For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
The Vision That is Lost and Recovered
One's gaze must turn from the earth to heaven to see the Lord and to recover the vision.
Reading: Revelation 4:1-5.
Previously, at the beginning of the book of Revelation, we saw how in a situation of spiritual ruin and the loss of the heavenly vision, at the end of the first century, the Lord was revealed and spoke through the apostle John to the churches. The word of the Lord for the churches seeks the restoration of that which has been lost. And what has been lost is not a minor issue, not secondary; it is no more nor less than the essential issue, it is the vision of the Lord himself.
And, because the vision of Christ has been lost, the church has begun to lose its function, its form and its testimony on the earth. But, at this point of history, God calls his servant John to the scene again, who is in the island of Patmos, confined and impotent against the advances of Satan against the church. And he says to him: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, I am the first and the last. Do not be afraid, because although everything on the earth may change, I do not change. I am the same, I am eternal, and I sustain the church. I give life to and edify the church".
So, the first call is to remove our eyes from the negative and adverse circumstances and put them in He who is eternal, who was dead, but now lives forever. The church is restored by looking to the Lord.
The heavenly vision has two great aspects: Christ in the heavens and his body here on the earth. When the heavenly vision was revealed to the apostle Paul, he saw two things: Christ, but also Christ's body on the earth. And he saw that Christ and the church are inseparable, and that they are the only things in God's mind and will.
This is the heavenly vision: this new Man whose head is in the heavens, but whose feet rest on the earth, which is in heaven and is on the earth at the same time. Christ in heaven and the body on the earth. But, because the church is on the earth, Christ is also on the earth, and because Christ is in heaven, the body is also in the heavens with him. In the heavens and on the earth there is one new Man. This is the complete heavenly vision.
The Lord continues with the same order that was given to Paul, but this time with John. The Lord always begins with the revelation of himself and then the church. Jesus Christ is first, because by him the church is born, and is the expression of Christ. So, in God's order, the first thing is to focus all our attention on Christ. That he may recover his place as central and supreme, in the church. Because if he does not have the preeminence there is no way for the church to be restored to its vocation and testimony before God.
The place where this vision occurs is not heaven. It looks like heaven to us because of the glorious way in which the Lord is revealed. But the glorious Christ who reveals himself to John, at the beginning of his vision, is not in heaven. If you read carefully, it says that John saw seven golden lampstands. The Lord says to him that the lampstands are seven churches. It's true that when one looks at the churches from chapter 2, one he does not see golden lampstands: he sees problems, carnality, sins and an endless number of negative situations. But, in God's eyes, the churches are golden lampstands; because this is the heavenly vision; not the earthly vision. In heaven's sight the churches are golden lampstands, because they are made of Christ. The gold represents what comes from God.
You see that the Lord is not in heaven: he is walking in the midst of the lampstands; that is to say, he is among us. He is walking in the midst of the churches. The apostle Paul said: "... for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church". And John shows us this: that the Lord constantly takes care, sustains and washes his church. He walks in the midst of the lampstands to purify, to support, to restore and to give life to them, and he himself is the glory and riches to do so.
The position of the church
Once we have seen the Lord, we can see the church of the Lord. We cannot see the church first and then the Lord. Some brothers want to begin the restoration of the church by the church, changing the things of the church, modifying something here and modifying something there. Reading in the New Testament they say: "Ah, the church has to work this way ... the church has to be established like this ... the church has to be according to this other model ... because it is in the New Testament". And they begin with the church. But if we begin with the church, we are not going to go far. We have to begin with the Lord of the church, with Christ, before coming to the church. Because there is no church without Jesus Christ.
If we look carefully at chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, we see that the seven churches of Asia still retained the Biblical model of a church as an exterior form. They are neither a denomination, nor a system, nor a human organization. They are churches in accordance with God's thought. That's why they are seven lampstands.
Nevertheless, that does not mean that these churches are approved in the eyes of the Lord; although they have the correct form, it does not mean that they are approved. The correct form is necessary, but the form does not guarantee anything. These churches have the form: but some of them do not have the Lord! The form is necessary because it is useful to the Lord of the church; but when the Lord has gone away, the form turns into an empty rind.
So the Lord speaks to the churches. To Ephesus: "Remember therefore whence thou art fallen… thou didst leave thy first love". To Laodicea: "I stand at the door". In Laodicea, the Lord was outside of the church. They were so full of themselves that there was no place for the Lord in the heart of this church. He is outside the brother's hearts.
So, we are not proud of the forms. Let's look to the Lord, because He is everything that we need. The forms do not assure anything for us, but the Lord assures everything. Let's not say: "Because we do things this way and that way, we are alright", but rather: "Because we look to the Lord, we are sustained. It is the Lord who sustains us".
One more thing before going on to chapter 4; at the end of the message to each of the churches, the Lord always repeats two things. The first is: "He that overcometh...". Each of the letters finishes with a promise directed to he who will overcome. And each of these promises are related to God's eternal will for Christ and the church. And the second, that each of the letters finishes by saying: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches".
Let's pay attention to this. What the Lord is saying is, also, what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To a church, the Spirit says one thing and to another church he speaks something else. But this is said to everyone, in general: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches". So what the Lord says to a church is valid for all.
Although in the development of God's will he has established that the church express itself on the earth by means of a company of local believers, the vocation of the church is not local. If our vision becomes so narrow as to only stretch to our locality, we have lost sight of the Lord.
The only reason why we need to separate into localities is because we are not able to meet altogether. But if we could do so, if it were possible, the Lord would have it done in this way in his church. It is a universal vision. Let's not be exclusivist in our heart. We need all the brothers and sisters, in the entire world.
The heavenly vocation of the Church
Now we turn to the vision. Notice that the Lord in chapters 1, 2 and 3 is on the earth. But look what the apostle John says. "After these things I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven". Till now the Lord has been on the earth; the Lord has descended to be reveal Himself and to speak with John on the earth. But now the Lord calls John to come up to the heavens. So, although the Lord comes to the earth, his will is to take us to the heavenly realms, because our vocation is not earthly. God's will for the church is not on this earth; it is in the heavens.
Dear brothers: do you remember what he says at the end of every letter? "He that overcometh ...". Because when the church is in ruins, it has lost its vision. Why have they lost the vision? Because they have become earthly. They have lost their heavenly quality because they have lost the heavenly vision. So they have descended; the interests of the churches are the interests of this world, of this life. Its desires, its motives, its effort, its work, everything that they do, they do with earthly motives and reasons.
Where is our heart, brothers? Is it in the heavenly vision? What are you investing your life in? In the things of the earth? In doing things that give you satisfaction on this earth? It is even possible to use service toward the Lord to develop and find satisfaction on this earth.
Dear brothers, the Lord not only seeks people to be saved: he needs overcomers. Who are the overcomers? Those who have seen the heavenly vision, who have become attracted to it and live on this earth because of this vision and only for this vision. "... but far be it frrom me to glory", Paul said, "save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world". "As for me, the world does not exist, and I do not exist for the world".
So then the Lord calls John to come up. We need our bindings and our attraction with this earth to be cut away, so that we may be raised up to the heavenly places where we belong, by the Spirit.
The unshakable throne
So John is told: "Come up hither". "Straightway I was in the Spirit: and behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting upon the throne". In heaven there is a throne. John is about to know the mystery of God's will; but in heaven, everything begins with the throne. To know God, to come into God's presence, we first have to come before his throne. The throne means authority; supreme authority.
Before anything was created, this throne already existed, and when everything has ended, all things will once again be summoned to the feet of this throne to give account because this throne reigns for all eternity. Meanwhile, history fulfills itself; meanwhile, Satan rebels and acts; but one day he will also be called before this throne and will receive the judgment of this throne.
"and he that sat was to look upon like a jasper stone and a sardius: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, like an emerald to look upon". When we come before the throne, we face God's authority and fall down on our knees. However, He who sits on the throne is like jasper stone. The jasper is a green, diaphanous and transparent stone. And green, in the Scriptures, is the color of life. So it is not only a throne of authority; it is also a throne from which life flows. All the wills of the throne are related to life. It is not a throne that brings death. It is a throne whose eternal plan is to give life, and life in fullness. At the end of Revelation, you again find God's throne in the midst of the city; and from under the throne flows the river of the water of God's life; because God - the one who sits on the throne - is full of life.
And then, around the throne is a rainbow similar in appearance to emerald. Emerald is also a beautiful stone of green color. The rainbow represents God's covenant of compassion with creation. Therefore, his throne is one of authority, but also of life and compassion.
"... the first voice that I heard ... saying: Come up hither, and I will show thee..". It is the Lord Jesus who shows John the throne. Because he himself is under the authority of the throne. He said: "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing… these the Son also doeth in like manner". And he came to reveal He who is seated on the throne to us. "and no one knoweth who the Son is, save the Father; and who the Father is, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him". The Lord reveals the Father to us, and shows us the throne where the Father sits.
Now remember, John's heavenly vision is the same as that which Paul shows in Ephesians, although John's vision is full of spiritual symbols. Chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation are the equivalent to the first three chapters of the letter to the Ephesians. The same things are present, but what John does here is to put them in order, so that when the church has lost its essence, it needs to return to the beginning, and to do so in an orderly way.
God has a spiritual order for everything, and in this order the first thing is his throne. We cannot come to God but by recognizing him as the supreme and absolute authority over us. Certainly we can come to Jesus Christ as a friend, but before He who sits on the throne, we can only say: " You, oh Lord, reign ". This is the way for the restoration of the church.
"And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones: and upon the thrones I saw four and twenty elders sitting, arrayed in white garments; and on their heads crowns of gold". The second thing that John sees, after seeing the throne and everything that it represents, is that around it (and under his authority) there are twenty-four more thrones.
In the Scriptures, the number 24 is the product of the sum of 12+12. Twelve is the number of the people of God: twelve tribes for the people of Israel in the Old Testament, and twelve apostles for the church of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The number 24 is the totality of the people of God. Now, this number appears as twenty-four thrones, because from God's point of view, the church is called to reign together with Christ, to exercising the authority of the throne on earth.
But when the church loses the heavenly vision, it also loses its function on the earth. Have you ever wondered why, after having been saved, we continue on the earth? Why does the Lord not immediately take us with him? I think that it is because the Lord wants us to exercise and represent his authority on the earth.
This is God's eternal will, and it is not going to change. The Lord needs his people to exercise his authority on the earth, to expel Satan and to put an end to the rebellion that he produced. In heaven, the angels rush about to fulfill God's will; God's will is not hindered there. But on earth it is. The rebellious angel has fallen down to earth and has brought man into rebellion against God. So, although the Lord is governing, he is not being obeyed here on earth.
Part of the Lord's will for his church is that it exercises the authority of heaven on earth. That's why he taught us to pray: "thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth". The church can and must pray to bring the will of the heavens to earth. How great and merciful our God is, because although he could immediately end that rebellion which exists on the earth, he wants to do it through us.
"Twenty-four elders". The word elder here, in Greek, is not elderly referring to age. It is presbuteros, that is to say, that he represents the authority of the Lord in the church. This is, consequently, the heavenly vocation of the church. We are called to reign together with Christ.
If you read all the promises given to the overcomers in chapters 2 and 3, several of them say: "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne", and, "to him will I give authority over the nations". The very thing that the Lord received from the Father, is now that which he wants the church to receive from him.
"And out of the throne proceed lightnings and voices and thunders. And there was seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God". In the Scriptures, lightnings, thunders and voices represent revelation, the word and God's commandments. When the Lord descended to mount Sinai to speak with Moses, thunders, lightnings and voices came out of the cloud that was covering the mountain; because the Lord was revealing his word and speaking his will to Moses.
This is very important. The throne is not a decorative figure. The One who is seated on the throne governs, reigns and exercises his authority over the universe. This throne is particularly related to the church here on the earth. The planets hear the voice of the throne, and obey; the angels in heaven fulfill the will of the throne. But when he speaks: who, on the earth hears his voice? The princes of this world, the presidents of the great nations or the superpowers of this world? No. God's throne is related to the church of Jesus Christ here on the earth.
So, when the Lord speaks in the heavens: who has to hear and express the will of his throne here on the earth? The church of Jesus Christ. That's why, "he that hath an ear let him hear". Because, if the church does not listen: how will the throne exercise its authority on the earth? Do you realize how important the heavenly vocation of the church is?
We are not on the earth to work, to prosper, to be better professionals, to have nice families and to buy good cars and good houses. No, we are on the earth to do the will of the throne that is in the heavens. There is no other reason. If it were otherwise, he would have already put an end to this world. But he has mercy and lengthens the times; because he hopes that his church will listen to his voice and carry out his will on the earth.
Do we hear the voice of the throne? Do we hear to the One who speaks from the heavens, whose voice once shook the earth, but as it is written, will again shake the heavens and the earth? Today he speaks with mercy; one day he will speak to put an end to everything. What responsibility we have, each and every one of us!
That's why it immediately says that "And there was seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God". If you read verse 5:6, this is the same as that which is in Christ: "... a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth". Why? So that throughout all the earth his voice is heard, and his words all over the world. Who has to listen to his voice? His own, his servants, his people, the church of Jesus Christ. "He that hath an ear, let him hear". What is it that the Spirit speaks of? Whatever the throne speaks of; the purposes and the will of the throne of the heavens.
The eternal will
"and before the throne, as it were a sea of glass like a crystal; and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, four living creatures full of eyes before and behind. And the first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face as of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. and the four living creatures, having each one of them six wings, are full of eyes round about and within: and they have no rest day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.".
These four living creatures also appear in Ezekiel's vision, and in Isaiah's vision. In Ezekiel they are called cherubs, and in Isaiah, seraphs. In our Bible it says living creatures, but, in the Greek, there are called they simply living. Four livings. Why?
In the Greek, two words to say life exist, which in our Bible are not always translated correctly. On the one hand, human life is psique, that is sometimes translated as soul, and sometimes as life. When the Lord says: "he who findeth his life, will lose it", in Greek says: "he who findeth his psique, his soul, will lose it; but he who loses it, will keep it for eternal life". The word eternal life here is zoe. Whenever it speaks about the divine life it uses zoe. So these beings that John describes, are called zoon, that is to say, "living" which express the same class of life that God has: zoe.
The second thing that we see on the throne is that He who is seated on it is full of life. So these living creatures are the expression of this life. They are four, because four is the number of God's creation: four points of the compass and four seasons in the year. But: what else do they represent? We are told that they are like a lion, an ox, a man and a flying eagle. We know that these are the four aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ in the gospels.
So, these four living creatures, on the one hand, represent God's creation, and on the other, represent Christ. This expresses the will of the throne: to fill everything, the whole of creation with Christ. That's why they are full of eyes in front and behind. Why so many eyes? Because: how many eyes do you need to encounter Christ? the Lord Jesus Christ is so great, that these four living beings need to express the knowledge of him in his fullness. With two eyes we only see in part. Nevertheless, to see Christ in his fullness, we need all the children of God because with everybody's vision combined we have the complete vision of Christ. With your vision, with my vision, we have a portion; but if we join the vision of all the children of God, we have Christ in fullness.
On the other hand, whenever the cherubs appear in the Scriptures, they do so in relation to God's glory; they appear to separate God and his glory from all that which has no part in his glory. When man sinned in the garden, God placed a cherub to separate the man from the tree of life; because the cherubs represent the holiness and the greatness of God's glory. God cannot be contaminated by either sin or evil. They maintain this separation, that's why they are around the throne, and that's why they say: "Holy, Holy, holy".
Holiness means separation. When the Lord looks at the churches, he separates the holy from the profane, the heavenly from the earthly, the divine from the human. That means that God's will cannot be contaminated by man; that we cannot mix our thoughts with God's thoughts, our interests with God's interests. The church has to be completely holy. Everything that belongs to man must be excluded from God's house.
"Holy, Holy, Holy". The cherubs are in God's favor, and against what man does. They place a separation that nobody can cross, as jealous guardians of God's holiness and glory. "I am Jehovah, and I will not my glory to another".
"And when the living creatures shall give glory and honor and thanks to him that sitteth on the throne, to him that liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders shall fall down before him that sitteth on the throne, and shall worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and shall cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power: for thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created."
Dear brothers, there is a supreme will that created all things and who governs all things: the will of He who is seated on the throne. The Scriptures says that this will is one. Some brothers think that God has a different will for every person. But it is not so. God has only one will: his eternal will, for which he created, leads and governs all things to take them to the fulfillment of this will.
The heavenly vision, which governs all things, is the will of the throne. So, what is the will of the throne? "To sum up all things in Christ ". That Christ be head, Lord, and the center of everything, and that He may fill all and in all, and that this be carried out through his church.
So, John's vision in this chapter is that we may rise up to do the interests, the plans and the will of He who sits on the throne.
The restoration of his will on the earth
In chapter 5, He who sits on the throne has a book in his hand, written on the inside and on the outside. The Scriptures say that nobody could open the book, nor touch it, nor even look at it. Why? Because this book contains all the decrees and plans of his will. In other words, how it is that this will shall be carried out to completion.
Everything is in the book, but nobody could open the book. God's will was hampered, because man had fallen. Because the instrument that God created for the fulfillment of his will was dead in his transgressions and sins. That's why John says: "And I wept much".
"and one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof". Christ has overcome to open the book and its seals, and to carry out the eternal will of God! The seals are opened, the riders ride out, and God's will is carried out in the world. The Lamb who was slain has overcome!
The eternal will of the throne was hindered one day, because man fell. But the Lamb came, and was slain on the earth, and recovered man back into God's will. One day, on the Mount of Olives, John and the other apostles saw the Lord taken up to heaven, until a cloud concealed him from their eyes. What happened afterwards? They did not know. But one day, many years later in John's life, it came, when the heavens were opened for him, and for the first time he could see what had happened to the Lord.
John saw that when the Lamb ascended over all the heavens to fill everything, beyond the clouds, he entered into the presence of that unshakable throne, and presented himself with his own blood before God, to redeem us. Christ took us with him to glory, and presented us before the Father, without spot, without wrinkle, without sin. His church was rescued for the Father and for his eternal will. That's why the Father gave him the book. And the Lamb opened the book and its seals.
Blessed is the Lamb of God, who has redeemed us and has brought us to God's presence, and has seated us in the heavenly places, and has given us his own glory, so that we may reign with him. So that let's do his will! Amen.