Saturday, April 23, 2011

Revelation Chapter Four, Part 4 of 4

Before continuing on I would like to address a few issues. If you are wondering as you read this exposition, “Does he believe Revelation is literal or symbolic?” I at once answer literal, save for the passages using symbolic language; and John makes it clear at those times that he is in fact speaking symbolically. True, I do speak of the elders representing the saints, crowns representing rewards, etc. Allow me to use this comparison in an effort to clear the air. In a knighting ceremony a literal event possesses symbolic meaning. Someone is dressed in finery, comes marching down a hall filled with onlookers, kneels before royalty, receives the dubbing with a sword, etc. Does all of this literally happen? Yes. Does this likewise carry symbolic connotations? Again, yes. Someone totally ignorant to a knighting ceremony would be watching and wondering what in the world this was all about; they would need explanation as to what the events mean from someone who knew about the ceremony.

This book, Revelation, is a revelation of Christ and a revelation from Christ. The very word “revelation” means to unveil. God has vouchsafed a glimpse of future events; these events are literal, will have a chronological progression, and will terminate at a certain preordained period of time. Revelation is not meant to be an allegory or a book of confusion, but open to understand for those who want to understand it. Did John literally see these events in Heaven? We have no reason to believe otherwise. Were there literally elders on thrones before God’s throne? Again, though I used them to represent the saints, there is no reason to doubt these men were literally there, given seats of honor by God due to faithful service. How else could one elder speak to John? I consider Revelation to be “future history;” that is, recorded history that has yet to occur. Is our view still flawed? Granted, those who enter into and survive the Tribulation will likely have a better grasp of the events recorded within than we do presently. But that does not negate the blessing God gave for those who read and understand this message, Revelation 1:3.

This is my belief regarding my understanding of Revelation. The Rapture will precede the Tribulation, and will be the event that bisects history and separates the church dispensation from the seven years of God’s wrath. There will be no Christian left on the face of this earth when the Tribulation begins. The bulk of this prophecy is a dire and sober warning to those “left behind.” The Tribulation will span seven literal years, and the first half will culminate with the Satanic indwelling of the Antichrist and the martyrdom of the two witnesses; followed by a vicious persecution of the Jews when the Antichrist breaks his seven-year peace treaty with them. This will usher in the latter half of the Tribulation: the Great Tribulation Jesus spoke of, Matthew 24:21. Many will be saved during this time by the preaching of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, and their faith will cost them their lives, for they will be martyred by the Antichrist for not taking the mark of the Beast.

At this time there will be a sharp and visible dichotomy between the saved and the unsaved: those saved will not accept the mark; those unsaved will cast their lot in the Beast and receive it. Jesus will come again in the Second Coming: His bodily return to earth to set up His kingdom and destroy the Antichrist, Matthew 24:30; 2nd Thessalonians 2:8. The nation of Israel will be saved at this moment, Matthew 24:13; Romans 11:26. Anyone who survives the entire seven years will find themselves standing before the Son of Man at His Second Coming, Luke 21:36. Those deemed worthy shall enter the thousand year reign of our Lord, Matthew 25:34. Is the thousand years literal? The Holy Spirit compels John to use the words “thousand years” five times in five verses, Revelation 20:3-7. Either He lacked creativity, or the inculcation is the point of the matter; the thousand year reign is the kingdom promised David and the Jews for thousands of years, 2nd Samuel 7:12-16.

The point I am ultimately trying to make here, in a roundabout way, is that I believe Revelation is absolutely true, very literal, and coming soon. When I seem to spiritualize a passage or symbolize an object I am not nullifying the fact that such a thing may be real or happening. Take the cherubim for example. Scripture states that they are filled with eyes in front and back. Do we take this literally, or do the eyes refer to an uncanny sight/perception the cherubim possess? I am inclined toward the latter, though this is not a dogmatic view, nor do I labor under the impression that I could not possibly be wrong. But none of this allegorical nonsense that trivializes the book until it is nothing but a parade of imagery detached and divorced from anything historical, factual, or useful. If it is a book of symbols that can mean anything, then it is no different than saying Revelation essentially means nothing.

Yet, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” 2nd Timothy 3:16. Revelation is still a part of Scripture, and putting its events in a future time to avoid attempting to understand and preach about the topics and events within is, in my opinion, wrong. This final book of the Bible still has much to teach. And like a man being knighted, the symbolism of the act does not detract from the actual events occurring. I do not claim to have perfect knowledge regarding Scripture—this book especially—but God promises more light to those who seek it; so let us seek it together and pray that it is for our mutual enlightenment.

4:6 and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
The word beast is a bad translation for these angelic figures surrounding God’s throne; for they are the cherubim: beings of the highest angelic order who apparently stand in the most intimate presence of God. It may be that the cherubim and seraphim are the same order of angelic being (see Ezekiel 1 and Isaiah 6); some argue one way and some another due to similarity between the two. I’m personally inclined to believe that they are different types of angels, but I may be mistaken.

Amidst the ranks of angels appear to be common angels (forgive the term!), thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, arch angels, and finally the seraphim and cherubim. I am inclined to believe that Scripture teaches that cherubim are the greatest of God’s angelic hierarchy for a few reasons. The cherubim are frequently mentioned being near God such as Ezekiel chapters 1-2 and 10 or Genesis chapter 3. These beings with four faces are paralleled by the Lord when He coordinates the tribes to march in columns during their wilderness wanderings with the tabernacle the priests in their midst, see Numbers chapter 2. As the living beings move without turning left or right so too did Israel march without turning; it happened to be that whatever tribe was pointing in the direction they were commanded to go, they would become the head of the host. This implies a lack of deviation; whatever direction the Lord desires these angels to go, they go without straying. They are personal attendants of God.

The four faces, as Henry Morris pointed out, seem to represent the highest orders of creation: the lion among the hunting animals; the ox for the cattle; the eagle for the creatures of the air and man above those. This may well imply that the cherubim stand as the greatest of all of God’s creations. The cherubim were also said to be “full of eyes within” (verse 8) which either implies a preternatural perception and sagacity, or the ability to “see” in every given direction.

When the Ark of the Covenant was constructed, the cherubim were crafted upon either side of the mercy seat with their wings overshadowing the very place where God’s Shekinah glory would appear. The beings are indelibly linked with God as being constantly beside Him. The tabernacle being a model of heavenly things, we know that the image John sees in Heaven is just as the Ark implied: the cherubim are right before God’s throne, worshiping without ceasing.

Satan was once referred to as the covering cherub, Ezekiel 28:14. Likewise he was also first named Lucifer, the “light bearer,” or “day star,” Isaiah 14:12. As these four cherubim stand all about the throne, Lucifer, as the name implies, may have stood right at the throne, covering or shading it in a way the statues upon the mercy seat did. Being the greatest of God’s angels, his beauty polluted his wisdom and he decided, in full view of the unmatched glory of God, to rebel in a vain effort to obtain Heaven’s throne and universal worship for himself. He is apparently of greater rank or station than Michael, an archangel, for Michael refrained from disputing with Satan but deferred the tempter’s fate to God, Jude 1:9. Walter Martin examined the Greek of the verse and observed that the tense of the phrase “dared not” in Jude implies a fearful restraint; Michael was afraid to bring an accusation against Satan. For the time being Satan held a greater station than Michael, it would seem.

4:8 which was, and is, and is to come.
This phrase can also be rendered “which was, and is, and is coming.” The “is coming” suggests an any-moment scenario. It is like a man who is on his way to visit a neighbor. He is not sitting idly at home and waiting for his time to walk over and visit; he is already coming. He is walking at his own pace, and will reach his destination at his own time, but he will assuredly reach it without fail, and a portion of that journey is already complete. We do not know how far away our God is from coming again, but we are told to watch (Mark 13:37) and this watching should produce an expectant hope (1st John 3:2-3; 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18; Titus 2:13) that we will not be found doing something shameful when He returns (Mark 13:36).

For those who are date setters (sadly, the mark of MANY cults) Christ already warned us that no one will know when He is coming, Acts 1:7; Mark 13:32. The point of His soon return is its imminence. Jesus could return at any moment for His people to Rapture us away in the blink of an eye, 1st Corinthians 15:51-52. By watching we shall be vigilant. By being vigilant we shall be fruitful. By being fruitful we shall be duly rewarded, Matthew 24:45-46; 25:20-23. Do not lose the confidence of our confession, which yields great reward, brethren.

4:9 who liveth for ever and ever
Only God is eternal and immortal in the truest sense of the words. Man will exist forever either in Heaven or Hell depending on whether or not we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, but we ultimately had a beginning. There was a time when Ian Curtis did not exist, except in the mind of God. One day He created me, breathed life into me and brought me into being, John 1:9. This cannot be said of God. The mystery of the incarnation is wondrous to contemplate. Here was a Man born of a woman (a prophecy fulfilled uniquely in Christ, Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14) that could recall eternity past. Jesus told the crowds that He knew Abraham, and existed eternally before Abraham ever drew breath, John 8:56-58. God has no beginning or end; He has nothing to do with the past or future. God exists outside this universe of physical laws such as time and space. He created these laws, but is not governed by them; He is the First Cause who created the effect of material existence. But while the universe grows old and will eventually perish, God is forever, and will remain eternally the same, unchanging, Hebrews 1:10-12. Amen to that!

4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
When the Lord receives from man glory and honor we are only giving back to God what He already gave to us. He raises some up to an elevation in which He may us them; but such a one ought not to glory in themselves, for by faith we stand, Romans 11:20. Rather, if we must glory at all we glory in God, Jeremiah 9:24; 1st Corinthians 1:31.

Have you ever observed hero-worship? Anyone we venerate and emulate; these we idolize. The very word “idol” is in that term because we are putting a mortal man (or woman) onto a pedestal in our lives that only belongs to God, Isaiah 2:22; Jeremiah 17:5. Paul recommended following him, but under the stipulation only so far as he followed Christ, 1st Corinthians 4:16; 11:1. A Christian striving to please His Lord by having his life molded through the word of God and the witness of the Holy Spirit elevates Jesus Christ in his life and demonstrates to the world whom he worships and places on that coveted pedestal. People are obsessed with sports heroes, models, actors and actresses, intellectuals, pastors and theologians, philosophers and poets. Case in point: a friend of mine has three nephews who strive to look like Justin Bieber. When they heard he went out and had a haircut they immediately did likewise. If only Christians would mimic this behavior! We learn what Christ our Lord wishes us to do, and we take great joy in doing it, because we know He would!

While it is well and good to respect or admire someone naturally gifted (mark that word!) that is what they are: given a gift by One whose worth stems natively from Himself, 1st Corinthians 4:7. God is worthy to be adored because, by nature, He is perfect and complete without anyone adding to Him. I am arguably a competent writer; but this skill is a gift. It is not something I deserve or earned, but something given. No created being deserves such adulation. Look at Hollywood and see how it affects the “stars!” Man wasn’t meant to live on this pedestal; this is the lie of Satan who wanted to elevate himself above the stars of God, Isaiah 14:13-14. He wanted to be God, to replace God as the lord of his life; everyone who follows this lie is, in essence, his disciple. Self-adulation is the most intoxicating opiate, and it runs rampant in our race because man is proud by nature. Many times our heroes have to share the pedestal with us. God will not endure this treatment by His children. If we are children of God, born again by faith in Christ, let us humble ourselves and exalt the One worthy of exaltation. In due time God will exalt the humble, 1st Peter 5:5-6. Let us permit Him to choose His own time.

4:11 for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created
This verse tells us two things. #1: God created all things, Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16. This is why God is worthy of worship. Jehovah created all there is in this known universe, from planets to people to angels to Heaven and Hell; God created all. Why were they created? For God’s former and present pleasure. God’s plan that all was created for His pleasure has not altered. That which He originally created to delight in (Genesis 1:31) He still holds the same design. That is why that which offends will be removed from God’s new creation, because He cannot delight in sin, Revelation 22:15.

God desires that none should perish but all come to repentance (2nd Peter 3:9); likewise God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, 1st Timothy 2:4. Sin is the cancer that is killing our race, and God supplies the remedy in Christ Jesus. If we refuse to take the cure as it were the cancer will kill us because the disease is fatal and we rejected the only antidote for it that is available in Heaven or earth. It is God’s pleasure that men be saved; He delights, along with His angels, when a man repents and is saved. Ultimately, it is God’s pleasure to do with this creation what He wills. He has warned mankind for thousands of years of impending judgment. He has sent prophets to speak to us; and in these final days He sent His Son to speak to us, Hebrews 1:2. What have we done? Rejected and despised the message and accused the messengers of being sanctimonious, self-righteous, narrow-minded, puritanical, dogmatic, hate-mongers. God has warned; God has been patient; God has winked at the former sins. But the sin against the Holy Spirit, rejecting His drawing which leads a man to Christ and repentance, is unforgivable. It is so due to the nature of the sin—we won’t come to God to be forgiven, so He logically cannot forgive us.

One day the Day of the Lord will dawn and God will proceed in wrath to pour out judgment on a Christ hating world; a world that is so open to the idea that every way to God is right, they are closed to the distinct possibility that only one way is! Being closed-minded through openness, and masking it beneath the guise of “tolerance” is a clever ploy. God will yet have this world in derision for rejecting and mocking His Son by talking about the “old, old story of the cross.” Yet even in wrath God will have mercy, Habakkuk 3:2. The period of the Tribulation is seven years, a final “grace period” for the unregenerate to receive mercy and salvation as these awful judgments proceed from the throne of the One they have incensed for years untold.


  1. It is amazing how you continue to put out such great teachings from the Word of God. I just love coming here and meditating on His Word. May our Lord shine upon you and your family this Resurrection Day. God bless, Lloyd

  2. Ian,

    This is another great post. Throughout history, so many have failed that the things in revelation are both literal and symbolic. Many of them will not be completely understood until the events actually unfold, just as the Old Testament prophets had only a partial understanding of much they taught. They understood that much of it was not for them. If we understand that about Revelation, we will not be obligated to explain every detail as some attempt.

    I am enjoying your series.


"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," 2nd Timothy 3:16.

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All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.