Lesson 5. The Scene in Heaven

In the last lesson on chapters 2 and 3 we saw the church as Jesus sees it. Jesus tells John to write down what Jesus says about his churches. Jesus praises some of the churches for their faith and endurance. But he criticizes them for falling away from their initial faith, for trying to keep doing popular and unfaithful things, and for being indifferent in their faith. The churches are far from perfect; they are sinful and made up of sinful people. They must therefore come under God's judgment and be purified. "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent." (Rev. 3:19) In fact, they were already experiencing God's cleansing through the persecutions they were suffering.

READ Revelation 4:1-11.

Whose voice does the speaking in verse 1?
(The clue is "like a trumpet". Go back to 1:10 to find the same phrase. The speaker there is also the speaker of 1:18, where you will find enough clues to answer correctly.)
What will be shown to John (verse 1)?

"At once" John is able to see what things are like in heaven.
Who sits on the throne in heaven (verses 2,3)?
The meanings of the colorful descriptions (the stones named are white, red, green, and other colors) are lost to us, but they are intended to show some of the glory of God.

How many elders are there worshipping God (verse 4)?
This is the number of priestly classes in 1 Chronicles 24:1-19 in the Old Testament. It could also represent the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel plus the 12 heads (apostles) of the "new Israel" = the Church. What John intended to say, if different, through the number 24 is no longer remembered. The 24 elders are clothed in white garments, showing their purity and perfection. The faithful are also promised "white clothes" (3:5). The 24 elders wear golden crowns, symbolizing their authority to rule and to live forever. The faithful will also be given the "crown of life" (2:10) and this power (2:26,27).

The lightning and thunder and fire around God show his power and majesty. They are in the descriptions of others who have been close to God (like Moses and the Israelites at Mt. Sinai). The 7 lamps are the 7 spirits of God (4:5), meaning either all (7) angels or else the 7-fold (total, Holy) Spirit. The angels belong to Jesus (3:1) and serve God.

How many "living creatures" are there (verses 6-8)?
From a previous lesson we should remember that the number four refers to earthly things while three refers to heavenly things. So these creatures are in charge of God's creation. The lion, ox, man (angel), and eagle suggest all that is noblest, strongest, wisest, and most swift in the created world. The angel, lion, ox, eagle are also now used to be the symbols of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Many churches have them as decorations with that meaning. Being "covered with eyes all around" means symbolically that they can see and understand everything. Their wings (verse 8) symbolize their spiritual (3 pairs) mobility in carrying out the commands of God.

How often do the four creatures praise God (verse 8)?
"Holy, holy, holy" is the song of the angels that Isaiah (6:3) heard. It is used in our hymns and in our communion service. "Who was, and is, and is to come" (also 1:18) is the meaning of God's personal name Yahweh (= Jehovah). God lives forever!

Who praises God in verse 9?
Who praises God in verse 10?

The elders receive their crowns of governmental power and authority from God and they recognize this by returning to God the crowns as they worship.
What did God do that everyone praises in verse 11?

READ Revelation 5:1-14.

Who is seated on the throne and holds the scroll (verse 1)?
The scroll is filled with writing. It may contain God's account of the way things are or possibly the way things will work out in the future, but nowhere in the Bible are the details of the words in it described. Ezekiel also saw this scroll (Ezekiel 2:9) and Isaiah knew about it (Isaiah 29:11). The churches may be assuming that the scroll contains an account of how good they have been and of their future rewards. They would like the scroll opened so that everyone can see their good record. (But they forget that their bad record would also be exposed at the same time and show their need for punishment and purification.) On behalf of the churches and their supposedly good record John weeps for the scroll to be opened (verse 4). The 7 seals means that the scroll is completely closed and locked.
Is there anyone in verse 3 who can open the scroll to see what it says?
But there is one person that the elders know about.
What tribe does he come from (verse 5)?
What famous king does he descend from?

He has "overcome (triumphed)" over Satan and death and is therefore worthy to open the scroll. He has remained perfect and faithful to God.
What animal is used in verse 5 to describe him?
This symbolizes his conquering power.
What animal is used in verse 6 to describe him?
This symbolizes his sacrificial actions. The Lamb shows wounds from having been killed, but it is alive and standing. Already we have read in 1:18 of one who says, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" The Lamb has been used throughout the Bible as the sacrifice that brings forgiveness for our sins and restores our relationship with God.
What does John say in John 1:29 about the Lamb?

Who is the Lamb of God?
Who will therefore open the scroll?

The 7 horns are the symbol in apocalyptic literature of power to rule. Jesus (the Lamb) has all (7) power (horns). The 7 eyes indicate that Jesus sees and knows everything. Apparently this knowledge comes from all of God's angels (7 spirits or the 7-fold Holy Spirit) "sent out into all the earth". We are therefore always surrounded by God's spiritual angels and Holy Spirit that we cannot see but who can always see us and what we are doing. Nothing is therefore hidden from God.

Jesus takes the scroll from God (verse 7). He is then worshipped by everyone with singing (harps). The worship also includes "golden bowls full of incense" to give Jesus and God a pleasing aroma.
What are the bowls of incense (verse 8)?

The word saint means anyone who follows Jesus. All of us in this class who truly follow Jesus are therefore saints. And our prayers are pleasing to God and are a way of worshipping him. God can then show off his power to everyone by answering our prayers.
For what is Jesus praised by everyone in heaven (verses 9,10)?

Purchase (or ransom) here means to buy men back from Satan's power so that we become God's people. The value of our price tag was the life of Jesus and the spilling of his blood.
Which people are ransomed from God (end of verse 9)?
Does that include you?
What are Christians to be for God (verse 10)?

This means that each one of us is to be a minister. Each is to worship God and lead others in worship. Each of us is to read the Bible for our own instruction and to tell others about God's word. Each of us is to tell others about what Jesus has done for us and help them become Christians. Each of us is to console those in need and sorrow. There are many other ministry tasks for each of us. We are each to be ministers, though only a few are called by God to be ordained like our pastors. We are not to sit back and let one man (our pastor) do it all for us. We laymen are to do all of this work for Jesus ourselves because Christ made us his priests. Our pastors are to train us to do our priestly work (Ephesians 4:11-13) and to help maintain an order in our congregation. Most people fail to recognize their responsibilities as priests. They also fail to recognize that Jesus gives them power and authority to reign here on earth and to spread the kingdom of Jesus. What a waste of talent when we are spiritually lazy!

In Greek "myriad" means ten thousand, their largest number. (Either term might be used in your translation.) Multiplying the thousands and ten thousands is symbolically more than those products. One thousand is already the code word for a nearly uncountable number. Squaring it surely makes its meaning infinite. Then, as if that were not enough, squaring many tens of thousands greatly emphasizes the infinite number of angels that serve and worship God. It is absolutely impossible to count them all!
In verse 12, how many things is the Lamb to receive?
This is the code number for all. So Jesus deserves everything there is.

Who joins in the worship in verse 13?
Is anyone or anything left out and thus fail to praise God and the Lamb?

If no one is left out, that means that even those who hate God and who are going to hell are somehow praising God, even against their will. Their existence praises God; the justice they receive praises God; the love and care they received on earth praises God; even their rebellion against God shows that they acknowledge that God exists.

So we see in chapters 4 and 5 the way things are in heaven. What a contrast with things on earth! God is constantly praised for who he is (living forever) and what he has done (created everything). The Lamb (Jesus, Son) is also praised for what he has done. He has ransomed men with the price of his own life so that we can be with God forever and be perfect in his eyes. Jesus is therefore worthy to open the scroll on which everything is written. In the next lesson we'll see what happens when the words of the scroll are exposed.

In heaven everything is perfect and the way God wants it. His will is done there. This is in sharp contrast with the way things were in chapters 2 and 3 where the churches were imperfect. Something must now be done to make "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Which chapters represent the way things are in your life now? ___2 and 3? ___4 and 5?

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