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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Revelation Chapter 4: In the Beginning, God

Revelation Chapter 4 gives the setting for the great events to be revealed until the end of chapter 11. In the beginning, even before time, the Revelation 4 theme opens with the Father eternally sitting on His throne. Before Him are the seven Spirits of God, similar to the seven angels lighting the seven churches. In Revelation chapter 1, Christ held seven stars in His right hand (see Revelation 1:16), just as the earthly tabernacle had the seven candlesticks on the right side of the Holy Place, as one faces out the veil of the Holy Place. Gold bands Jesus’ chest like a breastplate reflecting the spotless purity that filled His heart, and His feet have the appearance of fine brass, just as the earthly tabernacle had items of pure gold inside the sanctuary and the courtyard items were made of brass. The brightness of Christ’s face disabled John, and His eyes shone even brighter, just as the glorious shekinah in the Most Holy Place would mean mortal death without a cloud of incense to obscure it. Here we can see through shadowy types that John saw Christ embodying the earthly sanctuary and its courtyard. The sanctuary is Jesus (see Hebrews 10:20; Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4); the Son of God is the plan of salvation. Jesus is “greater than the temple” (Matt. 12:6), even “as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house” (Heb. 3:3, cf Zech. 6:13).
 
Before the Father John sees shining lamps of fire ― “the seven Spirits of God” (Rev. 4:5) ― representative of the whole infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and eternal Spirit of God. John sees seven Spirits not because there are literally multiple Holy Spirits, but because the numeral seven in Hebrew thought represented fullness to the fullest extent of divine and holy things. Seven quantifies the epitome of infinity in power, “the utmost bound of the everlasting hills” (Gen. 49:26) in the way of holiness. The seven Spirits are “the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14), the Father’s Spirit without measure given to His Son (see John 3:34; Revelation 3:1), “the power of the Highest” (Luke 1:35, cf Matt. 28:18), “even his eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20). Those brilliant lamps of fire sat between “him that sat on the throne…that liveth for ever and ever” (Rev. 4:10) and “a sea of glass like unto crystal” (Rev. 4:6).
 
An insight here from my Bible teacher, Pastor James Ayars, is that the seven Spirits describe seven attributes of Christ, six specific and one all-encompassing. “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isa. 11:2). The description “seven spirits” represents every attribute of the Father, all of which He immeasurably displayed through His Son (see Hebrews 1:3).
This very first scene of heaven is a peaceful one. The heart of God was happy and jubilant, as was His kingdom of peace that surrounded Him like a sea (see Ezekiel 28:2), settled and undisturbed, sitting below and stretching out before “the holy mountain of God” (Eze. 28:14, cf Isa. 11:9; 65:25). His “peace [had] been as a river,” like waters “that go softly”, “and [His] righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isa. 48:18; Isa. 8:6, cf Gen. 2:10). Neither did any member of that sea “hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain”; but the kingdom was “full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9, cf Isa. 65:25). This vast, pacific ocean contrasts with the Revelation chapter 15 scene of the sea mingled with fire, when God’s full wrath against sin is stirred up and He is about to begin His final plagues. Yet, in His judgments God will keep His people stable and they will retain the peace of the glass sea (see Revelation 15:2-4).
We can see at this time represented by chapter 4, that the perfect peace of God reigned in His presence and throughout His kingdom of grace and truth. This calm picture also helps us peer into the mind and heart of the Prince of Peace. Like Father, like Son; with either it could be said that it was heaven to be in His presence and multitudes were happy to serve Him.
 
“In the heart of Christ, where reigned perfect harmony with God, there was perfect peace. He was never elated by applause, nor dejected by censure or disappointment. Amid the greatest opposition and the most cruel treatment, He was still of good courage” The Desire of Ages, p. 330. Christ was united with His Father and a counsel of peace was between Them both. Thus, nothing could disturb Him. Hidden with Christ in God, we, too, can have the same invincible peace (see Psalm 16:9; Colossians 3:1-3; Philippians 4:7).
 
Enveloping Their awesome glory were four orders of created beings, each representing aspects of character of the Godhead: a lion, dreaded and courageous; a calf, lowly and self-sacrificing; a man, omniscient and noble; and a flying eagle, ever-existent and omnipresent. Like the camp of Israel in the wilderness, laid out by tribe in ever-widening rings, the hosts of heavenly orders surrounding the throne of God were full of eyes (see Ezekiel 1:18), all happily riveted on the great Center. Like the spiral galaxies in deep space with their streams of glowing light encircling each great nucleus, the hosts of heavenly beings reverently sought a closer proximity to the sanctuary of the Creator’s presence.
 
David instituted twenty-four priests to officiate in the tabernacle under the supervision of high priests Zadok and Ahimelech (see 1 Chronicles 24:3-9) to ensure that Israel would never be without an intercessor. Likewise, John saw that circumscribing the immediate presence of God sat twenty-four elders, angel ministers for incessant intercession for the inhabited worlds, over whom Lucifer ranked highest (see Ezekiel 28:13, 14; Ex. 28:15-21).
 
Cherubim appeared to Ezekiel as a living altar of incense (see Ezekiel 1:6-13, 17) and a living chariot-like ark of the covenant, all moved by whirlwind clouds of heaven (see Ezekiel 9:3; 10:2, 6-13; Daniel 7:9, 13). A cloud of witnesses following the Lamb wherever He went, all were praising the Lord of hosts. From deepest appreciation, they blessed the Father without ceasing. The innumerable hosts knew only perfect trust and obedience to their Father, and all worked together in perfect unity.
 
The immediate throne area that John witnessed was a place of intense lightning and thunder, and ten thousand times ten thousand voices, just as Isaiah and Ezekiel also had seen and heard. (See Isaiah 6:1-4; Ezekiel 1:13, 22, 24, cf Daniel 7:9.) Lightning-like, blinding excellence shrouded the great white throne of Him from whose sight the stars fled away. Yet, in that intense, high volume environment, happiness filled the quiet God of serenity and strength. He dwelt in a purity which none could approach except the angels that guarded His majestic selflessness. “That temple, filled with the glory of the eternal throne, where seraphim, its shining guardians, veil their faces in adoration, could find, in the most magnificent structure ever reared by human hands, but a faint reflection of its vastness and glory” The Great Controversy, p. 414.
 
And the billions upon billions of heavenly beings never ceasing, found rest in exulting His worthiness, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8). No earthly orchestra, no human chorus can ever compete with that of heaven. And as the four orders gave glory and honor and thanks to Him that dwelt on the mount, who had lived for ever and ever, their thanksgiving compelled the twenty-four elders to gladly fall down before the Creator. They cast their brilliant crowns before the throne, crying out, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11). What a beautiful scene of endless happiness in our Father’s house!
 
The subject of their praise concerned the Father, His creative power and wisdom, and His pleasure to create. Throughout this scene, we see God’s love in His creative ability; the beauty of creation alone encompassed His praises. Make note that no mention was made of the lamb of God. Note also that the heavenly hosts made no mention of the glories of redemption, which would later be all for which they could praise the Father and the lamb throughout eternity. In the next chapter we will see why this should be.
 
Nevertheless, as wonderful as the purity and blissful trust of heaven had been in the timeless past, it all came to a sad end. Beginning at chapter 5, a sudden change comes over the happy scene that had so pleased John’s wondering eyes.

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