There are so many movies and books with the word “heaven” in the title. In colloquial language it depicts a place of perfection and peace for one day after death, the ultimate Utopia, open for Christians only, and amongst a few Christians, maybe even accessible to some denominations only! The simple definition in Merriam Webster: the place where God lives and where good people go after they die according to some religions; something that is very pleasant or good, sums up our first response to a query about heaven.
In the full definition we might come closer to more concepts attached to the word: the expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome; the dwelling place of the Deity and the blessed dead.
Just a little further in the same dictionary I found a very satisfactory definition of the heaven I think is real. Here it is:
a spiritual state of everlasting communion with God; a state of thought in which sin is absent and the harmony of divine Mind is manifest. In short: heaven is where God is and hell is where God is not.
We might think that heaven is a far place somewhere in this vast universe where all the splendour of Revelation is experienced. I think there is such a place. I also think heaven is right here where I cannot see, all the splendour displayed in the presence of God in my heart, my life and my mind, whenever I am so submitted to the Holy Spirit to “see” with my spirit. Just think for a moment where John was physically when he described the majesty and brilliance of the vision.
Roman prisons or prison colonies, like Patmos, were often the prelude to death and John is banned under the particularly cruel and crazy Dominitian. Miraculously, Nerva, the next emperor, recalls a great deal of Dominitian’s ridiculous laws and John survives to write his vision. He must have “felt” very far from heaven, and still experienced so much in his spirit.
In that moment, after hearing the commendations and the condemnations to the churches, John is called higher. He is called through an open door to heaven, not only a vast place of beauty, but particularly the Throne Room of the Most High. In his description he employs every image, symbol, metaphor, parable, known fable and superstition of the ancient world. For him it is of utmost importance to get the message through in simple, understandable language, at the same time not losing the overwhelming magnificence of the vision.
How many times are we besieged with stress and circumstances, feeling weighed down by this world. Listen to the call that John received: Come up here, and I will show you…
To be with God in His presence is the answer to a crushing, evil world, which seizes us into discouragement and despair.
A heavenly perspective lifts us up from confusion into communion. Praise and worship is vital in our prayers. It will lift us up to receive insight so that the things of the earth and our struggles grow “strangely dim” as the old song says.
Three doors are mentioned in these first chapters of Revelation:
- Door of opportunity – to Philadelphia (3:8)
- Door to the human heart – to Laodicea (3:20)
- Door of prophetic revelation – (4:1) to reveal the knowledge of God. The heavens are opened to bring revelation through vision; to look into the unseen.
… the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. (Ezekiel 1:1)
Jesus talked about the heavenlies in Matthew 18 and meant the unseen around us, not a far away place. Distance in the godly realm is a mystery, but God is never late, so distance does not matter. It is a non-issue. It might feel as if we are waiting long for prophecy to be fulfilled but our assurance from the Word is that is will come. The promise holds the people together and encouraged. (Habakkuk 2:2)
The heavens are opened for the descent of the Spirit just as it happened at the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:10). The heavens are opened to reveal the glory of God just as it was promised to Nathanael in John 1:51.
God on the throne is mentioned in every chapter except 2,8 and 9. It was a common image in the Old Testament: 1 Kings 22:19, Psalm 47:8, Isaiah 6:1 and served as symbol of the majesty of God. The trumpet was always a call to attention that could not be ignored.
There is no attempt to describe God. He has no human shape. He is depicted with light as in Psalm 104:2 and 1 Timothy 6:15,16: He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.
The light is reflected in precious stones as mentioned in Ezekiel 28:13 and the precious stones of the breastplate of the high priest in Exodus 28:17. It is the foundation of the holy city in Revelation 21:19.
Jasper was translucent. It could be that the jasper is a diamond, bright and pure. Sardius is blood red, speaking of wrath and the green emerald is a symbol for mercy. It is the dominant colour of the rainbow, a sign of covenant promise and faithfulness.
There was once a testimony of a vision of heaven that said the colours have fragrance. It stayed with me. How much more is there to experience in countless dimensions and sharp, divinely enlightened senses?
The 24 thrones with elders depict the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles, the Jews and the church – clothed and crowned. Some commentators suggest it might be only the church and the apostles multiplied by the double anointing that is well known throughout Scripture.
Their white clothes is a symbol of robes washed in the blood of the Lamb in the colour of heaven and golden crowns that represent every precious blessing and victory in Christ.
Thunder and lightning are always associated with the majesty of God’s awesome wonder and power and associated with the presence of God. (Ezekiel 1:13, Psalm 77:18, Job 37:4. Exodus 19:16.)
The seven lamps are the seven Spirits. It speaks of the fullness of the Holy Spirit and completion of God’s purpose through His spirit.
Lamps of fire or torches were always the symbol of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2, Luke 3:16.) Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
The sea of glass is described as a crystal sea. In ancient times glass was usually dull. Clear glass was almost like precious stone. The combination of the concepts of the sea (vast and unconquered) plus crystal (clear, light and precious) describes God as unapproachable and distant in all His majesty to emphasize holiness. He is never familiar. (Exodus 24:10.)
Psalm 36:6: Your judgments are a great deep.
The living creatures are full of eyes, a richness of insight and watchfulness. They know everything, nothing is hidden.
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13
The four living creatures are described as cherubim (plural in Hebrew/ singular= cherub). They are the highest ranking celestial beings. Their wings cover the mercy seat in the Tabernacle and the Temple. It is no surprise to find them here at the Throne; in worship without ceasing. They have functions. They hand the bowls of wrath (15:7) to the angels.
They are symbols of: majestic courage (lion), strength (ox), intelligence (man), speed (eagle); noble, strong, wise and swift. All of nature and man comes together in praise to God. (Psalm 102:22)
Their being and working are all in praise of God. Worship is to live in obedience. All the time, everywhere, they exist to worship.
Some commentators see the symbolic emphasis of the four Gospels in these living creatures. In Matthew the emphasis on Jesus is as a descendent of the tribe of Judah as is represented in the genealogy in the first chapter – the lion. In Mark the emphasis is on the humanity of Jesus – the man. In Luke the focus is on the sacrificial death of Jesus – the ox and John is like no other in describing Jesus as the answer to the world in every way possible, addressing the philosophy and intelligentsia of the time. The eagle has a unique perspective and can look into the sun without blinking.
Worship is an awareness of who God is. His holiness, omnipotence and everlastingness always cast a new perspective in worship. It is when the elders rise from their knees, that they constantly see a new reason to worship, casting their crowns continually; submitting and relinquishing all that has value before God in full submission and total surrender.
It is only by Holy Spirit insight that – He can reveal to you personally what the crown is that you have to throw down – disobedience, holding on to treasure, ego, ambition, tradition, superstition…
A heavenly perspective in our life is a treasure worth holding on to. It changes our thinking, renews our minds and makes us strong.
Lord, that I may see you on your throne, ruling over my life from your majesty and splendour, the goodness of your character and the source of love.
What can man do to me?
Record in Revelation is NOT chronological. It is a record of events.