicts Holy Scripture! A professor at one of the extension sites of my seminary once related on a recording that Carl Sagan was struck with “Myelodysplastic Syndrome,” a rare form of blood cancer that often develops into leukemia. Sagan was an astro-physicist, one of about a dozen in the world at the time. They all knew each other and kept in close touch. Many were Christians. Carl Sagan’s last e-mail to the Christians in the group before he died was brief: “Pray for me!” The “unseen world” presses in upon one’s consciousness especially before death. Romans 1:19, 20 —
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
The “things that are seen” in II Cor. 4:16-18, are of course, all the incidents and circumstances of the present life; the “things that are not seen” (the very phrase of Hebrews 11:1) are the objects of faith, immortality, eternal life, the crown of righteousness, the beatific vision. These things are subject to no time-limits, and endure through all the ages of God’s purposes. (see Plumtre below)
The ancient Celts believed “heaven and earth are three feet apart; in some “thin places” they are even closer.” Paul seems to allude to this in II Corinthians 4:17-18.
Unseen dimensions impinge upon our world, though we cannot see beyond our bodily senses. John opens up some of these dimensions of Reality in his presentation of Revelation. The great point John makes in this first verse is that God’s throne is at the center of all Reality—seen and unseen!
The next set of visions begin at Revelation 4:2
2 And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
“What must take place after this” refers back to Rev. 1:3 and 1:19 where the phrase appears to be equivalent to “for the time is near.” Both time references are from Daniel. We understand the “Last Days” as referring to the time period between the inauguration of the end by Christ’s death, resurrection. and ascension; and the consummation of it by his Second Coming in glory. (see Fee below). We live in between two days, so to speak.
For those of us who live between the inauguration of Christ’s Kingdom and the consummation of it, know God is on His throne and He is in control of everything in creation!
More next time!
Berkhof, Louis. (1996 ed.). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co. This book is free in pdf format at: https://downloads.biblicaltraining.org/Systematic%20Theology%20by%20Louis%20Berkhof.pdf
ESV. (2016). The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Pech, Gerald. (2018). “Jean-Marc Berthoud and Creation,” accessed 27 August 2019 from https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/jean-marc-berthoud-and-creation
Plumtre, E. H. (1905). II Corinthians in A Bible Commentary for English Readers, Acts—Galatians. London, GB: Cassell and Company, Ltd.
© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved