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True Sightings

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
February 5, 2024 12:00 am

True Sightings

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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February 5, 2024 12:00 am

Listen to the full-length version of this message, or the other messages in this series here: https://www.wisdomonline.org/the-first-hymns-of-heaven.   The vision of heaven that John gives us in Revelation 4 is nothing like those we see on television or even imagine in our minds. His poetic imagery is peculiar and almost fantastical at first sight. But as Stephen helps us envision this heavenly scene, our eyes will be opened to the incredible reality of it.

 

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Here is the church, I believe, that has been led to heaven in a triumphal procession and we likewise sing and shout, you are worthy. We sing because of who He is.

Secondly, because of what He has done for you, created all things and by your will they existed and were created. Ladies and gentlemen, the glory of God is unimaginable and the security and joy of the church is forever unchanging. As the Apostle Paul was imprisoned on an island toward the end of his life, God allowed him to see beyond this age. John saw past the rapture of the church into the future age when we, the church, are in heaven singing praises to God. John wrote down what God showed him in the book of Revelation. It's the only true eyewitness account we have, so what John records is very important. Exploring God's throne room is our theme today here on Wisdom for the Heart.

Stephen Davey is in Revelation chapter four with a lesson that he's calling, True Sightings. Now because of the fact that we live in the land of the dying, right, and people all around us, and we ourselves eventually will die, we're curious. We intuitively know that there's life after death.

We talked about that in our last session. Even the unbeliever who says he doesn't does. But because we're curious and we want to know about this experience and life after death, our curiosity can either be rooted in the Scriptures or it can open the door to a lot of interesting views, shall we say. A lot of opportunity for charlatans to peddle their books and their CDs on their own experiences they supposedly had and the things that they supposedly saw in heaven.

I just sort of read through a catalog of them this week. I read of one man's trip to heaven. He was transported there for five days. He said he saw Jesus who happened to be in the middle of supervising the construction of mansions, which is an interesting thought considering the fact that Christ created the universe and the animal kingdom and man and woman all in six days, but he hasn't been able to finish heaven in 2,000 years. Now the Bible says Christ ascended and was seated, Hebrews 10-12, meaning he was finished. He didn't ascend and put on bib overalls. He didn't pick up a hammer and nails. John will record for us in this vision, recorded nearly 2,000 years ago in this revelation, and when he saw the heavenly city, it was already what?

It was already finished. You won't hear of John speaking of scaffolding anywhere. Jesus isn't looking over blueprints. Another man toured heaven and has been on all the Christian talk shows. He claimed to have been taken personally by Christ on a tour of heaven, specifically taken to a gigantic warehouse where he saw, and I quote him, on one side of the building, arms, fingers, legs, and all sorts of body parts stocked inside the warehouse.

He said there were shelves filled with neat little packages of eyes, green eyes, brown eyes, blue eyes. This building contained all the parts of the human body that people on earth need, and Jesus said to me, and I quote, these are unclaimed blessings. This building should not be full.

It should be emptied every single day. You should come in here with faith and get the needed body parts for you and the people you pray for. The man was even shown a huge medicine cabinet in heaven, stocked with pill bottles, labeled peace, and other pill bottles labeled overdose of the Holy Ghost. He talked about riding the Holy Ghost elevator and wading into the river of life where he and Jesus had a water fight. Yet another celebrated author talked about being given a tour of heaven where the Lord took him into the record room where every idle word was recorded and for which every believer will be judged, and I praise God that is a lie.

And then, however, afterwards, see all of it emptied into the sea of forgetfulness. He was also taken to a garment room where he saw angels sewing our robes. One more.

This is all free, okay? This man on Christian television talk shows explained, in fact, while he was doing it, the talk show host, Christian talk show host kept interrupting him saying, that's meaty, that's wonderful. Oh, great. He was taken to heaven, a near death experience. He explained that he learned the primary nerve in God's cranium is the sense of smell. He learned that the sacrificial system was designed to satisfy God's cranial nerve. All the while, being interrupted, this was meaty and wonderful. This man went on to say that he picked some flowers and noticed there wasn't any water in their stems because Jesus is the living water.

These are just a few. Not to mention others more recent of people who have gone to heaven and everything seemed to focus or center on themselves. Everyone was exactly as they remembered.

Even grandparents look the same. Praise God, that's not true, right? Why does this stuff sell?

Why do people lap it up? Because we know there's something out there and we, as Christians, are curious. Unfortunately, we don't often go back to the scriptures to see if those things are so, but there's nothing wrong with our curiosity. Let's discover together several sightings that we could call true sightings, authentic realities of the throne room of God. Let's pick our study back up in Revelation chapter 4 and to prime the pump, let's go back to verse 1 and sort of get a running start here. Remember we talked a lot about after this, that is after the church age ends and is raptured to heaven. Remember the church on earth was the focus of chapters 1, 2 and 3 where God spoke to the church, Christ the chief shepherd. Now the scene shifts, after that, now this and the church disappears on earth and the church is now in heaven speaking to God as we'll see in a little bit.

So you could kind of think through it this way if we could expand the translation. After the scene shifts from earth to heaven, I looked and behold the door standing open in heaven and the first voice which I had 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 behold a throne stood in heaven.

It was immediately, instantly arrested by the presence of God. Now not grandpa and grandma, God who is the center and focus of glory and immediately he is arrested by this throne and he who sat there had the appearance of Jasper, Carnellian or Sardius. Around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. So we could say that his first sighting was the throne of God. Now his second sighting are several other thrones, look at verse 4, around God's throne, this throne were 24 thrones and seated on the thrones were 24 elders clothed in white garments with golden crowns on their heads. The second sighting here is these 24 thrones upon which sat 24 elders.

This is where we pick up our study for today. Now as we attempt to identify who these 24 elders are, it's helpful to know that the number 24 in scriptures is a representative number. Often it is used to represent a host of others like them. For instance there were 24 officers of the sanctuary representing the 24 divisions of the Old Testament priests, a number that represented several thousand priests. There were also 24 divisions of singers in the temple representing several mass choirs with hundreds of singers.

First Chronicles chapter 25. Now this has led some to believe that these 24 elders represent Israel. Now the major challenge with this view is that Israel is about to undergo national judgment on earth and redemption which comes during the tribulation found in Revelation chapters 6 through 19. These elders here are prior to the tribulation victorious. They are crowned men and the events are yet to take place where Israel is yet to be redeemed and rewarded. So I don't believe it is Israel. Others believe that they represent two groups of representatives, the 12 apostles and the 12 sons of Israel or of Jacob.

It makes for easy math but this group will appear not as a combination of two distinct groups but a unified group made up of the same identity. Furthermore if they were the 12 apostles I believe John would have referenced himself or he would have been there but he speaks of this from a detached perspective. Others believe that these elders represent martyred tribulation saints, those that are killed in this tribulation for their faith. The problem with that view of course is that when the tribulation saints do appear in chapter 7 the elders have already been present. Others say they are angels seated near the throne of God designed to worship him.

This is actually an attractive perspective. It would be my second place choice not out of context with the sighting of heaven. One of the problems and there are several however with this particular viewpoint is that angels are never ever called elders. They are never called presbuteroi, translated elders. This is the term for the leader. In fact the representative of the church leaders in local churches are called presbuteroi or elders. Paul wrote to Timothy in the New Testament book of 1 Timothy 5 verse 17, let the elders presbuteroi, same word you find here in Revelation, who rule well be considered worthy of double honor especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. So this is a term for the New Testament church leader. So here in heaven's court you have what could easily be the representative of the church, literally the elders, 24 of them representing the church itself sitting upon their thrones.

Another difficulty in believing these elders are angels is that the angels are never shown in scripture wearing stefanoi, wearing crowns. This is the victor's crown. A stefanos in the ancient Olympic games was a crown given to the champion as a bestowal of honor to him and to his god, his patron god. In fact the victor's hometown would hold a celebration upon his return home and at this festival the victorious athlete would present his crown in the temple to his patron god, which only adds to my belief if you haven't picked up on it by now, is that these elders represent the raptured, redeemed church. Raptured prior to what will unfold in chapter 6 and on, the church which now disappears from the book of Revelation after chapters 4 and 5 where they are found singing. In fact if you look down at verse 11 in chapter 4 some of the lyrics strike me, worthy are you our, Lord.

This is a personal possessive claim to their redeemer. You see I believe what's happened is the promise of Christ to the churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 have come true. He promised the church in his letters that they would be robed in white garments, chapter 3 verses 15 and 18 and here they are robed in white. He promised that they would be rewarded with Stephanos, crowns upon their heads, chapter 3 verse 11 and here they are crowned. Furthermore they are seated on thrones, a picture of the victorious church promised in Revelation chapter 3 verse 21. Seen again by the way in chapter 20 of Revelation verse 4 which reads, and I saw thrones and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.

That gives us a wonderful clue. Paul leaves no doubt who that is in 1 Corinthians 6 where he says to the church, do you not know that the saints will one day judge the world? These aren't angels, they aren't the 12 apostles and 12 sons of Jacob, they aren't the tribulation saints. I believe due to their garments and their crowns and their thrones, specifically promised during the church age to the redeemed and due to their personal worship of their Lord and God, these represent the company of the redeemed. He is seeing into the future and he is seeing you and me.

Imagine that. Worshipping the Lord, following the rapture of the church. Now John shifts his focus back on this rather amazing throne and he makes a third sighting, we'll just call it phenomena, surrounding the throne of God.

Look at verse 5. From the throne came flashes of lightning and rumblings and peals of thunder. From the throne, literally tells us that these peals of thunder and flashes of lightning and sounds are actually coming from God, not from the seat, not from anything around it, but from him. If you can imagine flashes of lightning emanating from the person of God.

These are sights and sounds of judgment, friends, not of grace. These are the sounds that take you immediately back to Moses where he is given the law by God, where God says don't touch the mountain. The mountain is covered with dark skies and flashes of lightning and the whole earth trembles and shakes. At the end of human history, God's throne literally becomes a weapon of war. You can't imagine the terror of the sovereign throne as God's wrath is about to be unleashed upon the earth, but don't miss the fact that in the midst of this, the saints are not cowering or singing.

We are not trembling in fear, we are rejoicing as we'll see in a moment in song. So while the whole earth experiences the wrath of God with utter terror, in fact it is so terrifying that their stubborn hearts will not repent, they cry out to the mountains, Revelation 6 tells us, and to the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the face of him who is seated on this throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. John makes a fourth sighting, that of the Holy Spirit, middle part of verse 5, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God. This is another reference that takes us back to Revelation chapter 1 verse 4 where the Holy Spirit is introduced, specifically with the number 7, representing perfection or completion. A reference most believe is a reference to Isaiah's vision of the seven-fold ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John makes a fifth observation in this genuine tour of heaven. He talks of the sea of glass. Look at verse 6, and before the throne, literally all around it and underneath it, there was as it were a sea of glass like crystal. This is another one of those places where vocabulary fails the Apostle John to describe the shimmering floor of this awesome courtroom. He simply says it shone brilliantly like crystal, like crystal, reflecting then all of the sights around the throne, the glory of God, the emerald rainbow, the golden thrones or crowns, the white robes, the fiery torches of the spirits, all of it, all of it reflected off what looked to him to be maybe as big as the floor of this gymnasium or maybe a hundred times bigger. It just shone like, well, it was like a sea of glass shining like crystal.

It's the only way he could put it. One author provoked my thinking when he reminded his readers that a good architect will often put a fountain or a pool of water in front of a building, which immediately doubles its beauty as the building is reflected in the pool and at night, again, doubles the light coming from it. It makes it even more magnificent.

So imagine the added splendor that now everything you see is doubled and tripled and quadrupled as it reflects and refracts an overwhelming sight. It leads the hosts of heaven to sing, to sing. Now, number six, his next sighting is strange creatures, strange angelic beings. Notice the middle part of verse six.

He says, and around the throne, on each side of the throne are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind. Now, if you want to read Ezekiel's vision of these cherubim, they're described in chapter one, similar to his vision, but different. Similar to John's vision is Ezekiel's, yet different.

Similar to Isaiah's vision of the seraphim in Isaiah six, yet different. More than likely, these are cherubim who can change their appearance at will, just as we observe angels taking on human shape or appearance in the New Testament. We know that the cherubim are the highest order of angelic beings. Most people picture cherubs as fat little naked babies who fly around in little wings and shoot arrows at people to make them fall in love, right?

Well, that's good for Hallmark. It's not true of heaven. The cherub or cherubim, its plural form, are majestic. They are awe-inspiring.

In fact, they are impossible to fully describe creatures. It was the cherubim that stood with swords of fire outside the garden to not allow anybody entrance after Adam and Eve were expelled. It is the cherubim whose forms are sculpted out of solid gold, two of them with their wings stretching over the ark of the covenant and another one whose wings touched. It was cherubim who with golden thread are pictured in the veil separating the holy of holies.

Must have been an amazing sight. It is the cherubim that are engraved into the wall of Solomon's glorious temple. It is the cherubim here who are standing ready. Ezekiel says they're able to come and go at the flash of lightning to do his bidding. Their power of perception, the alertness of them is crafted into their very makeup. They're covered with eyes, which I would take to mean they are alert in their diligence and in their power of perception and very well may have been difficult to imagine. Listen, the trouble I have with everybody else's vision of heaven is I can easily understand.

But this vision leaves me without understanding. Here are true sightings of the glory of God and the creatures of heaven that leave John at a loss for words and just sort of stretches all of our imagination. And he's not finished stretching our imagination here because of how he describes them.

Look at verse seven. He says the first of the four, the first living creature looked like a lion, had a face like a lion. The second living creature, if we could expand it, he's saying had a face that looked like an ox or a calf. The third living creature had the face of a man. The fourth living creature looked like an eagle in flight. Maybe his entire being with wings spread.

But imagine this rather strange, awesome scene. And all John can say is, well, they look like this and they look like that and they look like this and they look like that. I have uncovered more views on these creatures than you want to hear, including the view that they represent the four gospels. They represent the four points of the zodiac and all kinds of views. What we do know is that they are exalted, angelic creations of God. Though distinguished later on from other angels, it can be explained, I believe, by their exalted state. There is a hierarchy of angels, Lucifer once holding the highest position among them all, Isaiah 14. We also know from this text that they are deeply involved in announcing the coming judgments of the tribulation. You're going to hear them speak in chapter 6, and these four creatures will call forth the four horsemen in chapter 6, verse 1, 3, 5, and 7. They are the ones, it seems, who are given to make the announcement of the verdict of God's judgment. In fact, in chapter 15, they will actually give to the seven angels the seven bowls that will be poured out. Now, why they look like they do, we don't know.

It won't be the first time you hear me say, I don't know. I did my homework, but I don't know. I could toss my hat easily in with evangelical scholars who believe they represent animate creation. Seems to make sense to me. The lion represents wild creatures. The calf or ox represents domestic animals. The man represents the pinnacle of God's creation.

The eagle represents creatures of the air. Others, and it isn't too much of a stretch, perhaps, to see in them a representation of God's attributes, the nobility and majesty of the lion, the servant strength of the ox, the reason and will of mankind, and the soaring swiftness of the eagle. Whatever they are, John hears very clearly what they say.

No doubt there. Look at verse 8. Day and night, they do not cease to say, holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come. This hymn now from them provokes a hymn from the redeemed. Here's the second hymn. Look at verse 9. Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the 24 elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever, they cast their crowns before the throne. And the first words in the hymn of the redeemed are these.

Notice in the text, verse 11. Worthy are you, our Lord and God. Worthy, wonderful word, axios. Worthy, this was the word used of the Roman emperor when he marched back to the capital city in that triumphal procession and people would cheer and their songs would be sung of his axios, of the fact that he is worthy. Here's the church, I believe, that has been led to heaven in a triumphal procession and we likewise sing and shout axios.

You are worthy. We sing that he is our emperor, triumphant, he is our Lord and he is worthy. And why do we sing of his worthiness?

Two reasons are given within the hymn lyrics. Because of who he is, you are our Lord and God, worthy of receiving glory and honor and praise. We sing of his worthiness because of who he is.

Secondly, because of what he has done. Here we sing, for you created all things and by your will they existed and were created. Ladies and gentlemen, the glory of God is indescribable. The throne room setting of God is unimaginable and the security and joy of the church is forever unchangeable.

No doubt about it. We serve the living, resplendent, sovereign, seated, magnificent Lord whose throne flashes lightning and sounds forth thunder, whose creatures encircle, singing praise and where we, the redeemed, fall and cast our rewards before him. This is our Lord and he is the one true and living sovereign. No wonder the saints who fully understand it in this future day cannot help but sing. One day those of us who know and love the true God will sing praise to him in his presence in heaven.

What a wonderful truth. This is Wisdom for the Heart, the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. We're currently in a series from Revelation 4 called, The First Hymns of Heaven. In addition to being the president of Wisdom International, Stephen is also the president of Shepherds Theological Seminary. If you or someone you know is interested in graduate level theological training, consider Shepherds. Visit wisdomonline.org forward slash STS to get started. Then join us back here next time to discover more Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-10 11:57:16 / 2024-02-10 12:06:38 / 9

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