Previous: Revelation 4:1

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.- Revelation 4:2

The next feature of this vision takes place Immediately. This word is used only here in the Revelation. It denotes another aspect of the Rapture depicted in the previous verse. John's transfer to heaven was not a gradual ascent through the atmosphere as Jesus had experienced (Acts 1:9), but a sudden transfer from one place to another.

As mentioned before, John did not go up physically. Instead, since this is a prophecy of what will happen in the future, he said "I was in the Spirit." Being "in the Spirit" is a phrase that is used often in the Bible to indicate control by the Holy Spirit. It is a description of a believer who is "filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) or "walking in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16, 25). In this book of Revelation it depicts the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on what John saw (See the notes on Chapter 1, verse 5). In Revelation 17:3 and 21:10 John uses the expression "carried me away in the Spirit" to describe a transition from one place to another in the vision.

In keeping with the suddenness of the spiritual journey, John wrote, "and behold." One moment he was on earth, and the next instant he was in another place where he was gazing at a throne. A throne (Greek word thronos) is universally understood to be the official seat of a ruler (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; Revelation 20:4). The word is used frequently in Revelation to describe the place of power and judgment where God Himself reigns over the affairs of His universe.

The significance of the throne is the fact that, however chaotic things might appear on earth, God is still in control. Ray Stedman wrote:

You might be surprised to find that the throne is a central theme of the book of Revelation. Out of 22 chapters in the book, there are only five chapters in which the word "throne" does not appear. This fact impresses us with the truth that the government of God towers over all human events. (Ray Stedman, God's Final Word: Understanding Revelation; [Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 1991], 114-115.)

This throne is set in heaven. The Greek word ourano is almost always translated "heaven," but it has various meanings in the Bible, just as it does in our normal conversation.

Paul spoke of being caught up to the "third heaven."

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago-whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows-such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man-whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows- how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. - 2 Corinthians 12:2-4

The first heaven would naturally be the atmospheric layer around the planet, where clouds form and birds fly. It is described in the Creation account this way:

Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day. - Genesis 1:6-8

The second heaven would be the physical universe. This is also mentioned in the record of Creation:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. - Genesis 1:1

The universe is called "heaven" or "the heavens" throughout the Bible. At the end of the Revelation it is said that God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1).

The third heaven is the place where God dwells. Theologians debate whether it is a material or spiritual/ immaterial place. Some consider it an "other-dimensional" realm beyond the mere three-dimensional universe that we perceive. Physicists and mathematicians say that there are other dimensions. God said this about Himself:

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:9

And the Apostle Paul wrote:

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. - Colossians 1:16

I recommend Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven, and his section on the "intermediate Heaven," where he explains that when a true Christian dies, it is like falling asleep in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:14). "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). (Randy Alcorn, Heaven [Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004], 41-73.) Jesus told the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43. See the notes on Paradise in Chapter 2, verse 7).

When Paul (or an associate of his) was "caught up to the third heaven," which he called "Paradise," he could not tell whether he was in the body or out of the body (2 Corinthians 12:3).

Paradise is a place of blessing in the presence of the Lord, but it is not our final destination. In that wonderful environment we will wait for the return of Christ, when we will experience our bodily resurrection, and will later inhabit the new heavens and a new earth-a joining of heaven and earth (Revelation 21 and 22). (ibid.)

There is also an intermediate hell. This reality is illustrated by Jesus' story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:22-31).

We will gain more insight about this intermediate Heaven when we study the Fifth Seal in Revelation 6.

One sat on the throne. The God of the Bible is revealed to be a Trinity - One God in three Persons (Matthew 28:19; Mark 12:36; Luke 3:21-23; John 1:1; 5:18; 8:58; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 2:1-2, 9-11; 2:1; Revelation 22:3). This belief was recognized by the Church Fathers (The Nicene Council, 325 AD) and orthodox theologians throughout the history of Christian thought.

The Father is the One who occupies this throne.

The Son is said to be at the "right hand of the Father" (Matthew 26:64; Mark 16:19; Luke 20:42; 22:69; Acts 2:33; Acts 7:55-56; Revelation 12:5).

The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to fill and empower believers (John 14:25; 15:26; 20:22; Acts 1:4-8; 2:33, 38; 13:4).

Next: Revelation 4:3


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