Sunday, April 17, 2011

Revelation Chapter Four, Part 2 of 4

4:1 I will shew thee things which must be hereafter
Now John is going to receive a Heaven-bound perspective of events that unfold during the seven-year Tribulation period on earth. He is Raptured to Heaven, stands at the throne of God amidst the elders, saints and cherubim, and sees the One sitting upon the throne, and the Lamb. The judgments being poured out on the earth are about to proceed, and John sees the One commanding their issuance and the source from which the judgments originate. This is the Great Day of God Almighty; this is the day for which the ungodly have been treasuring up wrath in the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, Romans 2:5. Make no mistake, God is NOT pouring out wrath arbitrarily on earth with cattle killed here or earthquakes rocking an island there; this is not God’s wrath. He made it clear that when He pours it out, it will be mixed in full and poured out until it is finished, Revelation 16:17; 18:8. When it comes men will hide in caves and cower and civilizations will fall; billions will perish and the very celestial heavens will bear the signs of God’s severe displeasure with sinful man.

This is yet future, for today is the age of grace; now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation; not wrath. Jesus dispelled this na├»ve thinking when He said, “Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” Luke 13:2-5. This was in response to the people letting Jesus know about some men Pilate had executed recently. Today it would be the earthquake in Japan. God is not petty and capricious, meting out judgment here and there as if Japan deserves more judgment than pagan America. No; the day of wrath IS coming, but today the door of salvation is wide open because Christ our Lord sits on the throne of mercy and distributes grace to those who call on Him.

4:2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
John is representative of the Christian church which shall be Raptured to Heaven before the 7-year Tribulation erupts across the earth as a time of testing and wrath. Note that first our Lord informed John that he (John) would see the things which are and the things which shall take place after this. The things which are refers to the church age, and John is in its midst. During chapters 2-3 John was given command to write to the seven churches of Asia, real churches in John’s time and also representing the state of the various churches throughout the epoch of Christ’s bodily absence on this earth. Then Jesus was going to show the apostle what would take place “after this.” John had finished transcribing the verbal commands of Christ and “immediately” he was in the spirit and standing before the throne of God.

There is a natural progression occurring. The seven churches are made mention of, along with their spiritual errors, weaknesses, or accomplishments. Jesus finishes speaking to the churches and immediately there is a change. John hears the command of God shouting, “Come up here” and immediately is translated into Heaven as a veritable picture of the Rapture of the saints prior to the Tribulation.

What was the first thing that John saw? There were likely many things that he saw, but there was one thing alone that arrested his undivided attention: the throne of God, and Him who sat on it. Heaven is not Heaven without God’s presence in it. Saints are not saints without God’s indwelling Spirit abiding in them. Saints are not made saints by righteous deeds and right living; we are made saints because God the Holy Spirit chose to indwell those who, by faith, receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Heaven is simply Heaven because God resides in it and has chosen to limit Himself in a sense to dwell within Heaven as a manifestation of His person. God limited Himself when He appeared in the Shekinah glory in the tabernacle and the temple of Solomon; He likewise chose to limit Himself when He appeared as a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth.

He still limits Himself by appearing on a throne in this place, a real location, called Heaven. Since heaven (outer space) and the Heaven of heavens (the residency of God) cannot contain Him as the Bible states, it appears that God is pleased to limit Himself so His creatures, whether men or angels, have the ability to perceive and comprehend Him, 2nd Chronicles 6:18. This is the Being John saw: the uncreated, eternal, holy and almighty God of Heaven and earth, creator and sustainer of the whole cosmos and redeemer of humanity.

4:3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
This image of the enthroned Creator of the universe was previously seen by the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel wrote: “above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD,” Ezekiel 1:26-28. Notice how often the prophet uses the words “likeness” and “appearance.” Clearly Ezekiel is destitute of human language capable of describing the Being standing above him. THIS is our God, the Holy One of Israel.

The rainbow which John saw surrounding the throne was a reminder of God’s promise in the beginning, after the Flood of Noah’s day. He set the bow in the skies to remind mankind that while the earth endured in its present state day and night and the seasons would not fail, Genesis 9:8-17. The rainbow of Noah’s day was set in the clouds after a rain shower to comfort the people who survived the Flood, and to remind them that God would no more flood the earth. This was necessary for two reasons: First, it alleviated the fear man would have of storms and rain forever afterward. Any lingering rain cloud would strike terror into the hearts of those who recalled the Flood. Second, God was showing Himself a covenant God who promised and kept His word, and that He was a God who could be trusted to perform exactly as He proposes. God’s character is always bound up in His word; if He vouchsafes a promise to man He will keep that promise for His name’s sake. This is why the Christian can rest assured that the world will never again be destroyed by a global flood. God promised, and if His promise is broken then He has shown Himself to be a God we cannot place our faith in. The object of our faith is only as good as its ability to perform what it boasts.

As a side note, this passage in Genesis is a good one to show that not every use of the term “everlasting” in the Old Testament meant eternal. God used the term in verse 16 to describe the length of the covenant He made with Noah and the creatures of the earth; that while the earth endured the covenant would be everlasting. There is a time that this covenant will expire, because there is a time soon coming when the earth will expire by fire, 2nd Peter 3:10. The covenant with Israel on Sinai was similar; God took Israel into an everlasting covenant that was truly only a vast length of time; not one that went on through eternity. The old covenant was to prepare Israel for the advent of the new covenant under Jesus Christ, on which were made better promised, eternal promises, Hebrews 8:6. The covenant in Christ was made between God the Father and Christ; being eternal and immortal, both sides of the covenant could and would “hold up” their ends to ensure that the covenant of grace which is extended to sinful man would never collapse, fail or dissolve, Hebrews 7:16-17, 22-25.

The rainbow then has become the universal symbol of God’s fidelity. That it surrounds His very throne in Heaven is a reminder to John and to us that God is faithful, and He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ, Philippians 1:6. “For all the promises of God in [Christ] are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us,” 2nd Corinthians 1:20.

1 comment:

  1. I Peter 1:10-12 tells us the old prophets understood what they were preaching was not for them but for future generations. In preaching Revelation we are doing the same thing. If we recognized that fact it would probably change a lot of the emphasis we see today.


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