Segment 11 - 04.01 - A vision of heaven
Then suddenly the scene shifts. In these letters to the seven churches on Asia, he’s dealing with things on earth, okay? These churches are earthly churches. Then if you look at chapter four, the first verse, what happens? The scene suddenly shifts to heaven and he looks up into the sky. He says, “After this I looked and, lo, in heaven an open door.” Lo, in heaven an open door. So now the writer suddenly changes the scene and has a dramatic peek into heaven.
In the old days the people thought of a three tiered universe. Heaven was up there, the earth was right here, and the waters were under the earth. In a couple of places in the Old Testament refers to that three tiered concept. Heaven above, then the earth, and then the waters under the earth. It was also believed that the firmament was up there in the sky. You see this in Genesis 1. And the firmament was that which separated earth from heaven, and it was up in the ... When they looked up there, it looks like a big dome over the sky. We know it to be something different now. It’s just an expanding universe. But they thought that this big cover was over, and that if there were windows in that firmament and you could look through there ito heaven.
So this is what happens here. He says, “After this I looked and, lo, in heaven an open door.” You know one of our hymns Showers of Blessing? The windows of heaven are open, showers of blessings outpour. In one of the Psalms, in 78, it talks about the windows of heaven. In Malachi, the third chapter, where he says, “‘Bring the tithes into the storehouse and put me to the test,’ says the Lord. ‘If I will not,’” what? “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” So he picks up on that idea of a window in heaven. And so he looks up there and he has a peek into heaven, and he goes on with his story now.
You see that he’s taken everything from the earthly plane now and he elevates it to a higher state of consciousness as a represented by heaven. And the scene is pictured up there in heaven, and what do you have up there? You have the picture of a heavenly council with God on his throne and surrounded by 24 elders. This all develops down here in the fourth chapter of Revelation, okay? 24 elders, and they can be interpreted in various ways. Maybe it has to do with the 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament, and the 12 apostles of Jesus in the New Testament, and so in this way the old and the new are linked together. It’s all symbolic, okay?
But he has this tremendous picture up there of God sitting on his throne. Why is God pictured as a King? Because by this time in Jewish thought God was very much thought of as a king. And this was because when Israel became a monarchy through Saul, Saul was the first king that Israel ever had, Saul, then David, then Solomon, then a succession of kings after that, the people got used to the idea of a monarchy and they projected this idea of a monarchy on to their concept of God. God then became a great king in the sky because they had many of their favorite kings. In Judaism, who’s the most favorite king of all? What name stands out? David. King David. That’s why he’s brought into the picture in so many different ways throughout the Old and New Testament. God then became the great king of the universe, and that was part of their concept of God. So here you see him sitting on a throne. Read the sixth chapter of Isaiah. You also see this same idea of a heavenly council. Read the first chapter of the Book of Job. You’ll see God up there with his heavenly court and council. The same idea because they became used to the idea of God as a great king. Okay?
So the 24 elders are up there, and then also 4 living creatures come into picture. And they’re described in quite a dramatic way, and if you want to see the tie-in to the Old Testament just read Ezekiel the first chapter. What he does is pick up on Ezekiel’s vision of four living creatures. Once again, this is all symbolic, okay? Then the four living creatures all sing a great song of praise to God and the 24 elders join in. This great heavenly chorus is singing. And he’s established the tone now for what is going to follow from here on in.