1201Re: [revelation-list] Comparing two scenes of heaven
- Apr 28, 2011very thoughtful comments, Dave
I tend to see Rev 4 as the standing habitat of God as king, the "control centre" of the universe, also referred to in other places in Rev., whereas the new Jerusalem is the final state of "heaven on earth", the final outcome of His grace through Christ. The plot "goes" from one to the other. In your terms, God is transcendent but becomes immanent. Another way of seeing it is in terms of the garden of Genesis which is fulfilled in the new Jerusalem, only now as a city.
Bill Dumbrell has a good book on Rev.21-22, I think it's called "The End of the Beginning" and was reissued recently.
What stands out in our comment was the narrative structure in Rev, which is still being unpacked by scholars, e.g. Resseguie, see also my article "Reading Revelation Romantically" in JPT 2009
(Dr) Jon Newton
Harvest Bible College
--- On Thu, 28/4/11, David Brubaker <dave@...> wrote:
From: David Brubaker <dave@...>
Subject: [revelation-list] Comparing two scenes of heaven
Received: Thursday, 28 April, 2011, 10:16 AM
I've never seen or heard any discussion of this topic, and I wonder if
the more knowledgeable people here on this list know, or have
opinions, about it. Also, do any of the standard interpretations say
anything about it?
There are two extended descriptions of heaven in Revelation, besides a
number of brief glimpses throughout the story. The first scene
(chapter 4) is at the beginning of the main part of the story and the
other scene (new Jerusalem) is at the end. What interests me about
them is that the two scenes are completely different, almost opposites
in some ways. Even God is completely different in the two descriptions.
Here are some of the differences:
Ch4: God sits anthropomorphically and localized on His throne in the
sky, alone, aloof, and separated from people. Only a few elders and
some strange creatures are in the same room with Him.
NewJ: God is omnipresent, providing light to the entire city, and He
dwells with multitudes of His people down here on earth.
Ch4: Out of God's throne come thunder, lightning, and voices. God is
powerful and awesome, but in potentially dangerous and fearsome ways.
NewJ: Out of God's throne comes a river of water of life. Quite a
difference. God is powerful and awesome in loving and nurturing ways.
Ch4: God doesn't do a single thing except sit on His throne. He
doesn't even acknowledge those who worship Him continuously, day and
night, forever. He is completely uninvolved with people until, as the
story transitions to the next episode (opening the seals), He
unleashes all sorts of havoc on earth.
NewJ: God is deeply, closely, and lovingly involved with His people,
providing all sorts of benefits. He dwells with His people and they
see His face.
Ch4: God's home seems to be small, like a room or a house, because
John enters it through a door (4:1). It is also up in the sky.
NewJ: God's home is a gigantic city, 1500 miles long, wide, and high.
Instead of a door, it has twelve city gates and twelve foundations. It
is down here on earth.
Ch4: This heaven seems rather barren and stark. There's nothing there
but thrones, crowns, some lamps, a door, and a sea of glass.
NewJ: New Jerusalem is rich, beautiful, and opulent with streets of
gold, adornment of all sorts of precious stones, the tree of life
yielding fruits and healing leaves alongside the river of water of life.
Ch4: A sea of glass is before the throne. John doesn't tell us any
more about the sea of glass or its function, but it seems to be a sort
of buffer zone or barrier between God's throne and any people there.
NewJ: There is no sea of glass here. Conceivably, the statement "There
was no more sea" (21:1) could be a cryptic and ambiguous way of
pointing out the absence of the sea of glass, rather than the usual
understanding that there is no normal sea. (That would make people
happy who lament the lack of salmon, sushi, and surfing in heaven
because of the absence of a sea.)
It would be reasonable at first glance to think that all these
differences are simply because God changes everything at the end.
However, many of the changes from Ch4 to NewJ happen gradually and
stepwise throughout the rest of the story, not at the end. Here are a
In Ch4, thunder, lightning, and voices come out of God's throne; in
NewJ, the river of water of life comes out of the throne. In a brief
scene midway in the story (14:2), John hears "a voice from heaven, as
the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder." The
voice of thunder is a sound from the Ch4 heaven, and the voice of many
waters seems to be the sound of the river of water of life from NewJ.
The voice of many waters also refers to the opening vision of the Son
of Man in 1:15, but since Jesus is closely associated with living
water and water of life, this is an additional connection to the river
of water of life. So, at this point midway in the story, John hears a
mixture of sounds from Ch4 and from NewJ, indicating a gradual or
There is a whole sequence of changes in the lists that include thunder
and lightning. 4:5 has thunder, lightning, and voices. 8:5 (the
seventh seal) adds an earthquake to the list and changes voices to
noises. 11:19 adds hail to the list. 16:18 makes the earthquake the
greatest earthquake ever and 16:21 seems to make the hail even greater
than the previous hail. However, it isn't obvious how this sequence
then leads to the river of water of life.
Another transitional element: In Ch4 there is the sea of glass
separating people from God, and there is no sea of glass in NewJ. In a
brief, odd scene (15:2-4) in the middle of the story, people are
standing on a sea of glass, mingled with fire. The story doesn't say
that this is the same sea of glass as in Ch4, but where else have you
ever heard of a sea of glass? These people seem to me to be crossing
the sea of glass to get closer to God; when they get across it, then
there is no more sea of glass separating them from God.
One more side point about the sea of glass: Could it be a divided and
very subtle Biblical allusion? In Ch4, John sees across the sea of
glass to God and His throne ("Now we see through a glass, darkly...")
and in NewJ people see His face ("but then face to face").
So, what do you all think? Has all this been examined and explained
and I just didn't get the memo? Does it mean anything at all? I have
my ideas about it all and have written some about it, but I kind of
want to see what you have to say.
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