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by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.” Revelation 7:13-14a
Verses like this are sprinkled throughout the Revelation account to remind us that John is still in a vision and being shown things that will happen in the future. An elder takes John aside to make sure that he understands what he is seeing, because John has been charged with reporting it with accuracy to the world at large.
In this instance, just like in Revelation 1:20 with the symbolism of the lamps and the stars, John is clearly told what the literal white-robed multitude means. But the elder does so through a question, much like God employed with Adam and Eve in the garden [Genesis 3:9, 11 & 13] and with Cain [4:6, 9 & 10].
The Genesis questions were not for God’s sake, not because He didn’t already know the answer, but to cause Adam and Eve, and Cain to consider the truth. Here in Revelation, the elder’s question is not because the elder doesn’t know the answer, but to prompt John to be an active observer–not passive. He needs to know what he is seeing, and the elder’s question causes John to ask for understanding.
We, like John, are not to be passive consumers of Christianity. We too need to understand what we read and hear of God’s Word so that we can always be ready with an answer for the hope we have within us [1 Peter 3:15]. And when we don’t at first understand, all we need to do is ask God for wisdom and believe that He will show us the truth of His Word [James 1:5].
What questions is the Spirit prompting your heart with today? Are you seeking His understanding? Are you listening for His answer?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulon 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.” Revelation 7:4-8
I’m going to be honest, I’m not exactly sure the significance of the numbers in this passage. But when I come across a piece of scripture that perplexes me, it is exciting to start hunting through God’s Word for understanding. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. It makes the simple wise and enlightens the eyes [Psalm 19:7-8].
Obviously, 144,000 is the product of 12,000 sealed from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. But my question is why 12,000 from each tribe? I’ve searched through the commentaries to see what others have said and the agreement is inconclusive. This is a point of Scripture on which we can pray for God’s understanding and that, if it still pricks our hearts to know, we can ask Him about in heaven .
A few thoughts to consider when delving into the Word to understand this matter:
1) The tribes are given out of order and two are omitted, but there are still twelve total–so in all things we can know that God’s purposes prevail [Proverbs 19:21];
2) These same 144,000 are mentioned again in Revelation 14 with the Lamb–so we can read within the larger context of Revelation to see if anything else can be disclosed about who and why;
3) There are many Old Testament passages that refer to the twelve tribes in list fashion, often with social/spiritual commentary about the state of each [i.e. Genesis 49, Numbers 26 and Deuteronomy 33 to name a few]. I’m particularly interested to study through these scriptures to see what light they can shed on the puzzling Revelation 7 passage, because they may give insight into the order rearrangement and omissions mentioned above. But also because they give snapshots of the tribes over distant points of time and place.
In Genesis 49, the patriarch Jacob is blessing his sons, the tribal heads, on his death bed. Blessing in this instance meaning that he speaks to the character and lets them know what it will produce in their life, so not always a positive. While the Deuteronomy 33 passage is Moses blessing the twelve tribes before they part ways–him to his death and them to possess the Promised Land. This blessing is as it sounds, good things spoken on behalf of each tribe, good things spoken with future blessing in mind.
4) One other factor not to be overlooked in interpretation of difficult Scripture passages–the Holy Spirit. As I puzzled over this the last few days and looked for other passages that might give insight, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the equality of the number 12,000.
No matter what each tribe’s patriarch behaved like or the decisions he made, no matter what the particular history of each Israelite tribe throughout scripture and beyond, God does not show favoritism [Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25]. He forgives each of us equally. He loved each tribe equally. No matter their position or their history, when they devoted themselves to God they inherited the same measure of blessing.
What’s your Bible study routine? Do you dig deep into passages that perplex you or skip over them? Do you have sound Bible study tools and practices?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousand upon thousands, and ten thousand time ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever. The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshipped.” Revelation 5:11-14
Look how many angels there are! I’ve read this verse before, but it never really registered how large the heavenly hosts really are. This is a comfort, knowing that angels–besides praising and worshipping God–guard [Psalm 91:1], warn [Genesis 19:15], fight spiritual battles [Matthew 13:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:7] and minister [Hebrews 1:14; Revelation 1:20] on behalf of we who are faithful to God.
Together with the Cherubim and the elders, the angels praise God in His holy, heavenly throne room. They recognize Jesus as being worthy of all the things that Satan tries to deceive us into thinking we ourselves should receive.
Power. How many power hungry people in this world have rejected Christ? Do we fall prey to small power trips in our own lives? Guard against that spirit.
Wealth. All riches are God’s riches. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills [Psalm 50:10], dresses the lilies and cares for every sparrow, and yet He provides for us [Matthew 6:26-31].
Wisdom. God is omniscient–that is all-knowing. He is all wise. He alone judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, our unspoken motives, because He alone knows them even better than we do ourselves [Hebrews 4:12]! No one can know God’s mind or counsel or instruct Him [Romans 11:34].
Strength. Umm, does this go without saying? God is almighty and omnipotent–that is all-powerful. Strong enough to create everything that ever was, is or will be with His word. Strong enough to hold it all in motion by the same. And that’s just what His word can do! What about the strength in His hands and feet?
Honor and glory. Who do we honor? Who do we glorify? People that amaze us. We give them our best words, our undivided attention, the decoration spaces on our walls, our time and money, and our accolades. But only God is truly worthy of any and all of this adoration, all our honor and all our glory.
Praise. The words of honor and glory that we speak and sing. If only God is worthy of the honor and glory–and without question He is–then only He is worthy to be praised.
The angels recognize it. The cherubim and the elders recognize it. And every creature, man, woman, child, nation and language will recognize it on this day. All of Creation [Genesis 1:27-28; Philippians 2:10; Romans 14:11] will finally confess God for who He alone is.
Ask the Holy Spirit to examine your life. Seek God’s Word to reveal to you where your worship of Him fails to recognize God truly and wholly.
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Then I saw a lamb looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” Revelation 5:6-7
Here John turns and sees a lamb, all bloodied and gaping gashes, but remember that the elders just instructed him to see a triumphant lion. Jesus is both the lion [Revelation 5:5] and the lamb that was slain–the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all humankind [Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29].
It is His sacrificial form that we see seated on the throne and encircled by the heavenly creatures and elders. But we also see His omnipotence and omniscience in the seven horns and eyes. Throughout the Bible, seven is the number of completion or perfection and a horn symbolized strength in ancient Judaism. So seven horns showed full or perfect power. Moreover, eyes being vision, show that Jesus is all-seeing and therefore all-knowing.
The text refers to these eyes as the seven spirits of God which were represented earlier by the fiery lampstands burning before the throne [Revelation 4:5]. Not much is known or written about these seven Spirits, which can also be translated as sevenfold Spirit, except that here we see that they are sent by God throughout the earth.
But Jesus–the lion of Judah, slain as the perfect, unblemished lamb for our sins–is able to take the sealed scroll from God’s right hand, a hand that symbolizes favor. Jesus–God’s Son–has His Father’s favor and it is to our benefit that He stands before God on our behalf. Though the judgment to be revealed in the scroll will be bitter, the result is double-edged–judgment for those who did not believe, and preparing the new heaven and new earth for those who did.
Do you know Jesus as the powerful lion of Judah in your life? Do you know Him as the sinless sacrifice for your sins? By which side of the double-edged sword will your life be cut–judgment or preparation?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say, ‘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.” Revelation 4:9-11
Remember that there were no bold texts, italics or highlighters at the time of this writing, so repetition is emphasis in the Bible. The emphasis here is that God alone sits on the throne in heaven and that He is eternally existent. His living throne acknowledges this continually. As they do so the representatives of the Old and New Testament bodies of Christ alike prostrate themselves before the throne–a sign of submission–and worship–that is ascribe to God all that He alone is worthy of.
During this time of corporate worship, the elders also lay down their crowns. Here again, we are reminded that heaven will be filled with those who have been victorious in this life. That we who win the victor’s crowns [Revelation 2:10, 3:11]. A reminder that though we may store up such treasures in heaven [Matthew 6:20], our righteous response before our Creator will be to lay it all down at His feet, to recognize that He alone–the author of life who sent His Son to conquer death, hell and the grave [Revelation 1:18]–is worthy of the honor of our victory over life.
Notice the difference between the worship of the living creatures and that of the elders. The creatures proclaim God’s holiness–His moral righteousness and purity–His power over all, and His eternality.
While the elders worship from a more personal experience. They acknowledge God as their personal Lord and God.
They speak directly to Him–using the pronoun You–and tell Him that He is worthy to receive, that is for humans to relinquish back to Him all glory, and all honor, and all power that we tried in this life to assume ourselves. Finally we will recognize that these things are perfect in His hands alone and we will gladly submit to His authority in all.
Finally, they acknowledge that God created everything. Obviously leading up to the time of Noah, even though people may have understood that God was Creator, they didn’t find this fact worthy of respect and obedience. Then again after the flood, Nimrod incited the people not to just disrespect and disobey God, but to erase His existence from their minds altogether. But if we would just recognize God for who He truly is–Creator of all–then it would be hard to live our life for any other. Only those who, in this life, acknowledged the Godhead for who He truly is will be permitted to worship around His eternal throne [Psalm 1 & 15].
Do you acknowledge God with your life? Do your words and actions point to the truth of who He is?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and crowns of gold on their heads. 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. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” Revelation 4:4-6a
Numbers hold significance in scriptures, they’re not arbitrary. So the fact that John notes exactly twenty-four elders seated on twenty-four thrones surrounding the throne of God means something. But what?
Many biblical scholars agree that the number twenty-four–which is twelve times two, as in twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and the twelve disciples in the New Testament. However, the scripture does not specifically name these elders as such. The Old Testament does use the term elders to describe the heads of tribal Jewish bodies or groupings [Exodus 19:7, 24:1; et al], and the New Testament also used it to delineate heads of the Christian Church [Acts 14:23, 20:17, 21:18; et al]. Regardless of whether the number consists of the actual patriarchs of the twelve tribes plus the disciples or not, it is clear that these twenty-four elders represent the complete body of Christ both past and future, both Old and New Testament.
Notice that they are dressed in white with gold crowns on their heads. These are representatives of the victorious that Jesus spoke about to the seven churches of Revelation [2:7, 11, 17, 26-28, 5, 12, & 21]. The white robes also speak of righteousness and priesthood, their sins have been washed away and they have been into the holy priesthood [1 Peter 2:9] able to commune with God Himself, the very thing He’d always intended for us, His most cherished Creation.
I wonder at the lightning and thunder coming from God’s throne. Obviously, John was writing to a people within a culture who believed Zeus to be the God who controlled such things. And Zeus was chief among the gods because of the power he wielded. However, Jesus through John clearly tells the people of that day that Zeus is a fraud, he does not possess lightning. Rather it emanates from the very throne of the One True Almighty God, Creator and Lord of all.
From here, Jesus, through John, shows us around the Temple of Heaven, a virtual tour if you will. And we begin to see the original that the Jewish Temple was patterned after. The Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple had seven lamps [Numbers 8:2] that were kept burning before the Lord night and day. They represented the seven spirits of God–seven being the number of completion and therefore perfection–to the Israelites, just as they are said here to represent the seven spirits [or sevenfold Spirit] of God in heaven. Also, the earthly Tabernacle and Temple had a basin used in the sacrifice system that was called the Sea [1 Kings 7:23-25] that was positioned in front of the holy of holies where the mercy seat, or God’s earthly throne, was. That Sea, however, was bronze though it was meant to be reflective and it was here that the priests washed themselves before going about their work. But the Sea before the throne in heaven is clear as glass. No more need to mirror man’s sins for him to see. No more need to be cleansed, because everyone will be eternally washed, clean, forgiven. Amen!
Are you washed and forgiven by God? Do you seek to recognize His heavenly patterns here on earth? Do you then testify about them to others?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:19-22
The Laodicean faith was lukewarm, as if it was being piped over a long distance to Christ. They stood away from Him, yet still wore His name before this world. And their worldly impurities clogged the pipeline of their prayer, praise and worship to Him. It smelled foul and tasted worse–an offense to God.
He offered them–knowing their love of marketplaces–the opportunity to shop in His store, where they could purchase something not available anywhere else and not for any earthly price. His gold was the character of their lives refined in the fires of persecution for standing strong for Him.
And how like a father who loves his child enough to discipline the folly out of him, Jesus says–not for the first time–I correct those whom I love [Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11]. In our modern culture, many parents fear the word discipline, believing if they consequence their children it will bring the authorities to their door. But Godly parents have always known that if they neglect disciplining their children, the authorities will come to their home one day for other reasons, legal discipline reasons or even announcing their death.
Laws demand respect, obedience and discipline–either of self to follow the laws, or by the governing authorities to enforce them. God gave parents the first line of responsibility for disciplining children to respect God, obey His righteous decrees and to be self-disciplined like athletes training for Olympic games. God Himself sends the Spirit into our hearts to prick our consciences whenever we disrespect Him, disobey or are being undisciplined. This type of discipline is an act of love–saving a child from harmful foolishness and willful defiance of human law and Godly living.
God so earnestly loves the Laodiceans–as He does all people–that He says He’s standing outside, knocking on the door of their hearts, waiting to be let in. And if they open their lives to Him, He offers them deep fellowship, such as was the custom of their day. He offers them the prestige of sitting enthroned with Him on high, just as His victory afforded Him the right to sit with His Father God on His throne. Affluence of an other worldly nature.
But they needed to lay this world aside and follow Jesus [Matthew 16:24; 19:21-24].
Do you enjoy close fellowship with Jesus? Or is the Spirit convicting you about material things? When He offers it, accept the Lord’s discipline–His correction to keep you on the straight path through the narrow gate [Matthew 7:14].