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Bible Study: Revelation 3 and Revelation 4

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Bible Study

Revelation 3 and Revelation 4

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Bible Study: Revelation 3 and Revelation 4

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This Bible study covers Revelation 3:14 to Revelation 4:8.

Transcript

“Good evening everyone.” Welcome to our Wednesday evening Bible Study. 

I am Steve Myers and this is Darris McNeely.  We will be conducting the Bible Study going on in the Book of Revelation tonight. 

Opening prayer by Darris McNeely.            

We are going to pick things up in the Book of Revelation.  We left off in our last study in Chapter 3.  We were going through the letters to the seven churches and we left off at Laodicea which is over in Chapter 3, verse 13. Let’s pick it up right there and we’ll begin talking about this letter that was written to the Laodiceans. 

Revelation 3:14 Revelation 3:14And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things said the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
American King James Version×
  “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;”

So as we begin Chapter 3, verse 14, we see that this was written to the angel of the church.  We talked a little bit about that in our past studies.  It literally can be an angel or it can be a messenger, is what the Greek means there.  Some speculate that could be the Pastor of the Laodiceans and, if you remember, the churches on this mail route that were receiving these various letters as well.  We see some interesting things as well.  This location of Laodicea was a very interesting place that ties in with the things that are written to the church.  And, as we see who is talking, who is doing the saying, we see that Jesus Christ is the One who is saying these things.   It says, “These things says the Amen, the Faithful, the True Witness,”.  So that is Jesus Christ.  He is absolute.  He is factual.  He is truth.  And, Christ is the one that is doing the talking in this case.  So we see those quotations here, at least if you have a New King James (NKJV), or a King James (KJV) Bible, that Christ is the one who is doing the talking.  Or, if you have a red letter version, probably this whole section of Scripture is all in red as we see Christ is the one doing the talking here.

Some wonder about this statement about the beginning of the creation of God.  Some might say, “Well, was Christ created, then?”  That is not what this is saying here.  Not at all.  He was certainly part of the creation in the sense that He was the firstborn of the dead.  So He is, in that sense.  In other cases some will argue that that particular passage could also be translated, “The Beginner of the Creation,” which makes a whole lot more sense and fits in better with Scripture overall.  That Christ was there.  He was the Creator.  All things were created through Christ.  We begin to see that makes a whole lot more sense.

What about Laodicea?  What about this area of the world?  This city that was being spoken to?  How does that fit in with the message?

Remember the seven churches that were mentioned here, in Revelation 2 and 3, were churches that were on a mail route in Asia Minor during the time that this letter was written toward the end of the first century.  They were not the only churches in the area.  There were others.  I don’t recall if I mentioned this in a past study, that these churches that were singled out here.  There were churches that were established by the Apostle Paul back at a particular point when he resided for an extended period in the city of Ephesus.  He was able to range out, through this area, and there is no doubt, during that period of time that this area had churches started among these seven that are here.  There were seven that were picked.  That number pictures a completeness of God’s message, in this case, to the churches, and Christ’s message to the churches.  Laodicea would have been the last one on this particular route.  It began with Ephesus and is the last one in the sequence of the churches.  And the last one, perhaps, in terms of understanding and a meaning in the period of the church age leading up to the second coming of Jesus Christ as well. 

The city itself was an interesting city. It was an important trade center; important area of communication.  It had certain unique industries that made it a very wealthy area.  In fact, there is a story that we know from history at this period of time, that speaks to the wealth of the church of Laodicea, which helps us also to understand the message that is here.  There was a great earthquake in the city, in the year 17 AD and a great deal of destruction was accomplished within the city but the people refused any help from Rome in rebuilding the city.  They didn’t need any stimulus, economic stimulus from the government.  They didn’t need any aid package.  The Roman Emperor didn’t fly over it and look at it from his chariot and declare a disaster area and start funneling in great amounts of funds.  No tarp funds were created for Laodicea.  They had enough money to rebuild their city which was no small accomplishment for a city in the ancient world.  They didn’t need any Roman funds which speaks to a number of positive factors but also, perhaps, a little bit of civic pride; perhaps even a little bit of excessive pride as a people that they didn’t need anybody’s help.  But again, factor that into what we will be learning as we go through the words that are said to the people by Christ, that they were “rich and increasedin goods, and have need of nothing;”    Historically the city had many features to facilitate this particular description.  That is also important to remember, not just for Laodicea but also fro the previous six cities and the messages to those cities.  Each message was tailored to those people, their unique situation, and setting of the first century.  They knew what was being said of them when this letter was written to them.

The city of Pergamos, when it was said that “you dwell where Satan’s seat is,” they understood that reference because there was a great altar called, “The great altar to Zeus” there in Pergamos, that was a huge altar in its day.  The remains of that altar are in a museum in Berlin to this day.  You can go and see it.  It is quite a unique altar with a great deal of activity picturing, quite frankly, a spiritual battle that took place and, very likely, when this letter was read to them and this reference was made, they understood that.  And that image of this great altar, this temple, in the midst of their city, came to their mind.  That’s true of every one of these cities in terms of the historical setting and the circumstances.  So Laodicea was noted for that.

There was also another unique feature of Laodicea and that was the water supply.  It says here, you are “neither cold nor hot”, and it will go on.  There was a reason for this.  They were notorious in their world at that time for having a very poor supply of water.  It had to come from a distance and, by the time, it came either from a cold spot to them, it was lukewarm; by the time it came from a hot spot to them, which there was a source that was a hot spring, it was lukewarm.  So, the city had problems, historically, with a water system that didn’t quite suit its needs.  Again, you are neither hot nor cold, would have been something that they would have understood from a very basic element, water that they needed as a result of what was in their city.  A number of these things helps to understand why Christ says what He does to Laodicea.

I think that is an important thing to think about as we go through this and as we’ve been through some of the letters to the churches and then Laodicea as well.  You can’t deny society’s impact on us.  We live in a world and our world is different than the world that they lived in but how has our society impacted us?  How would the words be written today as we think about our society’s impact on us.  So, as we look at the letters, specifically, Laodicea, where do we fit into this and how have we been impacted by the society around us?

It is interesting, one of the wealthy aspects of the Laodicean city was the fact that they had a lot of wealth, a lot of trade in their wool.  They had this black, glossy wool that they would make clothes from; they would make carpets from.  The textile industry was really big because it was on the trade route.  That was one of the reasons that they were wealthy and they were able to rebuild the city without any help.  They were pretty self-sufficient in that way. When you look at the wealth that they had, that they didn’t need any exterior help, they could do things on their own, they had a certain sense of self-sufficiency.  They had this sense that, “We don’t need outside help.”  So you can see how some of these things begin to reflect on us.  They had a banking system.  They were well known.  They were cashing checks back before Christ so you can imagine that.  No wonder they were a center of trade.  No wonder they were a center of communication.

One of the other things that was interesting about them is their lack of greatness in other ways.  When you think of some of the Roman cities of this day, you might have some amazing things come to mind like the seven wonders of the world.  Laodicea didn’t have anything like that.

I ran across an interesting quote from William Ramsay.  He wrote letters to the seven churches of Asia and he wrote this about Laodicea.  He said, “No one thing stands out.  No notable achievements to distinguish it.”  His implication there is that the people then, instead of striving for greatness, they learned to compromise.  They learned to give in.  They learned to kind of accommodate themselves and just kind of get by.  And of course when you think of that spiritually, if we fall into that trap we’re going to compromise; we’re going to accommodate, and we’re going to give in just to get along.  You can see how that is going to lead us into trouble and I think that plays a part in what Christ had to say to Laodicea as well.

When you read on here, I don’t believe we read Verse 15 yet.

Revelation 3:15 Revelation 3:15I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot.
American King James Version×
, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.”

He could wish that they were one or the other.  He didn’t want them in the middle.  He wanted them passionate, to be excited, or usable, in one way or the other:  cold or hot.  I think that is a way to understand this.  I explained about their water system and speaking to their spiritual indifference.  Cold water has its application and its use.  In the ancient world, without refrigeration, cold water was a refrigerant.  Milk and any product created from milk would have been stored in a spring of cold water to extend its life.  If something was hot, there was a certain usefulness there in cooking, boiling, and producing food and other uses as well.  So, either cold or hot, either extreme, produces a useful condition for the water.  Christ is saying, “I with that you were useful, because of having the spiritual zeal that made you beneficial for something.”

This is what He is really pointing to as He speaks to the church.

I think sometimes, maybe, we get caught in thinking that we need to be hot.  And, when you think of it in terms of “being on fire” for God’s way, that is absolutely true.  But, is also interesting be, as you say, cold.  If it is a hot day, you want a cold drink.  Right?  If your back is sore, you want to get into a nice, hot bath or a hot Jacuzzi.  A few miles away Heropolis was famous for hot springs but, by the time that water got down to Laodiea, it wasn’t hot any more.  It wasn’t useful anymore.  The same way from the other direction, Collossea had water that they piped there as well and they were known for their cold water.  But, by the time it gets to Laodicea, it is back to being lukewarm and that is not a whole lot of fun when you want something beneficial from it.  So, I think, as you say, Christ is looking at this, saying, “Where is your heart?  How are you being beneficial?  There isn’t any value here because you are not hot nor are you cold.  So, you are not fitting into either category to be beneficial in the way that we should be.”

I think the point that is being made here in the Scripture is, and again Christ is the one doing the speaking, He is urging the church to be useful in His hands, as an instrument within the Body of Christ.  That is what He is urging them to.  They were not useful.  They were complacent.  They were self-satisfied.  They were indifferent to real, core issues of a relationship with Christ and with the Father, and of faith and of discipleship.  This is really what He is speaking to here in this condition of the church.  He goes on.

V. 17  “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:”

As I mentioned they refused aid to build after an earthquake.  They had a certain, indigenous wealth and made them in “need of nothing.”  Self-sufficiency there that leans toward pride.  Those are pretty strong words that are coming from Christ to a group of His church.

One other thing to keep in mind that we see back in Chapter 1 when we covered that and that is Christ is in the midst of the seven candlesticks which tells us He is in the midst of His church.  Those candlesticks each represent His church and these seven churches here that are being described.  Christ is portrayed as being in the midst of, which means He is involved with…”  Ephesians tells us that He is the Head of the church which is His body.  Here were are told in this imagery that He is in the midst of which means He is active.  He is involved and He is talking to His own church.  We’ll come back to that thought in a minute.  I think that is an important one to keep in mind.  But He tells them, “thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”.  Now in this He is being rather strong.  This is also the side of Christ that is very evident from the Gospels and from His role as a prophet, that He is not only loving and merciful but He is also a God of justice and a God of judgment as well and here He is turning up the heat spiritually on His own people.  And He is making them realize that you are naked.  You are standing there without any clothes on. 

Did you ever have a dream of running around with just your undergarments on?  Some of you are nodding your heads.  The rest of you don’t want to admit it (ha ha).  It is one of those psychologists and people who study dreams know that is a pretty common dream that people have.  We talk about being exposed emotionally sometimes and our real intents and actions can sometimes be exposed.  Christ is exposing this group of people by what He is saying.  It reminds me of the story that we all read, probably, when we were younger, “The Emporer’s New Clothes”.  Remember the story?  The Emperor who wanted to have the finest and was persuaded by some charlatan that he was going to weave for him the finest set of clothes out of gold or whatever and put it upon him.  This deluded Emperor started parading down the street and because everyone was fearful of him, he was parading down the street naked, with no clothes on.  But, because everyone was fearful of him and his power, they were just feigning obedience and worship and praise to him.  Finally, there was this little kid in the crowd who pointed a finger and said, “He doesn’t have any clothes on.  He is naked!”  And he exposed the Emperor for what he was, a fraud.  Christ is in one sense saying to a group of Christians, at this point, with where you are, you are a fraud.  You are naked.  You are miserable.  You are poor and you are blind.  And you don’t know it.  That is pretty strong language, really strong.

The amazing part here that ties in so well with that thought is that, if you notice the things that He is pointing to when He says they are poor; are the Laodiceans poor?  No.  They were rich.  Physically speaking.  You know, were they naked?  No.  They were known for this wonderful wool where they created wonderful clothing and textiles and things like that.  So, as you look at these things, everything that the Laodiceans thought were their strengths, actually turned out to be weaknesses, spiritually speaking.  And it is such an amazing warning to all of us.  Be careful what we think our strengths are.  Are they really spiritual strengths? Because yes, they were wealthy.  They were a financial center.  No doubt they could take care of themselves.  Yes.  But they were blind and that ties into the fact that they were a medical center.  People would go there for medical treatments, especially for their eyes.  They had this Phrygian powder that they were famous for and they would put this on people’s eyes.  So then to call them “blind” goes against one of the things that they were known for.  They also had ear ointments that were supposed to help with hearing and yet they didn’t hear.  They weren’t obeying God and so all of those things infected the church. Society had infected the church so that, instead of those things being spiritual strengths, they were weaknesses and it blinded them to the fact.  So it is not just talking about the fact that they were lukewarm because they were negligent.  It is not just that.  They just don’t know Christ.  They don’t know God.  They were useless to Him is what it comes down to because He says, “I know your works,” but I wish you were hot or cold that you could be beneficial.  Instead He says, “I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.”  Well that ties into the medical center as well.  That lukewarm water, add a couple things into it and that is a home remedy to cause someone to vomit.  So He is just being straight out with them here and point to the facts that we had better know our works as we read these words that we need to be useful to God as well.

So, going on here then.

V. 18  “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”

Again here is a reference to the eye salve, a reference to what Steve mentioned of the Phrygian powder which was what they were known for as a treatment for eye disorders and eye defects.  Again He is saying use some of your own medicine on this and buy from me gold refined in the fire that you may be rich.  That is something that He is saying could only come from Me, a wealth, and obviously referring to a spiritual wealth symbolized by this gold which could only come from Christ, a spiritual condition, spiritual knowledge and a spiritual relationship where they were looking to Christ in every way, communing with Him; being led by Him; yielded to Him in His role as the Head of the church.  The white garments later in the Book of Revelation referred to as clothing of righteousness.  Clothe yourself with righteous works, righteousness.  By that you will be known and by that you will be seen.  Simplify one’s life and put on the type of clothing that reflects a humility and the righteousness of God’s way of life, based on His law and your nakedness will not be revealed; it will be covered up then.  The spiritual condition would then be removed and then anointing with the eye salve which would help them to rejuvenate and take on a whole new spiritual life.  This is what Christ is really encouraging the church to take part in.  His revelation of their real spiritual situation really should have shattered their illusions and been a very strong clarion call of repentance to them, to change.  To realize how they really were and to turn around and be different.

Can you imagine yourself receiving this type of letter?  Sitting in a church congregation, Laodicea, and all the letters had been sent on one long scroll and they had heard what was said to Philadelphia; and they had heard what was said to Smyrna, Pergamos, and Ephesus, and they were, “those cities got what they deserved,” or “they needed that,” or “yes, that’s right, Pergamos is like that”.  And then, in a sense, waiting to hear words of approbation, and affirmation and praise from Christ, through John, and instead they are stunned and shocked by the stinging words that we read about them here.  Keep in mind that, as you look at the words to Laodicea, it is the only church that doesn’t have anything good said about it in this particular situation.  The others at least have one good thing that is brought out.  That is pretty strong.  Again, that shows another dimension of Christ that we sometimes shy away from or don’t always admit within the full picture of Christ as the head of the church and in His role as our Savior, the Lamb of God.  He encourages us; He comforts us;  He doesn’t lay any more upon us that is going to break us if we are that bruised reed, that may be bent over just a little bit.  He is not going to be the one to just squash us.  But, if He knows what we need and if He knows that we are ready to receive it, He will give it.  So I think that we also need to recognize that Christ must have understood that the church at Laodicea could take it.  Because, I don’t think that Christ would break a bruised reed.  It says, “a bruised reed He will not break”

Matthew 12:20 Matthew 12:20A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment to victory.
American King James Version×
  “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.”

Another reference to Jesus during His ministry.  When I read His words, He knew exactly how to speak to everyone who came to Him in their particular situation and where they were at that time.  Whether it was the woman at the well in Samaria; whether it was a paralyzed person, blind from birth, a woman taken in adultery, He knew how to address them at that moment, at that time; or whether it was a self-righteous Pharisee.   And He had perfect wisdom and ability.  But we all wish that, in dealing with one another; with our children; with anyone we may supervise, that we had perfect wisdom to know what to say and how to say it.  I think Christ is that type of leader and head of the Church that we are a part of; to have known that Laodicea could take this very, very strong dose of medicine that He is dishing out, that they needed that and they could stand up and measure up to it.  So, when I say that, I do within the context, realize that Christ is in the midst of this church.  He is the head of the church.  Laodicea is His church and we should heed the message that is there because He is talking to us.  He is talking to us as members in the Body of Christ.  Didn’t Paul write that, “if one member suffers we all suffer and that we are all knit together.”  In the Feast video this year we are working on that upstairs to produce here in the next few days, to get nailed out.  The title of it is, “Fitly Framed Together”, from Ephesians 4:16 Ephesians 4:16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love.
American King James Version×
.  And what is described is the church there.  We are knit together.  We are one.  So the message to Laodicea is a message to us as well and it tells us not to get too cocky, judgmental, divisive with this description of Laodicea.

We wouldn’t feel a thing.  That’s not what God wants so He tells us we are supposed to be zealous.  He convicts us; He corrects; and He wants us to be zealous and really, earnestly desire to put on the character of Christ.

I think is one example where Christ is bringing a sword. He referred to that in one of His statements.  In this case it is not so much peace as it is a sword, a two-edged sword of righteousness that cuts to the very marrow of the bone as Hebrews describes God doing.  And Christ is the Word of God, the Word incarnate.  He was the Logos and He is doing that in this case and He is saying, “open your eyes” and look to yourself.  Don’t worry about anybody else.  Don’t be overly prideful because of your position.  Worry about yourself.

We were watching a rough cut of the Festival video we are putting together.  We went up to New England a few weeks ago.  We interviewed members of the New England congregations in New Hamshire and in Massachusetts to get some quotes of the congregations and how they are doing and working toward certain parts of what we wanted to emphasize out of Ephesians 4.  Len Martin is our Pastor up in Seabrook, New Hampshire and Wooster, Massachusetts congregations and, actually, all the way up through Maine, with our members up there.  He was being quoted by his members.  Len has been up there little more than a year.  He has gone in there and worked with the members that came out by several of the members who reported reflections that will go into the video.  Len has told his members, “I will take care of myself and you take care of yourself and together we will make a strong church”.  Time and time again it is amazing how many of his members were quoting that.

That is what Jesus is saying here to Laodocia.  “You take care of yourself.  I’ll take care of the rest of the churches.  I’ll take care of everyone else.  You address what I am bringing to you here.”  So He is telling them to live a real life, and authentic life.  “Take your blinders off.  Recognize where you’re naked.  Recognize you need a little bit of spiritual gold and the right garments over here.”  He is telling them to look at the possibilities of a life that can be lived completely surrendered and involved in the will of God.  That is an authentic life.

He is telling the members, “You look to Me in that way.  You come to understand and to look to Me that way and see the plan of God being engraved in your life and to understand God’s joy, God’s purpose, God’s grace, and look to Me for that identification and that support.”  In a sense He is saying, “Look to me as your hero.”  Look to Christ as your hero and quit looking to other people.  You know one the problems we have, all of us, we get our physical heroes that we look to in our life and as we mature we just transfer that onto other people.  We have our stars and musicians and, perhaps, these larger than life figures that are cast at us by society as somewhat heroes rather than looking to Christ, looking to God and developing a relationship.  From them we get our identification.  From them we get our satisfaction.

I was reminded of a story my son told me a few years ago.  My youngest son, Ryan, he was in Dallas doing some intern work for his medical degree a few years ago.  He had to go to Dallas to do that.  It was at a time when one of the last Star Wars movies had come out.  He wanted to go see it.  He was at the opening night in a theater in Dallas and he was sitting down.  It was filling up quickly with people in, walks across him and in front of him, sits down right next to him, was a movie star named Chuck Norris.  You all know who Chuck Norris is?  This macho, Walker Texas Ranger type character. You see him on screen, bigger than life.  Ryan said he was a “pipsqueak”.  He was just real short.  He said he looked at him and recognized who he was as he sat down next to him.  His feet barely reached the floor of the movie theater.  Hollywood can portray anyone because of a camera angle or a macho look, or whatever.

You see some people in real life.  People say that about Steve Myers and I when they see us off camera.  (ha ha). 

[Steve Myers] “That they do.  I thought you were a lot taller.”

[Darris McNeeley] The point is to respect each other but don’t look to any other human being so much for identification so much as we do to God and to Christ.  That is really the message that I get coming through loud and clear.

Absolutely.  He is talking here that we’ve got to examine ourselves.  We’ve got to look at this and you read this about being rebuked and chastened.  But we are supposed to be zealous and repent.  Looking at those passages I couldn’t help but think a little bit about the Passover because that seems to be such an important time for us as God’s people as we look at ourselves.

I was thinking of 1 Corinthians 11, where it talks about the Passover.

V. 28  “ But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”

That ties in very well with what we read here in Revelation 3 because he says, a little bit later in V31-32  “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.(1Co 11:32)  But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

You can almost see this picture that God is pushing us to look at ourselves, to judge ourselves because ultimately God is going to judge us and He is saying, “Do it!”  Take that into your own hands.  Humble yourself to my spirit and begin to put on the character of Christ.  Begin to change your lives.  Judge yourselves because, you know, ultimately, the wrath of God is going to be poured out on this world and we don’t want to be a part of that.  We don’t want to be condemned with the world as he says there in 1 Corinthians 11.

Instead God is pushing us, exhorting us, encouraging us to be zealous, to really have that jealousy, in a sense; to be more like God and to make ourselves ready for Him.  So He says, “Repent. Change your thinking.  Change your mind.  Go the right way.  Put on the character of God.”  He continues to encourage us to do that.  I think Verse 20 gives an interesting picture in that regard as well.

Revelation 3:20 Revelation 3:20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
American King James Version×
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

That is a beautiful picture as well as a poignant picture because Christ is portraying Himself as standing at the door, knocking to come in.  That means He is outside.  The door is closed and He is speaking to the Laodocean church here.  He says, “I am knocking.  If anyone hears my voice…”. 

Immediately comes to mind the reference, I believe, back in John 10, when Christ refers to Himself as the Door by which one enters into the sheep fold.  That is a very strong, obvious connection to a previous statement that Jesus makes.  He is saying, I am knocking.  If you hear my voice and if you open the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.  To sit down at a table together and break bread.  It really opens up, from the picture we have back in Luke, at the end of the book.  The disciples, after the resurrection, two of them are on the road to Emmaus.

Luke 24:13 Luke 24:13And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about three score furlongs.
American King James Version×

Two disciples walking to the village of Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.  I won’t go through all of this but they are walking together and talking about the events of the death and the story as they had heard, of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Christ appears to them but they don’t know who He is as the story goes along here. He asks, what are you doing?  What are you talking about?  They say, have you not been around to hear what took place as you are walking here.  He asks them in V. 19, What things?  They said to him, regarding Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in deed and word, was condemned to death and crucified for the hope of Israel.  Then He was seen at the tomb early.

V. 19 “And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:”

V. 22 “Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;”

They didn’t know that they were talking to Christ here.  They turn in, even as Christ explains to them various things about who they were.  He goes in.  They sit down at a table – V. 28.

V. 28 “And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.”

In their own village here.

V. 30-31  “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.”

Up until then they didn’t know they were talking with the resurrected Jesus Christ.  A fabulous story.  The hours right after Christ’s resurrection.  But their eyes were opened.

Keep in mind the wording that He says to the Laodiceans, “You are blind.  Put the salve on your eyes that you might see….” These disciples had their eyes opened and they knew Him and He vanished from their sight.  But they were sitting and dining with Him.

Again the picture, when you bring that in with what Jesus says, as He knocks at the door back in Revelation 3:20 Revelation 3:20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
American King James Version×
, He is showing, a coupled with the story of the road to Emmaus, you see, I think, some very clear instruction about some of the attributes of a Christian and a disciple, talking about the things of God; speaking on those matters; wondering about them; chewing them over; and coming to a point where they finally see certain aspects of God, Christ, the plan of salvation, the Bible that they had never seen before.  Even though they had heard it, they came to a point where their eyes were opened.  You can understand that in terms of a calling and an enlightening from God.  But you can also understand that in regard to the need for us all, even today, to continue to be hearing and listening for that knocking at the door.  To be able to understand that Christ is still wanting to have a conversation with us.  There is still things that He wants us to learn and we have to be in the frame of mind, the role of a disciple, feeding on the Bread of Life and the Word of God to get to that point.

The fellowship that God wants to have with us, that really brings that out when you just think of the tradition, the way they used to dine as well. They didn’t use to have the table and the chairs the way that we do is certainly a more relaxed atmosphere, too.  Close fellowship in the midst of that so they were really involved with each other.  Of course the implication there is with God as well.

I was thinking about that as you were talking and I was reminded of a time I was at the airport.  My plane got cancelled and delayed and I was hanging around for quite a while and I noticed this one fellow that was sitting there, at one of those chairs, just watching everything that was going on.  I had been there for a number of hours, waiting to get a different flight and that sort of thing and the guy was still there.  He was kind of like me.  He was hearing all the announcements and listening to the delays and all of that sort of thing.  I’m thinking he’s waiting to get on a flight.  Well, three or four hours go by and the guy’s still there and he’s watching people walk by with their luggage and all this kind of stuff.  Then, I realized he wasn’t waiting for a plane.  He was just watching everything that was going on.  I just thought he was another passenger.  Later on I saw him go out the exit.  I’m not sure of the whole story but it was reminder that sometimes, I think, we can sit in the church; or we can think we are a part of things.  But, if we don’t buy a ticket and get on the plane, we are not fulfilling our purpose for being at the airport.  And I think we just really got to be careful with that because you can watch the departures and you can hear all the announcements and you can go through all the motions but, boy, you’ve got to have that commitment.  We can’t afford to have Christ knocking on the outside of the door.  We’ve got to buy that ticket and get on the plane so that He says we can dine with Him.  That really is what it’s all about. 

Connected with that, with V. 19, being zealous and repenting; connected with walking through that open door and fellowshipping with Christ.  He says,

V. 21  “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

So we see that indication of that family relationship.  We have this spiritual family, this togetherness that is the potential that God wants for us.  It is really remarkable.

It is, again, the holding out of hope that Christ is doing here.  You can overcome.  If you do, you will “sit with Me on My throne”.  He is talking to His church.  That is the important thing to realize.  It is a strong message.  You can say what you want about Laodocea but look at what Christ says about Laodocea, that is what is most important.  From that we should draw our conclusions in a relationship with Christ. You take of yourself.  I’ll take care of myself and together we’ll make a good church, a good congregation, or a good group of people. 

Then He concludes by saying,

V. 22 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

Again, not only our eyes need to be anointed with salve to see but our ears uncorked from the wax to hear what we need to hear even when it may be unpleasant and we may not enjoy that.

He kind of concludes with that overall thought that we can’t have form without substance.  There’s got to be substance to it; there has got to be value overall.  And I think in one way He intimates at leaving the body.  Where God says, “I’m going to vomit you out, you’re not part of the body anymore.  If you leave in dishonor, causing division and confusion, accusations, those kinds of things.  God says, “I am going to spew you out.”  So, to say we have need of nothing when, in reality, we are in need of God, inside, not just outside of the door. We need that close fellowship.  He doesn’t want us to be wretched, blind and naked.  He doesn’t want us to deny the works of Christ in favor of our very own works, our selfish works.  He reminds us, again, to see that we are seeing that spiritual nakedness so that we can come in line with the standard of God.

The only way out of Laodocea is to repent.  That is how you come out of Laodocea, move out of that attitude, move out of that frame of mind, to repent.  That’s one of the most important lessons to understand.  If an application of these messages to the churches is to bring us down to an application that Laodocea in the flow of church history from the time of the Apostles and Christ, to the time of Christ’s coming is discussing in a broad sense, a movement of the spiritual development of the church.  If we find this being a condition of the church at the end time, then understand that it is also reflecting the same in society.

2 Timothy 3:1-2 2 Timothy 3:1-2 [1] This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. [2] For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
American King James Version×

Paul did say, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come…. Men shall be lovers of their own selves…”  and he goes on to give a very long list of problems in society.  Those problems are in our world today.  Those problems impact you and I today.  They will impact the church.  It will erode faith.  It will tempt us away from faith, from obedience.  The pulls of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, magnified as they are in our world today.  So if we are a materialistic, godless society in many ways, that is very rapidly moving away from even some of the most basic aspects of righteousness as a people.  Some of the social problems that we are facing, then we should again understand that has an application to this world today and it can impact us and it can create in us an attitude that is like the Laodoceans here.  We are facing some major social developments with the political and social areas of the world today that are turning the hearts and minds, not toward God, but away from God.  Even people who are sincere find themselves watered down; lukewarm if you will, yet claiming to be Christian but muddy and kind of shallow, clouded in their belief systems.  That creeps into us within the church as well as any other religious person of faith, whatever it may be.  This is the world we live in today.  To understand that is to, again, keep our eyes sharply focused on what we need to repent of and come out of as a solution for the problem that Laodocea has. 

I think as we wrap up the letters to the churches maybe we just keep in mind certainly these were specific churches that we were written to at that time.  We certainly perceive the letters as being that.  We also realize that it is certainly possible that it represents, predominantly, a group of God’s people that God has been working with through time and in different eras. But, probably most importantly for us, we’ve got to realize that it represents attitudes.  Each one of these churches represents attitudes that are a part of the church, part of the world today, at any given time.  That is why we’ve got to take all of those things to heart as well. 

Maybe one other thing before we go any further.  I had a question come in. (Any questions online send to ucgbiblestudy@gmail.com) We’ll do our best to answer those, especially if they are on the Book of Revelation.  Sometimes we get questions all over the place but it is always a little nicer if they kind of flow with the topic for the night.

Question:

Regarding the letters to the churches.  “Is there any significance in the Ephesian and Laodicean churches being addressed as to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans/of the Ephesians, and then the other churches being addressed as “unto the angel in the church in Sardis, or in Thyatira?

Answer:  It is a technical question, the difference between the “angel of the church of…” or “to the angel of the church in…”.  I know some have speculated that the churches in, specifically, in those areas, maybe not so much infected so much with the societies around them.  As Laodicea says, the church of the Laodiceans, that they are more apart of the society around them.  I’ve read different things on that kind of speculation.  I think you could argue either way when you actually look at them because each of those churches had parts of the societies around them become a part of their way of thinking.  Little challenging that way.  Other than that, I don’t know much else about that.  It’s a pretty technical question.

I can’t comment on that at any great rate either.  I have not read anything on regard to that and my eyes haven’t really focused on that.

Yes, I think you could probably look at the Greek a little bit closer and note those particular passages.  So maybe we could look that up and if there is much there we could, maybe bring that up the next time around.

That brings us to Chapter 4 so we’re going to push on.

Revelation 4

What we decided to do, just as a side light, is when get to the end of the night rather than try to get to a certain point.  We thought it would be easier with this kind of study of the Book of Revelation.  Some areas are just going to take longer than others so, instead of trying to cram a whole chapter into the evening when it may not flow that well, we thought it would be better to quit when we get there.  We’ll pick up where we left off the next time.

Maybe before we get into Chapter 4 we’ll notice a change of scenery here.  The previous chapters have been looking at events right on the Earth.  Now the scene changes.  Chapter 4 begins to look at events that are happening in heaven.  There is that change of venue, change in the scenery here.  We want to take note to that as we get into Chapter 4 here. 

After what things?  The things that were written seems to be the best implication.  After the events on Earth.  After the events of the messages to the seven churches.  John writes.

V.1  After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”

Come up here to heaven.  What heaven is this talking about?  We know that the Bible addresses three different heavens.  Specifically we know that there is the heaven that is the atmosphere of the Earth, the sky around us where the clouds are.  We know there is also the heaven where the planets are, the universe, we might say.  And then there is this heaven that is being talked about here in Chapter 4, which is the heaven where God’s throne is at.  This is specifically pointing to that where we find God, that is often, sometimes called the third heaven.  It is the place where God dwells.  That seems to fit best with the Greek word for heaven in that particular location. 

Here are the things that he says, “I am going to show you…”  What?  The things that must take place after this.  So these are the things that must come to pass.  John is going to be have revealed the things that are going to be coming about.  The time setting goes back to the beginning of the Book of Revelation, where we find the Day of the Lord when God would ultimately reveal what was going to happen when He intervenes in human affairs.  It is beginning to show us more specifically those types of things.

Just a few comments as we move into this chapter which is a marked departure from what we’ve had before, especially in Chapters 2 and 3.  One of the commentators, I can’t remember exactly where I read this at one time, used the Greek dramas, the Greek plays as a way of describing what John was writing, what he was seeing.  Drama and plays as we know them had their origins within Greek society and they were very well known for that.  While John is receiving visions from God, as Chapter 1 talks about, you have to, in a sense, look at this as an unfolding story and drama,  In several scenes and in several acts that move through here.  John says he is on the Island of Patmos.  There is a traditional spot, it is in a cave, where John supposedly, or may have received the vision of Revelation on the Island of Patmos.  If you ever go there.  I have never been there, read about it.  But there is a cave that is connected with this.  It is one of those stories that may, or may not be true, or features.  But I sometimes, when I read through it, especially when I come to Chapter 4 of Revelation, I kind of imagine John seeing this in front of him, almost like we would see things on a huge movie screen, if you will.  In the days of drive-in movie theaters you had the big screen out on a wide open space.  Well, most of those are gone.  But we have the big Imax theaters now, which are the biggest, probably, that we could go and see a production put out there.

But John is getting something even far greater than that.  3D, high definition are nothing compared to what he is having unfolded in front of him in this scene.  And now a scene of the throne of God.  He has had a vision of Christ in the midst of the candle sticks and the message to the churches and now he is seeing a door standing open in heaven.  I guess you could write a song, almost, “stairway to heaven” off of that phrase.  He says, “Come up here and I will show you the things that must take place.”

John walks through a door into heaven.  I know that CS Lewis, “Chronicles of Narnia” used this to be the entry way into Narnia through the wardrobe door, the back of the wardrobe, and made that into an allegorical story of God and Christianity.  CS Lewis, for all of his genius and story- telling ability isn’t any better than what John is writing here.  I always remember that when I read “Chronicles of Narnia”.  I haven’t read it but I’ve seen the movie and I know, essentially, the story there.  It is a pale imitation of what John is describing here.  I think as we read this we somehow need to put ourselves into it and realize that John was walking into another dimension, in the spirit, in this vision.  What he is seeing is a different dimension than our world today.  It is not a snow-covered Narnia.  It is the throne of God.  It is reality.  It is not a fantasy to try to explain God and Christianity.  It is truth.  It is real.  He lived it.  He wrote it.  It was inspired of God and it is in front of us today and, with God’s spirit, we should project ourselves as much as we possibly can into this and recognize this is the best story ever and make it real in our mind and recognize that John walked through a door into another dimension.  That is also important to understand things that we are going to read about, especially here as we go into other symbols and events and what he sees as the seals are opened and the rest of the book progresses.  One very important key to keep in mind is that John is doing his best as a human writer, inspired of God, but he is seeing some things and he is writing things with human descriptions.  Physical stones like a jasper, a sardius, a throne.  And the descriptions here are physical dimensions but he is describing a spiritual dimension.  That is important to understand as you go through Revelation.  He is describing the ultimate reality but he is doing it with inferior terms that were at his disposal.  And that too, I think, is the great genius of God that he takes us up to the edge of eternity and allows us a glimpse through this scene here, and others.  He says this is where you are headed.  This is what you will one day be entering into.  We will enter into eternity.  At the time of the resurrection and the time of change from flesh to spirit we will enter eternity.  God and Christ, the Father and Christ, dwell in eternity and we will enter that.  It will be unlike anything we can imagine.  We can read about it.  That is our goal.  Our bodies will be changed.  We will then see clearly.  Today we see through a glass darkly.  Just understand that and it keeps you from reading too much into it while at the same time read it for what it says and you understand what it is saying.  I think it helps to keep us on safe ground without getting too far out into speculation of certain scenes or aspects of the Book of Revelation that we could turn to and get to eventually.  Something like the marriage supper, perhaps or the great Sea of Glass in later chapters here, and other aspects that John will write about.

God gives us a glimpse but He doesn’t give us the full explanation.  He saves the best for last.  There are some things we should let God have the final word on and He hasn’t given us a total revelation on everything.  I am getting a little bit ahead on the story but as we kind of walk through this door into heaven with John, it is a good point for us to keep in mind as we go through the rest of the book and read it for what it says.  We don’t spiritualize it away.  We don’t allegorize the Book of Revelation away.  But, at the same time, we realize that John is describing a dimension beyond life, time, and space.  It blows your mind to even think.

I was younger and growing up in the church and they started talking about eternity, I remembered trying to figure out what is eternity?  What do you mean, live forever?  I kept hearing these sermons about living forever.  I tried to imagine what it would be like to live forever and in my limited, little boy mind, the best I could come up with was something like Groundhog Day.  Just over and over again, doing the same thing, over and over and over again on the physical level.  I thought about it and I tried to think about it and it kind of frightened you.  You don’t know what that means. I pulled back away from some of that thinking and I’ve matured over the years and recognized that it is far better than anything that we can imagine.  What God does tell us is good but the reality is far better.

I can guarantee I have never thought of eternity as Groundhog’s day.  (ha ha)  Even as an adult it is really hard to imagine what is eternity like.  It is more than we can imagine.  But I think, as you look at this; here is John, in this vision, in the spirit, as he says, a lot of this plays to people’s interpretations of Revelation.  They get locked into a certain perspective and so you have a whole basis of theology based on just the historical interpretation of Revelation.  So, if you only look at Revelation as a historical letter, document, you are going to run into problems as you read through that.  If you look at Revelation only as an allegory; it’s just a story, it’s got some interesting things, you’re going to run into problems.  So if you try to relegate the word of God to this minute, single interpretation of things, I think that is where we’re going to have problems.  Even just saying, “well, everything is futuristic.”  We have to be careful.  As we go through and we read it for face value; let’s read it for what it says, and let’s strive to see if we can understand the best interpretation here.

He has told us that there is an open door, that God has given us an open opportunity.  Does God reveal spiritual truths to us?  Yes, He does.  Just a couple of verses ago, to the church in Philadelphia, He said, “I have set before you an open door”.  Kind of like heaven opening up, God gives us opportunities to understand His way.  Christ is at the door.  We just read that in Chapter 3 as well. He is knocking at the door.  Is Christ opening our hearts and our minds to His truth?  In a sense there is this door to eternal life, like you were mentioning.  An open door to the truth.  So here we have this amazing vision as John is striving to describe here, in Chapter 4, what this throne room of God is all about.  It is pretty amazing when you look at the way He describes it.  He says, 

V. 2-3  “And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.  And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.”

It says he was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance.  That doesn’t say He was but He is like this.  There was a rainbow around the throne in appearance like an emerald.

Some interesting comparisons.  You read about a jasper.  That is not a very expensive stone today but anciently, it seems like that particular stone was like a crystal so it had a sense of brightness, perhaps, some have even translated this as a diamond.  We can imagine how a diamond just sparkles especially when you are going through a jewelry store and those special lights that they have; those things are just blazingly beautiful.  In the sense it seems comparing this jasper to the brightness and purity of God.  And, of course, on the other hand, you have this sardius stone named after the area where it came from, Sardis, which was supposed to be a blood red stone.  That seems to point to the day that Revelation is talking about.  God’s wrath is going to be poured out, that God is a God of justice and He will avenge.  So it seems to tie into that.  Maybe there is even a tie in with the tribes of Israel.  If you remember, all of the tribes had their own stone.  The priest would put on that priestly garment.  He put on the ephod and there would be the 12 stones within that garment as well.  Guess what the first stone was?  It was jasper.  And guess what the 12th stone was?  It was sardius.  Is there some kind of symbolism involved here as well that is representing God’s people?  It seems like maybe from the first to the last, the whole, completeness, seems to be part of what is here, that God envelopes everything.  God is just amazingly awesome, and is complete and you can hardly describe His greatness here.  In fact, it is also interesting, he also says there is a rainbow around the throne in appearance like an emerald.  I don’t know how rainbows look like emeralds.  All the rainbows I’ve seen always have lots of different colors.   Obviously John is describing something that is just really hard to describe.  Amazing images here.

I have to bring up another movie reference here (not Groundhog Day).  In appearance like an emerald in the description of the throne of God, what is the most famous emerald city that we all know about?  The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy and her friends had to go to see the Great Oz so that she could get back to Kansas.  We all know the story.  We’ve all seen it dozens and dozens  of times through the years; one of the most famous movies ever made.  And again, that story, the Wizard of Oz, has a unique, has an interesting background as to how it was written, how quickly it was written.  I won’t go into that tonight.  But there area, again, allusions into all aspects of that story from the Bible and from Christianity as well.  Why was the Emerald City picked?  I think, you know, is it another attempt to reference this destination that was.  In Oz, it was the “be all”, where the Great Oz lived, this god like character that they had to get to.  They had to go along the yellow brick road; this journey, almost like it was the kingdom.  And you remember the images of it being set off in the distance like a city on a hill.  So all the imagery is right there.  Again, my point is that, even the best fiction that has been so endearing to our culture, in our western culture especially, with all these stories, the imagery and the stories are taken right out of the Bible.  Someone once said that the best stories all originated right out of the Bible.  That again is just an important thing to realize. This is reality and whatever appreciation one might have for the other, it pales into insignificance compared to what is described here in Revelation.

I guess some of the manuscripts leave out “He who sat there…” in Verse 3.  Instead of describing God like that, many think that it is actually describing the throne in that way, like jasper, like sardius, like an emerald.  It is a little difference of opinion there with the different manuscripts but it ties in, probably a little better with Ezekiel if it was describing the throne itself in those ways.  Still no doubt representative of God Himself.  This is kind of a representation of Him in His brightness and in His purity and in His justice and really even, the emerald, may be reflecting more of a mercy and a love and a care that He has in that way.  Especially when you tie it in with a rainbow. You can’t help but think of Noah and the covenant that was made with Noah and God’s love and care for humanity; that He would never destroy the earth again in that way.  A sign of God’s glory.  A sign of His covenant.  We see that His mercy and in come out in that way as well. 

Verse 4 moves to more detail. John describes:

V.4  “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.”

Who were these 24 elders?  What were they?  Commentators will have a whole range of choices sometimes to select from.  Some will say that they are depictions of ideas from Babylonian myths.  I don’t think that is the case here.  I don’t think John took his inspiration from Babylonian mythology or religion at all.  In fact, that goes against the entire thrust of the Book of Revelation, especially with what was said to the earlier churches.  Some will say that these 24 elders, they spiritualize them away as symbolic.  Some aspects of numbers.  But, I think the best way to approach it is to realize, what he saw were 24 thrones with 24 elders.  An angelic, created being here defined as a group of 24 in a unique place and role, whatever that role would be, around the throne of God.  Take it for what it says and understand that there is, usually one of the best ways to understand our way through these things in Revelation.  We are going to read about them in multiple places throughout the rest of Revelation.

In Chapter 5:11, 14, they are mentioned, they are referenced.

Revelation 5:11 Revelation 5:11And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
American King James Version×
  “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;”

Revelation 5:14 Revelation 5:14And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that lives for ever and ever.
American King James Version×
  “And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.”

Chapter 7:11 “And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,”

Chapter 11:16  “And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,”

Chapter 14:3  “And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.”

Chapter 19:4 And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.”

We are going to find them spaced in intervals throughout the Book of Revelation.  It think it is best just to take them for what it says, that they are 24 created spirit beings with a unique role as others angels, cherubim, and covering angels seem to have unique roles in this scene that John has.  That is a little different mirror; not an exact replication but very close to what Ezekiel saw back in Ezekiel 1, 10 and other parts of the early chapters of Ezekiel where he, too, had a vision of the throne of God with many similarities here.  Take it for what it is.  You progress through the story and you put it all together and just understand that these are beings that are occupying a unique role around the throne of God.

There are several passages in the Bible that reflect that as well.  You might just write down1 Kings 22:19 1 Kings 22:19And he said, Hear you therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.
American King James Version×
reference to the host of heaven around the throne which can certainly give an indication of some of the things that we find in Chapter 4 as well.  I just thought of Job as well because Job talked about the sons of God meeting with God.  Does this have an impact?  That could be as well.  I think it is Isaiah 24:23 Isaiah 24:23Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.
American King James Version×
, where it talks about God among the elders so there seems to be a connection there as well.  I know there is a lot speculation if you are symbolically trying to connect some things.  There is definitely a connection between these 24, the number 24.  There were 24 courses in the priesthood.  If you look back to the time of King David, he divided up the priests into 24 sections, you might say.  Each of those sections served at a different time of the year.  So David established that.  That seems to represent a fullness, a completeness that this number 24.  Some make comparisons between the patriarchs, the 12 patriarchs whose names will be on the gate of the New Jerusalem.  And there are 12 apostles, so 12 + 12.  The 12 tribes.  If I do my math right, that comes out to 24.  But there is a sense of completeness so, when you see what they are doing, they are clothed in white robes.  They continually praise and worship.  They are casting their crowns.  Later on, it says, in Verse 10, they are praising God.  They are bringing prayers to God.  One of them encourages John a little bit later.  There is another one that is interpreting some things for John.  We see the completeness of God in his praise and his worship within these 24 elders.  It seems to fit, probably best, to think of them as specially created beings in that regard.  Just interesting portrayal of these 24 elders.

Going on then.

V. 5  “And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”

Again the imagery here harkens all the way back to Exodus 19 where the Children of Israel were at the foot of Mt. Sinai and God came down and thunderings and lightnings, and the mountain shook before Moses went up to receive the Law.  The covenant was made with Israel there, at Sinai.  The presence of God was a pretty awesome affair.  As it is always portrayed either in a vision like this, the actual fact of His appearance on Mt. Sinai, again in Ezekiel 1:13 Ezekiel 1:13As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
American King James Version×
, is the same type of imagery coming from the throne of God that Ezekiel has an image of.  Seven lamps of fire is another reference to the number 7, again completeness.  We find the number 7 appearing throughout Revelation.  7 candlesticks; 7 churches; 7 lamps of fire; 7 seals; 7 last plagues.  The number 7, a time of completeness and perfection is always used here in this way.  This is, again, in the sense of 7 lamps of fire burning before the throne of God symbolizing the seven spirits of God, there around the throne of God.

One of the interesting things with the seven spirits, which I think ties in really well with the fullness of what God’s spirit is, and what it does, what is the function of God’s spirit.  One of the passages that talks about it as well is in Chapter 5:6, where it talks about the 7 spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  If you think about it in those terms, there is an interesting passage back in 2 Chronicles 16:9 2 Chronicles 16:9For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein you have done foolishly: therefore from now on you shall have wars.
American King James Version×
(you can just write that down).  It is a Hebrew representation of that and, where it talks about the eyes of the Lord, roam to and fro, back and forth on the earth. 

I ran across an interesting word book.  It is called, A Theological Word Book of the Old Testament.  It is written by Harris Archer and Walke.  Just their description of “the eyes” was something I found.  I thought I’d read just a little bit of that for you tonight.  It says, “The eye is used to express knowledge, character, attitude, opinion, passion, and response.  The eye is a good barometer of the inner thoughts of man.”  It also says, “It can also mean ‘spring’ or ‘fountain’, which are outflows of water.  In Hebrew the eyes are not receptive as in English or, in other words, when we look, we see things and we take in the information.  We take it in as we see it, our brain translates it so we can understand the images that we are seeing.  But, in Hebrew, it says, the eyes aren’t receptive but communicative or expressive.  Now that is the opposite.  Instead of eyes taking in knowledge, taking in images, they are communicating when that word is used in Hebrew.  So, when you talk about the eyes of the Lord or the seven spirits of God, you think of them, they write, as a means of communication rather than gatherers of information.  Isn’t that the way God’s spirit works.  God communicates in that sense as we submit to His spirit God communicates His will through His spirit in that regard.  When we look at it that way we don’t see this division of different spirits.  We just see the overall impact of God working with people.  I think that is kind of an interesting way to put it in that particular passage.

Okay, let’s move onto Verse 6 then.

V. 6   “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts (living creatures) full of eyes before and behind.”

The Greek translation, some of the translations, have in here that, what John was saying is before the throne, as it were, a sea of glass.  Again it is “as it were”.  This is his best description of this.  What it is, we don’t know.  Some commentaries will go back and forth and various allusions, references from the Psalms about God and prayers to God, almost like looking up through water and a firmament above that, is the description.  Again, it is John’s best effort to describe what it was as he is looking up and through something that is like a sea of glass.  I doubt that it was a crystal clear as we might imagine just looking through a wall of glass or a large glass installation like we have over here to your right (a line of windows) in this building.  It is probably something far greater, shimmering and the light reflecting through that. I was reading through this and trying to imagine.  If you’ve ever been under water on a bright, sunny day and you look up.  You know, your snorkeling, or your diving, and you look up and you see the sun on a bright day hitting the water and kind of coming through, fraking through the water.  It presents a whole different image of reality and life.  Again, something like that as John was looking up.  He was seeing something “as it were” a sea of glass.  So, again, a fantastic vision of grandeur that is indescribable and, in the midst of this throne he sees again the distinction of four living creatures.  Again, the imagery goes back to Ezekiel.  Ezekiel’s image of God’s throne is more of a portable throne that was moving in various directions with these same images of the angelic character there.  A lion, a man, an eagle and a calf as Verse 7 describes here.  Ezekiel 1 describes his vision of the throne of God and John goes on here, in verse 8.  He talks about the four living creatures.

V. 7And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.”

V. 8 “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”

It goes on to describe that.  I won’t go any further with this at this point but, just to go back to the scene from Ezekiel, of the throne, almost like a portable throne of movement and activity.  Put that together with what John sees here in Chapter 4 and you have a vision of God’s throne where there is a lot going on.  Just my final comment on this scene here tonight.  You are seeing a scene of ceaseless activity.  The presence of God as John is seeing it and as Ezekiel saw it, is one of very, very busy work.  I think it is a good thought to leave on tonight in terms of God doing His work.  Christ said that the Father works and I must work while it is day.  When we see these scenes there is activity.  It is not static and God is in charge of His creation and He is receiving prayers.  Things are happening.  There is unstoppable, 24/7, whatever that means in the spiritual dimension, of activity in the work and in the purpose of God and that is also being portrayed through this.

I think we’ll have some fun talking about some of these things too because this is some weird things when you think about it.  “Something like a lion” and it has “eyes all around the front and the back”.  What are those things?  How does these wings fit in?  What kind of created beings are these?  Are they angels? What are they?  And how do they fit in with these 24 elders we’ve just talked about?  And what, exactly, is happening in this whole scene.  Maybe what we need to do is pick it up with that next time.  In fact, maybe even talk about angels, specifically, because most people’s concepts of angels and what their function is, and what they look like, is entirely different than what the Bible really says that they are.

I guess we’ll leave it at that for tonight.  Thank you all for coming.  Glad that you were able to make it here tonight. 

Our next Bible Study will be in two weeks, I believe, September 5th, if I remember correctly. Don’t quote me on that.  We will look forward to seeing you right here in the room or on the web as well.

Good night everyone.

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