heavenly worship: Revelation 4

Then, in my vision, I saw a door open in heaven and heard the same voice speaking to me, the voice like a trumpet, saying, “Come up here: I will show you what is to take place in the future.”

With that, I fell into ecstasy and I saw a throne standing in heaven, and the One who was sitting on the throne, and the One sitting there looked like a diamond and a ruby. There was a rainbow encircling the throne, and this looked like an emerald. Round the throne in a circle were twenty-four thrones, and on them twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads. Flashes of lightning were coming from the throne, and the sound of peals of thunder, and in front of the throne there were seven flaming lamps burning, the seven Spirits of God.

In front of the throne was a sea as transparent as crystal. In the middle of the throne and around it, were four living creatures all studded with eyes, in front and behind. The first living creature was like a lion, the second like a bull, the third living creature had a human face, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was studded with eyes all the way round as well as inside; and day and night they never stopped singing:

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty; who was, and is and is to come.

Every time the living creatures glorified and honoured and gave thanks to the One sitting on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before him to worship the One who lives for ever and ever, and threw down their crowns in front of the throne, saying:

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you made the whole universe; by your will, when it did not exist, it was created.

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9 responses

  1. All those eyeballs really freaked me out as a kid!Social Science Commentary explains much of this pretty well as a description of the sky, oh well. Six wings is the appropriate number, for any old Hebrew angel. And those eyes, being aware of everything around one and within one, that makes some sense…Another thing, what a drag to spend eternity bowing and scraping to The Boss while He just sits there being regal on the Throne; when I was a kid all this terrified me. Boring, boring, boring, and you don’t even get to go home afterwards!When Anne & I went to the Jewish Renewal synagogue, found ourselves in the midst of all this chanting praise in a beautiful language with wonderful tunes; it seemed entirely right and wonderful. (Christians are so stuffy, the way we do it! The rabbi said later that when Reform Judaism started, they tended to model their services on the middle-class protestant churches around them, so they don’t get so lively; they let someone else do the singing, not the same.)Here, too, we have this nice symbolic touch. We can rule, in the area appropriate to us, so far as we do so in the context of God’s greater wisdom.

  2. Its interesting that for all the theatrics here – this may be a fairly accurate description of early Christian worship — most of which likely borrowed from the Jewish synagogues where the Christian faith was born.What jumps out at em here is teh open door. In thsis hort period we have sen the open/closed door motif repeated three times. Christ is teh one with the power to open and shut doors. Yet for Laodicea, Jesus does not open the door but stands, knowcks, and waits. Now John sees an open door, hears an invitation, and is suddenly taken up into heaven in a mystical trance.Are they all the same door? The one with the power to command beckons and invites instead.With all this symbolism I imagine CG Jung would have a field day here.

  3. This makes me think of the idea of the Beatific Vision … I guess you’d have to be there – it sounds boring to me, as Forrest mentioned 🙂

  4. It would be boring if you were detached from it. Anything is boring if one is detached from it.

  5. It’s not a description of the Beyond; it’s a metaphor.We used this section, together with Rev 21 and 22 in our one shot deal with the book at the monthly meeting Bible group. We also used this material: Martin Luther had harsh words for the book ofRevelation, saying that he could ‘in no way detect thatthe Holy Spirit produced it.’ John Wesley’s feelings were somewhat morecharitable: In the introduction to his notes onRevelation he had this to say about the book: “It is scarcely possible for any that either love orfear God not to feel their hearts extremely affected inseriously reading either the beginning or the latterpart of the Revelation.” He went on to say that themiddle is much harder to understand. In his notes on Chapter 1 Wesley tells us: “it [Revelation] reaches from the old Jerusalem to thenew, reducing all things into one sum, in the exactestorder, and with a near resemblance to the ancientprophets. “The introduction and conclusion agree withDaniel; the description of the man child, and thepromises to Zion, with Isaiah; the judgment of Babylon, with Jeremiah again, the determination of times, with Daniel; the architecture of the holy city, with Ezekiel; the emblems of the horses, candlesticks, &c., with Zechariah.” Revelation has been called a dense mosaic of OldTestament images. Since John wrote it, about 100 A.D., people haveprojected it upon the contemporary political scene. For example in the middle of the 20th century 666, the name of the “Beast”, was thought to be Hitler. More recently a wildly popular writer, Hal Lindsey, has identified the 200 million horde of the evil army as Red China. He has also concluded that the “END” will come in 2007. A more reasonable perspective suggests that John was addressing the scene that he and his readers witnessed around the close of the first century. What Marcus Borg in his book, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, calls the current “dominationsystem” was Rome, the city on seven hills. Prophetsfrom Moses to Jesus had railed against the dominationsystems of their times, whether Egypt, Assyria,Babylon, or Rome. These political realms , togetherwith others down to the present day are variousinstances of oppression, what Borg, combining”political oppression, economic exploitation, andreligious legitimation”, calls domination systems. (Thecorresponding domination system of Jesus’ day was the Hebrew theocracy, a puppet of Rome, and you can be sure he railed against it.) That was a major, perhaps the major, theme of John’s Revelation. In his letters to the churches one of the primary criteria of evaluation by which he judged them was how conformed they were to the presentpolitical-economic-social establishment.

  6. In Jesus’ day, the Hebrew theocracy was (as you just said) “a puppet of Rome.”So it was a “theocracy” that had lost its legitimacy for much of the populace, and had abandoned the traditional rules of Torah that were supposed to soften its impact on the poor. These were being replaced by the same economic and land-use practices that were impoverishing the bulk of the Roman people, which were having similar effects in Israel, and yes, I think Jesus was railing against this. (See _Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God_, by William Herzog, for a pretty intelligent interpretation of how the synoptic teachings fit into that frame.)The local rulers were having it pretty cushy under Roman rule, and were making a good thing out of theocratic pretensions plus secular power–but it was the Romans who were the visible oppressors, who lined the roads with 2000 crucified “rebels” about the time Jesus was born.

  7. About being detached … I’m not detached from the subject of life after death …. just posted yesterday something about hell on my own blog 🙂 … but I am feeling somewhat detached from Revelation as it’s hard to recognise in it the Jesus/God I’m accustomed to.

  8. “It takes a strong stomach to eat the world.”We aren’t seeing much of the tenderness of God in this book.We are seeing something very much like the world we know. All the plagues of Egypt, ongoing slavery, endless misbehavior and an angry Father who responds by throwing things.I think the challenge of this book and this life is for us to find the God we know in the world as it is. It isn’t that this “John” has an error-free take on the nature of God–but he has a vision that may help clarify God’s nature to us. It probably is not how it seems to us at first.

  9. This God is not that far form my belief system — though it is far form my experience. My understanding of God from my Bible reading generally — is that God is a God who through sovereignty power and justice has the right to be thsi God of Revelation — yet elects not to exercise that sovereign right out of compassion and grace.Now I have met the compassion and grace. I have also experienced God as the absentee landlord travelling in the far country — not returning phone calls. I have prayed to the vengeful righteous powerhouse we see here. But I haven’t actually met him yet.

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