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Revelation 4:1-6 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:46 mins 54 secs

Rapture; Evil; Throne of Justice

 

There are many people who go through life and face many different kinds of problems and adversity. Sometimes they are faced again and again with personal injustices. Beyond that, as we watch the evening news we are acquainted with vast amounts of injustice, suffering, war, famine and disease throughout the world. Often people question and wonder how God can allow these things to take place. Is there no justice in God? It appears that the unjust and the unrighteous seem to go on and one without any justice, without any retribution. Where is God? This view is often reflected by the psalmist who says, "O Lord, how long will the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?" Revelation gives us God's final answer on that question.

 

Revelation 4:1 NASB "After these things I looked, and behold, a door {standing} open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like {the sound} of a trumpet speaking with me, said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.'" This introduces us to the next section of the book which extends from chapter four through the end of the book of Revelation. Here we see the beginning of God's revelation to John of the final judgments in human history, and that these final judgments are written on a scroll which is sealed with seven seals. And it can only be opened by one who is uniquely qualified. The opening of the scroll brings with it the final series of judgments on human history and on planet earth, judgments which will end up destroying the usurp of Satan and establishing Jesus Christ as the rightful ruler and King on planet earth.

 

In chapters four and five we see the presentation of that scroll. Chapter four presents us the scene in heaven. It is important for us to understand as we come to the end of human history, and as God reveals it to us, He doesn't start with human events. He doesn't start with what is happening within human history, he starts with God. He starts with this vision of God upon His throne in heaven. It is a picture of the supreme judge of all the earth sitting upon His judicial throne about enact His justice on human history and planet earth. Chapter four pictures that throne and what is going on around the throne, and it is a picture designed to focus our attention upon the majesty, the holiness and the righteousness of God as the ultimate judge of all the earth. Chapter five then focuses on this scroll that appears. It is not mentioned until 5:1 and then the question comes as to who is qualified to open it, who is qualified to break the seals. That focuses our attention on the Lord Jesus Christ, for only the Lamb of God who has purchased us, who has paid the redemption price, is qualified be the judge, to bring that judgment into human history, to bring final judgment on the human race and to establish His kingdom. So in chapter four we see the presentation of the throne of God and in chapter five the presentation of the one who is qualified to open the scroll.

 

In 4:1 we see that John is brought into heaven through some form of vision or prophetic transformation. He is brought into the very throne room of God, into the heaven of heavens. There he sees and describes for us what is going on in the heavenly during the end times. This period that we are coming into is a period that is first described back in Revelation 1:19 where the Lord Jesus Christ commissions John to write the things "which you have seen" (Chapter one), the things which are (Chapters two and three), and the things that will take place after this (Chapters four onwards).

 

Some time subsequent to the Rapture there will be a period on the earth known as the Tribulation. It begins with the signing of a peace treaty between the Antichrist (the prince who is to come in Daniel 9) and the nation Israel. Sometime in this intervening period there is the judgment seat of Christ that takes place. At the end of the Tribulation period there is the marriage of the Lamb and the bride of Christ, the present church age believers. The Second Coming culminates in another judgment, the judgment of the Tribulation believers and unbelievers, and this inaugurates in the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ. This ends with another judgment, the great white throne judgment, and then the present heavens and earth destroyed and new heavens and new earth are established. After the great white throne judgment all unbelievers are consigned to the lake of fire, along with all fallen angels.

 

In Revelation 4:1 the door open in heaven is often understood to be the symbol of what happens at the Rapture. The church is taken to heaven as John is taken to heaven. He hears the voice like a trumpet and the shout that occurs at the Rapture: 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.' Then in verse 2 he says: "Immediately I was in the Spirit…" Because of the construction here the normal use of EN [e)n] plus the dative in the Greek, which usually means "by means of the Spirit," doesn't mean that. Because it is conjoined with the to be verb it is the idea of location and it is the same phrase used in chapter one when he talks about being in the Spirit on the isle of Patmos. It is not the filling by means of the Spirit, this is a revelatory state. "…and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne." This is a picture of a majestic throne in heaven. Whenever the throne is mentioned throughout the book of Revelation the emphasis is on God the Father, not the Son. The Father's throne is the throne of judgment in Revelation, where He enacts His judicial decrees and brings justice to a culmination. The way it is designed is that God focuses us not on what is going on on earth primarily, but that what will happen on earth is the outworking of God's justice as He is finally bringing together in human history a judgment of evil and injustice and sin. That is what the book of Revelation describes.

 

There are numerous people who have problems with the whole idea of evil. They stumble over this, and sometimes we stumble over it as Christians because we go through situations where somebody betrays us, or we are abused, or we lose a job, or we lose a loved one, or we go through a war and we lose a limb. We are aware of all the suffering in history and we wonder how in the world can a loving, just God allow all of this horror, evil, and suffering to take place. Many people become entrapped by this particular question. So we have to be able to address this particular question, not only in our own soul but also in terms of other people, especially unbelievers, who may address this. Often the question is asked: How can a loving God allow war, child abuse, the death of innocents, famine, the holocaust, Joseph Stalin's mass murder of millions? Whenever we ask this question we have to stop and think through the character of God, and that is what Revelation does; it starts with God's character. This is what is emphasized when we look at Him upon His throne in chapter four. Our attention starts with the character of God, who He is, before we look at what He is going to do.

 

The underlying question as we will hear it is, if God is truly a loving God and absolute good, how can He allow evil? Sometimes the question is put: If the Christian God is omnipotent, just and loving, and evil exists, either God is loving but is neither just nor powerful enough to stop it, or He is powerful enough to stop it but He is not loving or just.

 

We are often challenged with, how can you explain evil in the world? There are only three possible answers to the existence of evil in the world.

 

The first answer is that evil is random, normal, and is uncontrolled and there is no God. This is the position that comes out of evolutionary thought, secular humanism, postmodernism; all these systems buy into some form of Darwinism, there's really no God out there is atheism, we just have these events and suffering on earth and it is all just random and out of control. So we respond to the challenge: So you believe in Darwinism, in the survival of the fittest? Well how do you get survival? There has to be the threat of death, extinction and suffering to get survival, you have to survive something. So from the very beginning you have evil, suffering and death as part of your system! Right? In Darwinism you can't call it evil because without it there is no evolution. They can't call suffering and death evil because without suffering and death there is no survival of the fittest, without the survival of the fittest there is no progression, without progression there is no evolution. So for them, suffering and death and struggle is necessary and normal for the process. They can't call it evil within their system.

 

The second position is that evil really doesn't exist. Not too many people hold this position today, but there are people down through history who have. That was part of Platonism, part of Mary Baker Eddy's position in Christian Science—ultimate reality is out here in the realm of the ideal and what we experience on earth is not really real. That played it out in Gnosticism in the ancient world, in elements of the New Age movement, mind science cults, and various derivatives of that.

 

The Christian position is that evil exists but it is not normal, not random, and not uncontrolled; that there is a higher good, that God is allowing evil to exist for a long period of time in order to accomplish His ends. From this we see that evil either originated from God or His creatures. Scripture teaches that it originated with His creatures. He created the angels first and then man, He gave them free will or volition, and Lucifer is the one who chose to disobey God, bringing sin and evil into the angelic realm, and then in humanity it was Adam's decision  to disobey God, brining sin into the human race. So evil came into creation, according to Christianity, through the abuse of freedom and responsibility. Therefore it is not normal, it is abnormal.

 

The unintended consequence of that disobedience brought about all of this evil and suffering. Satan really wanted to do good, he just wanted to be like God; but it brought all kinds of calamity. Adam wanted to be like God, so he ate that fruit. So all of the death and suffering and disease is the unintended consequence of that disobedience.

 

God allows evil and suffering to go on as long as He allows His creatures to exercise free will and to choose sin. In other words, to stop sin and evil God has to stop free will, to stop human responsibility and shut it all down. So as long as God continues to give His creatures the freedom to be disobedient there will be evil and injustice and suffering in human history. However, what the Bible teaches is that they don't get away Scott free. We may not see the justice, the retribution, in time but it will be judged. It began with the cross when Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin, known as redemption. 1 Peter 1:18 NASB "knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, {the blood} of Christ."

The second issue is the resolution of God's character because to be a just God, God has to have the penalty paid. This happened on the cross, 1 John 2:2 where the word "propitiation" relates to the satisfaction of divine justice. So on the one hand in the manward direction Christ paid the penalty for sin, and in the Godward direction the justice of God is satisfied by the payment of the Lamb. Romans 3:24 NASB "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. {This was} to demonstrate His righteousness…" What the Bible is portraying here is that for God to enact His justice and to ultimately defeat and judge sin and evil, it started at the cross where God demonstrated His righteousness, and justice and righteousness are satisfied by the death of Christ on the cross, it is the redemption price of the death of the Lamb that pays the price. The Lamb had to come as a human being in order to be a creature who would pass the same tests that the creature Lucifer failed and the creature Adam failed. He would then be able to die for the whole human race because He was incarnate as a human being, and therefore that would qualify Him to go to the cross where he would pay the redemption price, satisfying the justice of God, and then God would ultimately bring Him back to the earth now that He was qualified to bring judgment and justice on this whole evil situation. That is the setup for Revelation 4 & 5, because we are in the throne of God, we are before the bar of the Supreme Court of heaven, and we are going to see His righteousness and His justice now displayed, and there is no one in all of creation qualified to open the seals to end the problem of sin injustice, suffering and evil, other than the Lamb of God who is qualified because he has redeemed us by His death. That is why we see the creatures in heaven, the angels, the four living beasts, the 24 elders, bowing down and singing praise to the Lamb, because as we see in Revelation chapter five it is the Lamb who is worthy to take the scroll, open its seals, because He was slain and has redeemed us to God, and He is going to make us kings and priests to God and we shall reign on the earth. This is the conclusion to the whole problem of sin and evil.   

Illustrations