Friday, May 6, 2011

Communicating through Symbols

Today's lesson arises out of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John. The Book of Revelation was written by the apostle John, the last surviving member of Jesus' original band of followers. He was imprisoned on the Roman penal island of Patmos during the persecution brought against the church around AD95. In Chapter 1 we are introduced to John and the things which John saw, that is, the vision of Christ as Judge of the churches. In Chapters 2 and 3 we see the things which are, that is, an outline of the Church Period from the death of the apostles to the time when Christ takes His saints to heaven. We will focus on Chapter 4, the things which will take place after this. For a full study of the things which will take place after this, please review Chapters 4-22.
"After this...Rev 4:1", that is, not only had John previously had a vision of Christ walking in the middle of seven golden candlesticks/lampstands, but he had previously received messages from Christ and delivered them to the seven churches. Now he is given an invitation to receive a vision of God's throne. John was ordered by Jesus to follow Him through a door that literally opened into the heavens. We can know nothing of the future until God is pleased to open the door. Then we must receive what is revealed and not pretend we already know the revelation. Jesus' voice was like a trumpet blast, as He ordered John to witness what must soon take place. John was called up into heaven's throne room.
To prepare for this vision, the apostle was in the Spirit and he immediately saw a throne set in heaven. This was the seat of honor, authority, and judgment. Heaven is the throne of God and all earthly thrones are under its jurisdiction. John saw the One who sat on the throne, the Almighty God. His countenance looked like jasper and a sardine-stone. The jasper stone is a transparent stone which offers to the eye a variety of vivid colors. The sardine-stone is a red stone. There was a rainbow around the throne, like unto an emerald. The rainbow, apparently a ring of green light like the emerald, was the seal and token of the the providence that God made with Noah and his posterity that God will keep His covenants, in spite of the coming judgments.
John also saw four and twenty seats filled with four and twenty elders who were clothed in white raiment (righteousness of the saints) and had crowns of gold (honor and authority from God) on top of their heads. Their sitting would imply their honor, rest, and satisfaction. They are sitting around the throne of God which would imply a relationship to Him. The fact that they are crowned and enthroned would suggest they are saints who have been judged and rewarded.
Now, while in the throne room, John beheld four strange creatures. They are difficult to identify. All we can say for certain is that they are created beings because they worship God. Each looked very much different from another, but they shared an interesting detail. Each was literally covered with eyes (Rev 4:6). Each of the creatures had six wings, which like the rest of their bodies were covered with eyes. Day and night they gave praises to the Almighty God (Rev 4:7-8). Simultaneously, as the four creatures gave God praise, the four and twenty elders fell prostrate on their faces and cast their crowns before the throne of God (Rev4:10). In ancient times, people would signal their subordination to a superior by taking off their headwear and casting it before the throne of a conquering king. In this case, the elders tossed their crowns before God, not once, but on a constant basis. They, too, sang praise to God.
The Lord God is worthy of glory and honor and power because He created all things, and by His will they exist. It is clear that the throne is one of judgment, with its terrifying lightnings, thunderings, and voices. When thunderings and lightnings and voices, the signs of terror in judgments, are issued from the throne, the throned elders remain unmoved. This is their place before God. They continue to praise Him.
The vision prepares us for what is to follow. God is seen as the Almighty Ruler of the universe sitting on the throne of His glory, surrounded by worshiping creatures, and about to send judgment on the earth. Herein lies the basis of true worship: it asks nothing but the opportunity to give God praise for His sake alone. True worship is focused on praise to God and imitates what is going on in heaven. True worship is not gospel entertainment.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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