SOUL communion with the Redeemer was sweet to the prophet John, as he lived alone on Patmos; and the actual meeting with Christ in that first vision, which opened before his mind the future history of the church, had drawn him very near to the object of his love. "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven." Stephen, while men were killing the body, looked, and the heavens opened; and he said, "Behold, I see ... the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." As Christ rose in sympathy with that suffering disciple, so the yearning felt by John, touched the heart of Christ, and the prophet heard again the trumpet tone saying, "Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter."
Only the spiritual eye can gaze on things of God; and few mortals have allowed the spiritual side of their natures to be developed until it is possible to leave earthly scenes, and view the realms above. John was one, who, when God said "Come," could go. Ezekiel was another who had the privilege of visiting heaven; and he describes, as best the human language can portray, the glories of the throne of God.
When Christ called, Gabriel conducted John into the sanctuary above, into the very presence of Jehovah. He says, "Immediately I was in the Spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and One sat on the throne." "A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary." As Moses, before the burning bush, was commanded to take off his shoes; "for," said the Lord, "the place whereon thou standest is holy ground;" so one feels to step lightly when in the presence of the scenes which John portrays.
Heaven, from whatever standpoint it may be viewed, presents the plan of Redemption. This plan is the one all-absorbing theme of the universe of God; and heaven reflects it in all its works. Only the sinful heart of man, is unmindful of the work of God in overcoming the effects of the fall. The things presented to John show that the activity of the heavenly beings is spent in the service of man. "He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald." The light of the glory of God, as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ, is a light of dazzling whiteness, its rays are unbroken.
The rainbow in the clouds is but a symbol of the rainbow which has encircled the throne from eternity. Back in the ages, which finite mind cannot fathom, the Father and Son were alone in the universe. Christ was the first begotten of the Father, and to Him Jehovah made known the divine plan of Creation.
The plan of the creation of worlds was unfolded, together with the order of beings which should people them. Angels, as representatives of one order, would be ministers of the God of the universe. The creation of our own little world, was included in the deep-laid plans. The fall of Lucifer was foreseen; likewise the possibility of the introduction of sin, which would mar the perfection of the divine handiwork. It was then, in those early councils, that Christ's heart of love was touched; and the only begotten Son pledged His life to redeem man, should he yield and fall. Father and Son, surrounded by impenetrable glory, clasped hands. It was in appreciation of this offer, that upon Christ was bestowed creative power, and the everlasting covenant was made; and henceforth Father and Son, with one mind, worked together to complete the work of creation. Sacrifice of self for the good of others was the foundation of it all. As angels came into being at the command of Jehovah, heaven was so arranged that the plan of salvation could be read by them in everything. The arrangement of the angels in their work about the throne, is a picture of the redeeming love of God. Angelic beings know nothing different. Thus all heaven waits for the redemption of man. Even the stones which compose the foundation walls, have voices which speak of the atonement. The colors reflected from every object in the heavenly court speak louder of the power and infinite mercy of God than mortal tongue can speak. Human language cannot tell the story. It is beyond description. Throughout eternity, as one thing after another reveals the love of the Father, the redeemed, like the living creatures now about the throne, will sing, "Holy, holy, holy."
Upon the face of our own world, is reflected this story; for nature is "the mirror of divinity;" but man is blind, and he misinterprets those things which point unmistakably to a God of love. The purpose of this revelation of Jesus Christ to the apostle John is to show men how near God is to the creatures of His hand; that Jehovah's voice may be heard explaining the plan of Redemption.
As a token of the covenant between Father and Son, the bow was placed about the throne. "Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face," for "mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." After the flood, the rainbow in the cloud was but a faint reflection of the constant reminder in heaven of the everlasting covenant made for the salvation of man before the foundation of the world.
Sin hides God's love from us, shutting out from the soul the rays of light from the throne of mercy. As the cloud gives forth the rain, and the sun, shining through the drops, produces the rainbow, so "the tears of the penitent are only the rain drops that precede the sunshine of holiness." The Sun of Righteousness, shining upon the tears of the penitent, makes manifest the glory of God, of which "the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain" is a likeness.
When God looks upon the bow, He remembers the everlasting covenant. In our own storm clouds, God and man look upon the same bow; to man it is a promise of forgiveness; to God a reminder of mercy.
Turning from the Father, who sat upon the throne, John saw four and twenty seats round about the throne. These seats were occupied by four and twenty elders, "clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold." These also represent the atoning work of Christ. They represent men from every kindred, tongue, and people, redeemed by the blood of Christ, clothed with the white raiment of His righteousness, and wearing on their heads the crowns of victory, which are promised to every overcomer. They were of that company who arose from the grave when Christ came from the tomb, and who are spoken of by Paul as a "multitude of captives," offered to the Father as the first fruits from the dead. The work of these four and twenty elders is described in the fifth chapter, and for that reason, they are but mentioned in this connection as sitting near the throne.
The throne of God is a throne of life; not an inanimate throne. As John looked, he saw lightnings and heard thunderings and voices. He is viewing the center of creation, -- the throne of God. It is the great body of life, the source of all law. By the power which centers there, worlds are held in space, and suns complete their circuits. The power which holds the universe in space, and binds atoms together, emanates from this throne of life.
Angels are the ministers sent forth to do the will of Him who sits as King. Some are light-bearers to worlds, others are guardian angels for little children upon earth; but whatever the mission, whether great or small, as measured in humanity's scales, there is the same obedience to the mandates of Jehovah. Issuing from the presence of the Father, clothed in the reflection of His own light, those messengers disappear like flashes of lightning. The commands given, when spoken in an unknown tongue, sounded like the roar of the sea, or like deep and distant thunder. Other men have heard God speak when His voice sounded like thunder. This was so at Sinai, and also, when, near the close of His ministry, men gathered about Christ in the temple court. To the Son it was the voice of God; to men it was thunder. John heard other voices which he understood. He saw also the seven spirits of God, which, in the earthly tabernacle, were typified by the seven lamps upon the golden candlestick. These stood before the throne. This was the ever present, allpervading Spirit of Jehovah, in which all life has its origin.
The throne was high and lifted up, as Jeremiah saw it. Ezekiel describes the throne as above a firmament, having the appearance of "terrible crystal." And this crystal firmament, or expanse, rested above the heads of four living creatures, which were full of eyes. John was accustomed to the placid waters of the Mediterranean, and the space about the throne is described by him as "a sea of glass like unto crystal."
"And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts [or living creatures] full of eyes before and behind."
These four living creatures represent four phases of the character of God. The first was like a lion, the second like a calf, or an ox, as Ezekiel says, the third had the face of a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle. This again establishes the fact that when the plan of redemption was laid, all heaven was in unison with the plan. Ezekiel and John, one before Christ's advent, the other after, describe the same thing, showing that the New Testament is but the unfolding of the Old.
Christ in His life upon earth combined these four natures. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, of whom it was prophesied, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come." As lawgiver and governor, Christ represented the kingly nature of the Father. When the tribes were given their places about the sanctuary, Judah was located on the east; and as they journeyed, the standard of Judah went before them. In the Gospels, Matthew begins with the genealogy, showing the right of Christ to the throne of David. There was, in the life of Emmanuel, a union of divinity with humanity. Christ was the firstborn in heaven; He was likewise the firstborn of God upon earth, and heir to the Father's throne. Christ, the firstborn, though the Son of God, was clothed in humanity, and was made perfect through suffering. He took the form of man, and through eternity, He will remain a man.
Every firstborn into human families is a type of the offering made by Christ. Mark, in his life of Christ, gives the servant side. The second face was that of the calf, or the ox, the servant of men. This represents the priesthood, -- the Levites who were chosen for service. Christ is both the slain lamb, and the priest who ministers in the sanctuary on high. He bore the sins of the world in His own body on the cross, and the burden crushed Him to death. The most exalted position, and the most lowly position are here represented, -- God in the heavens, and God on the cross. As Levites always accompanied the tabernacle, so Christ ministers constantly to man. Heaven will know no other story till man is redeemed from the earth. Every beast of burden beneath its load, every overworked child of God, is a reminder of the Christ who became the servant of men. Although He stepped into the lowliest place, yet He was still the giver of the law, and He is judge of all. The Gospel of Luke describes the man side of the Son, giving that part of His life work, which appeals most forcibly to the mind of man. As God took the form of man, there is, in the gift, a promise that man may have the nature of his God. The keen eye of the flying eagle is taken to represent the searching gaze of Him whose eyes, as a flame of fire, "run to and fro throughout the whole earth, strongly to hold with them whose heart is perfect toward Him." Among the different writers, it was John, the beloved disciple, who saw the character of Christ portrayed as the glorious Word, One equal with the Father in might, power, and glory, and his gospel completes the inspired record of the Saviour's life.
He portrayed the divine character more fully than any other writer. This is represented by the eagle flying heavenward.
In the heavenly court, there is such an overpowering sense of the infinite work of God that the four living creatures cry constantly, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." And in the song of heaven, those redeemed from among men, take up the response; and casting their crowns before the throne, they sing, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."
Page 92; Heb. 11:27; John 14:21; John 17:20-23; Song Sol. 2:16; Song Sol. 8:6, 7; Rev. 4:1; Acts 7:55, 56; Isa. 63:9; Zech. 2:8; Rev. 1:10.
Page 93; Rom. 11:33, 34; 2Cor. 12:3, 4; Rev. 4:2; Jer. 17:12; Ex. 3:2-5; 1Sam. 6:20; Num. 4:5, 19, 20; 2Sam. 6:7-11; 1Kings 21:27; Heb. 12:29; Rom. 5:8; 1Cor. 4:9; Heb. 1:14; Isa. 1:3; Eze. 1:14; Dan. 9:20-23; Rev. 4:3; 2Cor. 4:4; Eze. 1:28; Matt. 17:1-3; Luke 9:28, 29; Rev. 10:1; Eze. 1:26, 27.
Page 94; Gen. 9:13; Zech. 6:12, 13; Gen. 1:26; 1Pet. 1:19, 20; 2Tim. 1:9, 10; Eph. 1:4, 5; Heb. 1:13, 14; Rev. 5:7; Isa. 14:12-14; Col. 1:20; Col. 1:14-17; Heb. 13:20; John 14:10; Phil. 2:6-11; Rom. 8:22, 23; Hab. 2;11; Josh. 24:27; Rev. 21:1921.
Page 95; Rom. 1:20; Deut. 30:11-13; Gen. 9:16; Psa. 89:14; Psa. 85:10; Heb. 13:20, 21; Isa. 59:12.
Page 96; Isa. 38:17; Gen. 9:14, 15; Rev. 4:4; 1Chron. 24:1-5, 19; Luke 1:8; Rev. 5:9; 2Tim. 4:7, 8; 1Cor. 9:24, 25; Jas. 1:12; Matt. 27:51-53; Eph. 4:8 [margin.]; Psa. 68:18; Rev. 4:5; Eze. 1:4-26; Heb. 1:2.
Page 97; Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:17; Psa. 103:21; John 12:28, 29; Psa. 36:9; Acts 17:12; Jer. 17:12; Rev. 4:6.
Page 98; Eze. 1:26:27; Ex. 24:10; Eze. 10:1; Rev. 15:2; Eze. 10:8-22; Eze. 1:514; Rev. 4:7, 8; Luke 3:23-33; Gen. 49:9, 10; Isa. 9:6,7; Rev. 19:16; Num. 2:3; Num. 10:14; Matt. 1:1; Matt. 1:23; John 1:18; Heb. 1:6; Gen. 49:3; 1Tim. 3:16; Gal. 4:4.
Page 99; Mark 1:1, 2; 1Pet. 2:24; Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:10; Ex. 13:2; Num. 3:1451; Heb. 2:17, 18; Jas. 4:12; Luke 1:1-3; John 1:1, 2; Rev. 4:9.
Page 100; Rev. 4:10, 11; Rev. 14:2, 3.