Friday, July 01, 2016

Revelation’s Celestial Curtain

Credit: Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand! 1988, 2006, page 86

One aspect of theater play is the curtain providing a theatrical backdrop, that is, painted to represent some scene intrinsic to the unfolding drama. It is a mural scene behind the set of a play that sets the location for the vignette.

In the Bible book of Revelation, chapters 4-5 provide such a theatrical backdrop for the visionary vignettes in the remainder of the book. These chapters 4-5 provide the following characters that John sees all around him: God sitting on His throne with 7 burning lamps together with a glassy sea-like crystal before Him, the four living creatures stationed around Him, then around them the 24 elders, the lamb representing Jesus Christ, and lastly encircling them all are thousands of angels.

This dynamic scene provides a constant backdrop for the visionary vignettes that unfolded for John. In fact, during the unfolding visions there are times when the backdrop is attested to, at Revelation 7:17; 11:16; 15:2-3 and 19:1-10.

Thus, it would not be unusual if entities in the backdrop would appear as something different outside of the backdrop and in front of their counterpart in the backdrop for the sake of highlighting a specific role or aspect in order to describe the fulfillment of the prophecies.

This can be seen for the Lamb, Jesus, who is constantly in the backdrop vision. Yet, Jesus appears again in front of this backdrop and his counterpart: He appears as “someone like a son of man” in Revelation 14:14 and as the horse-mounted “Word of God” in Revelation 19:11-16. This supports that he is also the first horseman released by none other than the Lamb Jesus himself when he opened the first seal. (Revelation 6:1-2) In fact, some have identified the angel in Revelation 7:2 “ascending from the sunrising, having a seal of the living God” as Jesus, and also the angel in Revelation 8:3-5 as Jesus because the duties this angel performs with the golden censer and incense appear to be the same duties as the high priest.[1] Also in Revelation 10 the colossal “strong angel” is likely also Jesus as he roars like a lion, and Jesus the Lamb is identified earlier as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” (Revelation 5:5) Lastly, the appearance of Michael the archangel in Revelation 12 has also been identified as Jesus in a number of commentaries.[2]

This is why in Revelation 14:1-3 the 144,000 can sing before the 24 elders: They are singing before their counterparts in the backdrop.

As the Revelation Climax book says on page 201:
How can the 144,000 sing “before” the elders, since the 24 elders are the 144,000 in their glorious heavenly position? Early in the Lord’s day, those “dead in union with Christ” were resurrected as spirit creatures. Thus, faithful anointed Christians who have conquered are now in heaven, symbolically fulfilling functions comparable to those of 24 divisions of priestly elders. They are included in the vision of Jehovah’s heavenly organization. (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16; 1 Chronicles 24:1-18; Revelation 4:4; 6:11) The remnant of the 144,000 still on earth [awaiting to be resurrected “in the blink of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52)] are therefore singing the new song before, or in the sight of, their resurrected brothers in heaven.

At this point we might also ask: Why is it that these anointed overcomers are referred to as the symbolic 24 elders as well as the 144,000? It is because Revelation views this one group from two different standpoints. The 24 elders are always shown in their ultimate position around Jehovah’s throne, installed as kings and priests in the heavens. They symbolize the entire group of 144,000 in their heavenly position, although at present a small remnant of these is still on earth. (Revelation 4:4, 10; 5:5-14; 7:11-13; 11:16-18) Revelation chapter 7, however, focuses on the 144,000 as brought forth from humankind, and it stresses Jehovah’s grand purpose to seal the complete number of individual spiritual Israelites and to grant salvation to an unnumbered great crowd. Revelation chapter 14 provides a picture confirming that the complete Kingdom class of 144,000 individual overcomers will be assembled with the Lamb on Mount Zion.
This solution is conceivable because the “different standpoints” is a literary feature of Revelation, due to the constant backdrop of the celestial court.

I believe I have discovered another case of this literary feature in a different book, but it will not be found on this blog due to its rather extravagant nature—and is nonetheless available upon request.



Footnotes:
[1] Regarding Revelation 7:2, Adam Clark in his commentary said that: “This angel is represented as the chancellor of the supreme King,” and that “some understand this of Christ.” Regarding Revelation 8:3-5, the Matthew Henry Commentary says: “It is very probable that this other angel is the Lord Jesus, the high priest of the church, who is here described in his sacerdotal office, having a golden censer and much incense. … The prayers of the saints themselves stand in need of the incense and intercession of Christ to make them acceptable and effectual, and there is provision made by Christ for that purpose; he has his incense, his censer, and his altar; he is all himself to his people.” Or, as Robert Hawker (1753-1827) said in his Poor Man’s Commentary: “There can be no question who this other Angel was that came and stood at the Altar with his golden Censer. It could be none but Christ. The office he here performed of the High Priest, belonged only to Christ. He, and he alone it was, whom Jehovah had Sworn into this office, Psalms 110:4.” Adam Clark’s commentary also identified this angel as functioning as the high priest, even specifying that it was on the Day of Atonement. Insight on the Scriptures under “Incense” states that “It appears that the burning of incense, except on the Day of Atonement, was not restricted to the high priest, as underpriest Zechariah (father of John the Baptizer) is mentioned as handling this service. (Lu 1:8-11).” Since the Day of Atonement is not specified in Revelation 8, the precise identity of this angel, beyond priestly, is hard to confirm.

[2] For a number of examples, such as Baptist Theologian John Gill, the theologians John Calvin, John Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards, and the Geneva Bible Commentary, see: Did you know that Baptist Theologian John Gill connected Michael with Jesus? http://jimspace3000-ya.blogspot.com/2016/03/did-you-know-that-baptist-theologian.html

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