A door stood open – Revelation Bible Guide Day 7
February 27, 2018
To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat
down with my Father on his throne.
After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! 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.” 2At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! 3And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. 4Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. 5Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; 6and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.
Points of Interest
- “a door stood open” — Heaven in the New Testament isn’t a particular place or time, certainly not just some realm in the skies where dead people go. It’s the sphere of reality where God lives and rules, both outside of space and time as we know it and yet accessible in our space and time as well. Mysterious, but accessible – the door is open.
- “in the Spirit” – Chapter four begins the first of seven visions which make up most of the rest of Revelation. John’s vision is described metaphorically as a journey he takes into heaven – God’s realm – to see what’s going on with God behind the scenes of what we see on earth.
- “there in heaven stood a throne” – This throne-room scene feels like a mash-up of two places familiar to John: the center of a temple and the center of a palace. From the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and the imperial cult of the Roman Empire, these centers of beauty and power and mystery were familiar to John. The Old Testament often pictures God living in a temple or ruling from a throne. Each time, the writers go overboard with the imagery to communicate that God is more powerful and more beautiful than anything they have yet seen. At least one goal of this imagery is to re-center us. No president or boss is the center of power on earth – God is. And no celebrity or marketing prop most radiates beauty – God does.
- “jasper and carnelian” – God’s looking pretty fly. Jasper is a stone that, when clear, sparkles and flashes, and carnelian is a deep red. What this evokes for me is that God is stunning and beautiful, on the one hand absolutely transparent with nothing to hide, and on the other hand, possessing the depth and power and light of fire.
- “a rainbow” – Above everything that is powerful and mysterious and fierce around this throne is a beautiful, green-hued rainbow. Dating back to the ancient flood story in Genesis, this has been an image of the kindness and mercy and promise of God.
- “around the throne are … twenty-four elders” – God isn’t ever alone in this temple or throne imagery. There are always loads of messengers and worshippers and helpers. Here God’s council or cabinet is two groups of twelve – perhaps representing the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 first apprentices of Jesus, representing Jesus’ whole Jewish heritage and the worldwide church of Jesus.
- “lightning… thunder… torches… sea of glass” – The throne of God also is never a dull place. It’s electric with power and busy with God’s Spirit going out, symbolized by messengers or angels or flashes of lightning. And yet it’s somehow still peaceful. The ocean for Jews was a place of terror. Here it is replaced by a sea of crystal glass – still and beautiful.
This week we have the image of Jesus knocking at our door and of Jesus – pictured as a strong lion and also as a vulnerable, slaughtered lamb – being our picture of the nature of God and sitting at the center of our worship. So this week we invite you to welcome Jesus to knock on your door, to center your life, and to shape your vision of God. Imagine for a moment that Jesus is taking you to see what God looks like. Center your imagination on one of today’s images of God’s beauty or power. Hold that picture for a few moments. Notice if anything changes in your mind or body or feelings.
A Direction for Prayer
Pray for your six, that however close or distant God has seemed to them, they would come to see that God’s door is open. Pray that their greatest ever experience of power or beauty would become an image of part of what God is to them.
The Bible Guide
This blog post is part of a Lenten journey through the book of Revelation. Every year during the season of Lent, we take a focused look at a portion of Scripture as part of our communal spiritual practice. This year, we are exploring what it means to be Children of God in a Fractured World, with Revelation as our lens. The series starts here.