PMT 2015-063 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In Revelation 1:12-20 John’s first vision shows Christ in history (spiritually) walking among the churches as their ever-present Protector and Head (cp. Matt. 18:20; 28:18, 20; Acts 18:9-10; Heb. 13:5). The focal judgments of Revelation do not begin until Revelation 6. In Revelation 4 and 5, though, God braces John for those coming fearsome judgment scenes by spiritually transporting him above history to God’s throne room in heaven (Rev. 4:1-2).
Revelation 4 and the Throne
In Revelation 4 John sees God sitting on his judicial throne actively ruling over all creation (Rev. 4:2-6, 11). The four “living creatures” closest to the throne seem to be angels of the highest order: they ever watch (they are “full of eyes,” v. 6) over creation (they appear as creatures and sing of creation, vv. 7, 11), ready to do God’s holy bidding (they have six wings to swiftly fly and they sing of God’s holiness, v. 8) in all of creation (their number represents the four points of the compass, v. 7; cp. Rev. 7:1; 21:13). Whatever John witnesses thereafter — however terrifying the judgments, however vicious the opposition — he may rest assured that not only does Christ concern himself with the affairs of his people in history (Rev. 1), but that God is actively controlling all things from above history (Rev. 4; cp. Dan. 2:21; 4:35; Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:11).
Interestingly, John mentions God’s “throne” in eighteen of Revelation’s twenty-two chapters. In fact, of the sixty-two appearances of the word “throne” in the New Testament, we find forty-seven of them in Revelation. Strong judicial tendencies characterize Revelation, not only due to this dramatic vision itself but to all the judicial terminology therein (e.g., Rev. 6:10; 11:18; 15:3; 16:5-7; 18:8; 19:2, 11). The temporal judgment-coming of Christ, which dramatically concludes forever the Old Testament typological era (cf. Rev. 11:1-2, 19; 21:22), is directed from the throne of the universe.
Book of Revelation Made Easy
(by Ken Gentry)
Helpful introduction to Revelation presenting keys for interpreting.
Also provides studies of basic issues in Revelation’s story-line.|
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Revelation 5 and the Charge
In Revelation 5 a remarkable claimant to the right to execute God’s judgments appears before the throne: a slain but living lamb. The strongly Judaic (and symbolic) description of Christ’s appearance here underscores the thematic concern of Christ’s coming in cloud-judgment against “they who pierced him” — the Jews (Rev. 1:7; cp. Mt 26:59, 66; 27:1; Mk 14:64; Lk 23:22–23; 24:20; Acts 2:22–23, 36; 3:13–15a; 4:10; 5:28, 30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27–29; 1Th. 2:14–15). Thus he appears as a sacrificial lamb “looking as if it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6, 9, 12), who is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Rev. 5:5). The emphasis on his crucifixion — as in Revelation 1:7 — is unmistakable (“lamb,” “slain”). As Milton Terry observes there is a certain irony in this imagery: “The great trouble with Judaism was that it looked for mighty lion; and was scandalized to behold, instead, a little lamb” (cf. Luke 24:21, 25-27; John 6:15; 19:15).
But what does the seven sealed scroll represent? “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals” (Rev. 5:1). If we are to discern the proper meaning of this scroll we must bear in mind four interpretive controls: (1) The scroll must apply to first century events, for “the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:3; 22:6, 10, 12; cp. 6:11). (2) The scroll must refer to Israel, for Revelation’s theme refers to “they who pierced him” (Rev. 1:7; 11:8). (3) The scroll should have Old Testament warrant, for as Robert Thomas well notes: “The influence of the OT on Revelation is overwhelming.” (4) The scroll should be consistent with the flow of Revelation, for it is an intricately structured book with all of its numbered series and reappearing images.
In the Old Testament we find a scroll similarly described and in an analogous context. In Ezekiel 1 the prophet sees four living, winged creatures, very much like those John sees (Ezek. 1:5-10; Rev. 4:6-8). Near Ezekiel’s living creatures he sees a crystal-like expanse and a glorious throne overarched by a rainbow, very much like that John sees (Ezek. 1:22-28; Rev. 4:2-6). In Ezekiel 2:9-10 we read: “Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.” This reminds us of John’s experience: “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals” (Rev. 5:1). The strong similarities surely are not accidental; John seems to be intentionally following Ezekiel’s pattern.
Now then, what is the point of Ezekiel’s vision? Judgment upon Israel: “He said: ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day’” (Ezek. 2:3). This supports our understanding Revelation’s point, especially when we consider how much greater is first century Israel’s sin in rejecting the Messiah himself (John 1:11; Matt. 21:33-45; 23:32-38; Acts 2:23, 36; cp. Matt. 13:17; 1 Pet. 1:10-12). The seven-fold nature of the judgments upon Israel (represented by the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls) reminds us of the covenantal curse God threatens upon her in the Old Testament: “If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over” (Lev. 26:18, cp. vv. 24, 28).
When viewed against the backdrop of the theme (Jewish judgment), personages (a harlot and a bride), and flow of Revelation (from the sealed scroll to capital punishment for “adultery” to a “marriage feast” to the taking of a new “bride” as the “new Jerusalem”), the covenantal nature of the transaction suggests that the seven sealed scroll is God’s divorce decree against his Old Testament wife for her spiritual adultery. In the Old Testament God “marries” Israel (note especially: Ezek. 16:8, 31-32)1; and in several places he threatens her with a “bill of divorce” (Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:8).
In the New Testament the final and conclusive destruction of the temple accomplishes this. In his divorce of Israel God dis-establishes her: redemptive history is no longer the story of a Jewish-focused, Israel-exalting, geo-political work as in the Old Testament (Matt. 8:11; 21:43; cp. Amos 3:2a; Ps. 147:19-20). God’s work now reaches out to “all nations” (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8); Christ makes of two, one new man (Eph. 2:12-22) where there is no longer “Jew nor Greek” (Rom. 10:12; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11).
Interestingly, the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” reference (Rev. 5:5) harkens back to Genesis 49. There we hear of the universalizing of God’s work beyond the borders of Israel: “Judah is a lion’s whelp . . . to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Gen. 49:9-10). Furthermore, Christ’s appearing before God’s throne in heaven (Rev. 5:6) reminds us of Daniel’s Messianic vision: When the Son of Man appears before the Ancient of Days, God grants him a kingdom so “that all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him” (Dan. 7:13-14; cp. Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 14:6).
Nevertheless, though God judges the first century Jews and dis-establishes Israel as the unique geo-political focus of his kingdom, we know from other New Testament revelation that the Jews also will eventually return to the kingdom of God in full number, receiving the blessings of salvation (Rom. 11). But God will never exalt them above other blood-bought people (even the Old Testament anticipates such equality, Isa. 19:23-25; Jer. 48:47; 49:6, 39; Zech. 9:7).2 Jew and gentile merge into one body in Christ forever, forming one tree (Rom. 11:15, 25), one new man (Eph. 2:13-18), one new temple (Eph. 2:19-22), one new creation (Gal. 6:15).