The Throne in Heaven
After this I looked, and there before me was a door
standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a
trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place
after this." (Rev. 4:1) Having reviewed the things that have been (Rev. 1)
and the things that are (Rev. 2-3), we have now arrived at part three of
the book, the things that will be after this.
John looked up and saw an open door, the one he had first heard about
when he wrote down the letter to the Church in Philadelphia.
And just like Paul said would happen to us (1 Thes. 4:16) he
heard a loud command, "Come up here!"
At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a
throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the
appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled
the throne. (Rev. 4:2-3) In the twinkling of an eye, John was
catapulted forward in time to the day we all dream of, the Rapture of the
Church. Since he traveling through time,
he had to have what we call an out of body experience, because he wasn't given
a resurrection body, like we will be, and would soon be going back. He called it being in the spirit.
The same thing had happened to Paul about 40 years earlier,
when he also was taken to the Throne of God (2 Cor. 12:1-4). Paul wasn't allowed to tell about it, but its
memory provided more than enough motivation for him to withstand the severest
forms of persecution and suffering.
Unlike Paul, John was told to record every thing he saw. The Jasper and Carnelian he saw are the first
and last stones on the High Priest's breastplate and may summarize them all,
and the rainbow is a symbol of God's mercy.
Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones,
and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had
crowns of gold on their heads. (Rev. 4:4) These 24 elders confuse some
people, but they shouldn't. Their
appearance gives them away. They have
thrones, so they're rulers. They
surround the Throne of God, so they're assisting Him. They're seated, so their
work is done. They're dressed in white,
so they're righteous. They're wearing the Greek "stephanos" crown, so
they're victors, over comers. They're
called Elders, a title associated more with Christianity than Judaism. So far we have a pretty strong case for them
representing the Church. But there's
Throughout the Bible there are a number of "peak-to-peak"
prophecies, as Clarence Larkin began calling them over 100 years ago. They take in the first and second comings in
a single passage, sometimes in a single sentence. He likened them to mountain peaks between which was a valley, hidden from the prophet's
view. One of the best known is Isaiah
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will
be on his shoulders. And he will be
called Wonderful, Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on
and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Of this entire prophecy, only the first half of the first sentence has
actually been fulfilled. The Child was
born and the Son was given. The rest
awaits the 2nd Coming, leaving a span of time between the giving of
the Son and His assumption of world government.
Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy contains a similar gap between verse 26, where
the people of the ruler who will come destroy the city and the sanctuary and
verse 27, where the ruler himself confirms a covenant with Israel.
And the same is true of Isaiah 61:1-3.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the
LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up
the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from
darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the
day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those
who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the
oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a
spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the
LORD for the display of his splendor.
Jesus quoted from this passage at
the beginning of His ministry in Nazareth,
but stopped at the comma following "the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke
4:18-19) The rest of the prophecy describes the Great Tribulation and
Kingdom age yet to come.
Each of these prophecies contains a
hidden span of time that lasts from the 1st Coming to the 2nd
like an otherwise complete puzzle with one piece missing. The Church Age is always the missing
piece. These three are but a sample of
Larkin's peak to peak prophecies. In the
Bible there are a total of 24 of them, each with a gap where the Church fits,
the same number as the elders surrounding God's Throne.
From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of
thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven
spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of
glass, clear as crystal. (Rev. 4:5) Literally, the seven-fold Spirit of
God, an Old Testament idiom for the Holy Spirit. The sea of glass was characterized on Earth
by the bronze laver or wash- basin that stood outside the Holy Place. It symbolizes God's
Word. On Earth we wash in His Word (Ephesians
5:26). In Heaven we "stand on
it." (Remember the old hymn
"Standing on the Promises"?)
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they
were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was
like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living
creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his
wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord
God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." (Rev. 4:6-8) These are the four cherubim who guard the
throne of God. In the beginning there
were five, but their leader betrayed both them and his trust, rebelling against
God and causing the introduction of a second will in the universe. We call him by his primary activity, Satan,
(it means accuser in Hebrew) but in Ezekiel 28:14 he's called "the
anointed cherub." The Hebrew from Isaiah 14:12 gives us his name,
"Heleyl ben Shachar" the shining one, son of the dawn. When the Bible was translated into Latin in
the 4th Century this became Lucifer, which means light bearer, and
early English translations kept the name.
He is not the Morning Star, as some modern versions contend. That's a title the Lord Jesus uses only of
Ezekiel's vision of God's Throne showed each cherub with four faces, Isaiah
doesn't describe their faces at all and John gives them each only one, but
whether on one or all four, the faces are the same. A lion, an ox, a man, and
an eagle. They can be likened to
the ensigns of the four camps of Israel.
The Four Camps
When the Jews camped in the wilderness after leaving Egypt, they
were instructed to set up in 4 sub-camps, one for each point of the compass
with the tabernacle in the center. The first was called the Camp of Judah and
included Issachar and Zebulon. Members of those 3 tribes would look for the
ensign of Judah,
a flag with a large lion embroidered on it, to locate their campground. It was
always due east of the tabernacle. The second camp was called Ephraim and
included Manasseh and Benjamin and was positioned opposite to the west.
Ephraim's flag depicted the figure of an ox. The third camp was headed by
Reuben and included Simeon and Gad. Reuben's flag showed the face of a man. They
were located south of the tabernacle. The fourth camp was that of Dan with
Asher and Napthali included and was located on the North. Dan's flag pictured a
Looking down from above God would see the camp of Israel with the
tabernacle in the Center and the 4 sub-camps around it. The large flag waving
in the East pictured the Lion, and opposite it was the Ox. To the south was the
face of a Man and opposite it was the Eagle. Was God modeling His throne in the
Camp of Israel with the four flags representing the four faces of the cherubim?
The Four Gospels
Some also see the four gospels symbolized in the four faces,
the Lion for Matthew, the Ox, being a beast of service, for Mark, the Man for
Luke and the Eagle, a symbol of royalty, for John.
Matthew was written to the Jews. His purpose was to
demonstrate who Jesus was; presenting overwhelming evidence that Jesus was Israel's long
awaited Messiah: The Lion of Judah. The genealogy in Matthew begins with
Abraham and runs through King David (Matt 1:1-17). The most
frequently used phrase in Matthew's Gospel is "it was fulfilled."
There are more references to events foretold in Old Testament prophecy and
fulfilled in the Life of Jesus in Matthew than in any other gospel account.
Partial copies discovered in the caves at Qumran
suggest that Matthew may have originally been written in Hebrew. The first
miracle, the cleansing of a leper, was highly symbolic for Israel. Leprosy
was viewed as a punishment for sin, and cleansing a leper signified taking away
the sin of the nation. Matthew's gospel ends with the resurrection signifying
God's promise that David's Kingdom would last forever.
Mark's gospel is actually Peter's account and was written to
the Romans. His purpose was to portray Jesus as the obedient servant of God.
Since no one cares about the heritage of a servant there is no genealogy in
Mark. The most frequently used phrase in Mark's Gospel is "straight
away" sometimes translated immediately, so Mark is called the snapshot
gospel, giving us picture after picture of Jesus in action. The first miracle
is the casting out of a demon, demonstrating that the God whom Jesus served was
superior to all other gods, a matter of great importance in Rome's polytheistic society. Mark's gospel
ends with the ascension, signifying that the servant's job was finished and He
was returning home.
Luke's account portrays Jesus as the Son of Man, a title
Jesus often used of Himself, and was written to the Greeks. It presents the
human side of Jesus and emphasizes his teaching. Greeks were famous for their
story telling form of oratory, so the most frequent phrase in Luke is "and
it came to pass." Most movies of the life of Jesus rely primarily on
Luke's gospel because of its flowing narrative form. Luke's genealogy traces Jesus
all the way back to Adam, the first man (Luke 3:21-38). Since
the Greeks, like the Romans, were a polytheistic society, Luke used the casting
out of a demon as his first miracle, and ended his gospel with the promise of
the Holy Spirit, uniting man with God.
John wrote to the church describing how Jesus felt about
peoples' reaction to His ministry. His gospel is the most unique, based upon 7
miracles, 7 "I Am" statements and 7 discourses. John pays little
attention to chronology, sometimes placing events out of order (like the Temple Cleansing
in Chapter 2) for their effect in presenting Jesus as the Son of God. John's
gospel covers only about 21 days out of the Lord's 3 ˝ year ministry. 10 chapters are devoted
to one week and 1/3 of all the verses in John describe one day. His genealogy
begins before time and identifies Jesus as the Eternal One Who was with God and
Who was God (John 1:1-2). The most frequently used phrase in
John is "Verily, verily", or truly, truly. His first miracle was
changing water into wine, an act of enormous symbolism by which He
"revealed His Glory and His disciples put their faith in Him" (John
2:11). John's Gospel ends with the promise of the 2nd Coming.
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and
thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the
twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him
who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory
and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were
created and have their being." (Rev. 4:9-11) Another
hint as to the identity of the 24 elders. Reading it always calls to mind the words of
the old hymn I sang as a boy, "Holy, Holy, Holy," particularly the
verse that goes "casting down their golden crowns upon the glassy
sea." It's author, Reginald Heber, was an
Anglican clergyman. He was writing about
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