Unveiling the Eternal Part 3

To gain further perspective on eternal realities let us peer into the visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel and then look at Ezekiel’s four living creatures from chapter 1. First to Isaiah. At this point we only need to consider the first two verses of chapter 6.

1  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2  Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

The word seraph, the singular of seraphim, means ‘burning’ or ‘fiery.’ We tend to refer to these creatures as angels. They may be as the word ‘angel’ means ‘messenger’ and both their appearance and actions contained a message. My point is that if all of the various heavenly beings depicted in scripture are angels then there is certainly a great variety of them.

Ezekiel provides more information about these ‘burning ones’ around the throne. He tells us that they differed in appearance and that their likeness was like ‘burning coals of fire’ and that they moved ‘like a flash of lightning.’

10  As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. 11  Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies. 12  And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. 13  As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning. 14  And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning.

The four living creatures have four faces, a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (see Rev. 4:7 also). These four faces relate to the four gospels and different aspects of Jesus ministry. The early church fathers had Matthew connected to the face of the man because he wrote of Jesus humanity. Mark was the lion and presented Jesus kingly royalty, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Luke represented the ox because he focused on Jesus as a burden bearer and sacrifice. John is the eagle which speaks of His prophetic role and life and his descending from above in His incarnation and ascending in His resurrection.  Jesus is the one ‘from above’ and says we must be born from there. He also spoke to Nathaniel of the angels ascending and descending (Jesus is Jacob’s ladder/stairway).

We don’t need to turn these ideas into doctrine or esoteric imaginings. Perhaps the early church fathers were incorrect about which gospel pointed to which aspect of Jesus ministry. It is however important to see that the four living creatures have eternally pointed to different aspects of who Jesus is and thus in Isaiah and Ezekiel prophesied of Jesus coming and His ministry. This is part of seeing the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. When we have eyes to see the message is there. When the disparate parts begin coming together something is imparted to our spirits. When we step from time into eternity we will see a multitude of things in a new light. Why not pray for a spirit of wisdom and revelation to understand as much as possible now that our hearts may be comforted and encouraged (Eph. 1:17-18)?

Unveiling the Eternal Part 2

In my last post I posed three questions in relation to these throne room experiences.

  • Are there any commonalties across all experiences?
  • Where is the focus?
  • What is the effect?

The answer to the first one is that while there are a number of differences across the experiences there is no suggestion in the text that the recipient sought out these experiences. The exception perhaps being Psalm 63, which we will come to later. They may have sought these experiences, but they appear to have been initiated by Yahweh. Something else we see in many of them is Yahweh’s throne. Jeremiah refers to Yahweh’s counsel and Daniel references thrones. The overall image is one of power and authority. In fact it is an overwhelming power and authority that is a throne, council chamber and courtroom all in one. The writer of Hebrews tells us a few things about this place, the center of time and eternity. His message is one that conveys both the incredible power and authority of this place while also telling us that if we know Jesus we are free to approach this awesome throne.

13  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13 (NKJV) 19  Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, Hebrews 10:19 (NKJV) 

31  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31 (NKJV)

22  But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23  to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24  to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. Hebrews 12:22-24 (NKJV)

28  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29  For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29 (NKJV)

This throne room is both timeless and the origin of time, it is the place from which the decree issued – “Let us make man in Our image.” (Gen. 1:26). Make no mistake, this was an authoritative decree not a passing thought. This throne room has always been and always will be. Many years ago I had the opportunity to speak with a pastor who had encountered eternity. His young daughter was attacked and killed by a bear in northern Alberta, in trying to save his daughter’s life he was seriously mauled by the bear before it was killed by others. During his time recovering in hospital he had an experience of being taken into heaven. He said the only way he could describe what he encountered was that it was ‘pure authority.’ His overwhelming awareness was of Yahweh’s authority. So, no matter our situation or circumstances here and now, if we have been born again we have unfettered access to this place of pure authority – I suggest coming with a right heart!

Unveiling the Eternal Part 1

I had an experience over 20 years ago that I cannot fully articulate. It was brief and took place in the fall/winter while staying at a hotel in the mountains. I got up early in the morning to pray and went and sat by myself in the main building at the hotel. Suddenly I was aware of eternity stretching out before me. How I knew it was eternity I cannot explain and frankly it frightened me. I know many people think all encounters with the Lord are comforting. That just tells me that they don’t know the scriptures. I don’t believe there is an experience in the scriptures where someone encountered His presence and immediately felt comfort. The common experience was fear.

In this experience I was less conscious of His presence and more conscious of eternity simply being there. I couldn’t grasp it with my mind and found it disturbing. My fear of eternity highlighted for me how un-renewed my mind was (Rom. 12:1-2). My point is not that I had some type of throne room experience it is that there is more than what we see in the natural realm, which leads me to the throne room experiences in scripture.

Below are some throne room experiences in the order in which they appear in the Old and New Testaments. I will begin to dig deeper into them in my next post. For now I offer some reflective questions.

  • Are there any commonalties across all experiences?
  • Where is the focus?
  • What is the effect?

19  Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. 20  And the LORD said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. 21  Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ 22  The LORD said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the LORD said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.’ 23  Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.” 1 Kings 22:19-23 (NKJV)

1  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2  Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3  And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 4  And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5  So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” 6  Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7  And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” Isaiah 6:1-7 (NKJV) 

1  O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. 2  So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Psalm 63:1-2 (NKJV)

18  For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, And has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it? 19  Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury– A violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked. 20  The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly. 21  ”I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. 22  But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings. Jeremiah 23:18-22 (NKJV)

1  Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 2  On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, 3  the word of the LORD came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the River Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was upon him there. 4  Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. 5  Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. 6  Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings. 7  Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze. 8  The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings. 9  Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward. 10  As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. 11  Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies. 12  And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. 13  As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning. 14  And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning. 15  Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. 16  The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. 17  When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. 18  As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes, all around the four of them. Ezekiel 1:1-18 (NKJV) 

9  “I watched till thrones were put in place, And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire; 10  A fiery stream issued And came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, And the books were opened. Daniel 7:9-10 (NKJV) 

18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) 1  It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3  And I know such a man–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows– 4  how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 (NKJV)

1  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants–things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2  who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. 3  Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. Revelation 1:1-3 (NKJV)

18  For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19  and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. Revelation 22:18-19 (NKJV)

Reflective Leadership Part 12

As the church we are called to be a Royal Priesthood and a Holy Nation. What does that mean in practice? Obviously there is a call for kings to rule and reign and priests to intercede. There has been, and is, much talk in some church circles of our rights as ‘royalty.’ While true there is an aspect that seems to be neglected in the process. I have said a few times over the years that while the US has a Statue of Liberty on the East coast they need a Statue of Responsibility on the West coast to balance things out. Similarly in Canada we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, (http://www.publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection/CH37-4-3-2002E.pdf) an important document, yet perhaps we also need a Charter of Responsibilities. With this as a background look at the scriptures below which highlight our high calling.

5  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Exodus 19:5-6 (NKJV)

9  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV) 6  and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:6 (NKJV) 10  And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:10 (NKJV)

Given the preceding scriptures should we not just focus on our rights? No. We all have a tendency to view scripture through the lens of our culture and circumstances. With great privilege comes great responsibility. While we in Canada function on paper as a constitutional monarchy, which has been continuously in place since 1534, (http://www.parl.gc.ca/About/Senate/Monarchy/SenMonarchy_00-e.htm) this is currently a formality. The Queen of England currently has no real influence or authority over our laws and actions. Yet in our history we have something sown that we in our church culture need to understand in relation to responsibility. There is a verse probably few have read and if they have it has only been of passing interest. Yet it tells us something very significant.

25  Then Samuel explained to the people the behavior of royalty, and wrote it in a book and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house. 1 Samuel 10:25 (NKJV)

What is the ‘behavior of royalty?’ It has long been understood in the old monarchies and nobility even if it is currently neglected. My friend who is 90, the same age as Queen Elizabeth II, understands this and holds Elizabeth in high esteem because she saw her coronation and the seriousness with which she embraced her role as monarch. It is not a job for the faint of heart. We tend to think of it as a role of privilege but in actuality it is replete with responsibility.

Inherent in true monarchy and nobility is the concept of noblesse oblige. The term refers to the moral obligation of the privileged to display honorable and generous conduct. It comes from French and literally means, ‘nobility obliges.’ That is because inherent in a noble position is a responsibility, an obligation, to behave in a certain way, what Samuel called the ‘behavior of royalty?’

We see this millennia ago in scripture.

8  But a generous man devises generous things, And by generosity he shall stand. Isaiah 32:8 (NKJV)

8  But the noble man devises noble plans; And by noble plans he stands. Isaiah 32:8 (NASB)

The reason for the variant translations of the same Hebrew word is that it carries both meanings. Inherent in generosity is a sense of nobility and inherent in a sense of nobility is an obligation to be generous. They cannot be separated. So, if we in the church want to focus on our rights and privileges as our culture does, that is fine. We just need to understand the responsibility and obligation that comes with the privilege. I will let Paul have the last word in this leadership series to highlight our high calling and responsibility as ambassadors for Jesus.

 9  Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11  Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 (NKJV)

20  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NKJV)

NOTE – with my next post I will begin a series called Unveiling the Eternal, a look at the Throne Room experiences in scripture and their significance.

Reflective Leadership Part 11

A couple of times at the beginning of this series I referenced the importance of Character, Awareness and Wisdom. These are keys aspects of the leadership of self and others. Another aspect is discernment. We can do the right things for the wrong reasons or do the right things at the wrong time. Part of the demonstration and application of Awareness and Wisdom is the development and use of discernment. For decades I have heard references to the ‘gift of discernment’ and I have consistently challenged that view. Rather than being a gift, true discernment is the fruit of maturity.

13  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:13-14 (NKJV)

Why make an issue of this? The simple answer is the distinction is important. If we view discernment as a gift (there is in 1 Cor. 12 a gift of discerning of spirits which is helpful in discerning), rather than the fruit of maturity, we are less likely to take the responsibility to develop our discernment. Another key piece is that discernment is not the ability to identify problems. Years ago I heard Francis Frangipane say, “The only thing needed to find problems in the church is one good eye and a carnal mind.” I think many of us start out this way, yet Paul tells us how true discernment operates.

9  And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, Philippians 1:9 (NKJV)

True discernment is rooted in love. This love is not about sentimentality. Charles Finney the famed 19th century evangelist and church leader defined scriptural love as ‘disinterested benevolence.’ The idea being that if I love someone my focus is on doing what is best for them without regard to whether it will benefit me in some way. I will then be able to honestly speak the truth.

15  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– Ephesians 4:15 (NKJV) 25  Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25 (NKJV)

Speaking the truth in love is not about making others feel good. It certainly will have that as fruit if they need to deal with an issue and do, the focus though is on pointing us to maturity in Christ. In fact if I avoid addressing an issue because I don’t want to ‘hurt someone’s feelings’ I am actually demonstrating selfishness not love, which also demonstrates a lack of maturity and discernment.

Leadership in our lives requires the exercise of wisdom in how we speak to ourselves and others. We need to encourage and tell ourselves the truth and we are called to do it in the lives of others.

19  speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20  giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21  submitting to one another in the fear of God.  Ephesians 5:19-21 (NKJV)

The qualifier is what my friend says, “It needs to be mediated by the Spirit.” True discernment is rooted in love and expressed at the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are not called to go and speak to every person in every situation where we perceive “a need for change.” We are however called to submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and follow.

Are we following?