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1201Re: [revelation-list] Comparing two scenes of heaven

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  • Jon Newton
    Apr 28, 2011
      very 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
      Melbourne Australia

      --- On Thu, 28/4/11, David Brubaker <dave@...> wrote:

      From: David Brubaker <dave@...>
      Subject: [revelation-list] Comparing two scenes of heaven
      To: revelation-list@yahoogroups.com
      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

      couple examples:

      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

      stepwise change.

      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.

      David Brubaker

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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