Monday, April 18, 2011

Revelation Chapter Four, Part 3 of 4

4:4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
John looks out now and sees the elders sitting about God’s throne. I believe the fact that there are twenty four elders present (two sets of twelve) represents the Old and New Testament saints glorified and resting in their God. They are clothed in white raiment which represents the imputed righteousness which faith in Christ grants, Zechariah 3:4; Revelation 1:5; 7:14; 19:14. They also possess crowns of gold on their heads which represents their triumphant walk of faith in which they, in the power of God, overcame the world, the flesh and the Devil. The robes symbolize their adoption into the household of God; the crowns symbolize their faithful walk with God through the indwelling Holy Spirit on this earth. See Hebrews chapter 11 for a detailed examination of the spiritual fruit yielded in the Old Testament era.

4:5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices
The origin of the lightning, thunder, and voices was not the throne, but Him that sat in it, verse 2. Scripture speaks of lightning being part of the arsenal of God, and God’s voice sounding like thunder, especially when He is filled with wrath. “The Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice. He sent out arrows and scattered them; lightning bolts, and He vanquished them,” 2nd Samuel 22:14-15. “Flash forth lightning and scatter them; shoot out Your arrows and destroy them,” Psalm 144:6.

Ezekiel attempted to capture the likeness of the voice of God in his writings, and though he was inspired of the Holy Spirit, he was still constrained to use images and ideas with human connotations and human limits. Thus, when he attempts to describe to us the voice of God Himself he writes:

I heard the noise of [the cherubim’s] wings, like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty,” Ezekiel 1:24.

And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard even in the outer court, like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks,” Ezekiel 10:5.
“[God’s] voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory,” Ezekiel 43:2.

Ezekiel then was a man who had heard the Almighty speak and likened it to the sound of roaring water, like a waterfall raging. I picture Niagara Falls or something of the like, deep and resounding and utterly overpowering to the natural senses. For the unbeliever all they hear when God speaks is the thunder, John 12:29. Spiritual things are imperceptible to them because they do not have God’s Holy Spirit abiding in them, 1st Corinthians 2:14. This is why God tells us that the ungodly, claiming to be wise, became fools, Romans 1:22. Natural man has lost his ability to hear God with clarity; he cannot understand when God articulates. He looks at the storm and sees the power of a Creator, but not the genius of God. He looks at the Bible and sees the narrow, austere commandments of a Judge, but fails to perceive that every page is lined with mercy. Until we pass from death to life by hearing and obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ we cannot hear anything but the thunder of God.

The voices coming from the throne speak to me of multiplicity. God speaks in the plural numerous times throughout the Old Testament; I have mentioned such passages many times previously and will not reiterate them here. The Godhead is three Persons in one Being: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These three are one, 1st John 5:7. The voices likewise inform us that God constantly speaks to us. Too many complain that Heaven is silent; God has said all that He cares to say and now sits in a mute void sulking until we hear His message. They miss the reality that God speaks every single day, all the time. He speaks through His word as we read it in faith and wait for Him to reveal truth to us; moreover, He speaks into the world through His ambassadors as we live and preach the gospel, 2nd Corinthians 5:20. God is never silent. We Christians are the light of the world as Christ through the Spirit lives in us and conveys His message of forgiveness and peace to a dying and sin-filled world. That is why Paul wrote: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure,” 1st Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 2:13.

4:5 there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God
These seven lamps were first seen by John when the risen and living Christ came to him on Patmos, Revelation 1:12-13. Granted these were lamp-stands, not lamps, but the flame of each lamp was assuredly the Holy Spirit. The same Greek word “lampas” meaning lamp or torch was used in Matthew 25:1-8. The oil within the lamps was the presence of the Holy Spirit, the only difference amongst the virgins that permitted the wise to go forth, but the foolish to draw back; for they had no oil in their lamps.

Here the lamps were on earth, and Christ was in their midst, just as He promised from the first, Matthew 28:20. Now the lamps have been removed from the earth and brought up to Heaven before the throne of God and it is revealed that these lamps were in fact the Holy Spirit, the seven Spirits of God or the seven-fold Spirit. The corporate witness of the church had been removed from the earth, making ready for the man of lawlessness to appear, 2nd Thessalonians 2:3-7. This verse is in fact further proof that Christians will be Raptured before the Tribulation begins; because here we find seven lamps (like those representing the seven churches of Asia) before the throne of God. The Holy Spirit in this capacity (indwelling believers during this dispensation) is removed from the earth; and it is He who restrains the Antichrist’s appearance. The stage is set for the beginning of the Tribulation, but first there is to be much rejoicing among the saints in Heaven.

4:6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal
The sea in the Old Testament was found in Solomon’s temple on its right side toward the southeast, 1st Kings 7:39. The sea for Solomon’s temple was enormous: 15 feet in diameter, 7½ feet in height, and 45 feet in circumference. It could hold 10,000 gallons of water. It was a symbol for washing; that one had to be cleansed before approaching God in any acceptable service. If you look at Leviticus—the instruction manual for practical holiness for Israel—the words “wash,” “washed” or “washing” are used a total of 42 times. God was teaching that one must be cleansed of their filth before they could approach the Lord; otherwise they would incur His wrath. Filth in this case is symbolic of one’s sins, and the only cleansing sinful man may receive to remove the stain of sin is the one God offers: Christ Jesus.

When Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests to God they were first washed by Moses before they could be dressed in their priestly garments, Leviticus 8:6. This washing was repeated continuously because it was a symbol of divine truth: “It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation,” Hebrews 9:9-10. Christ too served as our High Priest by entering the true tabernacle in Heaven and, by the sacrifice of Himself, obtained eternal redemption for all who trust in Him, Hebrews 9:12. We must still have our feet washed as Christians, confessing our sins to be restored to fellowship (John 13:8; 1st John 1:9); but there will come a time when the sea is glass.

There is no further need for cleansing either by coming to Christ and being saved, or confessing to Christ and being renewed in fellowship with Him. Both will be done away with when we enter glory and are saved from the very presence of sin in our lives: the future tense salvation that the New Testament writers refer to. Salvation is three fold: justification, which is salvation from sin’s penalty; this happens once when we believe on Jesus for eternal life. Sanctification, which is salvation from sin’s power; this is a daily struggle as we crucify the flesh and walk in the Spirit, obeying Christ and allowing Him to manifest His life in us so the kingdom of God may be advanced. Glorification, which is salvation from sin’s presence; this will occur when we are dead or Raptured and are forever removed from sin’s ability to mar God’s image in us or grieve the Holy Spirit ever again. This too is a one-time act. How we fare in allowing the Holy Spirit to sanctify us determines reward or loss of reward at Christ’s judgment seat.

One day the sea will be glass, and it will sit before the throne of God as a reminder of His mercy toward us; that there is no more need to receive cleansing, and what God has promised He has fulfilled. None of His promises have failed or can fail. The crystal sea is a reminder of salvation accomplished.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Ian.

    Isn't it wonderful that that sea will never again be muddied with sin, but remain pure and beautiful every day because the believers no longer are touched by sin?


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