Day 347: The Throne Room

Hosea 12-14; Revelation 4

The last chapters of Hosea are heart-breaking as Hosea describes the inevitable destruction that will come because of the nation’s refusal to repent. But the book ends with the hopeful promise that God would restore and build His Kingdom…

They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon (Hosea 14:7).

His judgment is revealed in the context of His faithfulness to redeem his people. This is actually a summary statement for God’s work through all of history and according to the book of Revelation, this is how He will work in the future as well.

This is why John is transported “in the Spirit” to God’s throne room. John is shown God’s glory and Protection of the Saints before he is shown God’s judgment on the earth. This is so important that I will write it again…God’s judgment is revealed in the context of His faithfulness to redeem his people!!!

So what does John see in the throne room of God???

The images that John describes harken back to the opening chapter of Ezekiel – when Ezekiel was also shown a vision of the Glory of God.

And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald (Revelation 4:3).

And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. […]Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around (Ezekiel 1:26-28).

I get the sense that both John and Ezekiel tried to find words to adequately describe the scene and found themselves limited by the use of only words. For words cannot possibly sum up the Glory of God!

Then John sees 24 elders sitting on thrones, dressed in white and wearing crowns. Their presence fulfills the promises given to the seven churches of the ones who overcome…”clothed in white, ruling with him, sharing his throne” (2:10; 2:27; 3:5, 3:113:21). The number 24 could represent both 12 tribes of Israel + 12 apostles – most likely representing all of those who are redeemed in Christ. This represents us, if we are redeemed in Christ!

From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal (Revelation 4:5-6).

This passage reveals God as judge. “The sea of glass, of the perfection of crystal, separates God in his holiness from everything else. It is this sea which will disappear later (21:1). In other words, there will come a time when sin and sinful people have been judged and God’s people will no longer experience this sea which separates them from their God” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 72).

John then observes four creatures that were around the throne (4:6). John’s description recalls images from both Ezekiel and Isaiah’s visions of God’s throne room (Ezekiel 1:10, 18 & Isaiah 6:2-3). These creatures represent all of God’s creation: wild & domestic animals, birds and humans all “looking this way and that way in order to serve him and worship him” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 73).

This amazing scene which our human minds can not fully comprehend culminates in worship. For God is holy, almighty and eternal. In addition to John’s vision, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Daniel were also given visions of God’s throne room, and all four men, when faced with the Glory of God, joined the members of the throne room in WORSHIP.

This should be our response as well…As we consider that we are His redeemed; He has clothed us with the righteousness of His Son and will remove the sea of separation to dwell with us forever…we should cast our crowns before Him and cry with all creation…

Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created (Revelation 4:11).

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book,Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 346: The Great Love of God

Hosea 9-11; Revelation 3

I think one of the most beautiful aspects of Hosea is the focus on God’s love. In the midst of Israel’s heinous worship of the baals – which included sexual rituals and other despicable practices, God’s love for His people, although spurned, was tender.

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath (Hosea 11:8-9).

God would not destroy Israel, but instead He preserved a remnant – a people who would survive invasion and exile and return to rebuild Jerusalem. But even more significant…He would preserve a people who would be washed clean by the blood of the Lamb and be given a new robe of righteousness. These people are His church.

The church is not just like Israel, the church is in fact the true Israel – for the true Israel has always been those who look to God in humble faith for their salvation – not necessarily those born in the direct line of Abraham. In other words, God’s family is born of spiritual descent.

We see that God’s tender love for his family is still active among His people in the personal and intimate words He gives the seven churches.

Consider the church in Philadelphia which lay in an active earthquake area. They endured evacuations and rebuilding because of earthquakes…. “In the midst of insecurity from earthquakes on the one hand, and attacks on their faith on the other, Jesus promises final stability and protection forever in his presence in the heavenly city which will come one day.” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 61).

Also, details within Jesus’ letter to Laodicea revealed His intimate knowledge of them. Laodicea was a wealthy and proud city, so Jesus counseled them “to buy from [him] gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich” (3:18). He was teaching the church that their earthly wealth was poverty in God’s kingdom, and true wealth came from humble dependence on God alone.

Also, the very familiar words of Jesus standing at the door and knocking (3:20) – were given to this self-sufficient church who had spiritually locked Jesus out of their congregation and lives. He promised to come in and restore the bonds of fellowship to those who would open their lives to Him through repentance and dependence. Jesus was firm with the church of Laodicea because He loved them (3:19)!

We are benefactors of this Great Love of God! He knows us intimately and loves us deeply. He loves us so much that He is willing to reprove our complacency and restore our faith. I pray that His love would compel us to return to Him in humility and persevere in obedience…until He comes again!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 345: God’s desire for repentance

Hosea 5-8; Revelation 2

Ephraim (or Israel) is like a dove,
silly and without sense,
calling to Egypt, going to Assyria.
As they go, I will spread over them my net;
I will bring them down like birds of the heavens;
I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation.
Woe to them, for they have strayed from me!
Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me!
I would redeem them,
but they speak lies against me (Hosea 7:11-14).

From the first sin committed in the garden, God has always given His people the opportunity to repent. God is our Father, and he longs for our repentance – not just our initial turning to Him in salvation, but an ongoing, returning and surrendering before Him.

Israel did not respond to God’s patient kindness, so He disciplined the nation in the form of a foreign invader. Why? To bring about repentance!

God’s desire for repentance is at the center of the book of Revelation.

In today’s reading, Jesus begins his letters to the seven churches. Even though Jesus’ words were addressed to a specific church, we must not fool ourselves into thinking His words were not for us…for He ended each letter with the same exhortation, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” teaching us that His words were meant for all churches in all times.

Jesus’ words to the churches were encouraging because he shared details which revealed he was intimately acquainted with their strengths and weaknesses. He knew them. But we should be sobered by his warnings – especially to Ephesus and Pergamum. Both churches were warned to repent of their accommodation with the world. We as the modern church must strive against the waves of our culture that threaten to dilute the call to repentance, faith and holiness! Jesus warned that our churches would die in the wake of compromise.

Another sobering truth that we glean from Jesus’ letters is the extreme suffering each church was undergoing, not the least of which was in Smyrna. Jesus says to them that “for 10 days you shall have tribulation” (2:10). Like most numerical references in Revelation, this number is figurative and teaches that the time of tribulation has a set time – it is limited. Many of the Christians in Smyrna would be put to death for their faith, but Jesus promised them the “crown of life” and ironically, even though they would endure the “first death,” they would not face “the second death” or the final judgment for those who die outside of Christ (2:11).

Most encouraging is the promise given to each church who “conquers” or “overcomes.” The promise is different for each church – but applicable to every one who perseveres and overcomes the temptations and suffering in this world.

Are you one who “overcomes”? Are you willing to sacrifice the wealth and riches of this world to gain the riches of God’s eternal Kingdom? Are you willing to walk through the narrow gate of repentance to “eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7)?

May we be among those who conquer life’s trials and persevere in faith to enter into the presence of our KING!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection  of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 344: Our Covenant-Keeping-God

Hosea 1-4; Revelation 1

[Israel] shall eat, but not be satisfied;
they shall play the whore, but not multiply,
because they have forsaken the Lord
to cherish whoredom, wine, and new wine,
which take away the understanding (Hosea 4:10-11).

The prophet Hosea lived when the kingdom was divided into Israel in the north and Judah to the south. Specifically, Hosea lived in the tumultuous decades preceding the Assyrian invasion and fall of the northern kingdom – when Israel was diluting her faith with the pagan worship of the fertility god, Baal.

God called Hosea to do something very unusual – to emulate His own broken relationship with Israel…specifically, to seek a whore for a wife (1:2-3), to name his illegitimate children “No Mercy” and “Not My People” (1:6-9), and then to rescue his runaway prostitute wife from the hands of slavery (3:1-3).

God called Hosea to love the unworthy in order to show Israel that their covenant God loved them. God promised the unfaithful Israel that he would one day forgive and restore…

“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ […] I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

And I will have mercy on No Mercy,
and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’;
and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ (Hosea 2:16-20; 23)

This is the grace of our Covenant-Keeping-God…who died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8) and who has purposed to bring all things in heaven and on earth under the authority of Christ (Eph 1:10)!

We read of His power, majesty and absolute sovereignty in the opening chapter of Revelation (1:13-16). Revelation records the vision given to John to encourage the suffering church. It is a book which has great value for us today as we learn of God’s plan not only to judge the ungodly and redeem the righteous but most importantly, to exalt the risen Savior as King over all heaven and earth!

I pray our journey through the last pages of God’s redemptive story will encourage us to wait all the more faithfully for Jesus’ return. May our eyes be fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection  of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.