Day 353: God’s compassion on the Nations

Jonah 1-4Revelation 10

Yesterday’s reading in Revelation ended with the heralding of the 6th trumpet. Today’s reading contains an interlude before the final judgment that the 7th trumpet brings – very similar to the one before the opening of the 7th seal in which John was shown things concerning the church.

Today, we also read the book of Jonah in its entirety, which stands in stark contrast to what we read yesterday. In the book of Obadiah, God proclaimed judgment against the nations, specifically to Judah’s southeastern neighbor, Edom. Conversely, in Jonah, God’s compassion for the nations is on full display as he instructs his servant Jonah to warn the city of Nineveh to repent in order to avert impending destruction!

Again, we are reminded that God’s judgment is exercised in the context of His faithfulness to redeem His people!! And as the story of God’s redemptive history unfolds, we learn (and experience first-hand) that His people are not limited to the physical Israel – rather, His people are represented by ALL nations, tribes and tongues!!

In today’s reading from Revelation, we see Christ’s angelic representative come to earth to deliver a message to His people, the church. Yet, John is not to write its message down. Rather, John was instructed to eat the scroll, and as odd as this instruction sounds, this is not the first time a prophet has been asked to eat a scroll! Ezekiel ate a scroll in Ezekiel 2:9-3:3. As he ate, he took the scroll’s contents to heart. Similarly, John, before he could proclaim God’s message to others, had to take to heart the message for himself.

In verse 7, we can glean a hint of the angel’s message… “The mystery of God will be fulfilled”  includes both judgment and salvation – as is represented by the taste of the scroll… “It tasted sweet, for it was a message about the fulfillment of prophecy and about the return of Christ and the protections of God’s people. Yet the message was also sour, for along with the covenant blessings of Christ’s second coming, come all the horrors of judgment and wrath and covenant curses on those who have not repented. John’s task will be to tell about the glory of the second coming and the new heavens and the new earth, but it will include also prophesying about the events heralded by the seventh trumpet.” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 147).

John’s prophetic call would be difficult – just like it was for Jeremiah (Jer. 15:16Lam. 3:14-15). And it will be difficult for all Christians in these last days.

Comparatively, Jonah had an easier calling. For unlike other prophets, Jonah was able to see the fruit of his message in the dramatic repentance of the Ninevites. In the face of their repentance, God relented and did not send the promised destruction. You would think that Jonah would have been glad, but he did not share God’s compassionate heart for the nations.

The book of Jonah ends with God questioning him, for Jonah cared more about the destruction of a plant than he did the destruction of hundreds of thousands of people (Jonah 4:10-11). God’s compassion is in stark contrast to the hard-hearted Jonah. 

So often we are quick to assume God’s judgment is harsh and unfair, but God’s compassion is far-greater than our own. God delays His return because of His compassion!

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 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.