Presently, I am involved in the study of chapter four of the Apocalypse. Previously I had determined John was called into the presence of God in Revelation 4:1, and specifically that meant to arise and come into the Most Holy Place of the Temple in heaven. Immediately upon hearing the voice say: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things” (NASB – Revelation 4:1), John was in the Spirit, and he saw One who sat on a throne (Revelation 4:2).
It is difficult to say whether or not John went anywhere during this vision. That is, one has to wonder if his body ever left Patmos (Revelation 1:9). I am reminded at this point of what Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthians about a man who saw a vision and was caught up to the third heaven:
Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. (2) I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a man was caught up to the third heaven. (3) And I know how such a man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows– (4) was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. (5) On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:1-5).
At first, I wondered, if Paul was writing about his own vision of the Lord, just outside of Damascus. However, after further consideration, I decided that couldn’t be so, because he says: he knew a man in Christ. Therefore, he cannot be speaking of himself nor of even of Christ in the vision he had in Acts 9. Moreover, the expression “whether in the body I don’t know, or out of the body I don’t know, God knows” certainly refers to someone other than Paul, because Paul knew he was thrown off his beast, and was aware of his own blindness after his vision. He would have known if he had an out of body experience. Paul’s spirit never left his body.
Furthermore, Paul mentions a period of time of fourteen years. Elsewhere the period of time of “fourteen years” points to Paul’s meeting with Peter, John and James, the Lord’s brother, at the time of the Jerusalem council (Galatians 2:1-9). Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was written from Philippi, while he journeyed to Jerusalem with his second gift to the poor from the gentile churches. This journey occurred cir. 55-56 AD. The Jerusalem council occurred in 49 AD, so the vision that Paul mentions in his second letter to the Corinthians had to have occurred during the reign of Herod Agrippa the Great, cir. 41-42 AD. The only Biblical person that fits Paul’s description of a man caught up to the third heaven was John, who wrote of that experience in the Apocalypse. If this logic is true, it was at this time (cir. 42 AD) that John was in the isle of Patmos, and there received his vision.
According to Revelation 4:2, immediately after he found himself in the Spirit, John saw a throne and someone sitting on that throne. The question at this point is, did John see the Father in this vision? I don’t believe that would have been possible, because no man has seen the Father except Jesus, the one who came out from the Father (John 6:46). In fact, it simply isn’t possible for anyone to see God—the Father, first of all, because he is too large and cannot even fit into the universe that he created (cf. 1Kings 8:27). Therefore, if the universe, itself, is too small to hold God, our Father, how could our eyes ever do so?
Secondly, Jesus, in his glorified state and being the only one who possesses immortality, dwells in the Light, “which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see” (1Timothy 6:16). Since “no man has seen nor can see” the Light (i.e. the Father), John could not have seen the Father in this vision. God is Light (1John 1:5), and Jesus dwells in that Light, and the only way we can see and know the Father is by looking at Jesus, who is God and has come out from the Father (cf. John 1:18; 14:7-9). Therefore, the only one John was able to see on the throne was Jesus.