5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.
Lightning and Thunder from the Throne
vs. 5 This is reminiscent of the theophany at Sinai when the Mosaic Covenant was ratified. Exodus 19:16-25 records this. Lest we think this was an Old Testament phenomena only, Hebrews 12:18-29 reiterates God is still a God of justice and holiness. “Our God is a consuming fire!” Note the Hebrews passage does not say God was a consuming fire. The use of the present tense reiterates God is unchangeable! Beale states this clearly—
“This phrase is repeated in 8:5; 11:19; and 16:18, all of which have to do with God’s judgments. This becomes significant in light of the way many of the plagues of Revelation are clearly modeled (as we shall see) on those of Exodus. This then may serve as assurance to suffering Christians that their God is sovereign and has not forgotten them, because He has not forgotten their persecutors, whom He will surely judge by fire (e.g., 19:20; 20:9-10; 21:8).” See Beale, p. 103, below)
The Golden Lampstand before the Throne
The lampstand is one of the few symbols that is explained in the book of Revelation itself. It occurs in 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6. The background seems to be Zechariah 4:2, 10 and Is. 11:2 (LXX rendering). The seven lamps (lampas) are located on a lampstand (luknia). The lamps are a symbol of the sevenfold Spirit of God. (See Isaiah 11:1-5).
This lampstand and the reference to the lampstand and the sea let us know that we are in a temple setting. It is not the temple of Jerusalem; rather, it is the temple Moses saw on Mount Sinai which became the pattern of the Tabernacle and Temple, later on.
vs. 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind.
The glass sea in heaven is the pattern for the laver in the Tabernacle. It is crystallized in heaven symbolizing the fact that the saints have reached a fixed state of holiness and no longer need a layer for cleansing.
God is Ruler of All His Creation
vs. 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.
Four living creatures — Literally, the text reads that they are “in the midst” (mesos) of the throne. However, it is a mistake to see them seated on the throne as “in the midst” (mesos) implies. It is best to take this as “in the immediate vicinity” of the throne. The eyes on both sides of the creatures symbolize the fact they are ever alert and watchful. Nothing escapes their notice.
Remember, God in the Old Testament called “Yahweh Sabaoth” = Lord of Armies.
“The words ‘angels, hosts and armies’…refers to the fact that the Lord of hosts is lord over the armies of [creation] angels, humans, all animals, every plant and all the stars, planets and asteroids of the universe.” (see Lord of Hosts below.) All these hosts can be summoned to assist God’s persecuted people.
John evokes creation as represented in God’s throne room by “four forms that represent whatever is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in nature” (see Swete, p. 71, below).
vs. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
each had six wings — This is reminiscent of Is. 6. This is why most commentators see the creatures as an angelic order. Why six? An old Jewish Targum reads: “With two, he covered his face, that he might see not; with two he covered his feet, that he might not be seen; and with two he flew.”
God’s people may appear to be without influence and powerless. However, Revelation 4 reminds us whom we serve! God is the Ruler of all Creation and has the hosts of creation at his disposal to aid his people.
Powerful empires of old are no more though they struck fear in their subjects once. Percy B. Shelley’s Poem “Ozymandias” is instructive to us!
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away. (See Shelley below.)
God’s Presence on the Throne is our Incentive to Pray
During a dismal morning in WWI, David Lloyd George stood grimly before the members of the British cabinet. The seriousness of the situation was evident. The prime minister said, “Gentlemen, we are fighting with our backs to the wall. The only way out is up. Our only hope is God. Let us pray.” (see Lloyd-George below)
If the out-look today is depressing for us, I suggest we try the up-look! God is still on the throne at the center of reality. We are called to pray in all circumstances. Our God hears and answers prayer!
More next time.
Beasley-Murray, G. R. (1974). The Book of Revelation in the New Century Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: A Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.
George, D. L. Story accessed 29 September 2019 from https://www.sermoncentral.com/ sermon-illustrations/60598/during-a-dismal-morning-in-wwi-david-lloyd-by-sermoncentral
Lord of Hosts. (n.d.) Accessed 27 September 2019 from https://www.neverthirsty.org/ bible-qa/qa-archives/question/is-there-a-difference-between-angels-hosts-and-armies/
Shelley, P. B. (1818). “Ozymandias” printed in The Examiner (defunct British newspaper); accessed 27 September 2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozymandias
Swete, H. B. (1911) The Apocalypse of St. John: the Greek text with introduction, notes and indices London, England: MacMillian and Co., Ltd.
© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved