After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And 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.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.
The phrase “after these things” – meta tauta in Greek – signals the third section of the Revelation, as the outline was given in Revelation 1:19. The scene has changed, not only in location – John is in heaven – but clearly also in time – “after.” An era has ended and a new one has begun. What is the meaning attached to these words?
A Vision of the Future Day of His Death? There are some scholars who take it as a description of John’s future passing in death. That the day would come when he, the oldest and longest living of the apostles, would die, and what would happen then? From chapter 4 on until chapter 19 the Revelation is a description of future historical events, the rising and falling of worldly powers, the attacks against the Church, the downfall of worldly and Satanic rule, and the final triumphant return of Christ.
In this view the verses above depict the death of John, and the experience of a Christian in death. Rather than all blackness, a door is standing open in heaven, and a voice with authority blasts like a trumpet, “Come up here!” The believer is then ushered into the throne room of God, and overwhelming image of glory, authority, power, purpose, and of clarity of knowledge. The rest of the book is a ministry to the soul of John that assures Him of the ultimate victory of Christ over all that opposes Him.
I do not believe that this is the best interpretation of this passage, by the way, yet even though a passage may have only one interpretation it may have many applications. And as an application of a Christian’s death and entrance into heaven, I believe the passage speaks to this future event in our lives for believers. I believe what John experienced in vision each Christian will experience personally. There will come a time when our bodies die and they are here no more, and after these things, after these earthly cares and concerns are over for us, we shall enter into the glory of the Lord.
There in heaven will be God, and there our understanding will be made complete. We will be made to see the true power of evil, and especially the true and overwhelming victorious power of God. Evil will be defeated. Christ shall be victorious. And we will be brought into knowledge that will equip us mentally and spiritually for eternity.
What a moment that will be for us all, when we leave this world, this “valley of tears” sometimes called this “vale of tears” from Psalm 84:6. Whatever sickness, suffering, trials, heartbreak, and pain we experience in death, heaven will be so much more glorious that we will be overwhelmed with the power, glory, and grace of God. Our souls do not enter into some vast holding tank where we are unaware of future events, rather we see fully the plan of God and the way He will accomplish His plan for the ages.
But, though this is an application of the passage, I do not believe this is the full meaning of the passage. The chief problem with this interpretation is that it then leaves The Revelation open to subjective and random interpretations, a free-wheeling and irresponsible treatment of the book. One scholar says a figure represents one emperor and another scholar says, no it is a different emperor, or not an emperor at all.
There is the transition of the human soul from earth to heaven described here but it is not just John’s, I believe. Though it is picturesque of every Christian’s death in someway, it is more than just that. It is not just the picture of what will happen at the end of the apostolic age or the end of the life of John. I believe the passage is a description of something more profound and widespread, that event in history known as “The Rapture” of the Church.
A Vision of the Rapture of the Church? I see this as representing the end of an era, the end of a time when the church will be removed from the earth in mass. The seven churches of Asia in chapters two and three represent more than just the churches of John’s day and represent all of the churches in the history of the church. This means that from chapter 4 onward, the Revelation depicts the last seven years of world history prior to the Return of Christ.
God promised to the church at Philadelphia, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those on the earth” (Rev. 3:10). He also said that the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist, will not rise to power until “the one who now restrains” is “taken out of the way” (2 Thes. 2:7). I am of that group of Bible students who believe the best interpretation of this is that the Church of Jesus Christ has influence in the world and resists the rising of the Antichrist to power through their influence, even if they are aware of how they do this. When the worldwide Church is miraculously and suddenly removed, then the resulting chaos will allow the rise in power of the Antichrist.
Tomorrow we will examine the prophetic passages that bring these matters together.