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Sun, Jan 28, 2007

96 - The Court of Heaven [b]

Revelation 4:5-8 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:48 mins 48 secs

The Court of Heaven Rev. 4:5-8

 

Revelation chapters four and five should be understood as one unit. It is an extremely dramatic scene in heaven, a future scene. John is being transported not only to heaven but he is going to be given a vision of future things. He is going to see what will take place during the future time known as the day of Jacob's wrath/trouble in the Old Testament, or Daniel's seventieth week, or what is more commonly referred to as the great Tribulation. The first scene as we go through this section of the book of Revelation deals with what is going on in heaven. It is a heavenly court room scene, the scene before the throne of God. Chapter four gives us an introduction to the scene, we learn who all of these major characters are but the action really doesn't begin until the last couple of verses when the heavenly chorus of the four living creatures begins to sing and worship God. But the main action takes place in the fifth chapter. Chapter five sets up what is going to happen in the rest of the book of Revelation.

 

The first person that we are introduced to is the person sitting upon the throne, God the Father. The second group that is present in this heavenly scene is identified as the twenty-four elders, the raptured and rewarded church age believers who are in this scene sitting on thrones around the throne of God in heaven. We have yet to identify the seven lamps and the seven spirits of God before the throne, the four living creatures, the Lamb who will come forward to take the scroll, and the seven seals on the scroll. These are foundational to understanding the events that transpire during the rest of the Tribulation period.

 

We now come to the second part of verse 5, "…And {there were} seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God." The text itself interprets the symbol for us. The word that is used in the Greek for lamps here is actually the word from which we derive our English word lamp, which is the word LAMAPADES [lampadej]. It is actually a word that should be translated a torch, it is not a word for a typical oil lamp that would have been used, for example, to illuminate a house or building, it was more of a torch. These seven torches are identified within the context as referring to the seven spirits of God. This is an interpretation that is somewhat puzzling to many people. There are those who suggest that the root for understanding this is found back in Isaiah 11:2. "The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD." This is a passage that is a prophecy related to the Messiah (v. 1). The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon the Messiah, and then the rest of the verse describes the various aspects or attributes of the Spirit of the Lord: 1) wisdom and understanding; 2) the spirit of counsel and strength; 3) the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. There are not seven there, only six. Many apparently have taken the initial reference "the Spirit of the Lord" as an independent reference, but that is identifying the personage, the next six are identifying the attributes. So Isaiah 11:2 cannot be the Old Testament reference for understanding this particular image of the Holy Spirit as the seven lamps. 

 

We see this representation several times in the book of Revelation. For example, in 1:4 in which he gives a Trinitarian reference and then, secondly, "from the seven Spirits who are before his throne." Then third, "from Jesus Christ the faithful witness…" So it is a reference to the Trinity. There is the Father who is referred to as the one who is, and who was, and who is to come." When it comes to that third statement, "and who is to come," a lot of people have balked at that and said that the one who is coming is the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ. But if we look in Revelation 21 what we discover is that in the future God the Father will come, and it is said there that he will make His abode with us. So at the end of the book of Revelation the one who is coming to make His abode with us is God the Father. So He is referred to several times in the book of Revelation clearly as the one who is and was and is to come, as the one who is sitting upon the throne. In a number of passages we also have in that same scene not only the one on the throne, the one who was, who is, and is to come, but you also have the Lamb. The Lamb is the second person of the Trinity, so these must be understood as two distinct personages, the first person of the Trinity and the second person of the Trinity. And before His throne we have the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, identified as the seven spirits.

 

There has to be an interpretation given for this that we can go to in the Old Testament. You don't come to the book of Revelation and just see these symbols and images and then sort of contemplate your navel and wonder what this could be, or just think that seven is some sort of number and has some sort of biblical numerology. This is the sort of thing that historicists have done that leads to a lot of confusion when they try to understand what is going on in the book of Revelation. But as we have seen many times in our study these symbols, these images that we discover in the book of Revelation are derived from the Old Testament. Indeed, this particular reference to the Holy Spirit as the seven lamps has its origin in Zechariah chapter four. Zechariah is a post-exilic prophet. He is one of three prophets who came to Israel after the seventy-year period of captivity. The Jews did not begin to return until about 536 BC under a leader known as Zerubbabel, a descendent of the line of David in the southern kingdom of Judah. Cyrus issued a decree to allow Zerubbabel to begin to take Jews back from Babylon to their homeland promised by God to Abraham in Genesis 12ff. One of the first things the Jews had to do was clean up Jerusalem because it had been destroyed in the conquest by the Babylonians, the temple had been destroyed and they had to rebuild it. This became a problem because some of the Jews weren't that interested in rebuilding the temple. There are always those who don't try to understand the plan and the purpose of God and set themselves against it. This was a major problem and as they tried to rebuild the temple there were various forces of opposition. Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi are the three posit-exilic prophets and one of the major themes in Zechariah and Haggai is to encourage the people to rebuild the temple, which they eventually did in 516. That is the background for understanding this particular vision in Zechariah chapter four.

Zechariah 4:1, 2 NASB "Zech 4:1 Then the angel who was speaking with me returned and roused me, as a man who is awakened from his sleep. He said to me, "What do you see?" And I said, "I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it…" So there is a total of eight different bowls that are filled with oil and illuminated. Normally a lamp stand would have to have its supply of oil continuously replenished, otherwise the lamp would go out. But we have a unique situation in this vision. Zechariah says [3] that there are two olive trees there. It is as if they have a pipeline from the olive trees directly into the lampstand, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left. Zechariah asks for an explanation.

Zechariah 4:4-6 NASB "Then I said to the angel who was speaking with me saying, "What are these, my lord?" So the angel who was speaking with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." Then he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts." What this is a picture of is that it is saying that it is the power of God the Holy Spirit which will ultimately bring about the completion of the temple. It must not be done in human power but under the energy of God the Holy Spirit, and God the Holy Spirit would be the one to bring this about. But this is identifying the lampstand and the oil as the Holy Spirit.

Zechariah 4:10 NASB  "For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven [lamps] will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—{these are} the eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth." So the seven are identified with the Holy Spirit, v. 6, and then the verse goes on to say they [the seven] are the eyes of the Lord …" So there is a connection made in this passage between the seven lamps, the oil, the Holy Spirit, and this is described as "the eyes of the Lord." Whenever we see the phraseology, "the eyes of the Lord," that is always related to knowledge, and with knowledge there are two related concepts—revelation and illumination. That ties back to the whole picture of the lampstand, it provides illumination, enlightenment. So these symbols all relate to the revelatory ministry of God the Holy Spirit. This takes us back to our verse in Revelation 4:5, "And {there were} seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God." It is the fullness of the Holy Spirit in His ministry of revelation and illumination.

Revelation 4:6 NASB "and before the throne {there was something} like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind." It is not a crystal sea, and idea that is heard in some hymns, it is a sea of glass that looks like crystal, a sea that is glass-like. It is a glassy sea, flat. What is the significance of this particular sea? In the Old Testament, for example in 1 Kings 7:23 the laver that was out in front of the temple where the priest would have to wash his hands and his feet was called the sea, the bronze sea. It is a picture of the fact that there is something that separates man from God and there has to be cleansing before man can come into the presence of God. So the best explanation of this is that between God and His creatures there is this sea, this expanse, a separation between creatures and the creator. God is completely distinct; He is unique. That is bound up in our idea of holiness that Christians use a lot and are not really sure what it means. It loses its value over time because it is repeated so much. The idea of holiness comes out of the Old Testament and the root word there is based on the word qodesh which has to do with being completely set apart to the service of God. When God is the focus of this verbiage based on qodesh he is the one who is totally distinct, totally unique, there is none like Him, He is completely holy. This begins to set us up for the focus of the doxology, the praise that is sung by the four living creatures in verse 8" "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY {is} THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME." Then we are told, "and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind." Again we have this same imagery of eyes. These living creatures are then described in verse 7.

Revelation 4:7 NASB "The first creature {was} like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature {was} like a flying eagle." There is a distinction made here between how these four living creatures were described and the cherubim in Ezekiel chapters one and two. In Ezekiel the cherubs each had these four faces, but here these four living creatures each has a different face, so they are not the same as the cherubim in Ezekiel. What is interesting here is that these four living creatures as well as the faces on the cherubs in Ezekiel preceded the creation of the animal kingdom. The angels were created first, then as God was creating in Genesis chapter one He created the animals, and He culminated with the creation of man. But what preceded all of them was the existence of the cherubs and the living creatures. So obviously some sort of pattern existed in the mind of God where He created the living creatures and the cherubs with these features, and then He duplicated those features in various members of the animal kingdom. We have to identify who these four living creatures.

Revelation 4:8 NASB "And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY {is} THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME." The imagery of the eyes indicates knowledge. The function of the four living creatures is to sing praises to God in heaven. There is obviously no day or night in heaven but John is simply expressing in his own frame of reference that there is no cessation to their worship. Incidentally, this term "Lord God, the Almighty" is one that is used consistently throughout the book of Revelation.

Revelation 4:9-11 NASB "And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders [church age believers] will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." So this is the dramatic image that we have of ongoing worship in heaven.

The doctrine of angels, an introductory summation

1)  Both the Greek word AGGELOS [a)ggeloj] and the Hebrew word malak, translated "angel," are terms that mean simply messenger. The English word that we have for angel is simply a transliteration of the Greek word. It is a word that means messenger and obviously this is a functional term that tells us something about their role and purpose to serve as heavenly emissaries.  

2)  The term describes a class of rational immaterial spirit beings created by God to fulfil a variety of functions. They are mediators of divine revelation (Galatians 3:19); they are messengers of God (Daniel 10:11); they are witnesses of God's justice, and this is their role throughout the book of Revelation; they are attendant to the divine throne (Ezekiel 1:5; Isaiah 6:2-6; Revelation 4 & 5); they are overseers of the outworking of divine judgment. Again, this is seen throughout the book of Revelation. They were originally created higher than man but man in the resurrection will be over the angels. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6 that we will judge the angels.

3)  Angels can appear in human form. They can apparently transform their immaterial bodies into material bodies that take on all of the attributes of flesh and blood (Genesis 18). Throughout the Scriptures they always appear as males. There are different categories of angels, so this indicates perhaps a ranking among the angels. Several angels are described as flying (Daniel 9:21; Luke 1:19), but not all angels appear with wings.

4)  Scripture reveals several classifications of angels. Cherubim are the highest class of angels. Lucifer, the pre-fall name we use to identify Satan, was of this class. He was the highest of the cherubs. Cherubs are identified in Scripture in association with the glory, the holiness, and the majesty of God. They are described in Ezekiel 1:5-14, and even though the name cherub is not used in chapter one, in Ezekiel 10:20 the connection is made: "These are the living beings that I saw beneath the God of Israel by the river Chebar; so I knew that they {were} cherubim." They are distinct from a second category which is called seraph or seraphim. The term "seraph" is Scripture refers to burning, so these are the burning ones. They are viewed as white-hot flames almost, and whenever we see lamps or flames we not only think of the illumination we think of judgment and purification, and so they are also a associated with the holiness of God—Isaiah 6, the vision of Isaiah of the throne of God. Then we have the living beings. Even though that terms is used to describe the cherubs in Ezekiel it is also used of these four living beings in Revelation 4 and 14. We then have Michael who is identified as the archangel (Jude 9), the leader of the angels. The other angels that is identified in Scripture by name is Gabriel, and he is the messenger who announces significant events related to Israel. He announces the birth of the Messiah, he warns Joseph, he appears in the Old Testament with Daniel.

Illustrations