March 31, 2012

Powers, Principalities & Malware

So I am sitting here checking the week's stats and I realize that the hits coming into SoulJournaler have been dramatically lowered again so...instead of going in through the dashboard that controls my site I go in through Google like most everyone else would. So, what do I find set in place by the anti-Christian organization Google to deter readers from my site....

Warning: Something's Not Right Here! Indeed Goober, something is indeed not right. Google isn't right and their dopey algorithm that is precluding an entire web site of Biblical material because of a poorly written set of code and blanket criteria for filtering malware.

I try to enter my site and what appears to eye? None other than a malware warning set in place of my blog by Google to dissuade people from entering my site. I can assure you right now there are no malware, spyware or even Tupperware® on my site. I check constantly for these things to assure that readers can trust my site. Apparently Google uses an algorithm that sweeps broad swathes of data to capture what it assumes might be malicious software based on historical precedents of data but in reality, probably isn't malicious.

It is then that I realize that the powers and principalities will use anything to prevent the spread of the truth of the Gospel and truth in general. If I, as the author and initiator of this blog cannot enter is own site without this warning, then there are probably few that can without it. Do you want to know why this warning is popping up? It is because of a small Christian Site ranking bar that  gives me hit counts...I have now been forced to remove an otherwise harmless Christian organizations banner because of the warning message. I had two but am now down to one.

Thank you dorks at Goober for warning the world against harmless Christian websites like mine or Christian Topsites which is really just a portal to other Christian sites. They do this while simultaneously promoting godless agendas and allow the peddling of questionable materials in terms of immorality, ideology and wickedness here in the Western world. Not only that, they also allow totalitarian and murderous regimes like China and Syria to suppress their people by mercilessly regulating and restricting what their people can receive from the outside if they are animals in a cage.

This is bogus...but you didn't need me to tell you that, did you?

Avoid Goober, er, Google...go use Hot Bot or Yahoo...not that they're any better...but right now I am quite annoyed with Google preventing the spread of the Gospel and their monopolization of the search engine market. They control 80-90% of what people see on the Internet through their bogus Panda search algorithm(s) too. They'll now probably come after me for copying their warning message and claim some form of copyright infringement, trademark infringement or some other nonsense. 

Welcome to Police State 2012

March 28, 2012

Seek Good, Not Evil...That You May Live

I nearly never give way to what I often call "flights of fancy" but of late I cannot help but feel there is something afoot in the system of the world. Lately things feel "weightier" or "foreboding". My guess is that the powers and principalities are about to unload and it is going to be the equivalent of a spiritual "punctuated equilibrium" or detonation of wickedness. The reprobate and wicked nature of the culture has been steadily gaining ground for years now in a slow methodical manner in the form of rampant sexual immorality and industrialized murder (abortion) so to stay off radar (sort of) but my gut is telling me that is about to change. Couldn't tell you why or how I know or why but it has been hanging on me like a saddle on a horse.

I will say that I have never been affected like this before but I will also say that there is a first time for everything. Perhaps it is because I have been spending a lot of time around Pentecostals and the more exuberant of my brethren (love you brothers and sisters!), but the truth is I believe my theology has been affecting them more than theirs effecting mine. To add to this I would have to say I am, as Mark Driscoll says, "a charismatic with a seat belt".

What I can say for certain is when I have been profoundly affected by the Holy Spirit it comes on slow and is nearly oppressive when He is near. Its like standing in the room with a freight train barreling down on me.

It is brooding...darker, like a tornado touching down in the distance.

My guess is it isn't just going to affect me or I wouldn't feel so convicted to write this publicly. I've chosen to write it here because if I did it on Facebook it would only draw the mockery or ire of non-believers in my profile but believers that read this will know what I mean. It is portentous.

We are not only a divided nation we are a divided world and this division, disunity and subversion of truth accelerates around us daily. I do not subscribe to the nonsense of politics anymore as I do not believe I can effect a positive change through politics. I do believe I can cause a positive change through the preaching of the word. One word and one person at a time. What I do see even by "conservative" politicians more often than not astounds me and strikes me as horribly unbiblical at times. Come to think of it, much of what is coming out of pulpits is horribly unbiblical at times. I do not need to do social commentary on the state of affairs in the United States and abroad. We need only read the absurdity of the news and the actions and reactions of so-called "leaders" who do not deserve the title.  I have said it before and I say it again. We have the person or persons in charge whether they be local, state or federal government because God has chosen to put these people where they are as He sees fit. What we have at all levels of this once great country is subject to question at this point. Our system should work but it looks like the constituent parts are flawed. The system cannot run properly or run at all with flawed parts. It’s like running an engine with broken gears. Sooner or later things are going to fly apart at high speeds and cause catastrophic damage which will probably be irreparable.

We have a horribly skewed, twisted and biased news media that only reports what is suitable to their agendas and ideologies. Getting accurate news without digging for it yourself is next to impossible nowadays. People subscribe to the lies and buy them in surplus as long as the lies/news matches their ideologies. The strange thing is that many of these people know they are being lied to and don't care. I suspect they have been given over to a reprobate mind. I see politics spouted from pulpits...places once reserved solely for the word of God. I do not like when TV preachers invite politicians or world leaders on their stages and into their pulpits to promote their agendas.

We are in a real bad way spiritually in this country and we are twisting deeper into the abyss. I sense we are on the verge of something rather large and it does not look like it is going to be a happy affair. We can put a smiley face on an hammer but a hammer can either be used as a tool to put things together or it can be used as a tool of destruction. When a country takes a language and rhetoric and uses it to agitate and instigate rather than to heal and is the work of evil. When we use pulpits to spew politically charged ideological hatred...God will not be mocked. A nation cannot continue to digress and apostatize from God so far without being judged. People can ignore Him all they like He will not ignore their wicked deeds. They can mock and defame Him all they like... they must realize they are storing-up wrath for themselves unwittingly. We are way past judgment in the States. I believe we are already seeing the winds ahead of the storm in the form of depraved leadership, social chaos and people's complete inability to discern truth even when it is placed right before them.

The morality of the majority is broken. The minds of the majority are broken. Judgment is already upon us in these forms. 

Amos 5:6-15 ~ “Seek the Lord and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel, O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth! He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night,who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is his name; who makes destruction flash forth against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress. They hate him who reproves in the gate, And they abhor him who speaks with integrity. Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, yet you will not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine. For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate. Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time. Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Before judgment, God always offers mercy and grace by staying His hand and before issuing judgment. Here in Amos, the Lord through Amos invites a nation (the Israelites) to seek the Lord by doing good and refraining from evil so they might live. The alternative is God’s crushing gavel of justice. Once it breaks over the point of no return it must exhaust itself before ending.

The reason God’s judgment comes on a nation (Israel or America) is/was that those who lead or were in charge were turning justice into something bitter and were throwing righteousness to the ground with disrespect and contempt. Instead of the systems within the nation (specifically the judicial) functioning properly they had been shanghaied and turned it into poison and were used against the righteous people of the nation and of God…exactly what they were designed to prevent.

So we then see mention of the Pleiades and Orion. If the Lord God has made the Pleiades and Orion which are constellations of stars, He could most certainly bring His will to pass on earth too. If God could bring the light out of darkness in the morning and bring darkness to the day at night, He could most certainly change the fate of a nation from prosperity to adversity. This is what we see in Amos’ time with Israel and you can bet your last dollar that we are seeing it now in America and many nations worldwide in the form of injustice, financial disarray and general all-round chaos an inability to discern truth.

Amos then goes on to show other reasons for impending judgment. So went Israel, so goes any nation that does the same as she. Please tell me you cannot see the striking parallels I am about to point out and I will tell you that you need your eyes checked (and your heart).

·         People in Israel began to hate judges who reproved evildoers in the city gate, where the court convened, and any witnesses who spoke the truth.
o   When influential people or leaders in a society despise the truth, there is little hope that it will remain stable and secure.
·         Those in control or leadership imposed high rents and taxes on grain (necessary goods like food)  on the poor to keep them tenants on the land or as we call it today: Wage Slaves (Exod. 23:2, 6).
·         The small farmer no longer owns his own land; he is a tenant of an urban class to whom he must pay a rental for the use of the land, a rental that was often a lion's share of the grain which the land had produced."
o   Compare this to government subsidization and agricultural conglomerates
·         The oppressors used this illegally obtained income to build themselves luxurious homes. The Lord promised that He would make it impossible for these evil people to live in their fancy houses and enjoy the fruits of their vineyards.
o   Compare this to the absolutely atrocious real estate market that is now worse than it was during the Great Depression. Foreclosure rates are now astronomically high.
·       So-called leaders had/have so distressed and oppressed the righteous by their unrighteous conduct that they had made it impossible for the poor to get fair treatment in the courts.

Life had become so corrupt in the nation that keeping quiet about these abuses of power had become the only prudent thing to do. If a person spoke out against them, he could count on feeling the wrath of the powerful of those that had a twist mind that went along with the existing culture.

In the end God called for individual repentance before unleashing His wrath against the unrighteous. It was to no avail. I suspect the same is true for us. I believe we have seen our best days and they are behind us. Unless there is repentance…there is no room for hope in a bright future. Without God coming to us and a revival sparking up, we’re in trouble.

Sorry folks, I can't shake this feeling.

When God’s judgment comes, it comes swiftly. Jeremiah tells us this…the judgment of God would come on the wicked like a whirlwind. He would carry out His purposes fully and not draw back in mercy. When His judgment fell, the wicked would understand it as His judgment. The gavel of God's justice will crush the unrighteous.

Jeremiah 23:19 ~“Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked.”

Pray. A storm is coming and I think it may already be upon us. When it hits full on, all Hell is going to break loose... 

Apocalypse Prophecy XLIII: The Seven Seals-Part II

The 144,000

According to Ezekiel 9:4-6 the mark is the Hebrew letter, “Tav” made like an “X” or “+” and in that context, the mark here was symbolic. In terms of the 144,000 sealed in Revelation 7:4-8 there are three views:

  • A reference to members of actual Jewish tribes saved during the Great Tribulation.
  • A symbolic reference of the faithful Jewish remnant during the Great Tribulation.
  • A symbolic reference of all the faithful believers (ecclesia) who live during the Great Tribulation.

In Hebrew thought – 144,000 (144=12x12) signifies perfection and completion. The fact that there is an exact number, 12,000 from each tribe of Israel (a la the Exodus and Wilderness wandering), maybe an indication of the symbolic nature of the passage as 12 was the number of the people of God in Jewish texts like the Dead Sea Scrolls). Also, 144,000 is 12x12x10x10x10 – these symbolic numbers were standard fare in Jewish views of the future.

Another interesting aside is why Levi is included when it had no inheritance with the other tribes as noted in Numbers 18:20-24 and Joshua 13:14. Why is Joseph named but not his son Ephraim, who is usually connected with his brother Manasseh? Mot conspicuously, why is the tribe of Dan omitted here and yet included in Ezekiel’s list for the apportionment of the Land (Ezekiel 48:1)?

All open questions that I have no ready answer for.

The Multitude from the Tribulation

It is possible that this section may represent a different group than the one pictured just previous in 7:1-8 or this could be another picture of the same group now in heaven. Nothing rules this out in prophecy unless of course someone takes a literalist interpretation too far. Scripture in (v.14) tells us this group are Gentiles who have been saved through faith in Christ during the Tribulation "ἐκ τῆς θλίψεως/out of tribulation" and we will see them again in Rev. 14.

The fact that they are standing before the throne and not seated around it indicates that these people are not identified with the 24 elders and if they were OT believers John should've been able to recognized them. Instead, John
had to ask one of the elders.

John then describes this multitude:
  • They were accepted – they stood before the Throne
  • They are clothed in white robes & holding palm branches, speaks of victory and overcoming a reference to the Feast of Tabernacles  (Lev. 23:40-43)
  • They were joyful – sang praises to the Father and to the Lamb
  • They were rewarded with the privilege of being in His (God's) presence and serving Him
  • In Revelation 7:12 is the sevenfold list of attributes expresses complete or perfect praise.
  • In Revelation 7:13 is a classic rabbinic questioning technique – ask a question of a  disciple that they could not answer and would have to ask for the answer.
  • In Revelation 7:14 the Great Tribulation designation has been held by some scholars as referring to the beginning of hostility that was already being experienced by the church of John’s day.
  • Strangely, they are making robes white with blood is clearly a ritual rather than visual image – sacrificial blood purified utensils for worship in the OT and white was the color of robes required for worship in the NT period.
  • In Revelation 7:15-16 we see God’s tabernacle as a refuge over them directly echoes Isa 4:5-6 which in turn alludes to a new exodus of salvation in the future.
  • In verses 16 and 17 we get this awesome paradoxical mental image of Shepherd care or a Lamb who is the Good Shepherd.

In chapter 8:1-5 we see the opening of the Seventh Seal. The opening of the 7th seal will also announce the seven ‘trumpet judgments’ or Revelation 8-11. From this point forward the wrath of God will increase both in intensity and extent. With the opening of the seventh seal we hear something strange: “silence in heaven for about half and hour”. This seems to indicate the significance or importance of the opening. As it was in the Old Testament I believe there are Old Testament allusions here also. Trumpets purposes were multifold as they served to announce important events and give signals in time of war. The 7 trumpets of Revelation 8 & 11 appear to be no different as they announce a series of plagues more severe than the seals but not as quite as devastating as the bowls.

The next judgment on deck…the Trumpets…

March 26, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XLII: The Seven Seals-Part I

The Seven Seals: Part I

John has said already that Christ has begun to reign over earthly kings in Revelation 2:6–27. Now in Revelation 6:1–8 he explains that this reign extends even over the situations of suffering in which many Christians find themselves. The exact suffering that has been allueded to in the letters in chapters 2 and 3.

In the beginning of chapter 6 we see that it is intended to show that Christ rules over such an apparently chaotic world and that suffering does not occur indiscriminately or by chance. As a matter of fact, we see that the  destructive events are brought about by Christ for both redemptive and judicial purposes. We see that it is Christ sitting on his throne who controls all the trials and persecutions of the church. The commands for each of the four destructive horses and riders originates from the throne room, where Christ opens each seal.

Cherubim around the throne issue commands to the horseman in response to the opening of each seal. Only then do the horsemen release their fury. The  sequence of the four seals being opened could mean sequential occurrence of each disaster but there is also the probability that they may happen concurrently. In actuality the fourth seal summarizes the prior three. What is also interesting is that the glorified saints in Rev. 6:9–11 appear to suffer under all four trials portrayed in the seals.

Conquest seems to symbolize the first rider. Anarchy and social breakdown symbolizes the second rider. Catastrophes that lead to famine is the third rider and obviously death is the fourth  rider. White horse with rider holding a bow  but what appears to be no arrows is wearing a crown  or a στέφανος / stephanos – a victor’s crown or wreath; not  a kingly crown or diadem. This imagery is very Ancient Persian or Parthian. Persian archers were greatly feared for their deadly accuracy. As such they were greatly feared by Rome’s and they were Rome's mortal enemy since they had endure defeats in front of these authors. Additionally, the bow is a symbol of judgment by  battle or war in the Old Testament.

The rider on the white horse is either (1) Christ, Antichrist or a generalized aura or spirit of conquest. It should be noted that the early church viewed this horse as conquest from external sources.

There is then a red horse with a rider empowered to take peace and the rider had  a great sword. As with the bow the sword symbolizes judgment (sometimes by war). In addition the color red is  associated with bloodshed and war. Hence Mars being the God of War and a red planet is named after him. The early church saw this as internal not external and it appears this might be strife caused by an internal way (i.e.: insurrection, revolution or civil war). This is further support by the fact that men that "σφάξουσιν/sphaxousin/they should be slaying".... "ἀλλήλους/allelous/one another" or "each other" as if they would be killing themselves, amongst themselves. It is interesting to note that in A.D. 68-69 the Roman Empire saw great ‘bloody unrest’ as three emperors were assassinated.

Then comes the black horse with the rider holding a pair of scales. We have seen judgment unfold in conquest, bloodshed and now as famine and what appears to be some form of rationing. Barley & wheat were basic staples – a quart of wheat was a day’s sustenance – a denarius was a day’s wages thus a man with a family would have to buy the cheaper barley but 3 quarts of barley would not feed a family of four so some family members will starve to death. The famine caused an inflation rate for wheat will be about 10 times its average price.

The Pale horse then arrives (ashen or pale green – appearance of the dead) with the rider that has the name of “Death” and Hades followed him. It will be a pale eerie green a la Scooby-Doo in and ethereal and ghastly kind of way. One quarter (1/4) of humanity will be killed wiped-out via sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts. Things will not be looking too pretty for people. The people on the earth during this tribulation had better stock up on a few extra months-worth of rations and Toll House Cookies. In a world of 8 billion humans, 2 billion would be destroyed. That is a magnitude of death or death toll that is hard to get one’s head around. The population of China and India would be wiped off the face of the earth. The first “Four Seals” may be considered as a unit and a general description of the Great Tribulation as an unprecedented time of horrible trouble

There will be a Fifth Seal and there will be an appeal to God by persecuted and glorified Christians to demonstrate His justice by judging persecutors. They will be answered when all His people complete the suffering that He has determined for them (Revelation 6:9-11). Things that need to be noted about this passage is that in OT rituals poured the blood of the slaughtered animal at the base of the altar (Ex 29:12, Lev. 4:7). Martyrs are viewed as sacrifices (Phil. 2:7). Souls are visible and given white robes and the question arises, “How can a spirit without substance wear a white robe?” They were martyred because of the Word of God & the testimony they had maintained. Finally, they cry out for vengeance and are told to wait until the full number of righteous dead is completed.

Along with the above statements it must be taken into account that celestial cataclysmic language is often used to illustrate God’s judgments in history as in the Minor Prophets and they are also used at the end of the age. Powerful earthquakes (Zechariah 14:4-5; Ezekiel 38:20; Amos 8:8). Revelation 6:12-14’s – earthquake is a regular feature of divine visitation as in Exodus19:18; Isaiah 2:19; Haggai 2:6). The moon became like blood (Joel 2:31) is quoted by Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:20). Severe earthquakes occurred in the first-century Asia Minor and were an ever-present reality for people reading the Bible in John’s time and later.

Even more dramatic than the earthquake was the celestial signs and changes in the heavens with the sun turning black, the moon turning blood red, and stars falling like late figs from a tree. Darkness also follows the OT judgment motif (Exodus 10:21-23) and this is especially at the end of the age (Isaiah 13:9-10). The stars could symbolize angelic hosts (Revelation12:4; Isaiah 24:21; Daniel 8:10) but in this context it is more than probable that we are dealing with something cosmic and in judgment. Although the graphic language is not always meant as literal astronomy - disappearing or fallen stars were used as poetic language for great devastations. Every mountain and island were moved is very reminiscent of Jeremiah 4:24, Nahum 1:5. While some see a figurative fulfillment, others see a literal fulfillment. I am not passing judgment here or offering opinions as I just do not know from the wordage. It is possible that the trumpet & bowl judgments include great cosmic disturbances associated with the Parousia or second-coming of Jesus.

The original audience would’ve been encouraged to know that God would ultimately vindicate them against the emperor and his governors who now judged them, as would others persecuted in the future in the same situation. Hiding in the rocks and crying for the mountains to conceal them from God’s wrath reflects Hosea 10:8, Isaiah 2:10, 19-20. The unbelievers fear in these passage is to be so great they would rather be killed by a falling mountain than to face the wrath of God.

Chapter 6 is a pivot point in Revelation. It describes the first six seals and also introduces the seventh seal which consists of and introduces the 7 trumpets and the 7 bowls of the wrath of God.

Revelation chapter 7:1-17 is a digression that separates the final seal from the preceding six seals which is the same as the trumpet sequence. It also contains two visions (1) sealing of the 144,000 and (2) the innumerable multitude (v 9-17). In Revelation 7:1 we again see the “After this” as we did in Chapter 4 and means that this vision follows the preceding one, not that the events it describes do. The four winds mentioned are the angelic destructive agents of God (Jeremiah 49:36) seen in very figurative language (Jewish figurative language to be exact).

As we reach the 7th Seal in 7:2, it should be noted that a " σφραγῖδα / sphragida/ seal” refers to the impression of a signet ring or cylinder seal which authenticated and protected the contents and can only be sealed or closed and then opened under certain conditions such as witnesses as we have seen in earlier chapters. As these are God’s seal(s), He will protect these chosen bond-servants ownership & protection guaranteed.

It appears that the sealing in chapter 7 results in the name of the LORD being stamped on the forehead of His bond-servants just as we see a form of "passover" in Revelation 9:4; and allusions to in 14:1; 22:4. Whether this is this  to be understood as literal or figurative is unknown. I do not find it ironic though that the mark of the beast was to be in the same area in Revelation 13:16-17. It would cause, "all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name."

Furthermore, Israelites are told in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6) concerning the Lord's teaching that, "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

The key to understanding the inappropriateness of taking the mark of the beast on the forehead or hand in Revelation is Deuteronomy 6:8. The Israelites were to bind the commandments on these areas. God's greatest commandments. Modern devout Jews still do this. They are called Phylacteries or Tefillin. The little square boxes that they bind to their head and arms/hands contain small folded pieces of Deuteronomy 6:5-9, 11:13-21 and Exodus 13:1-16.

Deuteronomy 11:13-21 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul-then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord's anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

Instead of binding what God commands His people to bind in the areas of the forehead and hand, people will instead take the "mark" in these areas. It is essentially mocking and belittling what God told the Israelites was to be done to remind them what He considered most important, which is love and obedience. It is the most disobedient form of disobedience and shows a complete lack of love for God and His statutes by taking "the mark".

On the other hand, God will mark his people so it will be obvious come judgment time who will get a whoopin' and who won't. Those with Mark of the Beast are gonna get hammered, those with God's mark will eventually be saved ad triumph.

God's mark will direct man towards God. The Mark of the Beast directs man towards man or towards evil and system of this world. A system that has nothing to do with Biblical love or obedience.

March 24, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XLI: The Lion That Conquers As A Lamb

LionLamb by   Zoebess   
For my next point, we speak of the imagery of the Lamb and what best explains this predominance of “Lamb” and its use in place of other titles? The most plausible explanation is that John is attempting to emphasize that it was in an ironic manner that Jesus began to fulfill the OT prophecies of the Messiah’s kingdom.

The Lion conquers by suffering as a slain Lamb. It is a Divine paradox…which is one of many in the Bible.

This juxtaposition implies that, in their struggle against the world, believers should remember that Christ also suffered at the hands of the world but triumphed over it. His destiny is to be theirs, if they persevere until the very end in faithfulness. This is why the saints are described as “those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes” The irony of this imagery is the idea that the sheep (people of God) follow the Lamb-a Lamb that is in reality, a Lion who will consume the wicked in judgment. A real lion on the other hand would normally consume sheep. But because of this Divine Lamb/Lion the lion will lie down with the lamb in the new creation/world. Things that would normally be an antithesis of one another or have enmity with each other--become united.

The Lamb is the one who not only conquered death but will conquer all of the persecutors of his people through historical punishments and the final judgment (6:1, 16; 17:14).

He was physically defeated but spiritually victorious. He willingly submitted to the unjust penalty of death, which was imposed on him ultimately by the devil. While he was suffering the defeat of death, he was also overcoming by creating a kingdom of redeemed subjects over whom he would reign and over who the devil would no longer have power. Therefore, while Jesus was being defeated at the cross by human standards, he was nevertheless beginning to establish his kingdom. This is elaborated on more fully in my post concerning chapter 12. This in no way shows that death of the Lamb is a defeat but rather it shows the juxtaposition between what God views as a victory and what man views as victory. It shows that those that often take literally things that are shown as either metaphor or symbolic in Revelation also often miss the half of the symbology of the book. Jesus is defeated and dies by human and worldly standards but it is a victory by God's standard on the spiritual level.

Concurrently, many view Revelation through a Pre Tribulation lens that says believers will not experience persecution in the end days. I am now beginning to severely question this presupposition for the reasons outlined up to this point. Persecution is mentioned throughout the letters to the seven churches. Even if we view that as separate to what follows in chapters 4 and 5, these chapters (4 & 5) also speak to suffering and persecution of the Lamb as if to parallel the suffering of the Church, all tis to show is the lot of believers to face persecution just as their Lord and Master did. The fate of the Good Shepherd becomes the fate of the sheep. The wolves of Hell killed the Good Shepherd, now they are coming for the sheep. But in the end the Good Shepherd was resurrected and the Good Shepherd will also bring back His flock in glory (and he’ll even bring back the wolves to judge them too…and condemn them).

We know our suffering will ultimately end in glory if we persevere to the very end in faith. This theme is redundant not only in Revelation but it is the pattern of Scripture as a whole...even for Jesus.

The Lamb’s “seven horns” probably are linked to the beast’s horns of Daniel 7. The Lamb may in fact mimic the beast with horns in Dan. 7:7. This mimicking emphasizes divine justice, which often mocks those who attempt to thwart God’s purposes. In this case, by the very imagery and means used to portray history in Daniel, God now shows in the end...He is sovereign. This means that the Lamb on or by the sea may indicate that he has defeated the satanic beast in his own watery abode. Our understanding of the “sea” or earth in 4:6 and of the overall structure of Daniel 4–5 makes this plausible.

The inner heavenly circle praises the lamb’s worthiness to receive sovereign authority (5:8–10). The prayers mentioned here are not just praises but especially requests that God defend the honor of his reputation for justice by judging the persecutors of his people.

Verse expresses the content of the “new song.” In the OT a “new song” is always an expression of praise for God’s victory over the enemy, sometimes including thanksgiving for God’s work of creation.  In this case, the “new song” celebrates the defeat of the powers of evil and sin. Interestingly, these songs or hymns in verses 9-12 emphasize Jesus’ deity more than most other passages in the New Testament. They address the Lamb in the exact same way as God is addressed in 4:11 and 5:13, especially in the clause “worthy are you.” The simple fact that worship is given to the Lamb in vv 9–13 demonstrates his deity. We therefore see the equality in nature of the Lamb to God.

There are a few more conceptual parallels between verses 3–5 and verse 9 that need to be noted for us to be able to continue to move forward through this astounding and often befuddling book/letter.

The parallels reveal that Jesus’ conquering in verse 5 is the generally the equivalent of being worthy in 3–4. Jesus’ conquering in verse 5 finds its interpretative equivalent in His being slain, purchasing a people, and his making that people priestly kings (9–10).
The whole clause “because you were slain and purchased for God by the price of your blood” emphasizes the redemptive nature of the Lamb’s death. The “by the price of your blood" is similar use of language in to Romans 3:25.

It is probably not ironic nor coincidence that Daniel 7:14 bears the same framework of  λαοί (“peoples”), φυλαί (“tribes”), and γλῶσσαι “tongues,” as that of Revelation 5:9 mentioned above.

Revelation 5:10 shows the influence of Exodus 19:6's “a kingly priesthood”. This means that the Exodus idea of the kingdom and priesthood have been universalized and woven in with the concept of the saints’ universal kingdom of Daniel 7 and it is also incorporated into possible future events.

In the last verse we see God's sovereignty full on. The whole vision ends in verse 14 with the heavenly representatives of creation and of the church confirming the praise ascending from the earth by respectively pronouncing a final “Amen” and worshiping.

What is prominent about the concluding section of Revelation 5:9–14 is it's observable relation to Daniel 7:13–27. Both present in the same order

  • Christ’s/son of man’s) reception of sovereignty
  • A kingdom including “all peoples, nations, and tongues”
  • The reign of the saints
  • The reign of God
If the idea that Revelation 5 and Daniel 7 are direct parallels...the following model or pattern from Scripture emerges and the following theological conclusions can be made.

John meant for Revelation 4–5 to show the fulfillment of the Daniel 7 prophecy of the reign of the “son of man” and of the saints. It was established by Christ’s death, burial and specifically his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In his lowering to death He is exalted and given authority over all ["at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth"] (Philippians 2:5-11). Therefore the imagery of Jesus' approach to the throne is to receive authority. The combination of imagery from Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1–2 with the predominant scene from Daniel 7 expresses a judgment vision. These scenes all serve then as introductions to announcements of judgment that will now follow.

To view and understand these Old Testament imagery's that have been brought forward into Revelation, we must understand them as a vision of God’s sovereign reign, dominion and authority that first are issued in judgment, followed by redemption. Man must first be judged before final redemption can occur. This idea of judgment is further reinforced by the images of "the book".

The Daniel 7 idea of a kingdom in which all peoples will serve the “son of man” and God is seen by John as fulfilled in the church. Yet the church is also the fulfillment of Daniel's reign of the saints of Israel.

SO what does all this mean?

Its rather simple actually...

If God is sovereign over all creation, this therefore is the legitimacy or the foundation for his sovereignty to pass judgment and bestow redemption afterwards. This is turn brings forth the praise of all creatures, both human and angelic.

March 23, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XL: Who Is Worthy?

We see God on a throne with a book/scroll and it isn't the current bestseller in the world. The scene of chapter 4 continues into chapter 5. The One sitting on the throne is now portrayed again with the additional feature that he is holding a book in his hand. It is "sealed with seven seals”, which appears to be a merging of Daniel 12 and Isaiah 29:11.

The allusions to Ezekiel 1–2 do not disappear in chapter 5 but there are more numerous allusions to Daniel chapter 7. The presence of all these Old Testament backgrounds enhances further the notion of judgment with which this vision is saturated. The Old Testament texts are brought together because of their the common idea of a sealed book that conceals divine revelation and is associated with judgment. The Old Testament descriptions have been combined with Ezekiel 2 because of the clear association of the “book” there with judgment. Like I said...not a bestseller. Most people will want to keep this book under wraps for as long as possible but a Sovereign and Just God will not be stopped. 

Who Is Worthy to Open The Book/Scroll? (Revelation 5:2–3)

A heavenly spokesman now addresses both the Earth γῆς and Heaven οὐρανῷ. He is asking for someone who is worthy or able or who has the authority to step forward “to open the book and loose its seals.” Again we see hints of Daniel (chapter 4 & 7). This book is often viewed as the book of redemption. Some view the book as “the lamb’s book of life” containing the names of all true believers, written down before the foundation of the world (cf. 3:5; 13:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27). The “book” has writing “inside and on the back” because the names of the redeemed are too numerous to be contained only inside the book.

What we see though when the book’s contents are revealed in the following chapters is that they do not merely pertain to events surrounding the elect but also with judgments on unbelievers.  Furthermore, as a point of Old Testament reference, the books in Daniel 7, Daniel 12, and Ezekiel 2–3 have to do principally with events of judgment, which are then followed by the salvation of God’s people. It is suggested that this “book” as representing the scroll of the OT.  Christ alone is able to unlock or “open” the true meaning of the OT, since its prophecies have found fulfillment in him (Matt. 5:17).  This is consistent and re-enforceable with the entire Apocalypse because of its focus on how Christ fulfills OT prophecy. A book containing events of the future “Great Tribulation.” Still others view the “book” as containing the retributive events of yet future tribulation leading up to the second coming of Christ, the consummate salvation of the saints, and the final judgment. A book containing God’s plan of judgment and redemption. The “book” is best understood as containing God’s plan of judgment and redemption, which has been set in motion by the Gospel but has yet to be completed. The question asked by the angelic spokesman concerns who in the created order has sovereign authority over this plan. 

It seems clear to me that the book represents authority in executing the divine plan of judgment and redemption and this is made clear in Revelation 5:12-14

"In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

These verses explain Christ’s worthiness to receive the book showing his authority to redeem his people and establish them as kings and priests.

The “book” in chapter 5 really needs to be understood as a covenantal promise of an inheritance when seen in the light of the above two identifications of the “book” and of the broader theological context of the Apocalypse concerning man's fall in sin and redemption regained through Jesus Christ. As far back as Genesis, God told man he would reign over the Earth. Although Adam forfeited this promise, Christ, the last Adam, was to inherit it (Romans 5).

A human had to open the book because the promise/covenant was made to humanity. But no person or human was found worthy to open it because all are sinners and stand under the judgment contained in the book...except Christ. Only Christ could fully fulfill the requirements of the covenant. Christ was found worthy because he suffered the final judgment as an innocent sacrificial victim on behalf of His people, whom he represented and consequently redeemed Revelation 5:9.

“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9.

That someone must “break the seals” of the book raises the question of whether it is a rolled-up scroll or a codex. The book of 5:1–2 is to be understood in part against the legal background of Roman wills, since the two bear striking similarity. The contents of such a will was sometimes summarized on the back. A Roman will had to be witnessed and sealed by seven witnesses, It was only upon the death of the testator could a will be unsealed and the legal promise of the inheritance be executed and a trustworthy executor would then put the will into legal effect. If we are right in identifying the book with the will form, then we again have the combination of an Old Testament Hebraic background layered in legal terminology another legal concept in the idea of a will. 

The question by the angelic being and the response does not deal with just the contents but also to put the contents into force. No created being is able to step forward to open or read the book. This demonstrates the inability of any among God’s creatures to execute God’s plan of redemption and judgment.  The Seer Weeps Because No One is Found Worthy to Open the Book (5:4)
It appears that the seals cannot be broken and that God’s glorious plan will not be carried out.  This means for him that history will not be governed in the interest of the church and that there will be “no protection for God’s children in the hours of bitter trial; no judgments upon a persecuting world; no ultimate triumph for believers; no new heaven and earth; no future inheritance”

Therefore, verses 1–4 draw on images from Ezekiel, Daniel, and Isaiah to compose the representation of the book. Daniel 7 is the leading influence, since the “book” of Rev. 5:1–4 clearly has a cosmic or universal significance, and the books of Daniel 7 deal with cosmic judgment against the kingdoms of the world at the end of time. Although the “books” of the other Old Testament contexts are associated with a judgment limited to those within Israel. We must understand that Israel is an encapsulated version of humanity at large…their failure is our failure…they are sinning humans as are we. The question “who is worthy to open the book?” is answered formally in v 9, where Christ is seen as worthy because his death set in motion fulfillment of the promise of redemption throughout the earth.

The prophet receives heavenly counsel concerning the messiah’s worthiness to open the book (5:5) We see the Messiah’s appearance before the throne to receive authority (5:6–7). In the midst of the images of Ezekiel’s living beings and Isaiah’s elders stands a Lamb “as it had been slain.” That the Lamb stands “in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures and … of the elders” most likely refers generally in figurative manner (by synecdoche) to the inner court area around the throne.

That the Lamb stands somewhere near the throne instead of being seated on the throne itself. Verse 7 portrays the Lamb making an approach to it. The Lamb having horns is best explained against the background of the Jewish tradition found in 1 En. 90 and Testimony of Joseph 19 concerning a conquering messianic lamb (though some see the latter text as a Christian interpolation). Yet even these two Jewish texts find their primary inspiration from the book of Daniel. The relation of the horns to overcoming and to the Old Testament allusions to the conquering of the Messiah provide a basis for viewing them as a continuation of the “messianic conqueror” idea in verse 5.

That the Lamb has seven horns signifies the fullness of his strength, since “seven” is figurative for fullness elsewhere in the Apocalypse and in biblical literature. The slain Lamb represents the image of a conqueror who was mortally wounded while defeating an enemy. Christ’s death, the end-time sacrifice of the messianic Lamb, becomes interpreted as a sacrifice that not only redeems but also conquers. The idea of conquering is evoked by Genesis 49, Isaiah 11, and the “horns” of the lamb.

Verse 6 is then crucial…“the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the root of David, overcame.” There is no doubt that verse 6 portrays Jesus as resurrected and that the resurrection is essential to his overcoming. He conquered death by being raised from the dead. The victorious effect of the Lamb’s overcoming is in the present and resides not only in the fact that the Lamb continues to “stand” but also in the fact that it continues to exist as a slaughtered Lamb; the perfect participle ἐσφαγμένον (“having been slain”) expresses an abiding condition as a result of the past act of being slain and continues into the future (like perfect tense “crucified” in 1 Cor. 2:2). This is confirmed by verse 9, where the slaying of the Lamb, together with his redemption of people and establishment of them as “a kingdom and priests,” is a basis for his “worthiness” and thus for his overcoming.

Verse 2’s, “ἄξιος ἀνοῖξαι τὸ βιβλίον (“worthy/suitable to open the book/writing”) and the near mirrored phrase in verse 9 are in parallelism with ἐνίκησεν … ἀνοῖξαι τὸ βιβλίον (“he overcame … to open the book”). Parallelism being a form of Hebrew prose to emphasizes something of great  or momentous importance. Not only is Jesus’ redemptive death mentioned, it is repeatedly sung about. Therefore, the one who overcomes is ever loyal to Christ, which means that he participates in the kingdom even though he may suffer (Revelation 1:9).

I rarely ever underline in  my blog since it make it look messy and untidy but I will here as it is with force that I want to drive home the next comment...

Now we see why the premise of the letters to the seven churches becomes extremely relevant to the interpretation of Revelation. It is also the reason I have begun to drift away from the idea of a Pre-Tribulation rapture because the intent based in the context over and over in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is that of the faithful being persecuted and/or undergoing tribulation or affliction. The saints overcome in this manner even before they receive their end-time rewards after death and experience final resurrection. Although there is a division between chapters 1-4 and the rest of Revelation, it does not mean we just neatly pack away what we have previously read and deem it irrelevant to what follows. The letters to the seven churches are not an isolated digression meant to be read separate from the remainder of Revelation...they are in fact part of a symbiotic message from God delivered to John "in the Spirit". The same type of principle is what we see in division between the Old and New Testament. Just because something different or new has come does not mean the Old is irrelevant or obsolete. Things need to be seen and understood in their context(s) and principles are to be gleaned from both that help float the whole "kit and kaboodle".

March 21, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XXXIX: Christ's Beautiful Bride

Jesus’ Beautiful Church and What She Will Become

The church may be pictured in angelic guise to remind its members that already a dimension of their existence is already heavenly, that their real home is not with the unbelieving worldly unbelievers and that they have heavenly help and protection in their struggle to obtain their reward and not be conformed to their pagan environment. Paul understood this and said so in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”

One of the purposes of the church meeting on earth in its weekly gatherings is to be constantly reminded of the existence of our heavenly counterpart. What we do here is literally a model or heavenly worship and liturgy by the angels in heaven around God’s throne.

Holy, Holy, Holy indeed (Isaiah 6)!

The actual wording of verse 5 is influenced by the description of fiery theophanies in Ezekiel. The first phrase, “lightning's and peels of thunder,” is repeated verbatim in Ezekiel. This therefore also means that other similar phrases identify God as the source of later judgments. This should terrify non-believers but should come as assurance to Christians who are under tribulation and suffering, that their God is sovereign and has not forgotten them because he has not forgotten their persecutors…who are now in really deep do-do.

The living beings are said to have been “in the midst of the throne,” which probably means that they stood near it. This is clarified by the following clause, which says that they were “around the throne” This is elucidated further by the fact that later in the book the living beings fall down in worship before the throne. The scene in Isaiah 6:2 is most influential at this point, since there the “seraphim stood around” the Lord.

The next thing we come across of particular note are the four living beings. Are they intended to be understood as literal heavenly creatures of a high angelic order? The likelihood is that they are only a symbolic depiction, since they differ from both from Isaiah 6 and in Ezekiel 1, which also differ among themselves. The number of wings vary — four on each creature in Ezekiel, six on each, in three pairs, in Isaiah, and six undifferentiated wings on each in Revelation. Their position varies — standing above the throne in Isaiah, forming part of the base of the throne together with the “wheels” in Ezekiel. The descriptions of the faces, eyes, and wings and the vocal role of these beings is somewhat different in Ezekiel and Revelation. For example, in Ezekiel 1 each of the creatures has four faces (lion, ox, man, and eagle), whereas in John’s vision each has only one of these faces. Some Old Testament cherubim are different. In Jewish tradition the cherubim are portrayed together with the seraphim in singing praise to God, as they do in Revelation. In Ezekiel 1 they do not do this.

If the “book,” “seals,” “lion,” “lamb,” “horns,” and “seven eyes” are all symbolic (which they probably are), it is highly probable other features of the vision are also. The hymns in these verses interpret the vision of God on the throne surrounded by heavenly beings, fire, and a sea (verses 2–8) to mean that God is holy (verse 8) and sovereign over creation (verses 8, 11), which demonstrates his “worthiness” (verse 11) to be praised, worshiped, and glorified (verses 9–11).

The hymns make explicit the main point of the vision and of the whole chapter: God is to be glorified because of his holiness and sovereignty. The verse in chapter 5 show that this is not only the ideal purpose for all creatures but also that someday this purpose will actually be fulfilled, not only in heaven but also on earth, since it is an anticipation of the coming Kingdom on Earth in full effect!

Verse 8’s cherubim’s praise appears to be ceaseless in an absolute sense, though their chanting in appears to be a different activity, composed of distinct acts with a beginning and an end. The influence of Isaiah 6 is obvious…even the, “Holy-Holy-Holy” in triplet.

Through John the readers are being given information from the heavenly, secret council room of the Lord.  The titles show that the intention of this crucial vision is to give the supra-historical perspective or timeless nature of “the one who is, was, and is coming”. The One who is can bolster the suffering believer to see his eternal purpose and so motivate them to persevere faithfully through their tribulation.

As if on-queue, the twenty-four elders fall down and worship at the prompting of the four living creatures: “whenever” the latter worship, the former immediately begin their praising. It is orchestrated of performed as if it is a symphony…and perhaps that is exactly what it is. We see past and future believers and angelic beings in perfect unity, through Christ, worshiping God. Can there be anything more perfect?

I think not. It is the sole reason we exist. Is there anything else, any other purpose for our existence? I think not.

In both Daniel 4:34 and Daniel 12:7 this expression of God’s eternity is intended as a contrast with the temporary reigns of evil kings whose rule has been taken away because they have fraudulently claimed to themselves entitlements of deity. We see the same here and will see more of it as the chapters of Revelation blow open in the firestorm of unfolding prophecy. Again we see the contrast between God’s eternal kingship and that of temporal rulers is meant in John’s closing statement/hymn. It is apparent from the striking similarity of the divine title “ὁ κύριος καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν /the Lord and our God” in v 11a with the title, “Dominus Et Deus Noster”/“Our Lord and God”, which was used to address Emperor Domitian during John’s time. What we see here in this statement is John giving a clever backhand slap to the current world ruler who was nothing more than a megalomaniacal tyrant like many before him and many after him. They could not hold a candle to the blinding brilliance of our Lord’s holiness and Shekinah. Nor can any future dictator or self-absorbed tyrant. So please sense the framing of later chapters of Revelation here. God is in control…even during the worst of our sufferings and tribulations.

The chapter closes with further deserved praising of God.

Holy! Holy! Holy!.. is the Lord God Almighty…all the Earth is filled with His glory…Amen. 

May Christ's bride be as beautiful forever as my wife was on the day we married.

March 18, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XXXVIII: Deserved Praise To The Only One Who Matters

God and Christ Are Glorified (4:1–5:14)

The main point of Revelation Chapters 4–5 is God’s redemptive purpose for the world beginning to be accomplished through the death and resurrection of Christ. God’s divine purpose for creation will be consummated in divine glory accomplished by the end of Revelation. The purpose is to show suffering Christians that God the Father and Jesus are sovereign and that the events that the Christians are facing are part of a sovereign plan that will culminate in their redemption and the vindication of their faith through the punishment of their persecutors in the end.

The theme of “overcoming” mentioned in the letters to the seven churches is especially exposed in chapter 5. Believers are exhorted throughout the letters to “overcome” tribulation because of temptations to compromise under persecution and pressure. Nowhere is this more exemplified in the fact that Christ has faced suffering and death and overcome them is a basis of assurance to believers suffering for their faith. Christ has overcome the world.

John 16:33 ~ I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

We need to also understand how the Old Testament symbology, typology and imagery profoundly affect how we read Revelation. Failure to do this often leads to the nonsensical rapture ready and “end times” web sites that pervade the internet and TBN. Symbols in Revelations and figurative language are often taken literally or totally out of context.  Things in Revelations are totally removed from their Old Testament roots and therefore the message gleaned from Revelation is devoid of its intended Old Testament associations.

An overview of the chapters 4 and 5 together reveals that they exhibit a unified structure which corresponds to the structure of Daniel 7 in a striking manner.
  • The introductory vision phraseology (Daniel 7:9; Revelation 4:1)
  • A throne(s) set in heaven (Daniel 7:9; Revelation 4:2)
  • God sitting on a throne (Daniel 7:9; Revelation 4:2)
  • God’s appearance on the throne (Daniel 7:9; Revelation 4:3)
  • Fire before the throne (Daniel 7:9–10; Revelation   4:5)
  • Heavenly servants surrounding the throne (Daniel 7:10; Revelation 4:4) 
  • A book(s) before the throne (Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:1–5)
  • The book is opened (Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:2–5)
  • A divine figure approaching God’s throne to receive authority to reign forever over a kingdom (Daniel 7:13–14; Revelation 5:5–7)
  • The kingdom’s scope: “all peoples, nations, and tongues” (Daniel 7:14; Revelation 5:9)
  • A Seer/Prophet’s emotional distress on account of the vision (Daniel 7:15; Revelation 5:4)
  • The seer’s reception of heavenly counsel concerning the vision from one of the heavenly throne servants (Daniel 7:16; Revelation 5:5)
  • The saints given divine authority to reign over a kingdom (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27; Revelation 5:10)
  • Concluding mention of God’s eternal reign (Dan. 7:27;Revelation 5:13–14)
  • Both visions also contain the image of a sea (Daniel 7:2–3; Revelation 4:6)

Striking! You would think these two were meant to be viewed together or in association. Many never make this connection and they are at a tragic loss because of that fact.

We then also see the parallels to Ezekiel. They are not as thorough as Daniel but still striking. Below is a further comparison between Revelation 4:1-5:1 to Ezekiel 1-2
  • The opening of books
  • The approach of a divine figure before God’s throne to receive authority to reign forever which consists of all peoples of the earth
  • The reign of the saints over a kingdom
  • The mention of God’s eternal reign. 

Vision Terminology (Revelation 4:1–2)

Using Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 1 as a template, Revelation 4 starts with vision phraseology: “after these things I saw, and behold.” Just as in the OT and Daniel visionary passages we see εἶδον/“I saw” and ἰδού/“behold” put together for effect so the reader/hearer pays close attention. The “after these things” in verse one are the start of a new vision separate but related to the seven churches. Many infer that the “after these things” comment is a direct and unequivocal reference to the “latter days”. This quite possibly could be something as simple as the fact that the vision that starts in Revelation 4:1 comes after the one that just ended that pertained to the seven churches. We need to remember that chapter divisions are not inspired and were not in the original manuscripts. John might have been simply delineating that one vision had stopped and another was beginning. I am not convinced the wordage here is a reference to the latter days as the very next section launches into a vision oriented around God's throne which is essentially...outside of time. There is nothing in the context to lead us to believe that John is making a direct reference to the latter days here is only orienting himself relative to the last vision. We must remember as readers that John being in the Spirit is not necessarily dealing with chronological order or chronos/Χρόνος. Out of the Spirit or not being in the Spirit would’ve allowed him to orient himself in sequence so that the reader/hearer did not get disoriented. I think what John is saying here is that these visions did not happen simultaneously as we will see in other places in Revelations visions happened in rapid succession or nearly simultaneously in a panoramic fashion… “Μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον/ after this I saw (or heard or perceived)”…over and over in the later chapters of John’s vision.

God Sitting on His Throne (4:2–3)

The Old Testament theophany(s) form the background for the next two verses. According to the similar order of images in Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 1, the image here of a divine being sitting on a throne can refer to either. A throne is symbolic of collective sovereignty. This is further emphasized by John because it is the center of his heavenly cosmology. Heavenly beings find significance based on their placement or orientation around the God’s throne as is humanity. The most prominent symbology is rooted in Ezekiel 28 and Exodus 28 when referring to the three stones mentioned in Revelation 4:3 are also mentioned in those chapters. The three stones appear to be an anticipation of the fuller list of precious stones in chapter 21, where the glory of God is revealed, not only in heaven but also in the new creation. The stones intensify the light around the throne by reflecting the unapproachable brightness, and hence glory, surrounding God himself.

The “rainbow” seems to be  tempered with considerations of mercy (i.e.: Noahic covenant). Above all, the rainbow gives light to God’s glory, since Ezekiel 1:28 metaphorically equates it with “the appearance of the surrounding radiance”.

Throne, Attendants, Fire and A Sea (4:4–8)

Now a heavenly entourage around the throne is pictured. The elders are identified as among other things as stars, angels, Old Testament saints, angelic, heavenly representatives of all saints, patriarchs and apostles representing both testament saints together and finally there are representatives of the prophetic revelation of the twenty-four books of the Old Testament. The truth is that identification of the elders should not be held to dogmatically but the evidence in Scripture makes it highly probable that they represent the Body of Christ.

The most fascinating aspect of this vision is that it gives us a look into heaven to see that the saints of old together with deceased Christians who have persevered have received the heavenly reward of crowns, white clothing, and kingship…and all are equal in Christ. It is visions like this that give believers assurance that we and those that pre-decease us like our faithful parents will be joined in unity in heaven around the Lord’s throne. We can be assured that we too will receive a like reward, if we are faithful to the end. This assurance is intensified since the vision actually portrays the reward of saints of all ages, including those yet to die! Like I said…apocalyptic visions are not chronological per se. God sees things from outside of time or independent from it.

This is one of the areas when it comes to understanding prophecy and God where people really get messed up in their interpretation. We must never forget that God is eternal…therefore timeless. When visions are given to men in the Bible they are the insight of events revealed from a God who sees all time as the “eternal present”. His throne would therefore be outside of time as would those standing around it. In other words they are timeless. Things that unfold or transpire "in the Spirit" or during visions are not always locked into the same temporal rules that things of the Creation are per se. Furthermore, John being in the Spirit does not necessarily subject him to the sequential unfolding of time as we would understand it from man’s point of view. Prophecies are given from God’s point-of-view in a way that allows man to marginally comprehend the knowledge of God. When I hear people on TV, radio and the Internet saying stuff like, “this happens and then this and this unfolds like this and once all of this happens then this can happen”…I know almost immediately I might be dealing with a literalist or person that might be totally failing to understand that some events are not meant to be understood from a chronological sequence or unfolding of time as humans would normally understand it. Sometimes this concept just totally evades people. If it is “timeless” or outside of time they just don’t get it. This leaves their interpretation subject to question because it is evident they do not understand the basic concepts involved with interpreting divine prophecy and apocalyptic literature. If the writer does not specifically state sequence or timing…none can be assumed and this chapter is a perfectly clear example. 

Conversely, what follows the introductory verses does speak to what appears to be future events as none of them have happened as outlined that we are aware of. The truth is that we cannot divest ourselves totally of a time-bound concept this side of Heaven because everything would then become symbolic…then its prophetic significance dwindles to nearly nothing. The first verses here appear in the context of the vision but afterwards refers to the things that address man’s future. In other words the episodes in John’s vision appear to be outside of time “in the Spirit” but the events that the characters speak of in the vision appear to at least sequence events outside of the spiritual realm in a time-bound manner…but not necessarily sequenced or chronologically at all times. As context seems to shift back and forth in Revelation we must be diligent to ascertain the context of every verse, probably more so than we do elsewhere. Especially since John is in and out of the Spirit, in and out of visions and because the narrative is constantly changing source and person (I said, they said, etc.). Person, source and context must constantly be re-established when reading or interpretation can run errant.
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