Uniform Adult Sunday School Lesson For April 22, 2018
To recognize the power of symbol in ritual and worship
Background: Revelation 4
Revelation 4:1-6, 8-11 (CEB)
1 After this I looked and there was a door that had been opened in heaven. The first voice that I had heard, which sounded like a trumpet, said to me, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in a Spirit-inspired trance and I saw a throne in heaven, and someone was seated on the throne. 3 The one seated there looked like jasper and carnelian, and surrounding the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald. 4 Twenty-four thrones, with twenty-four elders seated upon them, surrounded the throne. The elders were dressed in white clothing and had gold crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came lightning, voices, and thunder. In front of the throne were seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God. 6 Something like a glass sea, like crystal, was in front of the throne. In the center, by the throne, were four living creatures encircling the throne. These creatures were covered with eyes on the front and on the back. . . .
8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings, and each was covered all around and on the inside with eyes. They never rest day or night, but keep on saying,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is coming.”
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the one seated on the throne, who lives forever and always, 10 the twenty-four elders fall before the one seated on the throne. They worship the one who lives forever and always. They throw down their crowns before the throne and say,
11“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, because you created all things. It is by your will that they existed and were created.”
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, because you created all things. It is by your will that they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)
Today's lesson is a leap from the days after the resurrection to the apocalyptic scenes that John experiences in the Book of Revelation.
The Book of Revelation is an example of apocalyptic literature. Simply defined, in this type of literature a seer is given a vision of the future and writes it down. The vision is usually filled with symbolism.
In this book, the seer is John, the beloved disciple, who has been exiled by the Romans to the tiny Isle of Pathos. John has been chosen by God to receive a look into the future and what lies ahead. And to share with the seven churches of that period, but also with us who would follow.
At the time of John’s vision, the accepted view was the universe was like a three story building, “consisting of the earth, with Hades, the bottomless pit, and the lake of fire below, and a single heaven above.” Another ancient view was that “there were seven heavens . . . God dwelled, as a rule, in the highest heaven.” Moses reflected this view when he told the people of Israel, “Clearly, the Lord owns the sky, the highest heavens, the earth, and everything in it” (Deuteronomy 10:14).
What John saw in this vision is described in verses 3-8. All that John saw was symbolic of a place beyond our wildest imagination. Throughout the Old Testament God’s presence is often associated with thunder and lightning.
Interestingly the jewels mentioned are the same jewels that were sewn into the breastplate of the High Priest as recorded in (Exodus 28:15, 17, 20).
The rainbow was a full circle rather than the arc we normally see. The Twenty- four elders could represent the twelve tribes and the twelve disciples, or it could represent the early martyrs of Christianity, like Peter, Paul, John the Baptist, Stephen, James and others, John is the only surviving disciple and many martyrs have given their life.
You have to jump to the next chapter (5:6) to see that the Lamb of God was also standing before the throne.
The seven spirits of God could be the “Gifts of the Spirit” (Romans 12:6-8) 6 We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. 7 If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. 8 If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.”
Also those recorded in Isaiah 11:2-3 “2 The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. 3 He will delight in fearing the Lord.He won’t judge by appearances, nor decide by hearsay.”
There is another theory that they represent the perfect (seven meaning perfection) Spirit of God. (The third person of the Trinity)
As for the Four beast that are all eyes that sees all, I think it is a depiction of God’s omnipresence in the four corners of the earth, but no theologians seem to agree.
Remember this whole scene is about worshipping God, today in our sanctuaries we have many symbols to remind us of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, all being part of the Triune God we worship.
There is a hymn that talks about some of these things, it was written many years ago by Fanny Crosby “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine!” and in the second verse “Angels descending bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love.”