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Revelation: Chapter 4 – Visions of Heaven

 

Have you ever wondered why we feel compelled to try and interpret Revelation and each sign in such distinct and minute detail? The answer to that lies in the mystique that has enveloped the letter over the centuries. It is simply the most uniformly misunderstood book in the scriptures. This is in part due to the attempts to locate various dates, ideologies and doctrines within its signs and symbols.

If we begin the study of the visions that unfold from the book with the idea that what we are about to read is not so much to be interpreted as it is to be “seen” we will have a much easier time with the symbols and interpretations. It is the revealing of the prophecy presented in Daniel 7 through 12 – now to be opened and soon completed. And we can relate the two together and dispel some myths and impossible theories by doing so.

As this is a series of visions, it is to be visually constructed within the mind and before the intellect. We need to try and focus on the picture first, and not be too concerned with the detail of finding the exact “who” “when” or “what” for every item. We should also keep in mind the admonition that the letter was addressing things that “must shortly come to pass.” So, we must remind ourselves, that this is a figurative treatise, not to be taken literally, and which would be “unfolding” soon. Some signs do not necessarily need a literal or exact interpretations — just figurative ones. It is therefore imperative that the learner keep these things in mind during any study of Revelation.  There is not a single sign in the whole of the book that is to be taken literally or off and unto itself. It must agree with the rest and with the context; and we must keep in mind that this book is of successive visions, each building upon the last or offering more detail or reinforcement of the theme.

After these things:” The next vision points to the conclusion that the letters to the churches were visions, as was plainly stated in the text, with a contemporaneous audience. Again, Revelation records a series of visions of which this is the second. John now sees a door standing open in (but not into) Heaven. He hears the first voice like a trumpet (a warning or herald) “…Come up here, (through the door) and I (the source of the voice) will show you things which must take place after this.” “Immediately I (John) was in the spirit…” The word spirit likely deserves to be capitalized. The previous signifies that, once again, these are not literal scenes which follow but spiritually significant or symbolic ones. “Behold a throne set in heaven, and one sat upon the throne.” “Immediately” indicates the following events are taking place in close succession for the recorder’s sake (the Apostle John).

Descriptions of the throne and of those in the throne room:

1). The appearance of the Spirit on the throne (The Lord God Almighty). “Like a sardius stone and jasper.” Sardius is a red stone possibly a ruby. Jasper is a green quartz. They are the first and the last listed of the stones set in the breastplate of the high priest of Israel. From the throne proceed thunder, lightning, and voices. As with the vision of Isaiah and others the appearance is one of great power and control: the emanation of power and brilliance.

2). There is the appearance as of a rainbow around the throne. Perhaps this symbol is simply used to bring to mind the majesty of God. The rainbow is the symbol of the first covenant, which the Lord God made with Noah. It is a perpetual sign of God’s Word and it is its seal and surety. We need to pay attention.

3). There are seven lampstands representing the seven churches – which we are told are the seven assemblies from the first vision — (1:20) “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw on My right, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are angels of the seven assemblies, and the seven lampstands you saw are seven assemblies.” The seven stars or lampstands are also called “the seven Spirits of God” (4:5).

Whether we like it or not, or can adequately explain it or not, the text states repeatedly that there are seven Spirits of God, and that they are the same as the seven Spirits of the Churches, which also appear as the seven stars held by Christ on the throne. God is not a trickster – so we need to take it at its given value. Remembering only that this is a picture from the mind of, and of the presence of God in “the Throne Room” in heaven – not staged, but not a photograph or painting. It is also a picture of some of the attendant beings, “God,” which make up the “heavenly host.” These are the beings who serve the Lord God Almighty and His Christ, who watch or follow the churches (at least for this vision, and in the rest). To make anything more of all of that is highly speculative. It should not disturb us to note that angels and spirits of God watch to see our doings. It should however highly disturb us if we are not following God’s Word, or if we think that we can see or talk to these same spirits or that anyone claiming to call on Christ, the angels, and the Holy Spirit can exhibit any such powers. Those things were reserved only to the Apostles and disciples in those days within the period of the writing of the NT, which ended with this letter and upon their collective deaths.

Some of these details also pose other problems for scholars, teachers and learners. Many people prefer to limit God to three beings. This is the Trinity of Aurelius Augustinus, of which not-a-word was given in the Scriptures. While The Lord God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, and Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, and the Holy Spirit, are the three persons God who in order: conceived, executed, and confirmed the Word of God and upheld the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven – the Church. We do not know if or how many other beings God there may be within the “Heavenly Host” (Luke 2:13). That means it is none of our business; and we might consider following the advice of evangelist Robert Jackson who offered: “I don’t whittle on God’s end of the stick.”

We do know there were three persons God who actively attended to the giving of the Gospel in the Kingdom of Heaven, but that does not limit God in any way by our count. The Lord God Almighty is (as the Apostle Paul posted), “…above all and through all and in you all.” So, (again) how many and how much is all?

Within the previous statement is the best reason to avoid placing the Heavenly Father, the Lord God Almighty, His Christ and the rest of the Heavenly Host into a manmade box suitable to certain dispositions, sensibilities to our liking – useful, bound and fit to hold our very limited knowledge, understanding, biased and often unscriptural notions, preconceptions, misconceptions and unsustainable requirements – not found in the Word of God.

I, for one, will leave it precisely where it stands. God is the Almighty – The Holy Father. He is The Lord of Heaven and Earth, and there are a multitude of beings surrounding Him who are not angels, not human – but, who are God. Not meaning beings greater than or even equal to Him, but certainly meaning they are supernatural and not earthly and mortal – and they are all worshipping The Lord God Almighty and His Christ, through His warrant and by His command. Further, we too are commanded to worship the Lord God Almighty and Jesus the Christ, but are nowhere told to worship the Holy Spirit or any of the rest of this Heavenly Host. Therefore, I too will choose not to whittle on God’s end of the stick.

4). There is a sea of glass described also as a sea of crystal which surrounds the throne room.

5). There are twenty-four thrones upon which are seated twenty-four elders. The elders are clothed in white robes and wear crowns of gold. There has been a lot of conjecture as to what the elders may represent or who precisely they may be. The text makes plain that they are a counsel serving The Lord God Almighty – who act as informers of the events to follow, as a herald for succeeding visions, offering praise to God and explaining to the Apostle John some of the signs and their meanings. Anything beyond that is not listed here or anywhere else and therefore is none of our business.

6). Although they are not called Cherubim here, these may be the same beings who had guarded Eden on Adam and Eve’s departure; and may be the four living creatures mentioned in Ezekiel (in 10:15–20 and 11:22). They are attendants to the throne whose singular purpose is to praise God (5:8, 11). If they are Cherubim, they are considerably different than the romantic notions and form offered up by Renaissance painters. These are fear inspiring creatures who continually praise God and watch the area surrounding the throne. They are not some infant angel-like creatures.