Looking Forward: Overview of Revelation 4 and 5

Behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

Revelation 4:2b

Revelation 4-5 reflect an Eastern notion that had penetrated the Empire, and Revelation 4-5 with its focus on the activity around the throne is highly illustrative. Nero had built for himself a rotunda that represented the cosmos. This structure rotated day and night. The middle region of the rotunda was the region of the sun.” (see Charles below.)

ceiling of domus aurea 3c

A reconstruction of what the rotating room’s ceiling may have looked like. To impress his guests, Nero built in his domus (house) the Coenatio Rotunda, a wonderful rotating dining room. From https://www.romeinsiderguide.com/interesting-facts-about-ancient-rome.html

“Roman poets appealed for Nero to take his seat exactly in the middle of the universe, otherwise the cosmos would lose its equilibrium. From this position the emperor judged, determining the fate of humans. He thus fulfilled the role of … the cosmic god of fate.” (see Charles below.)

Click on this link to view a film about Nero’s Revolving Dining Room

“The main dining table, which was round, rotated night and day, imitating the motions of the globe.” The surprising construction mentioned by Suetonius in his biography of Nero has been found. On Palatine Hill (Rome), a Franco-Italian team of archaeologists discovered remains of a mechanism that could have allowed the rotation of the floor of the main dining room of the Domus Aurea—Nero’s vast imperial Golden Palace. (See Hannah below; especially for the photographs at the end of the article.)

 

Asia Minor was used to viewing its rulers as Divine. This concept came from Persia. Persian kings had throne rooms with astrological signs on the ceiling and the king’s throne at the center of the universe. The ideas had reached Rome by the time of Nero. Rome did not export her views to Asia Minor. It was the cities of Asia Minor which insisted on building temples to the reigning Emperor. The best of Emperors insisted on the temples being primarily dedicated to Augustus, and their names only associated with them. (see Vander Laan below.)

“…in no part of the world was there such fervent and sincere loyalty to the emperors as in Asia. Augustus had been a savior to the Asian peoples, and they deified him as the Savior of mankind, and worshiped him with the most whole-hearted devotion as the ‘present deity’.” (See Ramsay below.)

No wonder in the 2nd Century Asia Minor would erupt in persecution against Christ’s Church! Christians dared to worship one God and to permit no rivals to him. Nero had wanted Romans to see him as Apollo — the sun-god.

Colossus-of-Nero-2

See the colossal statue above that Nero built of himself next to the area that would contain the gladiatorial arena named later for this statue — the Colosseo.

Bear this background information in mind as we read Revelation 4 and 5. In these chapters, God reveals his throne as the true center of reality, not Caesar’s, then or now. 

The people of Asia Minor would have been well-acquainted with Nero’s desire to be worshiped as  a god while he was still alive. They would have known about the Persian Astrological association with the throne room since Asia Minor was invaded by Persians. It was liberated by Alexander the Great and then stabilized by Rome’s occupation and trade.

Christians were persecuted by Asians who were zealous to worship Roman Emperors as living gods like they had rulers in the past.

Next time, we will go into the verses of Chapter four and their application to us today. 

Notes

Charles, R. D. (1993). Imperial Pretensions and the Throne-Vision of the Lamb: Observations on the Function of Revelation 4-5. Criswell Theological Review, 7.1 pp. 85-97.

Hannah, R. (2013). “Nero’s “solar” kingship and the architecture of Domus Aurea.” Accessed July 1, 2019 from https://www.academia.edu/5729806/Nero_s_solar_kingship_and_the_architecture_of_Domus_Aurea

Ramsay, W. (1909). The Letters to the Seven Churches (New York, NY: Hodder & Stoughton) 115.

Vander Laan, R. (2019). “Lord of Lords.” Accessed July 3, 2019 from https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/lord-of-lords

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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