The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 27

The Emerald Rainbow

Revelation 4:1.    After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

     This is a critically important verse in Revelation.  It begins and ends with the same words in the original, “after these things,” which ties it back rigidly to the third component in the prophetic outline set out by the Lord in Revelation 1:19.  “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (i.e., “after these things”).  At this point, the Lord proceeds to show John the things which shall be after these things, that is, after the things associated with the churches, as described in Chapters 2 and 3 – “the things which are.”  It would seem obvious that the events beginning at this point must occur after Christ’s dealings with His churches on the earth have been completed, and He is now turning His attention to other urgent matters as far as the earth is concerned.  Correspondingly, there is no mention at all made of churches in all the great happenings outlined in the next eighteen chapters.

     What, then, has happened to the churches?  The answer is evident.  Some, like Ephesus, have had their candlestick removed (Revelation 2:5), and are no longer true churches, if they exist at all.  Some, like Thyatira, will have been “cast into . . . great tribulation” (Revelation 2:22) because of their wickedness, which demonstrated that they had never known Christ at all and had knowingly followed false teaching.  But others, like Philadelphia, had been graciously kept by their Lord “from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).

     But how could this be accomplished?  The answer is clearly given in John’s experience at this point.  The purpose of the Book of Revelation was to show (not merely to tell) these great events of the future, and this was to be done through signifying (that is, miraculously demonstrating) it through John (Revelation 1:1), who actually saw (Revelation 1:2) all these events first hand.  He was there!  This was not a dream, or even a vision, but the real thing.

     The Lord had promised the Philadelphians an open door, and had warned the Laodiceans He was knocking on their closed door.  Now He shows John the door opened in heaven and invites him to enter.  The voice was the same he had heard at first “as of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10).

     Other references relate the future coming of the Lord to the trumpet.  “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16).  “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

     The invitation accompanying the trumpet was to come up.  The door was in heaven and John was on earth, but the Lord had preceded him into heaven, and now he was to go up to meet Him there.  John had become, to all intents and purposes, one of those who would be alive when the Lord returns.  “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1Thessalonians 4:17).  “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3).

Revelation 4:2.    And immediately I was in the spirit: and behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

     After the trumpet-like voice cried out the invitation, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52), John was at the scene in heaven where all the great events to come would be taking place before his eyes.  Paul had similarly once been translated, “whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell” (2 Corinthians 12:3) to the “third heaven,” to “paradise,” but the things he saw were not permitted him to utter.

     Paul had been translated far out in space, but now John was translated in both space and time, to the throne of God and the end of the age, and what he saw he was commanded to utter.  Our present physical bodies are creatures of space and time, but God is the Creator of space and time as well as matter and can therefore control them all.  John was miraculously “in the spirit” for such a mighty miracle.  To all intents and purposes, he was a participant in the great “rapture” that will occur to the saints when Christ returns, and found himself instantaneously translated, as will they, up to the heavens.

     As a matter of fact, the particular heaven will be that of earth’s high atmosphere.  When Jesus ascended from earth, angels told His disciples that He would return “in like manner” (Acts 1:11).  At the end of this present age, He “will descend from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 4:16), but not at first all the way back to earth.  Both living and dead believers will be resurrected and glorified as they are caught up “to meet the Lord in the air” (1Thessalonians 4:17).  It seems that it was to this very scene that John was called.

     He saw, as shall we in that day, a beautiful throne “being set,” as the Greek implies, in the heavens near the earth.  The heavenly throne “far above all heavens” (Ephesians 4:10) had been itself translated swiftly through the cosmos to earth’s environs, for the time had finally come to “judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31).

     The throne John saw is quite possibly the same as “the judgment seat of Christ,” before which all Christians must appear (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).  Although the question of salvation is already settled for the believer, there are many Scriptures indicating that believers must be judged according to their works, either to receive rewards or suffer loss of rewards (Matthew 12:36; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Galatians 6:7; Colossians 3:24, 25; 2 Timothy 4:1-8; Revelation 22:12; etc.).  This judgment must have been completed prior to the millennium, because the believers will by then have been arrayed in white garments representing the “righteous acts” of the saints and given thrones of judgment reserved for “overcomers” during the millennium (Revelation 19:8; 20:4).  The judgments described in Revelation chapters 6-19 have to do with the earth and its Christ-rejecting inhabitants, and nothing is said concerning the judgment of believers in heaven for rewards.  Consequently, the latter can only have occurred immediately after the rapture and prior to the unleashing of the plagues on earth.

     The promises to the overcomers at the end of each of the seven letters to the churches are some of the rewards to the dispensed at the judgment seat of Christ, when “the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13).  Billions of believers will assemble before Him in the air, and the fiery eyes and flaming face of the glorified Son of man will instantly purge all dross from their lives and hearts.  Like John, we shall fall “at his feet as dead” (Revelation 1:13-17).  Then “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).  That in itself will be abundant reward. 

Revelation 4:3.    And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

     Whether or not this throne is the same as the “judgment seat of Christ,” it does appear that the scene at this point is subsequent to the purging of sins and dispensation of rewards that will take place at the judgment seat.  The prospect now is one of preparation for the judgments on the earth.  The triune God is on His throne, incapable of being seen or described in His fullness even by resurrected saints, “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see” (1 Timothy 6:16).  The  light emanating therefrom, however, can be seen, and John saw and described its ineffable beauty, with all the colors of the rainbow.

     In fact a beautiful rainbow, with the emerald green color dominating, completely encircled the throne.  The light from the divine presence on the throne, however, featured the two colors at the ends of the rainbow spectrum, red and violet.  The red, speaking to John perhaps of judgment and sacrifice, reminded John of the blood-red sardine stone (after which the city of Sardis had been named).  The purple, speaking possibly of divine royalty, was as the crystal-clear purple jasper stone (note Revelation 21:11).  The green of the rainbow was like the verdure clothing God’s terrestrial creation.  The whole panorama glorified God as Creator, as Sovereign, as Redeemer.

     The rainbow is very significant.  The Bible refers to it only on four occasions.  The first is in Genesis 9 (verses 13, 14, 16) when it was first established by God after the Flood and acknowledged by Him as a sign of the Noahic covenant made between God and “all flesh.”  This “everlasting covenant,” and the rainbow which betokens it, assures the world that God will never again send a world-destroying deluge.  Thus the rainbow speaks of God’s mercy toward mankind even in the midst of judgment.

     The second notice of the rainbow is found in Ezekiel 1:28, in Ezekiel’s vision of the glory of God.  In a scene much like that which John saw “in the spirit,” Ezekiel saw in a “vision” (Ezekiel 1:1) the throne of God, with the cherubim, and the rainbow.  “As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about.”

     The third occasion is in the Book of Revelation, here at 4:3 and again at 10:1.  Again it is associated with the very presence and character of God.  Evidently the rainbow perpetually surrounds the throne of God, or at least at such times (as in Ezekiel’s day, as in Noah’s day, and in John’s day)  when God’s judgments are being visited on the earth.  The rainbow, as it were, continually “reminds” God that there is a remnant of believers even in the midst of an ungodly culture ripe for judgment, and that He, as the “God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10) will “in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

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