I’ve been accused of being zealous for the end times. When I talk about heaven and how incredible it’s going to be to finally exist there, some folks have said I’m too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.
When speaking of the glories of heaven one day, a young man I work with told me that he didn’t pay much attention to prophecy because his parents’ generation and the generation before had expected the return of Christ and it didn’t happen. “It’ll happen when it happens,” he said. “It’s not for me to worry about.”
Can you hear my sigh through this page?
Scholars tell us that 27 percent of the Bible is prophetic in teaching. That’s a lot of Bible to not concern ourselves with! The Lord has much to say about the future because … (drawing a deep breath here) … it is the Hope of His glory.
Let me say this in my own simple, simple way. Jesus died to save us from our sins because our sins have brought upon the judgement of God. The judgement verdict is a horrible wrath and the wrath of God will come upon the earth one and coming day. There’s an earthly time line, and this time line is set by the wisdom of our heavenly Father. It is prudent we know what He does and why. We are His children. I liken the look-the-other-way attitude to a family preparing to move to a mountain-top dream home in a community where everyone loves one another, has some interesting super powers (I know my description falls short here), and will serve a king who has ushered in a perfect government. But before they can move, there’s packing, purging, and training for mountain climbing. When the father of the family warns that a great storm approaches, do the children say, Forget the whole thing, or I’m happy in the preparation stage and so let’s just stay here?
The children ask of the storm. The potential fall out. The time line until they can get to the dream location they’ve been promised.
The word saved in the Christian world has become watered down, meaning more of a prosperous and joyful life—saved from our own potential self-inflicted destruction. However, the word saved in the context of biblical writ means the most extreme and most passionate rescue of all time for all time. What we are saved from is the wrath of God or that storm coming upon the earth. And once we fully grasp this, I believe we’ll be more than appreciative of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We’ll be on our faces in wholehearted, grateful worship.
But in being saved or rescued from God’s wrath, we are also granted a new position in eternal life—one that we shadow as believers here in our earthly realm.
Shadows are thin, flat representations of the substance they shadow. Our lives as children of God here on earth are mere shadows of what is to come when we dwell with Him in heaven–the mountain top community with a perfect government.
Why Prophecy Matters
This is why prophecy is so very important.
1. Prophecy warns of God’s wrath, giving us a truthful perspective with the consequences of sin.
2. Prophecy prepares us for what is to come. For the saved by grace soul, we’re given these prophecies to be prepared. God in his loving relationship never wants you to have to say, I didn’t see that coming.
3. Prophecy gives us a hopeful look into God’s eternal plans—the hope we are all to be hoping for. The hope that in right standing with God, we are not only rescued from horrors, but we have an incredible new life ahead of us.
There is so much more to come. When we only focus on the here and now, we can get caught up in our selfish desires and plans. I’ve been experiencing disappointment at what isn’t happening with my writing endeavors. Book sales, website traffic, and even feedback are sometimes slow to come (I am so grateful to those who interact and support my ramblings). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t write for the sales, but I do hope that the time and passion spent on writing yields fruit for the Lord. If I focused on the now, I could feel like I’m wasting my weekends which are about 90 percent devoted to study, research, and writing (I occasionally dust the house). But because of prophecy and Jesus’s parables, I know that what I do in the here and now has impact on eternity. How cool is that? When I don’t view my here-and-now life as all there is, I’m able to keep going without getting weary.
Have you been weary? Disappointed? Disheartened. Look up. We have a hopeful future and in that future, we are promised every tear will be wiped away and every wrong made right.
And so we have the book of Revelation—a glorious comparison of earth and heaven. In chapters four through twenty-two, the scenes of earthly hell and heavenly glory switch back and forth, giving us a real look at God’s coming wrath while encouraging us with scenes of what takes place in magnificent heaven.
In Revelation Blog 1, we started with the purpose of John’s vision and his description of Christ. Now we’ve worked our way to chapter four and the scene of the throne room, before the first Seal Judgements are pronounced.
It is important to understand that this Book is divided into the three parts: the what has been, what is now, and what is to come. Here are the chapter breakdowns:
1. What has been (chapter 1)
2. What is now (chapters 2 and 3)
3. What is to come (chapters 4-22)
We’ll camp out in the beginning of chapter four of Revelation in the what-is-to-come parts for the rest of this blog. Once we get into the various judgements, things will clip along faster. But it is important to grasp the holiness of Christ as He is revealed in heaven.
In the last Revelation, blog number four, we discussed the possibility of John’s call up to heaven being a shadow of the rapture. (Psalm 27:5). This is a debatable theory, and you may want to do more research for your own conclusions.
But now that John’s been spiritually transported into heaven, we’re given further revelation of Christ—the first stated purpose of this last book of the Bible.
The Throne Room in Heaven
“Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven and One sitting on the throne.” – Revelation 4:2
John goes on to describe what he’s seeing. I love the way Robert J. Morgan interprets this scene in his book The 50 Final Events in World History :
“Everything in this passage centers on the throne of Almighty God. The word throne occurs thirty-eight times in Revelation and sixteen times in these two chapters! The subject of God’s heavenly throne is one of the most fascinating and thrilling subjects in Scriptures. God’s seat of power is described several times in the Bible, in places like Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1. The descriptions are consistent and enable us to visualize it to the extent we possibly can. …”
I can’t imagine being John and having to describe the glory surrounding our Maker. But John starts his description of God with: “And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance, and there was a rainbow around the throne like an emerald in appearance.” (Revelation 4:3)
In his book, Robert Morgan shares this insight:
“The word jasper in this text doesn’t refer to the opaque stone known by that name today, but to a crystal that reflects light and sparkles with beauty. It’s most likely a reference a stone like a diamond with shards of ruby-red refractions, and around it a brilliant rainbow, which is the biblical symbol for mercy. The one seated on the throne is God the Father, the first person of the Trinity.”
The Apostle John mentions another stone when describing what he sees at the throne. That stone is sardius which is also known as sardine. It is fascinating to note that these stones are two of the twelve stones placed in the breastplate of the high priest who ministered in the temple. Only the high priest wore the breastplate embedded with twelve stones which represent the twelve tribes of Israel. The number twelve represents governance. The high priest, a foreshadow of our Christ in heaven ((Hebrews 2:17, 4:14 to 7:28, 9, 10), wore the breastplate of governance (twelve stones) and he alone performed the priestly duties required on Yom Kippur, the Day the Atonement.
Oh my goodness, there is so much decipher here. The small stones placed into the breastplate of the priest foreshadow the brilliance of Christ. But the stones in the breastplate are tiny, tiny in ratio to the expanse of sparkling stone around the throne. What else can this tell us of the heaven we are destined for? The beauty here is the tiniest reflection of the beauty there.
As well, the high priest was a foreshadow of Christ entering the temple on Yom Kippur and enacting the required duties. The high priest represented the only One who could atone for the sins of Israel. Today, our true High Priest Jesus Christ is the only atonement the Lord accepts on our behalf. Puts a new spin on Christ bearing our sins, doesn’t it?
But let’s move on.
After John describes Almighty God with earthly words I feel must fall very short, John tells us that there were twenty-four additional thrones surrounding God.
Most Bible experts believe the twenty-four elders seated upon these lesser thrones are the twelve patriarchs of Israel and the twelve apostles of Jesus. John does not identify them for us, but because of their proximity to the throne, we can surmise these elders hold positions of authority.
Next John describes the powerful energy surrounding the throne: “And from the throne proceed flashes of lighting and sounds and peals of thunder.”
Lightening and thunder represent power. When we are in the throne room of our Maker, we are in the presence of super-natural energy–a power we’ve barely glimpsed here on earth.
The Holy Spirit
And then we’re introduced to the Holy Spirit.
“And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”
Twice in Revelation, the Holy Spirit is shown to us as a configuration of lamps. As well, in Zechariah 4:2, Zechariah sees a single lamp with seven flames and this, most scholars believe, is the biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit, harmonizing with what John describes.
A Glass Sea and Foreign Creatures
In verse six, John goes on to tell us, ”there was, as it were a sea of glass, like crystal, and in the center, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. And the first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.”
What is our apostle seeing here? Interestingly these symbols show up over and again in Scripture. In Revelation 15:2, John will describe the sea of glass again, but this time he tells us the sea is mixed with fire and upon it stands those who have been victorious against the coming beast (more on that in another blog). Whatever John is seeing here, his description brings to my mind brilliance and illumination. Because Jesus told us He came as the light (John 8), which is a symbol of truth, then I believe what John sees is truth animated or enlivened. John witnessed holiness and is trying his best to describe it.
Why not read these verses in your favorite Bible version and mentally camp out in the throne room all week? In Revelation Blog 6, we’ll dive deeper into these fascinating creatures fluttering before the throne—who they are and their purpose.
Until then, you might consider my Bible Brief: God’s Will, Unraveling the Mystery. This brief takes a panoramic view of God’s earthly plans for mankind. The Bible briefs are short, but deep, giving us direction and purpose in these interesting times. Or, if you’re in the mood for a good, clean suspense fiction, try my Calculated Series available on Amazon.
Laurie (L.G.) Westlake
Sign up for updates and relevant news from L.G. Westlake