January 30, 2011
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
We have come to third part of the book of Revelation, the part of the book that reveals the events that will begin to transpire after the close of the Church Age and on into eternity. John was shown these events while he was imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos, an island that today is a tourist attraction located at the southeast coast of the Aegean Sea. It was no luscious island resort when John was there in approximately 96 A.D. He was there for no greater crime than preaching the Word of God. [See Rev. 1:9]
John was taken in the Spirit and shown prophetically everything from his day, through the entirety of the Church Age, to the resurrection or rapture of the Church, the rise of the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation, the battle of Armageddon, the Kingdom Age, and the Perfect Age to come. In the Spirit he saw all of these things. I don’t understand all of this fully, only that it would seem that the Spirit realm is not affected by the encumbrance of time and space, and that realm also seems to operate on entirely different laws of physics than the natural realm. Suffice it to say that John saw these things and wrote down the things that he saw. This revelation that John received of course became the book we are investigating at present.
In Revelation 4 we see John being summoned to come up through a door or literally portal [Gr. thura] that had opened in Heaven where he would be shown the things that must be hereafter.This would be things to come to pass after the Church Age, and beyond on into eternity. There is a change of scenes if you will, as we are now looking by way of the revelation John received into the very Throne Room of Heaven. We see one sitting on the Throne, and this being is described for us in verse 3. What a sight this must have been! Next John speaks of twenty-four lesser thrones situated around the Throne, seated upon them are twenty-four elders, representative of the heads of the Church of the Old Testament (12 Patriarchs) and the New Testament (12 Apostles). In other words, the entire Church is pictured around the Throne in Heaven. The Church is no longer on the earth after chapter 4.
As we stated last time, there should not have been a chapter break after chapter 4, as both chapters 4 and 5 occur in Heaven around the Throne, and are in reality one event. As we come to Revelation 5:1 we read, And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.[Rev. 5:1 ] The Greek here literally reads, “lying uponthe right hand…”. This would not have been a book, as we understand such today, but rather a scroll. The right hand of the Father was open, implying no reluctance on His part to reveal its contents. The only hindrance to revealing the scroll’s contents is seen in verse 3, And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. [Rev. 5:3KJV] This caused John great sorrow as we read in the next verse. “And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.” [Rev. 5:4 KJV] What exactly is this scroll?
If it was similar to other scrolls in John’s day it would have been made of eight-by-ten sheets of papyrus, which were connected horizontally and wound around a wooden handle. Due to the course back of the papyrus, the three inch wide columns of writing were penned on only the smooth side. Here, however, we see a scroll written on both sides and sealed with seven seals, which seems strange until one looks at Jewish history. Within Jewish history we see numerous examples of a certain kind of document with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals: a tile deed to a piece of property.
Initially, a title deed would be written on only the smooth side and sealed with a single seal [See Jer. 32:6 – 29]. If the owner however became unable to meet his financial obligations, he would have to relinquish the title deed, upon the backside of which would be written his debts and upon which would have been placed, you guessed it, seven seals. If at any time during the ensuing seven years he could pay off his debts, the seals would be broken and the title deed returned. All of this explains what is in (literally on) the hand of the one who sits on the throne. It is the title deed to planet earth. The title deed to earth was originally given to Adam in the Garden of Eden when God told him to subdue the earth [See Gen. 1:28].
But Adam forfeited his right to ownership of the earth when he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This point is important to understand. You see, although Eve was tricked into eating the forbidden fruit, Adam’s was an overt, calculated act of rebellion, which is why scripture speaks of Adam’s sin as that which transferred to Satan the title deed of our planet [See Rom. 5:14]. This also explains why Paul called Satan the “god of this world” [See 2 Cor. 4:4], and why Jesus referred to him as the “prince of this world” [See John 12:31]. You see, when people blame God for all of the misery and pain, sickness and disease in the world today; they are really blaming the wrong person. It was man who turned the planet over to Satan. The planet God gave man was perfect. When manned sinned and turned the planet lock, stock, and barrel over to Satan, sin began to reign and the entire creation was placed under the curse, where it has remained now for almost six thousand years.
We can certainly understand why John was so distraught. No man, no one anywhere in any place at any time, was found worthy to open the seals and to reveal the contents of the scroll. The Greek text indicates that John was crying with convulsive sobs. It is at this point that one of the elders steps forward to comfort John with some truly wonderful news! “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. [Vs. 5] We should note that the Messiah is given two titles here. These titles are never given by accident, but are given to convey a part of His nature. First we see, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Humanly speaking, Jesus sprang from the Tribe of Judah as His genealogy proves. [See Matt. 1:2, 3; Luke 3:23] There is an allusion here to Genesis 49:9, Judah is a Lion’s whelp; the lion was the symbol of his tribe, and was supposed to be embroidered on its ensigns.
In the second place He is, the Root of Jesse [See Isa. 11:1]. In these two titles then we see both the humanity, as well as the divinity of Christ. This “Lion of the Tribe of Judah”, this, “Root of David”; has prevailed. “Prevailed” is, nikao in the Greek, has “prevailed” or “conquered.” He has conquered by virtue of His finished work on the Cross and subsequent resurrection from the dead. This makes Him and Him alone worthy to break the seals and reveal the contents of the scroll. The price Jesus paid for you and me on the Cross not only redeemed mankind back to God, but also delivered from Satan’s clutches the earth itself! God is repossessing the earth. Jesus is Coming to right every wrong, to make straight that which is crooked, to set upright that which is toppled over, He is Coming to rule and to reign!
Before he does this He will return in the clouds to receive His Church unto Himself. This event in most evangelical circles is known as the rapture. It is a real “hot button” topic it seems today. If one believes in the rapture in many sectors of the Church he or she is labeled a “deceiver”, a “false prophet”, or worse. There are those who object to the word, rapture, because they say it is not in the Bible. To that let me respond that the word is not in the English Bible, that much is true. Before I address the word however let me quickly point out that the word, rapture, does in fact describe a definite Bible experience that every Christian will indeed experience. We can and may argue the timing of the event, but we cannot rightly argue the event itself. The revelation of the rapture was given primarily to the Apostle Paul. You therefore cannot rightly reach back into the Old Testament to either try to prove or disprove the rapture. We see types and shadows of the rapture in the Old Testament, namely Enoch, Noah and his family in the Ark, Lot and his family being removed prior to judgment falling, and Elijah being caught up into heaven in a fiery chariot. However, it is not revealed in the sense of doctrine under the Old Testament.
By the same token, the rapture is not revealed in the Gospels in the teachings of Jesus. We see our Lord saying, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. [John 14:1 – 3 KJV emphasis mine] This is really the language associated with the Jewish wedding and the beginning of the betrothal period, which is another teaching altogether. Even though we have the promise of His Coming here in the 14th chapter of John, we don’t see the detail as to the method or means of His Coming for His Church. My preterist and post-tribulation friends who look to the Olivet Discourse, the teaching of Jesus recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 to teach that prophetic events are either already fulfilled in the events of history, or that Christ will not return until after the Tribulation, are either unaware of the aspect of progressive revelation in scripture, or are simply ignorant as to how to rightly divide the Word.
It is to the Apostle Paul that the Lord Himself revealed the doctrine of the Second Coming being comprised of two phases. One could call these two phases: 1) The rapture, or resurrection – For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. [1 Thess. 4:16, 17 KJV] 2) The revealing – Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him. [2 Thess. 2:1 KJV] We see also in great detail the method and the order of the resurrection of the saints in Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15.
What about the word, rapture? The Greek word translated, shall be caught up in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is, harpazo; variously translated as, “to strip, to spoil, snatch, literally to seize upon with force; to rob; differing from klepto, to steal secretly.” [Lexical Aids to the New Testament by Spiros Zodihates] Dr. Zodihates continues, “Especially used of a rapture [Acts 8:39, 2 Cor. 12:2, 4; 1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 12:5] The Greek harpazo describes a catching away or a rapture. Kenneth Wuest, who was without a doubt one of the greatest Greek scholars of the 20th Century translated 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “Shall descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ shall be raised first, then as for us who are living and who are left behind, together with them we shall be snatched away forcibly in [masses of saints having the appearance of] clouds for a welcome meeting with the Lord in the lower atmosphere.” [The New Testament an Expanded Translation by Dr. Kenneth Wuest]
Without a doubt then the word, rapture certainly describes the Bible experience that all believers living or dead shall experience. The word however from which we get the word, rapture while not appearing in the English translation, does appear in at least one foreign language translation, at least in its root form. In the late 3rd, early 4th century when Jerome was in a cave in Bethlehem translating the Greek New Testament into Latin; when he came across the word, harpazo he chose the closest Latin word equivalent that he could, and that was the word, rapere. Of course transliterated this becomes rapture. If after that we have shared you still don’t feel comfortable using the word rapture, then use resurrection, because they are one in the same.
Next time we will come over to the sixth chapter and will be introduced to the infamous, “Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse.” We will examine each rider and what they symbolize concerning events that are being prepared even now.
The Weekly Word is found in Revelation 6:1. Here the Bible says,
And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. [Rev. 6:1 KJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson