After he was given messages for the seven churches in Asia, John received an invitation from Jesus to join him in the throne room of heaven. John said, “After this, I looked and saw a door standing open in heaven. The first voice I heard was like the loud sound of a horn. It said, ‘Come up here. I will show you what must happen after these things.'” (Revelation 4:1, NLV). “Some interpreters find the rapture of the church in this verse” (note on Revelation 4:1), but John made it clear that he did not physically go to heaven. He went to be with Jesus in some spiritual form. He said, “And immediately I was in the spirit: and behold a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:2).
John’s reference to the door of heaven standing open might indicate there was an open invitation and that anyone that wanted to could enter the throne room. If so, it seems likely that the timing of John’s visit was sometime before the rapture of the church because Jesus indicated in his parable of the ten virgins that when “the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage,” the door was shut (Matthew 25:10). Jesus went on to say, “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Matthew 25:11-13, NKJV). Based Jesus’ parable, it appears that at least while the marriage of the lamb is taking place (Revelation 19:7), access to heaven will be restricted.
The scene depicted in John’s visit to the throne room of heaven is similar to the prophetic visions of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 10:1-14) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-3) with the exception of the “twenty four elders, sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold” (Revelation 4:4). It is possible that these twenty four elders are “representative of either the whole company of believers in heaven or an exalted angelic order worshipping and serving God there” (note on Revelation 4:4), but more than likely, John was looking at a future state of the throne room because Jesus told John he was going to show him things that would happen later (Revelation 4:1).
The important thing to note about John’s visit to the throne room of heaven was the activity that was going on there. Four winged creatures never ceased to praise Jesus. They “speak of His shining-greatness and give honor and thanks to Him Who sits on His throne as King” (Revelation 4:9, NLV). In the midst of this continuous worship service, it says in Revelation 4:10, “the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created’” (Revelation 4:10-11, NKJV).
One of the things that John’s visit to the throne room of heaven might represent is the gathering and preparation that takes place in the bridegroom’s chamber or dressing room while he and his groomsmen wait for the wedding ceremony to begin. Jesus’ return to Earth is depicted as a bridegroom coming to meet his bride. It says in Matthew 25:5-6, “But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’” The Greek word translated was delayed, chronizo (khron-id’-zo) is derived from the word chronos (khron’-os) which means “a space of time” (G5550). Paul used the word chronos to refer to the time apportioned by God for his plan of salvation to be worked out (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, NKJV).
The Apostle John, like most Christians for the past 2000 years, was probably wondering why Jesus hadn’t returned to Earth as he promised he would. Jesus may have brought John to his throne room to show him he wasn’t just sitting idly by while the world went on without him. The casting of the elders crowns before Jesus’ throne might have been a signal that indicated it was time for the wedding ceremony to begin. The elders refrain, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11), somewhat like a drum roll, announced to everyone that the climatic moment they had all been waiting for had finally arrived.