Monday, January 14, 2013

Revelation 4: God Deserves Worship

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Yesterday I wrote a post about how it is often important to interpret Revelations both literally and figuratively, the ideas apply for today's reading

The Throne in Heaven (v. 1-11)

John saw a door open in heaven, and the spirit teleported him to heaven to show him around. He saw a throne with a man on it who had the appearance of jasper and carnelian (reddish stones), around the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald.

Presumably this is Jesus on the throne. Does "like an emerald" mean it is green? If so, in what way is it a rainbow? Is it multiple shades of green? Or does like an emerald mean something completely different?

Around the throne of Jesus are 24 elders dressed in white, each with a throne of their own and each with a golden crown. From the throne came thunder and lightning. In front of the throne were 7 torches (which were the 7 spirits of God) as well as a sea of glass like crystal.

Around the throne were 4 living creatures, a lion, an ox, a creature with the face of a man, and an eagle in flight. Each has 6 wings, and eyes "all around and within". Day and night they never cease to worship the lord by saying "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" And whenever the living creatures give glory to God, the 24 elders fall down before him and worship him. They cast their crowns before God and say the Jesus is worthy of their worship.

Is this heaven for those people? Having to constantly bow down and worship doesn't sound like paradise to me.

As to the literal versus figurative thing, I see nothing in this chapter that explicitly says that this is intended to be figurative. Given that, I think it is a possibility that John thought that this all really happened, and he is telling us all about it. I suppose it is possible that God really did pull him into heaven and show him these things, I would argue it is much more likely that he was reporting a dream that he thought really happened, or that he was drunk, stoned, or insane. 

But what if all of this stuff isn't meant to be taken literally? If it is all poetic, what does it really mean? I have absolutely no idea, I will leave that to the commentaries.

According to several different commentaries, the opening line of this chapter "after this" indicates that we are shifting perspective to things that are yet to come. So he is describing something that is yet to happen. This is curious to me as it is told in the past tense. Was he looking into the future, so that even though it is something he has seen (past tense) the story is really describing the future? Perhaps.

The throne that Jesus sits on is the seat of power, if we remove God from the throne we will invariably put ourselves on it. Guzik claims that atheism declares there is no throne, and humanism declares that man sits on the throne. I guess I would agree with him on the atheism thing, but I don't think any humanists think man sits on "a throne of power over the universe must answer to".

The jasper and carnelian are supposed to represent the glory of the empty tomb and the sacrifice of love.

The throne shows his unlimited power, the rainbow reminds us of his promise to noah and shows us that "God will always limit Himself by His own promises."

Apparently there is debate as to whether the 24 elders are supposed to represent glorified human beings or angelic being. Guzik's interpretation is that they are angelic.

The thunder and lightning are supposed to remind us of God at Mt. Sinai, we should be fearful of God.

The lamps are the holy spirit. This is remarkable because the spirit is not usually visible.

The water before the throne is reminiscent of the tabernacle.

The animals are Cheribum. There seems to be no agreement on what those things mean, the discussion is quite lengthy, I just skimmed it.

The giving of their crowns is a reference to lesser rulers giving their crowns to stronger rulers to show subservience.

The point of this entire chapter seems to be showing us that God is worthy of worship. If we cut through all the imagery and focus on what is is actually trying to tell us, that seems to be the message. And honestly, I think that is the central message of way too much of the bible. There is much more time spent telling us to worship God than there is telling us how to live better lives. 

What did we learn today?


Revelation 4:11 God is worthy of our worship

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power..."


  1. My take is that John had a hallucination that described a deity with incredible low self-esteem who needs a constant reminder of how "great" he is...that hardly sounds like a perfect being to me...

    1. Honestly, a hallucination seems like the best possibility. And I would guess he truly thought it was a vision of the future.

  2. I think the last verse, as you noted, also sounds like serving him is our purpose. Everything that exists is for God's pleasure. Does that include the bad things as well? Or am I just jumping to conclusions?

  3. It sure is fanciful, and it's hard for me to pick out exactly what is supposed to be literal and what is supposed to be figurative. Honestly, I think that the writer of this meanders in and out of figurative and literal seamlessly as the book progresses.

    The imagery of these four beasts was likely influenced by Daniel 7.

  4. JKerber: I'm not completely sure this verse alone would say that our purpose is to serve God, it does say God is worthy of that worship, but does that mean that our purpose is to serve him? However, if you combine that with some other verses, for instance Rev 7:15, your point does seem to shine through in my opinion. And I think this verse says that everything exists by God's will, but not necessarily for God's pleasure.

    TWF: I think you might be right that we bounce back and forth between literal and figurative. Which makes it pretty much impossible to tell what the message is supposed to be. I gotta admit, I'm getting a touch frustrated reading this book. :)

    1. I think I misread the last part of verse 11. I guess he created us, and therefore we need to worship him.

    2. There are definitely other verses though, that seem to say that our whole purpose is to worship god, so the core point still stands I think :)


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