Revelation; In the presence of God

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posted on Sep, 19 2010 @ 04:05 PM
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I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch4, where John finds himself taken up to God's throne-room in heaven.

I'm going to be asking the question; what kind of God is John meeting here?

The teaching about God in this chapter comes mainly from the imagery.
The central premise of the vision is that John stands in the presence of God.
The details that say so are echoes of similar meetings in the Old Testament.
They include the meeting with the "seventy elders of Israel" at Sinai- asociated with the Covenant between God and his people (it comes immediately after the Covenant-sacrifice)- Exodus ch24 vv9-11
They include Isaiah's Temple-vision- associated with the sins of God's people- Isaiah ch6 vv1-5
They include the first vision of Ezekiel- associated with the oppression of God's people by the oppression of Babylon- Ezekiel ch1.

Thus at the beginning of Ezekiel the prophet sees the heavens "opened" before the glory of the Lord comes down to him.
Similarly John sees "an open door" in heaven- then hears the invitation to "come up" where God is.

The first thing he sees is a throne, "with one seated on the throne" (out of reverence, he doesn't name "the one seated on the throne" more exactly).
Which indicates, of course, that he's facing a ruler.

Around the throne is a rainbow. At the time of the Genesis flood, God promised not to flood the world again, and offered the rainbow as a symbol of the promise.
So this indicates the protective aspect of God- a God who sustains the world as well as ruling it.

Next he sees another version of the "elders of Israel", the representatives of God's people.
They're wearing white garments, as a symbol of redemption from sin.
They're wearing golden crowns, and sitting on thrones of their own, which identifies them as kings.
As the people in John's time would have known, permission to sit in the king's presence is a great honour and privilege in itself;
"What is man that thou art mindful of him?..
Thou hast made him little less than God,
And dost crown him with glory and honour"- Psalm 8 vv4-5

The "seventy elders" of Sinai were a symbolic number- "seven", the number of God, multiplied by "ten", the number of completeness.
What about the elders in this vision?
The number "twenty-four" is sometimes taken as "twelve for Israel, twelve for the Church". My problem with that interpretation is that I see the Church- and I think the New Testament sees the Church- as a continuation of Israel rather than as a new body. In which case a single "twelve" should be enough to identify the whole body of God's people.
An alternative suggestion, which I like better, is to match the number with the twenty-four priestly familes of the tribe of Levi. In other words, it identifies the elders as a priesthood.

If they're wearing the white garments of redemption and acting as both kings and priests, then this makes them the visual expression of their own song in the next chapter;
"Thou dost ransom men for God..,
And hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God".

So this part of the vision is telling us that this God has a Covenant relationship with a people within the world, and the closeness to the throne shows just how important that is.

Thunder and lightning and voices are coming from the throne, another echo of the Covenant-making of Sinai.
They express God's intention to impose his will.
This may become "wrath", but the wrath is already limited by the protective aspect of God (implied by the rainbow), and by his Covenant relationship (implied by the presence of the elders), which hold him back from total destruction.

Seven torches of fire "which are the seven spirits of God" are burning in front of the throne.
But the number "seven" in Revelation is really a label meaning "belonging to God".
So the "seven spirits" are the seven-fold Spirit, or the Spirit "belonging to God"- that is, the Holy Spirit.
All the way through the Bible, the Spirit of God acts with power (one way or another) in his relationship with humanity.
So this relationship is still dominating the first half of the chapter.

The space in front of the throne is covered by "a sea of glass, like crystal".
This represents the firmament.
It was part of the symbolism of the meetings with Ezekiel and with the elders at Sinai that God showed himself standing on a kind of "portable" firmament.
John has now been caught up (in vision) to the real thing, to that place where God looks down upon the earth.

In Ezekiel's vision, there were four "creatures", coming from the midst of the fire under God's throne. They had the faces of four living things, and they were accompanied by wheels which were "full of eyes round about".
Now John sees four similar creatures, "full of eyes in front and behind", which have the same four faces (one each, this time). He sees them, according to the Greek text, "in the middle of the throne". This sounds like an odd place for them to be, and some translations evade the phrase. Perhaps the best answer is to see them, as in Ezekiel, in the middle of the space underneath the throne.

What do these four creature represent, what is their function?
One way to find an answer is by looking at those faces.
It's been observed that each of those four living things has a kind of supremacy in its own sphere.
Thus the eagle can claim supremacy amongst the birds of the air (and it was "on eagles' wings" that God brought Israel out of Egypt- Exodus ch19 v4).
The lion can claim supremacy amongst the wild beasts of the land (and "the lion of the tribe of Judah" appears in the next chapter).
The ox can claim supremacy amongst domesticated animals (and "horns" are a symbol of power all the way through the Old Testament).
While humanity, by God's decree in Genesis, was given supremacy amongst all of them.

Perhaps they represent the living world at large, in the same way that the elders represent God's people.

Alternatively (or at the same time), they have been taken to represent "the four winds".
It certainly seems plausible that the four winds should come from God's throne in heaven and remain close to it.
The four winds have been associated with the judgements of God in more than one prophecy.
God threatens to send "the four winds of heaven" to scatter Elam - Jeremiah ch49 v36
The four chariots of Zechariah ch6, with their attendant horses, are "sent forth to the four winds of heaven".
When "the four winds of the earth" are placed under restraint in ch7 of this book, this indicates the interruption of the judgements of God, which had been running all the way through ch6 in the shape of the "four horsemen".
And the four living creatures of this chapter are tied in to that "winds-of-judgement" theme, by the fact that each of them will be summoning forth one of the "four horsemen"

Perhaps we can combine the two meanings together, and associate them with God's relationship with the natural world at large.

Finally, we learn about God from the statements in the praise of both groups.
The praise is unceasing.
Just as the elders are unceasingly offering their royal authority back to God (this is later parodied by the submission of the "ten kings" to the Beast).

The living creatures focus on what God is in himself.
They say "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lod God Almighty".
This echoes the calls of the seraphim in Isaiah's vision.
My private definition of the "holiness" of God is that it is the quality which keeps him detached and separate from what is not-God.

And they say "Who was, and is, and is to come", echoing the words used in ch1.
The probable meaning of God's Hebrew name is "He who is"; I'm inclined to see the expanded version as the natural result of thinking in Greek, which seems to be more interested in expressing that past-present-future structure of time.

So the creatures are telling us that God is self-existent and eternal, and that he is distinct and separate from the universe.

Then the elders focus on God's action beyond himself.
That he deserves glory and honour and power because he created all things, and because he did so by an act of conscious will.

So this chapter is teaching us three things about the relationship between God and the universe;
It teaches that God is distinct from the universe- that's the message of the living creatures.
It teaches us that God brings into existence the universe- that's the message of the elders.
And it teaches us that God actively engages with the universe- that's the message of the imagery in the rest of the chapter;

[So the Creator-God differs absolutely from the kind of pantheistic God who would be "the same thing as" the universe.
For a pantheistic God;
is not distinct from something which is not itself
does not bring into existence something which is not itself, and
does not actively engage with something which is not itself.
For further thoughts on the difference, I can offer the attached link;
One-and-a-halfism; a Christian definition of God ]

The place of this chapter in Revelation can be expressed in the words of Psalm 33;
We have been told that;
"He spoke, and it came to be;
He commanded, and it stood forth"-v9
Then the Beast learns that;
"The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to naught;
He frustrates the plans of the peoples"- v10
Conversely, God's people learn that;
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage"- v12
All this is possible because, as we have been seeing;
"The Lord looks down from heaven,
He sees all the sons of men;
From where he sits enthroned,he looks forth
On all the inhabitants of the earth"-vv13-14
And the moral of the story is the need for faith and trust;
"Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and shield.
Yea, our heart is glad in him,
Because we trust in his holy name" vv20-21

The God of Revelation needs to be a Creator-God, somebody engaged in his creation, because only such a God could carry through those events to their final conclusion.
The God who finally says "Behold, I make all things new" could only be the God who brought them into existence in the first place.














edit on 19-9-2010 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)




posted on Sep, 19 2010 @ 09:14 PM
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I attach a link to my previous discussion of ch1 (these are both part of the theological heart of Revelation);

Fear not



posted on Sep, 20 2010 @ 04:52 PM
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For further thoughts on the difference, I can offer the attached link;
One-and-a-halfism; a Christian definition of God ]

perhaps it should be explained that this link was originally posted to a thread in the Philosophy forum, which was specifically requesting Christians to offer their definition of God.
So the wording was aimed at philosophical thinking rather than theological thinking.
That is one reason for the omission of the word "Love", though it is arguably implied in the theme of Creation, and implicitly included in the themes of Communication and Incarnation.
Similarly "Holiness" was not mentioned. But again this is arguably implicit in being a Creator, ie in being distinct from the universe.

edit on 20-9-2010 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 11 2010 @ 07:00 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 

I now attach a link to the next thread in the series, which deals with ch5.
These two chapters (and ch1) are at the theological heart of this book Revelation.
The Lamb and the Scroll

edit on 11-11-2010 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 8 2011 @ 12:46 PM
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This series is about to be completed by a thread dealing with the last two chapters of Revelation, which is when God's people as a whole are brought "into the presence of God".



posted on Feb, 8 2011 @ 01:14 PM
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Now that the series is about to be completed, I would like to advise anyone who may be interested that there will, in due course, be an Index thread, intended to help people navigate their way around the whole collection.



posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 12:10 PM
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CHAPTER NUMBER ORDER

The numbers in the left margin will be used in the "Bible references" index.

Chapter 1

John is first addressed by the vision of Christ

1 Fear Not

Chapters 2&3

The letters dictated by Christ

2 The seven churches have been warned; part1
3 The seven churches have been warned; part2
4 The seven churches have been promised

Chapter 4

John arrives in Heaven

5 In the presence of God

Chapter 5

Continuing the scene in Heaven

6 The Lamb and the scroll

Chapter 6

The breaking of the seals brings the crisis of the "Four Horsemen".

7 4 Horsemen- Why?
8 4 Horsemen- How?
9 Souls under the altar
10 The sixth seal
11 Sins of the Church?

Chapter 7

God calls a truce

12 144,000
13 The Church Triumphant

Chapter 8

Sorting out the sequence of events.
The truce is broken, destruction begins.

14 Silence in Heaven
15 "A time, times, and half a time"
16 The trumpets- Battered planet

Chapter 9

The Trumpets continue

17 The First Woe
18 The Second Woe

Chapter 10

Explaining the significance of the seventh trumpet, immediately before the event.

19 Seven Thunders- Time running out

Chapter 11

The clash of Beast and Church, until the sounding of the seventh trumpet.

20 The Beast and the Temple
21 The two Witnesses

Chapter 12

Flashback sequence, explaining the background of Satan's hostility to the Church

22 The Woman in Heaven
23 Satan fell from Heaven
24 On an eagle's wings

Chapter 13

Flashback continues; the Beast comes to power.

25 The Beast from the sea- a World-state.
26 The Beast- great leader and antichrist
27 The Beast- 666
28 The Mark of the Beast
29 War on the Saints

Chapter 14

Explaining the significance of the seventh trumpet, immediately after the event.

30 Hark, the herald angels

Chapters 15&16

The results of the seventh trumpet- ie the Bowls.

31 The Third Woe
32 The roads to Armageddon

Chapter 17

A belated introduction to the Harlot of Babylon, just as she is being destroyed.

33 Harlot Babylon- part1;"The other woman"
34 Harlot Babylon- part2; "Mother of Abominations"
35 Seven kings and an eighth
36 Harlot Babylon- part3; "Twinned with Rome"
37 Harlot Babylon- part4; "Drunk with the blood of the Saints"

Chapter 18

Rejoicing at the fall of Babylon

38 Babylon's Wake

Chapter 19

39 Victory and Judgement- the Return of Christ

Chapter 20

40 The thousand-year Kingdom?

Chapters 21&22

41 The new Jerusalem

edit on 14-2-2011 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 01:47 PM
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"TIMELINE" ORDER

The real beginning of the story; Satan's hostility to the Church is traced back to the birth of Christ.

The Woman in Heaven
Satan fell from Heaven
On an eagle's wings

And the faults of the church may weaken its claim on God's protection.

The sins of the church?

So the opening chapters of Revelation are set in a time of persecution, and the church needs to be encouraged.

Fear Not
The seven churches have been warned; part1
The seven churches have been warned; part2
The seven churches have been promised

John is taken up to heaven, to be shown the power of God and the Lamb, .

In the presence of God
The Lamb and the scroll

God's response to the persecution is to unleash the power of the "Four Horsemen", which plunges the world into a great crisis.

4 Horsemen- Why?
4 Horsemen- How?
Souls under the altar
The sixth seal

God calls a truce. The destruction is halted.
What God does with the time of truce;

144,000
The Church Triumphant

What Satan does with the time of truce; the rise of the Beast

The Beast from the sea- a World-state.
The Beast- great leader and antichrist
The Beast- 666

At this halfway point, sorting out the chronology of Revelation.

Silence in Heaven
Seven kings and an eighth
"A time, times, and half a time"

The Beast breaks the truce, and war is renewed.

The Beast and the Temple
The Mark of the Beast
War on the Saints

The Harlot of Babylon is associated with the Beast in this war.

Harlot Babylon- part1;"The other woman"
Harlot Babylon- part2; "Mother of Abominations"
Harlot Babylon- part3; "Twinned with Rome"
Harlot Babylon- part4; "Drunk with the blood of the Saints"

God's response is to resume the process of destruction;

The trumpets- Battered planet
The First Woe
The Second Woe

Final warnings, before the seventh trumpet is sounded.

Seven Thunders- Time running out
The two Witnesses

The sounding of the seventh trumpet brings in the climax of the destruction;

Hark, the herald angels
The Third Woe
The roads to Armageddon
Babylon's Wake

Then the old world is wound up, and a new world takes its place;

Victory and Judgement- the Return of Christ
The thousand-year Kingdom?
The new Jerusalem

edit on 14-2-2011 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 02:10 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 


Around the throne is a rainbow. At the time of the Genesis flood, God promised not to flood the world again, and offered the rainbow as a symbol of the promise.
So this indicates the protective aspect of God- a God who sustains the world as well as ruling it.






Wow...so every time I see a rainbow I will be reminded that some omnipotent dude may unleash its fury on the world..? 'Cause it is NOT going to remind me of a 'protective aspect' - that jedi mind trick hasn't worked since childhood...


Thank goodness god is a fictional character located within fragments of historical documentation that have been misinterpreted since day 1...







posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 02:19 PM
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reply to post by facelift
 

Thank you for that reaction.
I've been making a little collection of such responses, and you're just in time to make it onto the list.
Would you like to make it a little more interesting and quotable? That particular format has been used before.



posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 02:29 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 


No...you only get 'semi original' rhetoric when your OP is of the same quality.





posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 02:33 PM
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reply to post by facelift
 

Never mind.
Do you realise that you've broken a duck here? Until just now, this was the only one of my threads to have had no replies from other posters.





edit on 14-2-2011 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 04:09 PM
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ORDER OF PUBLICATION

This is the same order that can be found on my profile;
But on this page the threads are identified by the opening question, not by the title.

Starting in the middle, of course, with the breaking of the seventh seal;

What is meant by "Silence in heaven for half an hour"?

A mini-series covering the breaking of the earlier seals, as found in ch6;

Why would God send the "4 Horsemen"?
What would the events of the "4 horsemen" look like?
Who are the souls gathered "under the altar"?
What do the events of the "sixth seal" mean for us?
Why do so many of the OT "echoes" in ch6 carry overtones of God's wrath against his own people?

Moving on to ch12, dealing with the background of the Revelation events;

Who is the "woman in Heaven"?
When, and how, did Satan fall from Heaven?
What is the purpose of the flight into the wilderness?

What kind of warning should the Church take from chs 2&3? (Pt1)
What kind of warning should the Church take from chs 2&3? (Pt2)

A series on the Beast, and the developing "war on the saints"

How, and why, is the "Beast from the sea" dominating the world?
What is the Beast "from the land" adding to his predecessor?
What is the meaning of "666"?
How can we know the Mark of the Beast?
Must the Beast make war on the saints?
How does the "seal" benefit the people who receive it?
Would the Beast also be "the king who occupies the Temple"?
Who are "the two Witnesses"?

Returning to the beginning of the book, to consider the power of "God and the Lamb";

What does ch1 say about the purpose of Revelation?
What are the promises being given to the Church in chs 2&3?
What kind of God is John meeting in ch4?
Why must the Lamb open the scroll?

What are the "times" of Revelation?

Moving on to the beginning of God's attack on the Beast;

What do the "Trumpets" mean for the planet?
What is the First Woe?
What is the Second Woe?
What is the purpose of the mission John receives in ch10?

There was then a digression (just as there is in John's vision) to consider the nature of "Babylon";

What is the difference between the "Harlot of Babylon" and the "Woman in Heaven"?
What is meant by the "cup of abominations"?
Where do the 7 kings of ch17 belong in the story of Revelation?
What is the connection between Babylon and Rome?
Why is the Harlot "drunk with the blood of the Saints"?

Who are the great human crowd seen in heaven?

Then, completing the process of the destruction of the old world;

What's the meaning of the proclamations of ch14?
What is the Third Woe?
What kind of battle is to be expected at Armageddon?
What is ch18 telling us about the nature of Babylon?
What is the impact of Christ's arrival on the scene?
What is meant by the "Millennium"?
What are the last two chapters telling us about the "new Jerusalem"?






edit on 14-2-2011 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2011 @ 04:57 PM
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It would be appropriate to add here a full copy of the "Christian definition of God" that I've used elsewhere.



The Creator.
That which is not the Universe, but the originator of the Universe.


I'd like to expand the original definition
(very cautiously, because Philosophy isn't really my field)

Let's make it a really trinitarian one;

God is a Creator
God is one who Communicates
God is one who becomes Incarnate

God is a Creator

I see this view as distinct from both Monism and Dualism.

As I understand the difference;
Monism resolves everything to one point of origin.
Dualism resolves everything to two points of origin, distinct and independent.

Creation theory falls short of being genuine Monism, because the created universe is understood as distinct from God.

Creation theory falls short of being genuine Dualism, because the created universe is understood as dependent upon God.

My private theory is that Creation teaching ought to be called "One-and-a-half-ism", but I don't suppose it will catch on.

As far as I can see, this involves the traditional teaching of "ex nihilo" ("out of nothing") Creation.

Because if God is "creating" using pre-existing raw material, then the material is not genuinely dependent upon him- this has become Dualism.

Or if God is producing the material of the universe "out of himself", then the material is not genuinely distinct- this has become Monism.

"Ex nihilo" is the only logical alternative, which is presumably why the teaching was developed in the first place.

God is one who Communicates

This assumption is built into Biblical religion.

In the first place, the Bible is believed to contain examples of communication (as reported, for example, by the prophets).

Furthermore, the Bible is believed to reflect a policy of communication.
It is said that God is using the Bible to "reveal himself", and so Biblical religion used to be described as "revealed religion".

The belief that "God is one who Communicates" links back with the belief that "God is one who Creates".

In the first place, some of the content of the communication points to God as Creator.

The proper Biblical answer to the question "Why do you believe your God made the universe?" is not really "Because that's the only way to account for the universe."
The truly Biblical answer is "Because he says he did, and I believe him."

But I think the very act of communication also points to God as a Creator.

Any act of communication necessarily implies a distinction between the communicator and the other party.
I've already said the Biblical understanding of Creation involves a distinction between God and the universe.

An act of communication implies the existence of a "will" in the communicator, or at least some sort of analogy of one.
But the same could be said, surely, of an act of "Creation".

Finally, a God who creates a universe thereby sets up a relationship between himself and the universe.
The effect of communication is to set up a relationship between himself and individuals (or even a group of individuals) within the same universe.

I assume that a purely monistic deity would not be communicating with, or setting up a relationship with, parts of itself.

My point is that
The idea of the God who Creates
and the idea of the God who Communicates
are very akin to one another.

The kind of God who would Create would also be the kind of God who could Communicate.

God is one who becomes Incarnate

I could hardly, really, leave this out of a definition of the Christian God.

The understanding is that the Incarnation is a more direct presence of God within the created universe.

If this is true, it's the ultimate form of Communication, as the author of Hebrews points out;
"God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets
but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son".

But it's also the ultimate form of "establishing a relationship";

Because the doctrine of the Incarnation is that the Creator and his creation, divinity and humanity, are bound together within the person of the Son.
The bond is understood to be irrevocable.
It's impossible for a relationship to get any closer than that.

Anyone who tries to understand the church's teaching about the Incarnation will discover that it's all about finding the right "balance".

On the one hand, the distinction between the divinity and the humanity must not be exaggerated, to the point that the unity disappears.
On the other hand, the unity between them must not be exaggerated, to the point that the distinction disappears.
The correct position is somewhere halfway between the two extremes.

But this is exactly what I said, at the beginning of this piece, about Creation;
That it occupied a halfway position between Monism and Dualism.

So it seems to me that the "balancing act" which Jehovah's Witnesses love to mock, when it comes in the teaching about the Incarnation, is also inherent in the very doctrine of the Creation itself.

The kind of God who would Create is also the kind of God who could become Incarnate.


I began by naming the Christian God as
The one who Creates
The one who Communicates
The one who becomes Incarnate.

I now suggest that these three ideas are akin to one another.
They belong together, naturally.

Whether you can believe them or not, they all belong to the same kind of God.









edit on 14-2-2011 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 05:14 PM
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There is now an Index, covering all these Revelation threads, at this location;

Index of Revelation threads

This thread is numbered as #5 in the "order of chapters" list and Biblical reference index.



posted on Jan, 31 2012 @ 09:30 AM
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Just to clarify;
Nothing in the OP is intended to suggest any particular prophetic signifcance in the year 2012 or the date 21/12/2012



posted on Feb, 6 2013 @ 05:25 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 


My response to the claims made about the year 2012 was that I could see no prophetic significance in the date.
This position seems to have been vindicated.





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