“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1, NIV).
Meta tauta is Greek for “After this” and is repeated twice in Revelation 4:1.
If the letters to the seven churches in Chapters 2-3 are indicative of the the Church Age, then meta tauta possibly refers to what occurs after the Church Age. The first meta tauta seems to mean “after having seen the previous visions” while the second meta tauta seems to mean “after the fulfillment of the previous visions.” Some interpret “Come up here” and this second meta tauta to refer to the rapture of the Church.
But, it is important not to force the book of Revelation into a literal, historical interpretive grid by overlaying the events of our day into the details of this ancient apocalyptic book. Revelation is not meant to be a primer on how and when the Apocalypse will occur but is better interpreted through the framework of the redemptive plan of God at work in human events.
What John sees in Chapters 4 and 5 provides a context for the apocalyptic events of Chapters 6-20. John received a sneak-peek into the celestial control room. The door into the heavenly sanctuary and the throne room of God was left open for John to peer in. What John saw in the heavenly sanctuary was akin to what some of his prophetic predecessors experienced and observed (see, Isaiah 6:1-5 and Ezekiel 1).
In his vision John saw the throne of God with someone sitting on it shining like diamonds and rubies and encircled with an emerald rainbow. Surrounding God’s throne were twenty-four other thrones with elders seated on them. Additionally, there were four living creatures positioned around the throne–one with the form of a lion, one like an ox, one with the face of a man and one like an eagle. Each of the living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes.
The elders and the living creatures were worshiping God. The four living creatures continuously proclaimed God’s holiness. In response to the worship of the living creatures the twenty-four elders fell down before God’s throne and laid their crowns at the foot of the throne.
While there are numerous interpretations of who the twenty-four elders are, certainly they represent the redeemed people of God–of this present Church Age and possibly of all time. The living creatures seem to be an exalted order of angelic being that represent the whole of the created order of living creatures (human beings, domesticated animals, wild beasts, and birds). The preponderance of eyes on the four living creatures symbolizes their watchfulness and knowledge over the affairs of creation in all (four) directions.
What’s palpable about the living creatures and the elders is their constant worship of God. The living creatures perpetually proclaim: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (vs. 8). This worship proclamation is an expansion of the divine name of God in Exodus 3:14-15, “I am who I am.”
While the living creatures affirm God’s creative accomplishments with their worship, the elders affirm God’s redemptive accomplishments with their worship. Taken together, they honor God for His greatest feat, the redemption of human beings and consequently the redemption of His creation!
Now, consider what John saw taking place in God’s throne room in the context of what the Apostle Paul declared in Romans 8: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:18-21, NIV).
Our redemption is the grand master plan of the universe. The physical universe is not destined for annihilation but for renewal! In the new heavens and the new earth that are revealed at the climactic conclusion of John’s revelation, living things will no longer be subject to death and decay.
What a magnificent and glorious plan! It is a plan–and Planner–worthy of our eternal worship and praise!
So, how do we apply John’s apocalyptic vision of the heavenly sanctuary to our daily lives on this earth?
Since God is infinitely worthy of our constant worship, crown-casting should not be a one-time event reserved for when we get to heaven and bow down at the throne of God! It is also our earthly response to the One who has redeemed us!
Let us daily lay our crowns–that is, our achievements, our successes, our triumphs, our accomplishments, and yes, even our undeserved salvation–before the throne of God in submission to the One who has forever redeemed us. Because, in so doing we recognize that He is our sovereign enabler, our daily source of strength and power, and the One to whom we owe everything now and in the world to come.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. (Revelation 21:1, NIV)