Friday, March 23, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 18 - Revelation 5:1-5

Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: "Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?" But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, "Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David's throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals." (NLT) 

God’s Right Hand

What does God’s right hand symbolize for wicked people?

Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath; and fire will consume them. (Ps 21:8-9 RSV)
Be exalted, O Lord, in thy strength! We will sing and praise thy power. (Ps 21:13 RSV)
This is a fitting start to look at the right hand of God. It is a symbol of His strength and justice. When He appears in the last times it will be for judgment against His enemies. The scroll that He has in His right hand contains the details of the punishment that He will inflict upon the earth. We will actually sing and praise His might as it happens just as David rejoiced when he anticipated His coming in this psalm.
Does it seem strange to you to think that we will actually be singing and praising someone who is killing billions of people? Doesn’t it seem to go against everything that Jesus taught? After all, didn’t Jesus protect the woman caught in adultery? Doesn’t He tell us to turn the other cheek? Don’t most people ignore the Old Testament because they abhor the way God had Israel ruthlessly kill off other nations? Aren’t we champions of the unborn who are murdered by the millions each year? Doesn’t our faith teach us that it is wrong to take a life?
Have you ever asked these questions or have you been asked? How would you answer them?


Questions like these have led many people to believe that we should altogether eliminate capital punishment. Many people, Christians included, have gotten the idea that it is wrong to think that the wicked should be punished by death or even worse, a sentence of eternal suffering and pain. But from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the Bible, God has shown His displeasure with wickedness and the need to curb it and in the end eliminate it. We indeed need to praise Him for the strength that it takes to stand up to evil and do something. We don’t rejoice that billions die, but that justice is finally accomplished. It is from this lack of praise and an inability to look at things from God’s perspective that people then allow themselves to be caught up in a doctrine that denies the existence of hell and Satan.
Either those who do not understand God’s provision for the punishment will condemn capital punishment or they will demand it without mercy. The Christian walk recognizes the need for governments to curb evil with appropriate punishment (Rom 13:1-6). Contrary to modern thinking, capital punishment is a deterrent to crime because that is what God has said (Deut 19:19-20,  21:21). Personally, we need to remember that we are not the ultimate judge and that we need to forgive and not seek revenge (Rom 12:17-21). We must not confuse our role as a Christian and God’s role as sovereign Judge.
What does God’s right hand symbolize for Christians?

For not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them. (Ps 44:3 ESV)
There is no fear for God’s people at His right hand. It is a symbol of strength for protection and love as He cares for His own. It was with His right hand He delivered Israel. Likewise, the deliverance that comes in the book of Revelation will rid all evil influences in the world. We need to come to the realization that just as there were many in the Old Testament who perished, there are many who will perish today and even more in the last times. It is necessary for the Lord God Almighty to finish His plan. The seriousness of this is demonstrated in the fact that page after page of the book of Revelation is devoted to describing that destruction. Hell fire and brimstone preaching has its place. It is there because it is in the Word and for some it is the only way that they will acknowledge God.
What does God’s right hand symbolize for the Church?

Kings' daughters are among Thy noble ladies; At Thy right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir. (Ps 45:9 NASB)
My soul clings to Thee; Thy right hand upholds me. (Ps 63:8 NASB)
While this Psalm 45 was a wedding song, we can also see the symbolism of the position of the Bride of Christ, the Church, at His right hand. There are fears and uncertainty at every turn of our lives. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we don’t know from moment to moment what will happen to us. We like to feel in control of things, or at least think that the law of averages will work in our favor so that we will be able to accomplish our goals. However, the only hope for real security is that His right hand upholds us when we cling to Him. As members of His Church, when we cling to our God with all that we are, with all of our being, He tells us that He is upholding us with His right hand. It doesn’t matter what will happen or how we perceive it – good or bad – because God is upholding us. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church (Matt 16:18). As members of His Body, we are eternally secure at His right hand. This is the most secure position anyone can have.
How does God’s right hand relate to our salvation?

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. (Ps 98:1 NIV)
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matt 26:64 NIV)
Salvation comes because Jesus died on the cross to take our sins, yet there are several places in the Bible that refer to God working salvation by His right hand. No wonder Jesus is at His right hand, for in that sense, Jesus is God’s right hand.

The Scroll

What does the sealed scroll written on both sides represent?

The Word of God has been recorded on scrolls since Moses started to write it down. This scroll could very well represent the unchanging and sure Word of God. The idea that it is written on the outside and inside symbolizes that for some, it is clear but to others, the prophecies are hidden.
Read the Scriptures following this question. What are some reasons that John may have started weeping other than that no one was found worthy to open the scroll?

The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, "Please read this," he will say, "I cannot, for it is sealed." Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, "Please read this." And he will say, "I cannot read." (Isa 29:11-12 NASU)
A sealed scroll of pending disaster was presented to people in Isaiah’s time. They should have been able to understand its meaning. But they made excuses for not reading it. It was God’s warning and the real reason they couldn’t read it was that they weren’t about to heed what it said. They were rebelling against God. Is it possible that when John saw this scroll in heaven, he thought of these verses in Isaiah? Did he weep because he was afraid that no one would be able to open it and warn the people?
Moreover He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." (Ezek 3:1 NKJV)
But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted. (Ezek 3:7 NKJV)
And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, 'Thus says the Lord God,' whether they hear, or whether they refuse." (Ezek 3:11 NKJV)
 Ezekiel was in a very similar situation as Isaiah. God’s Word was presented to Ezekiel to pass along to the people, but will they listen? No, God tells him that they won’t listen even though they are not a nation of obscure speech or a difficult language (vs. 6). In other words, it wasn’t their inability to understand the message, but they lacked willingness to obey. Whether or not they listen, it is our duty to tell. The people that are the closest to us – family, relatives, and work associates – are sometimes harder to approach with the gospel message than complete strangers are. Another point is that the scroll in heaven will be opened and many people who should be familiar with its contents don’t know anything about it. How can we warn people of the coming disaster if we don’t take the time to find out what is in it? Ezekiel was told to eat the scroll. The message became a part of him. Was John’s concern that people wouldn’t take the message or those that hear wouldn’t heed the words of the scroll?
But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase. (Dan 12:4 NLT)
Daniel didn’t understand what was put in his scroll because it was for different time. This was not a warning of impending disaster for his time, but for the distant future, a time when global travel will be common to many and knowledge has increased. Does this sound like today? Perhaps John was anticipating the return of Jesus and he is weeping because none can open the scroll that reveals the end times. Perhaps he even believes that as a result the return of Christ will not occur. Surely, these are reasons to weep.
Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me;” (Ps 40:7 NASB)
David wrote this prophecy about Jesus, but it applied to his own life as well. He believed that the future was written on God’s scroll and each person is included. The scroll in heaven will certainly affect the lives of billions of people, another reason to weep.
Scrolls were usually written on one side. What is the significance of this one having writing on both sides?

Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, there was a flying scroll. And he said to me, "What do you see?" And I answered, "I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits." Then he said to me, "This is the curse that is going forth over the face of the whole land; surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side. (Zech 5:1-3 NASU)
This scroll carried a curse over the whole land for those who do evil. It was written on both sides, so that no matter how you look at it, the answer for the wicked was the same. The same will be true for the scroll in heaven; no matter how you look at it, the prophecies spell doom for the wicked.
Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe. (Ezek 2:9-10 NKJV)
These two instances of scroll with writing on both sides have the same purpose. If the scroll in God’s right hand is follows the same pattern, then it will not contain good news. As we proceed in the book of Revelation, this will be confirmed. Each seal will reveal more woes to come upon the earth.
What might be the significance of the seven seals on the scroll?

In Jer 32:9-15, Jeremiah redeems a piece of property from his cousin. The process is interesting because two deeds were written. One was sealed and put away in an earthen jar to persevere it. The other was an open deed for anyone to examine. It was a custom to write the conditions of the redemption of lost or sold properties on a scroll and seal it. Some have said that the scroll in God’s hand is the title deed to the earth, man’s original inheritance that was lost when Satan deceived Adam and Eve in the garden. Like Jeremiah’s sealed deed, this scroll in heaven is the one that is preserved and provides the conditions for the redemption of the earth.
The men did as they were told and mapped the entire territory into seven sections, listing the towns in each section. They made a written record and then returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. (Josh 18:9 NLT)
There is a parallel between the scroll in heaven and the time that seven tribes of Israel had delayed in taking possession of the Promised Land. Joshua had them map out the land and write it in a scroll with seven parts.
The scroll has seven seals. Since the number seven is associated with God and His perfection, this could indicate many things. One is that since there are seven seals only someone who has the perfection of God can open them.
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. (James 2:10 RSV)
If a person has committed only one sin, then that person is not worthy to open even one seal. Later we will also see that the seven seals represent the completeness of the judgment of God, for when the last seal has been opened and God’s wrath has been completely poured out, the end will have come. Jesus will then be in control of the earth. All the condition for the redemption of the earth will have been met.

Who Is Worthy

What is needed to be worth to open the scroll?

Why aren’t angels worthy to open the scroll?
Why isn’t man worthy?
The angel asks who is worthy to break the seals and look at the Word of God. It is more than just looking at the Word but is also the idea that the person who takes the scroll must also be able to carry out what it says. This is a dramatic emphasis of the fact that no man or any other created being is worthy. For even the angels in heaven do not venture forth to take the scroll. While the angels don’t have the power to do it, man is even less worthy.
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5 NASB)
 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. And there is no one who calls on Thy name, Who arouses himself to take hold of Thee; For Thou hast hidden Thy face from us, And hast delivered us into the power of our iniquities. (Isa 64:6-7 NASB )
These verses point out that sin has overtaken everyone. There isn’t a single person who can claim that they have never sinned. If they do, then they are calling God a liar. A new heart has been given to us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but there are always inclinations to sin creeping in.

From Isaiah we see that even Christians can blow it and turn away from God. The verse says, “have become” indicating that it is not the way they were in the first place. Vs. 7 says that He has hidden His face, which means that at some time before, His face had shown upon them. There is no doubt that no man could have the perfection necessary to take the scroll, even a man redeemed by Jesus. Whoever takes the scroll must be totally worthy and the first part of worthiness is to be without sin.
The second part of being worthy is the receptive side of worthiness. The person must be worthy of praise, honor, glory, and power. Whoever takes it will be worshiped. He will execute the power and receive glory and praise. This certainly leaves out any other created beings.
And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone,  Satan! For  it is written,  "'You shall worship the Lord your God and  him only shall you serve.'" (Matt 4:9-10 ESV)
Then  I fell down at his feet to worship him,  but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to  the testimony of Jesus. Worship God." For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev 19:10 ESV)
Jesus made it clear that only God is to be worshiped. Satan will accept worship because he is totally sinful. Any creature that is holy will not accept worship but will point it in the direction it belongs.

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah

How do we know that this Lion is Jesus?

Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you. You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness — who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs  and the obedience of the nations is his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. (Gen 49:8-11 NIV)
The Lord gave us a major clues about the Messiah in these verses. From this prophecy, the symbol of Judah became a lion. The prophecy also has other, more subtle clues. His brothers ( that includes us) will praise and bow down to Him. He has power over enemies. Eternal rule will be passed to Him. He will wash His robes in the blood of grapes indicating the vengeance of the Lord, which will appear later in the book of Revelation.
I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. (Rev 22:16 NASU)
The root of David refers to the fact that Jesus came from the tribe of Judah but also that Jesus is the Lord of David since He predates him. Jesus referred to this when He asked the Pharisees whose son the Christ would be. (Mat 22:41-46). Jesus made it clear that He is the one who is to receive the promises that Jacob talked about in Genesis. Jesus has authority to take the scroll based on His unique perspective of being from David and also the Lord of David. He is the only one worthy of worship because He is God. Only God could both predate and be an offspring of David.

His Triumph

Jesus is worthy to take the scroll because He has triumphed.

Over Death

How has Jesus triumphed over death? What does that mean for us?

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:56-57 NKJV)
In 1 Cor 15:42-55, Paul explains that Jesus came and won a spiritual battle. His body died just as Adam’s died. But the result was a new body that is not perishable, one that will live forever. Because He was raised, not like Lazarus, to die again, but with an immortal body, He has conquered death. The reason that it had to be this way is explained also. Only the imperishable can inherit the kingdom of God, only the One who has gone through this is worthy to take the scroll. Paul also explained that we will also bear His likeness.
All of the “little god” preachers probably point to this and say “see, we will be gods because we will be like Him” but they fail to see that this points out that we will simply receive an immortal body so that we will be able to live in heaven in the presence of a holy and just God.
There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! (Isa 25:7-8 NLT)
Even before Jesus came, God gave us the promise that He would swallow up death. If we are to eventually die and receive an immortal body, we lose fear of death. Why then do we fear anything else that prevents us from laboring in the Lord?
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:58 RSV)
Isn’t it wonderful that Paul explained Jesus’ victory over death, not only to tell us what we will become, but also to reassure us that our Christian work is not useless?

Over Temptation

How has Jesus triumphed over temptation and how does that help us?

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matt 4:1 NASB)
Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. (Matt 4:11 NASB)
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:15 NASB )
Jesus triumphed over temptation, giving us hope and a pattern to follow to do likewise. If He had yielded, then it would have proven that He had sinned and therefore had to die for His own sins. His death would not have paid the penalty for our sins either, for only a pure sacrifice could do that. He would not have been worthy to open the scroll. His main temptation was to serve Himself and to avoid the cross. It started with Satan trying to get Him to satisfy His physical needs for food by “using” God to provide for His hunger when there was no need to do it. This escalated when Satan offered Him all the nations of the earth (which He will eventually get anyway) if He would worship Satan.
Satan continues to tempt us in the same ways. He wants us to satisfy our cravings and desires outside of God’s timetable or prescribed means of living. We can look to Jesus for the strength to overcome those temptations because Jesus already has triumphed. We can draw near to God in times of temptation to get the help we need from Him.

Over Sin

Since Jesus triumphed over temptations and never sinned, how did He triumph over sin?

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21NKJV)
All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isa 53:6 NKJV)
And they made His grave with the wicked — But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. (Isa 53:9NKJV)
Which of you convicts Me of sin? (John 8:46a NKJV)
 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19 NKJV )
Jesus knew sin only because God put our sins on Him. He made Jesus to be sin. That means that Jesus experienced sin without doing anything wrong. He experienced separation from His Father and all the other consequences of sin. Jesus didn’t do anything that would cause any of the sins to be accounted to Him. His triumph over sin then is more than what we can do, which is avoiding it. His triumph over sin is removing its eternal consequences and its power over us.

Over Men

How has Jesus triumphed over men?
That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” (Eph 4:8 NLT)
Since the inclinations of our hearts are evil, the only way He can bring us to heaven is to make us captive or slaves to Himself. In this sense He has triumphed over us. We talk a lot about the Father drawing us, being chosen, and even predestined (Eph 1:11). These terms really point out that He triumphs over us when we yield to Him. Make no mistake, there is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus. We are either going to be His slaves or perish as His enemies.

Over Satan

How has Jesus triumphed over Satan?
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15 RSV)
And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. (Luke 10:18 RSV)
Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. (John 12:31-32 RSV)
It was predicted from the very beginning that Satan would be defeated. Even before the actual defeat of Satan on the cross, Jesus was able to see Satan’s power broken on earth by His authority before His resurrection. These verses tie together both the defeat of Satan and the fact that Jesus will be taking people captive for Himself.
Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Heb 2:14-15 NASB)
This makes it abundantly clear the Satan has been defeated, and that the defeat occurred when Jesus died. As we continue in Revelation, it is clear that because Jesus died He is worthy.
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:8-9 ESV)
What works of the devil does Jesus give us the ability to overcome?

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 NIV)
One of the works of the devil it to produce fear; fear of death is the greatest fear that we have. This is our comfort for any situation that we fear, not just death. The big reason people fear death is that they instinctively know that there will be a judgment and that they haven’t lived a life worthy enough to escape that judgment. When we are saved, that fear is removed because we know we will not be judged by our works, but rather on the fact that God has accepted Jesus’ punishment for our sins so that we don’t have to pay the penalty. That is God’s love for us.
These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful. (Rev 17:14 NASU)
The devil may be defeated, but unfortunately this passage reveals that he doesn’t act like it. Satan’s purpose is still to wreak havoc upon the saints and fight Jesus until he is permanently put away.
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20 NKJV)
Satan’s defeat is actually incidental. The main point is that we should rejoice because:
1.         Our names are written in heaven.
2.         Jesus draws men to Himself.
3.         We are free from the fear of death.
4.         Sin is destroyed for anyone who is born again.
5.         We are followers of Jesus.

Over the Schemes of Men

How has Jesus triumphed over the schemes of men?

Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them. (John 10:39 NLT)
Jesus triumphed over the schemes of men when He walked away while they wanted to stone Him. This shows that there is not a realm in which He is not sovereign. It doesn’t matter what anyone says about free will or anything else. The very fact that Jesus could cause people not to do what they eagerly and forcefully wanted, proves that He is in control. One might argue that later they crucified Him and therefore did accomplish their will. But even then Jesus made it clear to Pilate that it was only by the will of the Father that Jesus was being taken.
Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin." (John 19:11 RSV)

Over the Law

How did Jesus triumph over the Law?

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col 2:13-15 NIV)
See also Eph 2:14-16. Before Jesus came, salvation was still by faith in God, however that faith was supposed to be demonstrated by obedience to the Old Testament laws. It was impossible for any human being to live up to every law and the remedy was sacrificing animals – in faith. The religious rulers soon turned the laws into a system of salvation by works. Jesus abolished that, yet there are many religious leaders that have reverted back to salvation by works. Jesus freed us from that once for all.

Over the World

What does Jesus give us because He has overcome the world?

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NASB)
Jesus has overcome the world, but it is interesting to note that He didn’t remove us from the world or remove the trouble. Instead, He has given us His peace. The way we can overcome the world is by letting His peace dwell in us.
What is the ultimate purpose in Jesus’ triumphs?

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21 ESV)
In all of the areas that Jesus has triumphed, the bottom line is the conclusion of this verse. Whether He has triumphed over temptation, death, sin, or Satan, it is always for us that He has triumphed. That is humbling and also reassuring. No wonder that after declaring the worthiness of the Lamb, the elders fall at His feet and worship. What else can we do?
Let’s remember that in Jesus, we are at the right hand of God the Father. We also have triumphed. It is only because He is worthy that we are in this position so let’s live, witness, and worship in accordance to what He has done.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 17 - Revelation 4:6b -11

And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." (ESV)

What is the purpose of the four living creatures?


My first thoughts were to view the four living creatures in two ways. They could symbolize the attributes that we should have before God since we, like them, are beings that continually live before God. They could also symbolize the characteristics of God since they have often been seen when He is seen. Then it occurred to me that they don’t have to be symbolic of anything. It is possible that God created these beings for His own pleasure and to declare His holiness to all creation.

Like A Lion

Scripture says a lot about lions and what they represent. Read these verses.

What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion? (Judg 14:18b NIV)

Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and that those with him are brave. (2 Sam 17:10 NIV)

You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness — who dares to rouse him? (Gen 49:9 NIV)

What could the creature like a lion represent?


The lion is obviously a symbolic of strength, courage and ferocity. The ferocity of the lion is even used to describe Satan’s hatred and desire to destroy Christians (1Peter 3:8). It also symbolized Israel (Nu 24:9) and  Jesus (Rev 5:5).

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help And rely on horses, And trust in chariots because they are many And in horsemen because they are very strong, But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord! (Isa 31:1 NASU)
For thus says the Lord to me, "As the lion or the young lion growls over his prey, Against which a band of shepherds is called out, And he will not be terrified at their voice nor disturbed at their noise, So will the Lord of hosts come down to wage war on Mount Zion and on its hill." Like flying birds so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; He will pass over and rescue it. (Isa 31:4-5 NASU)

What does the lion represent in these verses and how should we apply this to our lives?


They represent God in His protection for his people. Think about these verses for a few minutes in relation to a time of trouble and confusion coming on the world when people are turning everywhere except to the Lord. This has happened throughout history and will be completed in the end times. The mighty God of heaven is waiting to help any who turn to Him. Instead we turn to others for help. The Israelites turned to the Egyptians for help. People today turn to psychiatrists, mediums, self-actualization classes, booze, and various other “wise things” of man. But these things are not God’s intention. These things can even happen to a church when they turn to the world’s methods of trying to “sell” the Gospel. They may even decide to use worldly money raising techniques to fund their operations or capital improvement plans. When they do this, they will eventually see the hand of God turned against them. On the other hand, think of the comfort of having the Lord God Almighty protect His people and not letting the clamor of the world take them away from Him.

Like An Ox

So Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this company will lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field." (Num 22:4a NKJV)

How might the ox demonstrate our spiritual determination or God’s character?


This showed the relentless eating habits of oxen. They would continue eating in a pasture until all the grass was consumed. Nothing would be left. This is the attitude we need in our spiritual life. Like an ox, we must carefully consume all of the Word of God. We need to look at all He has said to us.

As an attribute of the Lord, this could show that He is patient and steady. In the cosmic battle between good and evil, He will leave nothing of wickedness behind but will consume it all.

Oxen were also animals of sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed Himself for us.

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light." (Matt 11:28-30 NLT)

Jesus is also identifying Himself with some other qualities of an ox. He is gentle and humble and in His strength, He carries our burdens for us. God is also a jealous God who wants His people to turn to Him. When we do, we receive comfort and rest. He has already carried the burden of our sin, so why not let him carry all the other burdens as well?

Like A Man

How does the creature with a face like a man represent our relationship with God?


Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." (Gen 1:26 RSV)

The third creature had a face like a man. This shows that the living creatures are like us in that they are created beings. The word “image” in the Hebrew means a representative figure. The work “likeness” in the Hebrew means “resemblance.” Man is created to resemble God and to be a representative figure of Him. In doing this He has given us some of His attributes. We possess intelligence, having the ability to think, make choices, and show emotion. As God is holy, and these creatures are living in His presence, they, too, are holy. God originally created us to be holy and to live in His presence. We need to use our intelligence to choose to be holy. Our ability to think also lets us know that we aren’t holy and that the only way we can become holy is by the means that God has revealed.

For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. (Heb 2:16-18 NASB)

This also shows us that God identifies with us. When we come before the throne of God, this creature should be a constant reminder to us that God knows our weakness and won’t forget that He has made atonement for our sins through Jesus our Lord. (Actually I doubt we will ever forget when we see Jesus in heaven; however our Lord often speaks to us in many ways just to make sure we don’t forget.) This is the only way we can become holy - through the blood of Jesus.

Like an Eagle

What can we learn from eagles regarding our relationship to God and His attributes?


Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but  they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings  like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isa 40:30-31 ESV)

This is the picture of one who puts his hope in the Lord. In time of trouble and hardship, He will renew us. The eagle is shown as a tireless creature that can soar and continue for hours without rest. In the presence of the Lord, we too, will not grow weary. When we are tempted to give up or become depressed, we need to go into the throne room of the Lord to be renewed. This is something that we need to be reminded of over and over again. No matter what the problem is, now matter how bad the circumstances, our Lord is sovereign and He will renew us and give us strength.

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. (Ex 19:4 NIV)

The symbol of an eagle is associated with the Lord’s divine protection. When Israel was brought out of Egypt, it was totally by the will and power of the Lord. Later in the book of Revelation we will see another time when a “woman” is saved by giving her the two wings of a great eagle to save her. (Rev 12:14).
He found him in a desert land, And in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, That hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. (Deut 32:10-11 NASU)

I watched You Tube videos where eagles are flying beside and above others. According to the makers, these are young eagles learning to fly with the adult. Apparently, the air currents from the adult make it easier for the young to learn; it appears as if the adult is carrying them. Others have said that eagles actually kick the young out of the nest and then swoop down and catch them until they learn to fly. (This isn’t documented by any researchers that I looked up.) However, they have been seen to fly over the nest to lure the young to take their first flight.
The Lord is along side of us at all times as well as hovering over us, leading us in His paths. He also has to stir up our nests at times to get us moving on to where He wants us to go. Unlike the eagle, God does actually carry us. The Christian walk is not a walk that seeks the comfort of status quo, but one that involves stretching to make us grow.

Now my days are swifter than a runner; They flee away, they see no good. They pass by like swift ships, Like an eagle swooping on its prey. (Job 9:25-26 NKJV)

This verse relates the swiftness of the eagle to the shortness of our lives. Think also about the swiftness of judgment that comes from the Lord. To the eagle’s victim, it comes out of the blue (up to 190 miles per hour), and is seldom anticipated except for a split second, if at all. The Lord’s vengeance will come upon the earth in the same way. In the expanse of history, seven years of tribulation will seem very swift. Because people at that time will be so callused, they will be like an eagle’s victim and wonder from where it came.

Covered With Eyes

What can we learn when we contemplate these creatures being full of eyes?


Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. (Matt 6:22 NLT)

These creatures dwell in the presence of the living Lord and have eyes all over them. It is possible that they only have eyes for God, and so should we. In the presence of God these beings are fully flooded with the light of the Lord. They are full of light just as we can be if we are truly focused on Him.

Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened … (Eph 1:18 RSV)

It shouldn’t be surprising to think of creatures with eyes all over them, since we refer to having eyes in our hearts. These are eyes that see spiritual truth. These are eyes by which we gain understanding of the Lord.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20 NASB)

We gain understanding by what we see, and we can see His nature in what He has created as well as when we use our eyes to read His word.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:2-3 NIV)

We need to fix our eyes on Jesus to see His response to opposition and pain. We always need to remember that the book of Revelation is a book of pain and sorrow for many, but those who have their eyes fixed on Jesus will see the end, which is the joy that He has provided for us. When our eyes are full of Jesus, we will not grow weary and lose heart.

The eyes of the creatures represent their total concentration on God.

Six Wings

Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. (Isa 6:2 ESV)

Jesus said to him, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you." (John 13: 10 ESV)

What three things does the creature’s use of their wings remind us about ourselves?


In Isaiah, the creatures covered their feet with their wings. As the creatures hide their feet we are reminded that our feet come in contact with the dirty part of the world. The unholiness of the world should not be brought before the Lord. He is too holy to look upon that. Of course we also know that since He made the provision for us to come to Him complete and in confidence, this is only symbolic and must remind us that the blood of Jesus must cover our sin. They also cover their faces showing that He is also so holy we can’t look directly at Him. Thanks be to God that He has also provided the covering of His righteousness so that through Jesus, we may see Him. The creatures also use their wings for movement, which represents our ability to serve Him.

Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings From the wicked who despoil me, My deadly enemies who surround me. (Ps 17:8-9 NASU)

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. (Ps 36:7 NASU)
Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by. (Ps 57:1 NASU)

What are God’s attributes symbolized by wings?


God’s protection, comfort, and shelter are all symbolized in wings. The shelter is sometimes only until the disaster has passed. He doesn’t promise escape from the disaster but shelter so that we may endure it. What He wants us to do is to come to Him to cope with our problems of life. Families of alcoholics learn to cope in non-biblical ways and many times never learn the truth. Only by seeking refuge in Him can we truly cope. After the disaster has passed, we come out from under the wings and are on the front lines, stronger than ever.

Never Stop Saying Holy

The four living creatures never stop saying holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. What does this tell us about God?


And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. (Isa 6:3 KJV)

When Isaiah saw these creatures they were declaring the holiness of God and His glory. When John saw them they were still declaring God’s holiness. Day and night they never stop, most likely from eternity past to eternity future. Doesn’t this tell us something unique about God’s holiness? We may refer to holy angels or holy saints, but the holiness of God is so amazing and beyond our comprehension that these creatures have never stopped declaring it. He is a loving God and He has demonstrated it by sending Jesus to die for us, but the creatures don’t cry “loving” day and night. We could recite the same argument for each of His attributes and discover that it is only His holiness that is declared forever. When I read the first few books of the Bible, I see His great concern for holiness. If we ever doubt His holiness or attribute to Him any kind of evil thoughts or intent, we have maligned the most important attribute of God.

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV)

If we don’t have a concern for personal holiness, then we have missed a significant aspect of our lives in Christ.

The creatures also use the phrase “Lord God Almighty,” which describes His authority, position, power, and everlasting nature. John explains in verse 9 that this is giving glory, honor, and thanks to God. How often do we forget that our words are often the only way that others can know that we are giving God glory, honor, and thanks? I love that song that says that when the world asks us why we are raising our hands, we’ll tell them we are loving our King. Our hearts may very well express it, but for others to see it and know what it is, it must become verbal. John picks up on the last verse of what the creatures say and emphasizes it two more times. God lives forever and ever. No matter how long it takes for these things to take place, the same God is in control. We don’t have repeatedly deal with a new administration every four or even a hundred years.

He Is Worthy

What do the elders demonstrate when they fall down and cast their crowns before the throne? What does this imply for us?


The elders fall down before the throne every time the creatures declare God’s holiness. I can only picture them continually on their faces. The creatures never stop crying holy so they must be there in a constant state of worship. When we discussed the crowns in Revelation 2:10, several were listed that we will all receive when we get to heaven. If the elders’ crowns are representative of the crowns we are to receive, then they are showing that all we have in the way of righteousness, joy, love, compassion, or anything else is owed to our Lord and God.

The elders then take up the praise and are vitally concerned with God’s worthiness to receive that glory, honor, and power. The King James Version says they were created for His pleasure. God would not will into being something that was not made for His pleasure and anything made for His pleasure is good because He is a holy God.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Gen 1:31 KJV)

God made all things for His pleasure and that they are good but that doesn’t rule out the fact that sin has entered in this world and it has grieved our Lord.

As we continue into the book of Revelation, we will always want to remember these attributes of God, for it is because of His holiness that the end of sin must come. Since He does live forever, He can see the big picture, which gives Him the ability to judge fairly. By the end of the book He will have allowed man to try every way he can to save himself and shown that they are all rebellion against God. So at the end, if any do not come by His way, by faith in Jesus, then He can say that He has seen it all and still men have rebelled. Because He is worthy both from the standpoint of having paid the price for sin, and having created all things, He has the right to carry out the judgment. Because He is all-powerful, He has the ability to carry out the judgment.

May you be inspired by His holiness and worthiness to worship Him in holiness and truth. May His holiness and worthiness enable us to trust Him for all things and live a holy life in Jesus.

What did you find in Revelation 4 that helped you understand God or yourself better?
How has this helped you in your Christian walk?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 16 - Revelation 4:1-6a

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things." Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; 6 and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; (NASU)
Summarize the previous fifteen lessons. Note any significant divisions and the purpose of each section.

How does this fourth chapter of Revelation significantly different from the previous ones?


The opening of chapter four is a major division in the Book of Revelation. The first chapter was the first division and introduced us to Jesus, who He is and what He has done to save us. The second division included chapters two and three, which showed us how Christian churches were fairing in the world from Jesus’ viewpoint. I didn’t capitalize church here because these are organizations, not necessarily congregations of believers. It included a lot of teaching about how we can live as individuals as well as the way the Church really should be. We got a lot of practical stuff out of these two divisions. Now, we enter into the part of the book that few people study because there are many symbols and varied views of how to interpret them. However, by neglecting the remainder of the book we also run the risk of reducing our understanding of Jesus as well as the spiritual forces of evil. We need to know these things because our Father has given them to us to help us in our walk with Jesus, as well as to tell us what will happen in the end times. They haven’t been written simply to give bored theologians something to do.

From this point in Revelation, it is important to start asking a lot of questions about everything that is going on. Does the command to John to come up here apply symbolically to the church? Does it signify the rapture, or is it just an invitation to him so that God can give him His viewpoint? Most times the simplest answer is the right one. The same thing applies to some of the many symbols that appear. The simplest answer can be found when the symbol is explained in other parts of Scripture.

What Must Take Place after These Things

John is about to be show some things that are in the future. What is the time frame of the things he will be shown?


“After this” are two key words that signal that a significant change in the book has taken place. They can be understood in various ways.

Up to this time, Jesus was seen walking among the churches. The first three chapters represent the age of the church. The words “after this” signify that something new or different has arrived. Jesus says that what John is about to see is what must take place after the church age, which has just been discussed.
Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. (Rev 1:19 NKJV)
To answer part of the question about “after this", we need to go back and see what Jesus had in mind. John has already written what he has seen, the description of the Glorified Savior, so that part of his instruction has been completed. The things which are would refer to the description of the churches and His message to them. So “after this” is referring to some time after the messages are delivered.

We have three options of understanding this:

1.      The simplest understanding is to say that these things are to happen right after the dictation of the letters. To come to this conclusion at this time in our study would be to relegate most of the rest of the book to our history or something that has already happened in the spiritual realm since most of the events that will be shown haven’t yet been seen on earth.

2.      We could say that these things will take place after the rapture, or after the promises and warnings that Jesus gave the churches have been fulfilled. If we try to get too specific about when they will occur, we are in danger of limiting our understanding in the rest of the book because we will have to interpret them in light of what we have already decided.

3.      The next thing to think about would be to consider it to be in John’s future at some undisclosed time. This is safer to assume since it places no limitations. If, as we read and study, we can see some things that shed light on the time we can go back and add that detail without the problem of having to fit it into our understanding of this verse. 


Have you ever wondered what heaven is like? How would you describe heaven?


If you asked the average person in America, he would probably talk about standing around on clouds and playing harps. Everyone there would have wings and look like angels. Get ready, because the visions of heaven have some of these elements but also burst the myths that most people believe.

It is important to see that Jesus invited John to see this vision. This is not something that John has willed or sought after. It is the Sovereign Lord who has decided to give him a vision. When John does go up it is in the Spirit. It is not bodily. Anyone who has had a true vision of heaven could only have it based on God’s provision. The first thing that John sees is a throne with someone sitting on it.

His Throne

What image do you think most people have of God? What do you image when you think of God being exalted on His throne?


In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. (Isa 6:1 KJV)

We will come back to this verse several times because of the appearance of the Lord and His throne and the creatures that are there with Him. Isaiah says he saw the Lord high and exalted. Just what do you image when you think of God being exalted? The dictionary defines exalt as: 1. To raise on high: lift up; elevate. 2. To raise in rank, character, honor, etc. 3. To glorify or praise; pay honor to. 4. To fill with delight, pride, etc. 5 To increase the force or intensity of, as colors.[1] If we take each meaning and think about God’s appearance, we can see how our Lord is elevated. He is on a throne that is physically above us so that we may see Him clearly and without distraction. He has the highest rank that is possible in all of the physical or spiritual realms. There is none greater than our Lord. His character is the purest that can be. He is honored above all creation because He has made all things. We are to give Him praise and honor when we exalt Him. We are to be filled with delight and pride that He is our God when we see Him. There is no way to increase the force or intensity of our God because He is all powerful, but when we see Him exalted, we may begin to understand to a greater degree, His power, majesty and glory. As we look at the description in Revelation, this is the view that we need to have. Yes, He is our Father and our spirit cries Abba, but in light of the end times that are being revealed, His power, majesty and justice will strike fear into the heart of the unbelievers.

How can this vision of God help us when we face trials?


Your eyes will see the king in his beauty; they will behold a land that stretches afar. Your mind will muse on the terror: "Where is he who counted, where is he who weighed the tribute? Where is he who counted the towers?" You will see no more the insolent people, the people of an obscure speech which you cannot comprehend, stammering in a tongue which you cannot understand. (Isa 33:17-19 RSV)

Isaiah gives us a hint of what might go through our minds when we come face to face with the Lord. We will see His beauty and maybe, for a split instant, we will wonder about all the evil people that had brought terror to the earth as the Assyrians did when they destroyed and plundered Jerusalem. But our attention will turn back to the beauty of the Lord and they will be utterly forgotten. We need to be so absorbed in His beauty so that evil does not bother us or distract us from our mission now. If we have a vision of our Sovereign Lord as we see Him in Revelation, this can occur.

Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice. (Ps 45:6 NLT)

The Lord has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything. (Ps 103:19 NLT)

This is what the Lord says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that? Could you build me such a resting place? (Isa 66:1NLT)

What do these verses bring to your mind about the throne of God?


His throne is a symbol of His everlasting nature. From it He dispenses justice. This is very important to remember every day, not just as we study the book of Revelation. He will always be around and He does dispense justice. He has established His throne in heaven, however we need to allow Him to be on the throne of our lives so that He is the center of all we think, do and become. God is even bigger than a throne, for all of heaven is His throne. Our Lord fills all of everything. Nothing escapes His notice.

God’s appearance is described in comparison to gemstones. How does this help describe God?


The appearance of God on the throne is cloaked in terms that are hard to explain. Many versions of the Bible translate some of the words differently. Jasper seems to stay the same but carnelian is also called sardine. Bible dictionaries don’t help a lot; they only explain that they don’t know precisely what John was talking about when he tried to explain what he saw.

Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of a firmament, shining like crystal, spread out above their heads. (Ezek 1:22 RSV)

You can continue to read all of Ezekiel’s vision with references to gems, fire, and rainbows. Ezekiel saw something that he had trouble explaining as well. The problem is that both John and Ezekiel were witnessing something that was totally unknown to either of them. This was something that was so marvelous that they tried to explain it in terms of jewels and other things of great value or beauty. From these visions, it becomes evident that our God, the one who cares about us as individuals as well as nations and even the universe, is far beyond our capabilities to explain His appearance. It is only possible from these verses to inspire within us a sense of awe at His presence and who He is.

Do you have any problem accepting the impossibility of describing God? What are some of the other mysteries of God that you have trouble accepting or describing?


It is interesting that we can accept the physical impossibility to describe God’s appearance, but we become frustrated when we try to explain His methods or His attributes. Perhaps we should learn to accept some of the mysteries of God without completely needing to understand them as well. As an example, there are numerous references to God’s election in the Scripture as well as many references in which we see God giving us choices. How can both be true? They are true, yet many people spend endless hours trying to explain away one or the other. Others try to explain how both can be true but end up like John and Ezekiel, using terms and theories that give us a glimpse of the infinite mind of God, but are woefully inadequate.

The Rainbow

What does this or any rainbow in the Bible symbolize?


The rainbow that appears in the cloud, even though it is described in Revelation as looking like an emerald, is symbolic of God’s promises. He used the rainbow in Gen 9:13-16 as a specific promise not to destroy the earth with a flood again. When we see the rainbow around Gods throne, we can be assured that it is always in His presence. This reveals that it is His nature never to forget His promises. If this one promise was so important that He would always have a rainbow around Him, what of His other promises in the Word? He has just given seven promises to the churches. All of these involve eternal life.

Twenty-Four Elders

Who are these twenty-four elders who are on twenty-four throne?


The twenty-four elders are generally believed to represent all believers. This is mainly due to the description of their clothes. They are all dressed in white, which is promised in Rev 3:5 for believers and they have crowns, which are also promised to us. It could also be said that the number twenty-four stands for the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. Rev 21:12-14 describes the wall around the New Jerusalem with twelve gates. Each gate has a name of the one of the tribes of Israel, while there are twelve foundations, each with a name of one of the apostles. This would then represent those who came in faith from the Old Testament and those who came in faith from the New Testament.

And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come." And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, … (Rev 4:8-10 NASB)

What appears to be the main occupation of the twenty-four elders? How can we be like them?


One thing is certain, these elders only appear in the book of Revelation, and they are constantly worshiping the Lord. In Rev 4:10 we see them falling before the throne every time the creatures give glory and honor to God. In verse 8, it says that the creatures never stop saying how holy God is. This is a never-ending circle of worship and praise. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we, too, could always be in a state of worship before God regardless of what we are doing? We should be trying to do just that.

They also acknowledge the sovereignty of God by laying down their crowns before Him. Even though we have studied in Rev 3:26 that He will give us authority to rule with Him, we will still be under Him. Rev 5:8, 14, 7:11, 11:16, 19:4 are all verses where they again fall at the feet of God. It is an inspiration to think about the fact that elders, those we respect and admire, have absolutely no second thoughts about falling down before God. In shedding their crowns, they are removing all pride, holding nothing back from Him. Indeed, they do represent not only all believers, but even more importantly what we should be like in our worship.

Lightning and Thunder

As I looked, I saw a great storm coming from the north, driving before it a huge cloud that flashed with lightning and shone with brilliant light. There was fire inside the cloud, and in the middle of the fire glowed something like gleaming amber. From the center of the cloud came four living beings that looked human. (Ezek 1:4-5 NLT)

Above this surface was something that looked like a throne made of blue lapis lazuli. And on this throne high above was a figure whose appearance resembled a man. (Ezek 1:26-27 NLT)

A great brightness shone around him, and burning coals blazed forth. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot arrows and scattered his enemies; his lightning flashed, and they were confused. Then at the command of the Lord, at the blast of his breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare. (2 Sam 22:13-16 NLT)

My heart pounds as I think of this. It trembles within me. Listen carefully to the thunder of God's voice as it rolls from his mouth. It rolls across the heavens, and his lightning flashes in every direction. Then comes the roaring of the thunder— the tremendous voice of his majesty. He does not restrain it when he speaks. God's voice is glorious in the thunder. We can't even imagine the greatness of his power. (Job 37:1-5 NLT)

Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, "I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again." When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him. (John 12:28b-29 NLT)

List the things that appear when God manifests His presence.
What is your reaction as you think about these things? Are you afraid? Why or why not?

Lightning, thunder, smoke, clouds, and the four living creatures are some of the things that appear to show that the Lord is near. Never do we see a clearly defined figure of God. We see a figure like that of a man. In Ex 19:16-19, 20:18 God manifests His presence in lightning and thunder. The people were so overcome by these manifestations that they trembled and stayed at a distance. As believers we have the opportunity to come into His presence (Ps 100:1).

Lightning and thunder convey images of His judgment in these verses. That's one of the reasons the Israelites were afraid. Since Jesus has taken the judgment of our sins upon Himself, we need not fear His judgment (Heb 4:16, Jude 24).

Thunder also represents the voice of God as Elihu tells of His might and wonder in Job 37. Elihu is the only one of Job's friends who isn't rebuked by the Lord. When he finishes his discourse, God Himself speaks to Job. I gather from this, that Elihu knew the Lord very well. I think that Elihu's heart pounded, not because he was afraid, but because he was thrilled to hear God's voice.

When God actually speaks some know exactly what He has said as Jesus did. Others who do not know Him can only hear thunder. Perhaps it is those who are a bit closer who think that an angel is speaking.

How might the clouds and lightning that surround God demonstrate His provision or protection?


The clouds that surround the Lord can also be seen as His provision to protect us from His wrath. If He were to appear unhidden, we would die. If He appeared clearly in all His glory, the brilliance of His radiance would consume us.

Think of the lightening as energy that radiates from God to uphold all things. The amount of energy that is in a bolt of lightning is immeasurable with our instruments because the instrument would be burned up. Whenever lightning strikes, we say that it is an act of God. How true it is, for only He can control it. The fact that lightening is so immeasurable and that it is so far from our control demonstrates the power and glory of our Lord.

The radiance and light that surround Him always symbolizes His holiness and purity. Things are refined by fire and light. Sunlight shining on a steam of water can kill germs and purify it. He gives us enough of this light to cleans us but not so much to kill us.

Seven Lamps

In Rev 1:4 we dealt with the seven spirits of God so that won’t be addressed again.

Some scholars say that the seven lamps before the throne represent the raptured church. Explain how this is or is not an accurate analysis.


There are some who would say that these lamps are also the lamps that appear in Rev 1:12 and19, which are the seven churches addressed in Revelation chapters two and three. These scholars believe the church has been raptured before the beginning of chapter four since these lamps are now standing before the throne in heaven. I like that idea; however this is not the plain and simple teaching of Rev 4:5. In chapter 1 the Word plainly says that the lamp stands on earth are the churches and this verse very plainly says that the lamps in heaven are the spirits of God. To say anything else is to make the scripture fit what you want.

Sea Of Glass

The sea is figurative of many things in the Bible but most often relates to people and nations.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (James 1:6 ESV)

Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.” (Dan 7:2-3 ESV)

How and why are the seas in these verses different from the one described in Rev 4:6?


A person who doubts is like a wave of the sea. A person who doubts is unsure of God’s will and therefore cannot align himself with it. But in heaven, we see a sea of glass with nary a wave in sight, expressing an absolute calmness. Before the Lord there will be no doubts and no unrest. Unrest is caused by sin, which occurs when we want to do our thing instead of what the Lord wants. When we fight against God there is only one result, personal turmoil. Not until we rest in His forgiveness and perfect holiness can we have a heart that is like a sea of glass.

In Daniel’s verses, the sea is churned up by the winds and four beasts come up out of it. In this case, the sea represents the people of the earth who are restless and never content. The beasts are nations or leaders of nations who come from, or are a product of, the nations.

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. (Dan 7:13 NIV)

What is the difference between those who follow the beasts (or kings) in Dan 7:2 and us who follow Jesus who is described in this verse?


The difference is that our rest comes with Jesus because He brings holiness and righteousness where there was none before. He doesn’t come from the sinful sea of mankind but He comes from above, sinless and pure.
In Rev 12:17-13:4 we again see a beast that comes from the sea. There, the message is clear that Satan will give his power to this ruler in a way that he has never done before. It can be seen from this and Mat 4:8,9 that Satan has been given authority and power over earthly kingdoms as he directs and guides this beast and makes him a mighty ruler. But, since God is sovereign, even Satan’s plans fit into the scheme of things and these prophecies will come true.

The main point is that Satan can pull up from a sinful, dissatisfied world people who will follow and be used by him. But Jesus can clean up and make a sinful person satisfied in Him. In Him we have rest.
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Phil 4:12 NASU)

Contrast this with Paul who learned to be content with and in all things. When we find discontentment in things, whether it is a job, church, marriage, or any other task or situation, we open ourselves up to Satan’s leading. I’m not talking about seeing a problem that has to be resolved, but an attitude of griping. When I was in the Navy, people always griped no matter what they were doing; they could always find something wrong that was someone else’s fault.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious. It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time To recover the remnant of His people who are left, From Assyria and Egypt, From Pathros and Cush, From Elam and Shinar, From Hamath and the islands of the sea. NKJV (Isa 11:9 NKJV)
What additional things can we learn about the sea of glass from these verses?


The knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth like a sea. Politics and philosophies claim solutions to man’s problems. They claim that if everyone would adhere to the conservative, liberal, ideological, or religious values they expound, we would all be at rest. But it will only be when everyone has a saving knowledge of the Lord will we have rest. Even our Christian differences are overcome when we gain this all-encompassing knowledge. That rest will only take place before the throne of God.
This rest will be a place of rest when all the nations come to Jesus. As the banner of Jesus is raised, all nations will come to Him. It will happen as He reaches out His hand and bring people to Himself from the whole world.
What is the symbology of the sea being like glass and crystal?


The sea is clear as crystal and may very well refer to the holiness of those who stand before God. Crystal was any clear, colorless, hard material like quartz. Crystal is transparent and represents our need to be transparent before God and with each other. When sin separates us from God, it is us who cannot see Him and we try to hide our sin from Him. In reality, we are always transparent because He can see through us. We only become transparent when we stop trying to fool ourselves.
1 John 2:12-14 talks of knowing the Jesus and knowing the Father. The Greek word for knowing expresses the idea of being aware of, feeling, perceiving, being sure, and understanding. When we are transparent with people, we know them this way. We can see when they are hurting or happy without them having to say a word because we know them. This is the way we should know the Father. Without Him saying a word, we should be able to determine His will. This is only possible when His Holy Spirit lives in us. We don’t need Him to say a word because we have already hidden His Word in our hearts and this is the way we come to know Him.
How is the Church – redeemed people of all ages – symbolized by the colorless quality of crystal?


He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. (Eph 5:27 NLT)

The crystal is colorless to indicate that it is without flaw. The sea of glass could then represent all believers whether dead, alive in the state that we should be now, or the way we will be forever in His presence.

May we exalt our Lord in every aspect of our lives, knowing Him better and remembering His promises so that we may be at peace in His presence. That is a witness that will shake the world.

[1] Webster Comprehensive Dictionary International Edition (Chicago: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, 1984)