– Gary Simmons
New Foundations Church
Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven…
Every fresh move forward in our lives with God is powered by a new and deeper revelation of Jesus Christ: His nature and character, his work within us, and who we are in Him. For instance, the statement that Simon Peter made to Jesus when questioned—“But who do you say that I am”—was that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father which is in heaven.” Simon was given a new name, Peter, which means a stone. And Jesus told him that on this rock He would build his church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. The rock did not refer to Peter (the word stone is completely different) but to the revelation that Peter received.
The word for revelation literally means an unveiling—the lifting of the lid—to show something that had previously been hidden. Once revealed, and Jesus Christ has been shown to us in a new aspect, we wonder that we had never seen Him in that way before! But there is always preparation and timing for the things that God shows us. To return to the example, when Peter made his revelatory declaration, the disciples had walked with Jesus for over three years, and there remained only a few weeks before Jesus went to the cross to fulfill the law and bring the age of the law and the prophets to a dynamic finish. This understanding did not come easily.
As you can see, this article is about The Revelation of Jesus Christ, and I believe it’s critical in this time that we have a deeper understanding of the book. Many that claim insight make it something of an eschatological obstacle course, in which the closing events of the ages are made clear. It’s true that there will be a final consummation of all those things which are written. But it’s also clear that the book is about much more than that. It is the unveiling of who Jesus Christ is, and who He is in His people. The very words used to introduce the book should tell us something: “things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev 1:1), and “the time is at hand” (Rev 1:3). This book was written almost 2,000 years ago, and it was valuable to the men and women who read it then, even though the age was yet young; how much more so could it be critical to us who are experiencing, as I believe, events that belong to the closing of the age. And it is a book with a promise and a warning, which we ignore at our peril. The promise, from Revelation 1:3, is “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” And the warning, from Revelation 21:18-19, is “I testify unto every man that hearth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plaques that are written in this book; And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” I leave it to you to interpret both the promise and the admonition, but do not take them lightly
Let’s look at the text in 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 show thee things which must be hereafter.” There was an “after this,” which meant that something preceded and prepared for it: a “this.” We can look at this as a “present truth” which is taking place on both a corporate and individual level. Whether we consider the body of Christ or the individual believer, He is always getting us ready for a deeper revelation of Himself.
The present truth in the body of Christ.
John, on the Isle of Patmos, received a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ: He is the voice of many waters, His visage is both wonderful and terrible, and He is walking among the candlesticks, which are revealed as the seven churches. We know that seven refers to completion, and so we are made aware that this is a revelation to the entire body of Christ.
John had seen Jesus in many forms: he knew Him as He preached and performed miracles; he saw Him in glorified state on the transfiguration mount; he laid his head on Jesus’ breast during the last supper; he witnessed the agonies in Gethsemane; he watched in horror as Jesus was betrayed, scourged, mocked, crucified, and entombed; he saw the empty tomb, and, shortly after, Jesus in His resurrected state, passing through closed doors, eating fish like a man, and displaying His eternal wounds; he viewed His ascension to heaven. He wrote: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.” (1 Jn 1:1)
And yet, despite this extensive experience, John was unprepared for what he saw as described in Revelation 1. There he saw the One who walks among the candlesticks and sets His church in order. John fell at his feet as dead, and needed comfort and reassurance: “fear not.” He faithfully recorded, no doubt with trembling, the messages to the churches (in Revelation 2 and 3): with their praises, their warnings, and the terrible statement to each assembly: “I know your works.”
We are living in a time when Christ is walking among the candlesticks and setting his church in order. This will not last indefinitely. When all “this” is finished and the church functions to His satisfaction, we can move to the “after this” described in Revelation 4: the very throne room of God will be opened, and the church will be shown things which must be hereafter. These things will include fresh understanding of worship and prayer, and a deeper revelation of the Lamb of God as the one worthy to open and to fulfill the book of judgment for this age. I leave it to you to read and see the Lamb in all the events which take place after this point, and especially to note that there are those who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes, and they overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony until they love not their lives unto the death.” (Rev. 12:11) In the midst of the terrible judgments that will take place on the earth, God’s people will know the Lamb of God in a new way, and He will be their refuge.
The present truth in our individual lives.
We are, each of us, called to an ongoing revelation of who Jesus is in our lives, and what we are becoming because of Him. We all have a general calling to be “conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29) God will move heaven and earth to ensure that this happens, and if He spared not his own Son, how will He not freely give us all things? And this is by revelation to us; most believers do not see themselves as suffering in order that glory can be revealed in us. God’s plan is not just to have sons, but to manifest them to a creation which is desperately in need, and this requires a great preparation.
Each one of us also has a specific calling in the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4 makes reference to, “the whole body being joined together by that which every joint supplies according to the effectual working in each part.” The believer’s place and function in the body is also by revelation: first to the person, then through the person. Peter received understanding about himself when he received the revelation of who Jesus is—after more than three years of following Him. John was told in Revelation 10 that he would prophesy again before nations and kings. In both cases, there was an extensive “this” that took place before the “after this” which was to come.
If you’re reading this article, you’re going through your own “this,” and you may be wondering if you will ever get through it. Don’t be discouraged. The only purpose of “this” is so there can be something precious that can be revealed “after.” God is dealing with you as a son, making full preparation for what He wants to do in you and through you. He won’t cut the process short—a great preparation is needed—but He does have an end in store, and a door into the next, and higher, revelation of who Jesus Christ is.