Study Two
                                             The Throne and The Sealed Book

        In Revelation 4:1 John sees an open door in heaven, and a voice which calls "come up here".  John is called into the very presents of the One who sits on the throne. It is Jesus Christ the exalted that calls him to that position. (Com. 1:10-13 with 4:1) So John is called out of his exile, out of his tribulation, out of his circumstances, by Jesus Christ, to be with Him in the Fathers presents.
        Some theologians have suggested that John represents the Church at this point, I agree. However those same theologians have done the Church a disservice by suggesting that this verse pictures the Churches  removal  from the earth, by the rapture. Such a conclusion has no support in the text or context. John does not speak of being physically removed from his surroundings. Instead he tells us "and immediately I was in the spirit." This phrase does not suggest a change in location, but a change in outlook and prospective. John is not physically removed from his situation but he sees his situation in a different light.
        As John was called into the presents of the One on the throne so the Church is called to join her Lord and Savior in the throne room. Like John the Church will experience tribulation: Jesus clearly said so: "in this world you shall have tribulation". (John 16:33) However the Church has been given an open door into Heaven. Her calling is to join her exalted Lord in the heavens. (Eph. 1:1)
      John is told that he would be shown that "which shall be after these things." The ascended Jesus informs John that what he is presently experiencing is not the end of the matter.  John tells us what he was experiencing.  Physically he was a "brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ", exiled to the island of Patmos. (1:9) But John; how can you speak of being in tribulation and in the kingdom, at the same time?  Are the two not contradictory and mutually exclusive? Surely you aren't suggesting that we experience the kingdom while in tribulation? Yet that is the reality: "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22)  So John's exile is his experience of tribulation for the gospels sake. He thus identifies himself with the Churches tribulation throughout history. However John also calls himself a brother and companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. For us to be able to  understand the juxtaposition of tribulation and the kingdom; we like John must be "in the spirit". (1:10)
         By speaking of being “in the spirit” John is not speaking of breaking with reality. Jesus Christ calls John and the Church into a higher dimension of reality. The situations we find ourselves in on the earth are not the end of the story. Those situations must be viewed in the light of John’s throne room experience. There is an "afterwards" that both John and the Church are called into.  We like John will make sense of the "afterward" as we walk "in the spirit".
       John's vision of that afterwards is prefaced by his experience in the Throne room. That experience sets the stage and is the culmination for the events that follow. John describes his throne room experience in Revelation 4:3 to 5:14. We need to look at the details given by John because they have implications for the Church. For us to understand and apply these details demands that we study them. I wish to focus on two aspect of the details in chapter four, and five.

                                                          The Four Living Creatures

       John sees four living creatures in the midst of, and surrounding the throne. The King James Version uses the term “beasts” instead of “living creatures”. Is there a likeness between these living creatures and the beasts of Revelation 13?  These living creatures are attendants in the throne room. They worship God. The beasts of Revelation 13 do not serve God or His purpose and their final end is the lake of fire. Are we then to conclude that there are two kinds of animals: those that serve God, and those that serve Satan?
         Obviously these beasts are not to be seen as literal. The beasts of Revelation 13 speak of an evil influence and system that is held in esteem by earths people. The living creatures of Revelation four are attendants in the throne room. They influence and lead in the worship of God.
          John's description of these living creatures includes things which are common to all four.  However each living creature is unique and identifiable. The things which these creatures have in common are: They are "full of eyes, before and behind", (v6) they each have six wings,  as well as being "full of eyes within", and they never cease to glorify God. (v8)  Their uniqueness is portrayed in their individuality. The first is like a lion. The second is like a calf. The third creature had the face of a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle.
          Since John uses the word "like" he is obviously letting us know that these living beings are not a lion, calf, man, and eagle. Those terms are only used to identify them. So when we identify  what they symbolize, that symbolism must fit their identity.
        He describes them as in the midst and round about the throne. This gives the impression of an energy field. He also states that they never rest, their activity is unceasing. Perhaps the most interesting thing about these creatures is that when they glorify God the 24 elders fall down before God as well. (Note 4:9 5:8,14) In other words these living creatures are worship leaders in the throne room. Why them and not the elders?
        John's words in Revelation 5:8 and following indicates that the living creatures and elders have certain things in common. They each have harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints.  All of them worship Jesus, and they worship Him for His work of Redemption. A redemption  which has made them kings and priests to God.  Is John here suggesting that Jesus redeemed four living creatures and 24 elders, then gives them authority to reign? Of course not! Redemption, and the privilege to be a ruler is the right of "every kindred, tongue, people and nation." (5:9) So obviously it is redeemed humanity that is represented by four living creatures and twenty four elders.
        Thus redemption places these four living creatures on common ground with us. But these creatures are not residing on earth, like us. They are seen by John as resident in the midst of and around the throne. And when it comes to worship their place of prominence seems to be that of worship leaders. These living creatures authenticate and validate the worship offered by all in Revelation 5:11-13. Their “amen” in verse 14 initiates more worship from the 24 elders. A strong indication that these creatures fully understand the purpose and scope of Christ's redemption. Thereby implying that Christ’s redemption provided us with something that we have not fully utilized, understood, or appropriated.
        John's description of them is meant to identify them. John states they are full of eyes: in front, behind, as well as within. So their most notable and striking feature is their eyes. Eyes indicate sight or knowledge. Thus the truth pointed to concerning these creatures concerns their foresight, hindsight, and insight. This three dimensional view is apparently the reason for their continuous  activity. They never rest, but are constantly giving glory to God.
         I see these creatures as representing humanities four primary disciplines.  The lion represents the Arts.  The calf is representative of the Sciences.  The living creature with the face of a man represents the Humanities.  The eagle stands for Theology. John is shown that God’s plan called for these disciplines to be resident in heaven, giving glory to God. However these disciplines became shipwrecked in society.  In our study of the breaking of the first four seals we will discover how this came about. However John sees them in heaven as the worship leaders and so it will be. God's redemption of humanity included the redemption of the four disciplines. Those disciplines are destined to honor and glorify God.  God has so ordained it, therefore it will become  reality.
 

Revelation 5: The Sealed Book
 
          John sees a book sealed with seven seals, in the hand of the one seated on the throne.  The cry goes out for someone who is worthy to open the book.  John says he wept much: "because no man was found worthy to open and read the book, neither to look thereon." (Rev. 5:3)  That being the case, what made John worthy to watch as the seals are broken?
          In Revelation 5:5 John is told that a worthy one has been found: "the Lion of the tribe of Judah." (5:5)  However when John sees that worthy one he doesn't see a Lion, he sees a Lamb. Obviously this is an intentional symbolic protrayal of  Jesus as our Redeemer.
         John is told that the Lion of Judah has "prevailed to open the book".  The word prevailed indicates that as the Lion He did something that makes Him worthy. That act of worthiness is portrayed by the Lamb; "as it had been slain". (5:6) The death of the Lamb marks our redemption. So the point is clear: Jesus could not be ruler without first being a redeemer. So mark this truth: A prerequisite to the establishment of  God's kingdom is that its King become the  redeemer. There could be no kingdom without redemption. Jesus said: "except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) Without redemption  that rebirth isn't possible.
        It is Redemption – the Lamb – that takes the sealed book from Him who sits on the throne. (v8) It is the Lamb that is declared to be worthy to open the seals of the book. (v9)   Undoubtedly this is an intentional focus on Jesus Christ's work of grace. This text and portrait is a deliberate and pointed way of saying that only redemption could take the book and break its seals. So without the death of the Lamb the events that Revelation portrays could not take place. They could not happen!
          The Old Testament closes with these words: "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." (Malachi 4:5,6)  According to Jesus, John the Baptist fulfilled the words of this prophecy. (Matt.11:7-14) So John had a specific task, a task which would prevent God from having to smite the earth with a curse. This suggests that God assigned a limit to man’s sin.
        Paul indicates that when that limit was reached Jesus came. Galatians 4:4,5 state: "When the fullness of time was come God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."
      Without the sacrifice of Jesus, history could not continue, the book would have to remain sealed.  But Jesus came as our redeemer. Redemption: Jesus as the Lamb takes away the sin of the world, and that act breaks the seals of the book of history. As the Lamb breaks each seal we are given a brief glimpse into an aspect of our history.   But that's jumping ahead!
      Revelation 4 and 5 also focus on worship. That worship is directed at God and the Lamb for the redemption they provided. A redemption that changes and alters the course of history.
      The text speaks of the four living creatures as well as twenty four elders that worship. If it is accepted that these creatures represent us in our four major disciplines, then it could be concluded that they represent us in the secular. Especially so if the twenty four elders are taken to represent us in the sacred. Therefore man is called to worship God, both in his secular and sacred capacities. The opposite is present day reality. In our secular pursuits we did not use the four major disciplines to exalt God. Instead we called on them to question and disprove His existence. As a result we haven't fulfilled our Divine calling. We have lived life after our own selfish desires.
          In Revelation 4 and 5 John describes what is happening in heaven. Jesus taught us to pray: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt.6:10) So what John saw in the Spirit, is what we have been called to fulfill on this earth. God intended for us to glorify Him in both our secular and sacred capacities. In Revelation 5:10  redemption made us kings and priests unto God and we were meant to reign on this earth. The position we received through Jesus Christ's redemption is like Adams, and yet beyond Adams.
          It is like Adams in that Adam was also given dominion over the earth - we could say he was designated a king.  But unlike Adam we are given the office of priest. Adam as king had all the rights and privileges of kingship. However he was not given the office of priest.  Therefore when He sinned he could not redeem himself, or the situation. Redeemed man is made both king and priest. Redemption places us in a position of authority unknown to the Old Testament generations. What could possibly stop the Church from carrying out God's mandate for this world?
          The breaking of the seals reveals how quickly and easily redeemed man was deceived by Satan. Thus like Adam, we abdicated the position given to us by God in Jesus Christ through redemption. As we continue our studies in Revelation we will discover our past shortcomings. We can then correct our mistakes and thereby come into line with God's mandate for us in the future.  God intended for us and our disciplines to honor God. Until we bring that to pass we have not fulfilled God's purpose,  plan, and scope of  redemption.
 
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