Thrones, thunder, lamps and the sea.

If all you can see is all that there is, then today, before anything else happens, it is already a gloomy day. This is the point of the Revelation. There is more than what you can see. Afraid of being too heavenly minded for no earthly good we have lost sight of what is behind our very existence. That heaven which is only a heart-beat away carries the very essence of our life here on earth. Let’s continue to see what John sees:

“Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” (Revelation 4 v 4-6)

John enters the throne room and he immediately sees the throne. Many scholars have given amazing interpretations of what is in the throne room and no one knows exactly of course.

But we do know that this was not the throne of Caesar with all of his fearful power, might and worshipped deity. This throne room made Caesar’s pale into insignificance. What John saw and then wrote to the churches was a reminder that behind their very existence was something of unspeakable and indescribable power. Despite their challenges; resisting surrendering to false rulers and powers; refusing to be led by false teachers and prophets; persecution; temptations to compromise at every level; they are being called to recognise a greater power and someone who is to be feared more than all their Caesar’s put together.

What are you facing today and what are you fearing?

Trying to resist speculating what exactly John saw, I now speculate!

I don’t know who the 24 elders were. (Don’t write in as I do know the theories!) But I do know around God’s throne John saw living beings, life and thrones of what appeared as victory. I do know that though this life at times gives us feelings of defeat and failure it is neither our end nor is it our present reality in God. For we belong to a throne room of achievement, fulfilment and victory!

  • So what are you intimidated by?
    • For the churches it was everything from the falseness of man to the power of Caesar Domitian. But look! From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In the history of their faith they would remember all too well these descriptions of Mount Sinai in the Exodus story. So why are you intimidated when behind you is someone who intimidates the whole universe?!
  • So why give up now because you feel a failure?
    • For the churches they have been challenged to repent, wake up, hold on, return to their first love; we know how tough it is to be a disciple of Jesus in our world. But look! In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. We have already seen that John is seeing the completeness and the perfection of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit and His complete work are in front of the throne. Don’t give up because the Spirit will complete His work in us!
  • So how can you live with the chaos and the confusion?
    • For the churches their lives were not easy. They had suffered many losses during the persecution. Evil seemed to prosper. There are many theories about the sea. Later in the Revelation we will see beasts emerging from the sea and whatever that means it doesn’t sound good! I love the sea and you probably do too. But we know it can be beautiful and terrifying. These ancient people viewed the sea as a confusing, chaotic and evil to be feared. When Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee it spoke powerfully to their chaotic lives as it still does to us. But look! In front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. You might be struggling today with a chaotic sea tossing you around but it will not win. It will be tamed.

The throne and the rainbow

Did John just want to get off the island of Patmos? Of course!

Did he want the end to this terrible oppression from Rome? Yes! Both Nero and now Domitian were evil Emperors.

Your ‘world’ today may not be what you want it to be. You may face uncertainty and you may wish you were somewhere completely different.

John looks and in a vision sees a door which is not thousands of miles away but is very near him and it is open. Heaven is only a heart-beat away, it is another world which is far closer than perhaps we would imagine. The Bible shows us that the journey is way shorter than perhaps we imagine. For John, it was simply the opening of his eyes to see.

“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.” (Revelation 4 v 1-3)

Again he hears the trumpet-like voice of Jesus. He knows it is the call to rise up, it’s a new day, a call for obedience. He is once again filled with the Spirit and is standing in heaven.

He sees the throne and he sees a rainbow.

The day after our Queen’s funeral these 2 objects are fresh in our minds.

The throne that John saw is occupied. It is not empty waiting for someone. There will not have to be another coronation. There’s no opinion on whether the next monarch to take the throne will be as good as the last. The throne seat of heaven is taken! No matter what is happening in John’s world, this throne is unmovable, unshakeable. ‘John, everything is secure!’

Since the announcement of our Queen’s death we have been amazed by the rainbows that have been spotted. Shortly before the death was announced a double rainbow was seen over Buckingham Palace, another one was seen over Windsor Castle and on the evening of the funeral a rainbow was seen over the Palace of Westminster, over the Elizabeth Tower!

We know what the rainbow symbolises. John moves for a moment from his ‘world’ into the other ‘world’ and realises that again that God holds the future and that He is merciful so that even a sinner is safe to approach Him.

So here is our encouragement for September 20th 2022 taken from an old disciple of Jesus at the end of the first century:

He is on the throne and He holds your future.

The Queen’s experience

Today is our Queen’s funeral and we get a glimpse of what she is experiencing right now in this chapter 4 of when John ‘looked’. Let’s read the whole thing:

“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spiritsof God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the centre, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

This is happening right now. This is what those who died in Christ now experience. This is where our Queen is and in all the glorious and moving pomp and ceremony of today let us remember it pales into insignificance to what she is already experiencing!

Sunday small thought: Look!

Having had his head down and transcribing what Jesus is seeing in the seven churches John puts his pen down. “After this I looked …” (4 v 1)

After this? After the death of your loved one? After the Queen’s death? After the war? After that relationship ended? After that job finished? After that diagnosis? After this.

Whatever has happened to you or to your friends and family, to your church, it is what you do next that counts. “I looked.”

‘After this’ is not a time to wallow in self-pity, anger or disappointment. It is the time for a new chapter for you. You can have a new day if you want. If you do then it starts with this, ‘I looked’. You are looking away from what you have been involved with in order to look on something new.

Perhaps this is what you need to do this Sunday morning.

Victorious: The revelation of and from Jesus Christ

Though I am keen to move on into this revelation I am pausing this morning to meditate on this word ‘victorious’.

“… send her victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over us, God save the Queen!” And He did just that!

But it is a Bible promise. It is there in the letter to each church.

The Church in Ephesus: “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (2:7)

The Church in Smyrna: “The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.” (2:11)

The Church in Pergamum: “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (2:17)

The Church in Thyatira: “To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations” (2:28)

The Church in Sardis: “The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” (3:5)

The Church in Philadelphia: “The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.” (3:12)

The Church in Laodicea: “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.”

You win because He has won!

“To the one who is victorious …” is an invitation to live within His promise of victory.

Jesus Christ has defeated any defeat in your life.

We need to live in that victory. Every illness, every struggle and every difficult circumstance He will control and bring under your feet. Like a conqueror with his feet on the neck of his enemy so will Christ do for you. We have nothing to fear. Victory is on our side.

Accept the invitation to step into His victorious living and then be sent out victorious.

Look and Listen: The Revelation of and from Jesus Christ.

(Remember: the stars are the leaders of the churches which are the golden lampstands. The seven means completeness. So, seven golden lampstands means the whole church; the seven spirits of God are the perfect Spirit of God.)

Read these slowly and meditate:

“These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.” (2 v1) “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.” (2 v 7)

“These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” (2 v8) “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (2 v11)

“These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.” (2 v 12) “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (2 v 17)

“These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” (2 v 18) “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (2 v 29)

“These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” (3 v 1) “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (3 v 6)

“These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David.” (3 v 7) “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (3 v 13)

“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” (3 v 14) “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (3 v 22)

Seeing Jesus and listening to the Spirit are interlinked. You cannot have one without the other.

Look and listen.

Without an understanding of the nature and the power of Jesus there can be no ability to listen to what the Spirit is saying.

This is why worship is the leader of discipleship.

Today carry with you the image of Jesus and worship Him and then listen.

Turn the handle: The revelation of and from Jesus Christ

If we only knew what was available for us!

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3 v 19-22)

He doesn’t want to spit you out. He wants to eat with you.

He doesn’t want you self-sufficient. He wants intimacy with you.

He rebukes you not from a place of anger. He speaks to you from a broken heart.

His discipline is not words alone. His discipline expects an enthusiasm to change the way you think which will then change the way you behave.

His followers can be casual. His true friends have all been brought into line.

He doesn’t want to be left to one side. He wants to be included in everything.

He doesn’t want you to work at your spiritual temperature. He wants to come into your life.

He doesn’t want you to be emotionally detached from Him. He wants you sit on His throne.

So turn the handle. Jesus is knocking at your door.

Casual Christianity: The revelation of and from Jesus Christ.

Throughout these churches we have seen that Jesus has reasons for saying what He does. He uses aspects of their city to challenge the church and He does so with Laodicea.

“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (Revelation 3 v 16-18)

“We are not poor. Look at our wealth. Our city holds a successful banking centre.

We are not blind. Look at all the doctors who want to come and study ophthalmic medicine.

We are not naked. Look at the sheep farmers who are generating the wool for our clothes.”

That would be the reaction of the city of Laodicea and this attitude had crept into the church.

Be careful of being able to prove you are doing well because you may be only a sentence away from saying ‘I don’t need a thing’ and we should always remain in the place of needing Jesus.

In an interesting twist where later Jesus will be inviting them to come and eat from Him. He is saying, “I am going to spit you out of my mouth”. Why?

Because Laodicea may have been able to boast of everything but their water. They didn’t have a natural source at all. In fact they had to bring it in from miles away through a water system of stone pipes. The water that flowed over the cliff into the city was from Hierapolis, 6 miles away, which by the time it reached Laodicea was full of chemicals and unfit to drink.

Casual Christianity can boast but it doesn’t yearn.

Ever heard someone testify of what God has done and you wonder whether or not they truly believed it was God because they themselves seem to be mentioned so much? It’s casual Christianity.

Keep Jesus in His rightful place: The revelation of and from Jesus Christ

The words of Jesus to the church in Laodicea are the strongest amongst all the churches.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16)

Slow this down and look at the titles of Jesus.

Jesus is the Amen. It means He is validated, certain and can be trusted.

Jesus is the faithful and true witness. It means He is the genuine exact representation of God the Father.

Jesus is the ruler of God’s creation. It means everything originates from Him. He is before all things and holds all things together. Can you remember these words from somewhere else? Colossians 1: 15-17 “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

We have to look at the Colossians letter because the Laodicean Church received the same letter with the same instruction because they were facing the same problems. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea …” (Colossians 2:3) and “Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea … After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans …” (Colossians 4: 15-16)

The Apostle attacks the threat of the dethroning of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the exact representation of God, that’s what he says.

Over 30 years later we have proof that Laodicea did not take heed to the teaching of Paul about Jesus right here in these verses today. Jesus has to shake them out of their apathetic perspective of Him.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation”

The world need to know who God is. They need to know what He has done. They need to know who they are as a result of that. They need to know how to live. For that to happen they need to know who Jesus is. They need to know the centrality and supremacy of Christ in 2022. They need to know that when you look at Jesus you look at God.

What the world needs today is to know the amazing truth that the invisible God has allowed himself to be seen and known in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is trustworthy, genuine and the originator of all things!

Settling the score: The revelation of and from Jesus Christ

Persecution doesn’t just come from militants and oppressive regimes but it can come from people very close to you, from neighbours, even family members, people you love. When that happens it hurts even more. It is what was happening to these churches in Asia.

Even places of worship to God can be anything but that. The Christians in Philadelphia were experiencing such opposition from the Jews that Jesus calls them the synagogue of Satan!

“I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3 v 9-13)

If you are facing attacks from people of whatever magnitude then it may be wise for you to heed the message to Philadelphia. Basically, Jesus tells them that what they should do is hold on, wait, continue to follow Him, for He will be the one to settle the score, vengeance is His not ours.

The Jews had their Scriptures to interpret that in the end the nations of the world will bow before them. The truth is what Jesus reveals. The Jewish people, not real Jews at all (synagogue of Satan) will bow down before Jesus and His followers.

The hour of trial will come and this is not 60 minutes but a season and who doesn’t know a time of real difficulty in their life? You may be in it right now. Jesus says ‘hold on!’

As the ancient pillars of temples would have inscriptions on them we also are marked. We have what we must see as the postcode for our destiny marked on our lives. We are citizens of where heaven and earth come together in what is called the New Jerusalem. I met a lady in church yesterday and she has been crippled most of her adult life with mental and physical anguish. She hasn’t yet received her healing but she is holding on to the love of Jesus. I saw the address on her life. It was the New Jerusalem.

No matter how tough your life is whether by being opposed at every turn, oppressed for your faith or facing the extreme trials of life which seem like you are being buffeted by Satan himself, the scores will be settled. There’s a guarantee for He has marked you with a new name. No matter how difficult you will find a way there.

These are not the rapture verses, I don’t think. He will ‘keep you’ not by lifting you from this hour but protecting you in it. Learn to persevere in His presence. For the scores will be settled.