Common Thoughts 13

The Book of Revelation is an apocalyptic writing (forecasting the ultimate destiny of the world) from one of the original disciples following Jesus. John, who wrote the Gospel of John and three later books in the Bible, John 1, II, and III, was in exile by the Romans on the Isle Patmos. At the time, the church was beginning to witness persecution against it, mostly in the Roman empire for their exclusive worship of God, not the Emperor. I’m not interested in the apocryphal story, I’m looking for clues about God’s Kingdom to help fill my image of God.

Revelation is a kind of a movie script for the final days of the bubble existence we’ve found ourselves in because of our sin, after which:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying:

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man,

and He will live with them.

They will be His people,

and God Himself will be with them as their God.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,

and there will be no more death

or mourning or crying or pain,

for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21: 1-4.)

This is extremely important to my image because it tells me that the bubble existence we’ve found ourselves in is not Ultimate Reality. The curse found in Genesis 3, laid upon all mankind, finds its end in Revelation 21. The curse was not just on mankind but the earth was cursed, too: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22 NIV.)

It’s been excruciatingly thousands of years between the two (and not yet over as I write these words). From the time Jesus spoke these apocryphal words as recorded in Matthew 24 it’s been nearly 2,000 years:

30 “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other,”

The promise is there, it will end, the bubble will burst and the kingdom of earth will merge with the Kingdom of God into one Reality. In Revelation 4 John is given this vision of Heaven:

1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 

2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 

3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 

4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 

5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 

6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 

7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 

8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “ ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” 

9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 

10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 

11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

How do I make sense of the Kingdom of Heaven? This is John inside the bubble, and us looking through his eyes and I know that because of our limited minds we can never truly grasp the images of Heaven, either physically or psychologically. The images we are given must fit our earthly conceptions while giving us truths we can understand, at least with enough understanding. Whatever theology I build based on what we are given in these visions and others throughout the Bible referencing God’s Kingdom is temporary—limited to the information I have—not necessarily representing the fullness of Truth, but will represent some truth given to us. Everything changes when we die and when the bubble is ended.

What is clear, Tillich’s idea of God as the ground of being, something like the Jedi force but far greater and only good, it’s far more complex than this in that this force does take on “being-like” characteristics.

The Apostle John, who wrote Revelation, in his Gospel begins with these words:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. 4In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The term translated as “Word” is the Greek word logos, more than just a verbal word but the creative force behind all things. Not only does John identify Jesus as part of the ground of being (God), he is God in a form that we can relate to. How is this possible? Don’t ask me, who am I to understand God? Oh, we try to explain the idea of the trinity, an image of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit we are clearly given in the Bible, but in the end, it’s a far greater definition above our limited intellectual capabilities.

So, while John’s vision in Revelation 4 gives us a form of God we can understand and has truth to it, how do we understand creatures with six wings covered with eyes who never stop chanting: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come?” Can we really take this God into the bathroom with us while doing our “business” and be praying to him? I know that Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians says to pray without ceasing, but really, is this how we translate Paul? Do we really think we can be this casual with God?

To be continued . . .