Thursday, November 21, 2013

Revelation 4:1-11 A Door standing open in Heaven

Text : Revelation  4
Title :  A   Door standing open in Heaven 
Date:  03/11/2013 

THE PARALLELISM OF REVELATION
According to W. Hendriksen [1] there are  7 parallel sections in  the book of Revelation. Each of them spans the entire dispensation  from the first to the second coming of Christ.  Each period  is viewed now from  one aspect  and now from another .
  1. Christ in the middle of the Lampstands / Churches  ( 1:1-3:22)
  2. The Vision of Heaven  and the 7 Seals  ( 4:1-7:17)
  3. The 7 Trumpets  ( 8:1- 11:19)
  4. The Persecuting Dragon  (  12: 1-14:20)
  5. The 7 Bowls ( 15:1-16:21)
  6. The fall of Babylon ( 17:1-19:21)
  7. The great Consummation  ( 20:1- 22:21)
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We have now  completed  the first section  in the Revelation  to John,   which  includes  John’s vision of Christ  and of  a description of  the 7 churches  which are reflective of the spiritual states of the church on earth.  The ascended  Lord Jesus  dwells among the churches by His Spirit. He is the Great Pastor of the church, and as such He  encourages   the  church, rebukes   the church, and most significantly – as such He keeps  the church. He is the great  “constant “ in the church. Because He is there,  the church as  such  never fails  - even though individual churches themselves may fail due to  disobedience, lack of Christ centeredness , lack of love , tolerating false teachers. etc.
From  the state of the church on earth  John’s  look is now directed  towards heaven. It is no accident that John’s vision of heaven immediately follows  the vision of the state of the  seven churches. The best way to encourage suffering and persecuted churches is to give them a glimpse of eternity - the throne of God.

Chapter 4 
V. 1  "After this I looked and behold [2], a door  standing  open in heaven ! "    
"After this…" i.e. after the revelation of the present spiritual  state of the 7 churches in  Asia minor  John, who is exiled on the island of Patmos now sees a door standing  open in heaven,  inviting  him to enter,  to see and to  hear  things  that  are otherwise  hidden from men. This  experience  is not unknown in Scripture:
1.        Isaiah 6:1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…
2.        Ezekiel 1:1  "the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God".
3.        Daniel 2:19 ; 7:1,9,13; 8:1ff – the visions of Daniel
4.        Acts  7:55ff  - Stephen,“full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God…”
5.        Acts  10:10ff - The apostle Peter,   “fell into a trance  and saw the heavens openedand there came a voice to him..”
6.       2 Cor 12:1-4 - Paul  speaks of having been caught up to the 3rd heaven where he had heard things that  he was forbidden  to talk about.  

John has a similar experience. The voice that speaks to him  is that same first voice which he had first  heard in 1:10. The voice is trumpet-like   i.e.  the  voice of authority.   It  is the voice of God, and John is commanded: "Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this…". Note  the divine  “must”,  reminding us  of the  certainty with which God's  great plan  will be executed. Nothing about the future is uncertain  to God!  There  is a God who exercises sovereign control  over His creation and over its history  (Dan. 2:28f,45). Chapter 4 itself is a revelation of  heaven  - of the glory of God  and  of  the worship  of God in heaven .The focus is then directed to  the Lamb ( Christ) in Ch. 5   with  the scroll with its seven seals. We shall see that the seals  are  revelations  of God’s judgement on the earth…

V. 2 On hearing the trumpet-like voice  John says,    "At once I  was in the spirit"  (see also   1:10). A mortal man could, of course. not enter heaven any other way. The glory  of God would kill us in our present state (see 1:17). John could only  enter that realm  “in the Spirit“. In the same way  he could  only receive this message  for the 7 churches   directly from the Lord Jesus “in the Spirit”.  Spiritual truths must be spiritually  discerned  (see  1 Corinthians  2: 10-13) 

WHAT HE SEES IN HEAVEN:
1.       GOD ON THE THRONE - the One being worshipped (vv 2b-3)
God  occupies the centre of heaven.  That is the simple truth about heaven. Heaven is a place of  awesome majesty and the  glorious  manifestation  of  God.  John sees God - but he does not attempt to describe Him. No human features can be attributed to God [3]. He can merely give an impression.  John only has human words to write  and to  describe  with. Therefore , his  description of God cannot be literal - it call only be  illustrative.
·       "He had  the appearance of jasper and carnelian“ (v.3) The appearance of God to John was like precious stones. Precious stones are precious because they collect and intensify light. 
·       and around the throne there was a  rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.” A   rainbow, resembling an emerald (precious green stone) surrounds the throne. A rainbow (sign of the covenant) is the sign of God's  grace and mercy. God is presented  in the highest human thought forms  and descriptions – but  it comes desperately short. The main  point is that  God dwells in unspeakable majesty and glory!
·         V.5aFrom the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder - awe inspiring manifestations …reminders  of the fact that  God is to be feared.   Thunder is the voice of God in many O.T passages. 
·       V.5bAnd before the throne were burning  seven  torches of fire  which are the  seven  spirits of God.[4] As in 1:4  the seven spirits of God  are  a reference to the Holy Spirit, seven  being the number of divine perfection.  Note that the Trinity is "on the throne". The Lamb (Christ) appears in Ch. 5.
·        V. 6  “… and before the throne there was as it were  a sea of glass, like crystal.  In Solomon's temple there was a ‘sea’  (1Ki 7:23) for the purpose of ceremonial washing, but it is more likely  that  this picture  should refer  to Exodus 24   when Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, went up Mt. Sinai  where  they saw God  the God of Israel (Ex 24:9-11). They  described the  glorious vision:  “There was  under his feet as it were  a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven  for clearness”. Notice the similarity!  The heavenly sea, unlike  the earthly sea is tranquil, like glass. The sea is  depicted in Revelation as the place of chaos and rebellion, from which the beast emerges to wage war upon the saints (Revelation 11:7; 13:1. ) But in heaven, the sea is calm, like glass and clear  as crystal. There is no storm here.

2.       THE WORSHIPPERS BEFORE THE THRONE:

V.4  The 24 elders :  “Around  the throne were  24  thrones and seated on the thrones were 24 elders, clothed in white garments  with golden crowns on their heads“ . The identity of the elders  is subject  to debate, but most commentators  agree that the 24 elders   represent  the complete people of God from both,  the 12 tribes of Israel (O.T.)  and the 12 apostles (N.T.). As the elders   represent the church on earth, so the church is represented by her elders in heaven.  Whatever we do not understand about the identity of the elders here  - this we know: they are entirely  dedicated to the worship of God. See 4:10,11

Vv. 6b-11 The  4 living creatures:   [5] (see also Ezekiel 1:5ff)   These 4 living beings symbolise the noblest (lion) , strongest (ox) , wisest (human) and swiftest(eagle) living beings created by God. Their many eyes speak of their powers of universal watchfulness and insight. They have 6 wings - like the cherubim of Isaiah 6:2 - and therefore some commentators have identified them as such. We see that these living creatures are closest to the throne of God, leading in the never ending and continuous worship.
Throughout the book of Revelation, numbers are always used symbolically. The number four is used  as the number of the world, since the earth is said to have four corners (north,south, east and west), four winds, and it  is divided into four regions; earth, sea, rivers and springs, and the heavens.  Therefore it appears as if they  represent the entire created order. This is why they are depicted as looking like the earth’s great creatures, man, the lion, the ox and the eagle.
They are covered with eyes which see everything,  and therefore it appears  as if  these creatures serve as the  guardians  of heaven. (v.6b) . They not only worship God and the Lamb in heaven, but they also execute God’s judgments upon the earth.
In   Ch.6, we learn that these same living creatures  bring judgment upon the earth when the first four seals of judgment are opened.
But right now  here in  Ch.4 , John describes  their function in worship, “day and night they never stop saying: `Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’” (v.8) . They  remind us that God is holy, that he is triune ( note , the three-fold repetition “holy, holy, holy”) that he is eternal (without beginning and end) and that He is sovereign.  Given these glorious attributes  this God alone is worthy of praise.
Furthermore, when these living creatures praise God, they represent the whole of creation praising the Creator. And when they worship –as they have done  from all eternity– the twenty-four elders join them. The picture we are to draw from this is  that all creation (represented by the four living creatures) as well as all of God’s redeemed people (represented by the twenty-four elders) worship the One who is alone worthy of our worship. John describes this scene for us in verses 9-11.  This not only reminds us of God’s unspeakable greatness, but the heavenly scene should become the pattern for all Christian worship on earth.

FROM WHICH WE DRAW THE FOLLOWING PRELIMINARY CONCLUSION:
·        Heaven is a world of worship
·       Worship is defined here as the giving of glory, honour and thanks to Him who sits in the centre - on the throne.
·       Worship is God- focussed. It is never  presented as a man-centred tool for self- enjoyment. True Worship focusses  on God , centres and  gathers around  God , reveals God , sings about God  and affirms the One on the throne in heaven.  To put that  from God's perspective. In worship God gathers His people to Himself as centre. Eugene Petersen says: "Worship is a meeting at the centre so that our lives are centred in God and not lived eccentrically.” Note: Israel was plagued  for centuries by Baal worship - portable centres for worship set up under every hill and green tree - but these were not the true centre (as the temple was supposed to be) . Much modern worship ( as in every age) is eccentric because it is not God centred!

CONCLUSION:

Since heaven is a world of worship  let us make every effort to understand the God-centred nature of worship, and strive to make this also our highest duty while we are on earth. Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without a desire for worshipping God. What possible enjoyment could you feel there? The pleasures of the 24 elders  and the 4 living creatures  could not possibly be your pleasures. How could you possibly worship in heaven , if  you  haven't worshipped on earth?
Westminster Catechism : "The chief end of man is to worship God and to enjoy Him forever".

May God grant us  to understand this  picture of true worship . May  He grant us a greater desire to assemble  as often as we   to join with all  God’s creatures in heaven and on earth  to give  Him the glory and honour due to His Name !  Amen.




[1] William Hendriksen : More than Conquerors

[3] This is perfectly appropriate. No one has ever seen God. God cannot be described cf.  Ex 20:4
[4] Rev 1:4 ; 3:1 ; 4:5; 5:6 ; Some would refer to the  seven modes of operation of the Holy Spirit e.g. in Isa 11:2 : the Spirit of the Lord 2. The Spirit of wisdom 3. The Spirit of understanding 4. The Spirit of counsel 5. The Spirit of might 6. The Spirit of knowledge 7. The Spirit of the fear of the Lord.
[5] "Beasts" (KJV) is an unfortunate rendering

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