Part 2—“Your Will Be Done on Earth”
We continue, serially, in the book “Your Will Be Done on Earth” and Chapter 1 entitled “Whose Will?” Here we begin with paragraph 14 under the subheading “A Symbolic Vision of Him.” The vision is of God, who gave John the son of Zebedee the series of visions known as The Revelation or The Apocalypse, which is the last book of The Holy Bible. The Revelation was transmitted to John by the Lord Jesus Christ, who sent an angel to show by means of signs things to come.
14. Into what was John invited, and by following him where do we get and what may we see?
14 From the glorified Jesus Christ in heaven John had just received seven messages for seven Christian congregations in Asia Minor. “After these things I saw, and, look! an opened door in heaven, and the first voice that I heard was as of a trumpet, speaking with me, saying: ‘Come on up here, and I shall show you the things which must take place.’” (Rev. 4:1) By following John through this opened door that led beyond outer space where man-made moons orbit around the earth, we enter as if into the presence of the supreme, almighty Sovereign God. Knowing that no man can see God’s face and keep living, we do not expect to see his shape or any of his features. We could not endure the actual sight of him any more than we could endure a hydrogen bomb explosion close up. What we do see through John’s vision is glorious, brilliant, dazzling. We are also shown things that must take place in universal history.
15. Under what force did John come, and whose throne did he see?
15 As soon as John answered the invitation to come up through the opened door in heaven he came under the operation of God’s active force or spirit, to see what we humans cannot normally see. “And, look! a throne was in its position in heaven, and there is one seated upon the throne.” (Re 4:1) The position of this throne is the ultimate for superiority. It is the throne of the Most High, who dominates all creation seen and unseen, upon whom all creation depends for existence and for universal orderliness. It is the throne of the King of eternity, a perpetual King higher than all emperors, kings, dictators and rulers of the earth, who perish.
16. What was the enthroned One like in appearance, and what do these things call to our attention?
16 What is he like? Like a man in figure, in shape? No! “And the one seated is, in appearance, like a jasper stone and a precious red-colored stone, and round about the throne there is a rainbow like an emerald in appearance.” (Re 4:3) He is like highly polished gems, precious, glowing, beautiful, that attract the eye and win delighted admiration. There is nothing horrifying about him, nothing fiendish that would even suggest that he would torture his earthly creatures, human souls, forever and ever in conscious torment in a fiery hell. He is lovely in appearance and pleasant to look at, causing one to lose oneself in wonderment. About his throne there is further glory, the appearance of calmness, serenity. The appearance of a perfect rainbow of emerald indicates that, reminding one of the enjoyable, quieting calm that follows a storm. It reminds one of the first rainbow that God put into the sky after the global flood to serve as a heavenly sign to Noah and to all of us his descendants, to signify that never again would there be a global deluge. That was when God said: “No more will the waters become a deluge to bring all flesh to ruin. And the rainbow must occur in the cloud and I shall certainly see it to remember the covenant of eternity between God and every living soul among all flesh that is upon the earth.” (Gen. 9:12-16) Human scientists who want to control the weather on earth from an “ultimate position” in outer space will never be able to destroy God’s covenant symbolized by the rainbow.
17. With whom was God seen to surround himself, and why did these not picture the “apostles of the Lamb”?
17 Before God began creating he was all alone in space, from time without beginning. But whom of his creatures did God choose to call into his presence? With whom does he surround himself? In the close-up vision John tells us: “And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones: and upon the thrones I saw four and twenty elders sitting, arrayed in white garments; and on their heads crowns of gold.” (Rev. 4:4, AS) Who are these “elders,” these twenty-four persons of advanced age, enthroned around God’s own throne? John knew of “elders” in the Jewish community, in the congregation of ancient Israel. Fifteen centuries before John, when the prophet Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, Moses had associated with him seventy of the older men or “elders” of the nation of Israel. (Ex. 24:1, 9, AS) John, however, was an “elder” or older man of the Christian congregation. He was a special “elder,” because he was one of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb [Jesus Christ],” who served as twelve foundations for the Christian congregation, like twelve foundation stones of the walls of the new Holy City. (Rev. 21:14) But those crowned and enthroned “elders” whom John saw sitting around God’s throne could not picture the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, for they were twenty-four in number, or twice the number of the twelve apostles.
18. Whom do the twenty-four “elders” represent?
18 In the congregation of ancient Israel “elders” were representatives of the entire congregation of Israelites. Likewise since John’s day the Christian “elders” have stood for the entire congregation of Christians or spiritual Israelites. According to this rule, the twenty-four “elders” seated on thrones about God picture the entire congregation of Christians who prove faithful till death and who are rewarded with a resurrection out of death to life in heaven and to a throne in the heavenly kingdom of God.*
19. How great in number does this congregation finally become, and what promises has Jesus Christ given them?
19 This congregation of faithful Christians who win the heavenly reward finally becomes 144,000 in number, or six thousand times twenty-four. John himself is used to give us this final number of them, in Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5. John was used to pass on to them these messages from the glorified Jesus Christ in heaven: “Prove yourself faithful even with the danger of death [or, faithful till death], and I will give you the crown of life.” “He that conquers will thus be arrayed in white outer garments, and I will by no means blot out his name from the book of life, but I will make acknowledgment of his name before my Father and before his angels.” “To the one that conquers I will grant to sit down with me in my throne, even as I conquered and sat down with my Father in his throne.” (Rev. 2:10; 3:5, 21) What these twenty-four “elders” say and do in this vision to John further proves that they symbolize the 144,000 who make up the final congregation.
20. Are they “elders” in years toward all creation, and what has paved the way to their being enthroned as persons of advanced age?
20 It was only nineteen hundred years ago that the Christian congregation was begun, on earth. As regards the presence of any members of it in heaven, their presence in heaven could date only from after the setting up of God’s kingdom, for which faithful Christians have prayed during all these centuries. Despite these facts, God views the members of the congregation as “elders” or persons of advanced age in comparison with all others of his intelligent creation in heaven and on earth. It is clear, therefore, that it is not the years of actual life of the members of the congregation but their advancement in knowledge, in official training and in loyal godly devotion that has paved the way to their being clothed in white, crowned and enthroned as “elders” around God’s throne.
21. How have they been chosen to be “elders” in God’s presence?
21 How have they been chosen to be “elders” in God’s own presence? Certainly this has been by no democratic election carried on by any nation or people on earth, in the east or in the west. It has been by God himself, for God does not see the way any man or nation sees, but by his own standards God chooses who is to be given a seat within his immediate circle. So these symbolic “elders” are chosen theocratically, from the supreme place of authority above, and not from the people below on earth.
22. Does God therefore have a Senate, and as what do the twenty-four “elders” have the honor of serving?
22 Since God surrounds himself with a circle of twenty-four symbolic elders, does this mean he has what might be called a Senate, an intimate Council of heavenly officers with whom he goes into consultation and takes counsel, asking their advice and acting according to the majority opinion or vote? No; for he is all-wise. He needs no counsel from any of his creatures. The prophet Isaiah rightly asked concerning this great Creator: “Who has taken the proportions of the spirit of Jehovah, and who as his man of counsel can make him know anything? With whom did he consult together that one might make him understand, or who teaches him in the path of justice, or teaches him knowledge, or makes him know the very way of real understanding? Look! The nations are as a drop from a bucket, and as the film of dust on the scales they have been accounted.” (Isa. 40:13-15) The Christian congregation represented by the twenty-four “elders” have therefore only the honor of serving as foremost heavenly officials of the Ancient of Days, the Creator.
23. According to the things before God and the “elders,” what kind of interior was suggested to John?
23 In the vision to John, God and his twenty-four “elders” sat enthroned in a setting like the interior of the temple of worship in the ancient city of Jerusalem. From the description that is written down in the Bible, John knew that there were ten golden lampstands in the holy chamber of the temple that King Solomon had built a thousand years before. Five lampstands were to the right and five to the left before the innermost room or Most Holy. In the courtyard of the temple there was also a great copper basin of water, so large that it was called a sea. (1 Ki. 7:23-26, 44, 49) With water from it the priests washed their hands or the sacrifices.
24. How did God’s sitting enthroned here differ from what was true of King Solomon’s temple of long ago?
24 Relative to God’s throne John says: “And out of the throne there are lightnings and voices and thunders proceeding; and there are seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, and these mean the seven spirits of God. And before the throne there is, as it were, a glassy sea like crystal.” (Re 4:5, 6) In King Solomon’s temple of long ago God did not sit enthroned in its Most Holy, but there was a miraculous light that hovered above the sacred golden chest or ark that contained the two stone tablets upon which the finger of God had written the Ten Commandments. However, in the vision to John, God is seen as if seated enthroned in his heavenly temple.
25. As pictured by what John saw and heard, what things go forth from God’s throne?
25 The flashes of lightning from his throne aptly reminded John that “God is light.” At earth’s creation He was the One that said: “Let light come to be.” (1 John 1:5; Gen. 1:3) From his power go forth not only the actual lightnings but also all the flashes of enlightenment, of knowledge, of understanding and of wisdom to his creatures in heaven and on earth. From the One sitting upon the divine throne the power of voice comes, also the sound waves produced by the organs of speech, and especially divine messages that are carried by the voice. Sometimes the divine messages thunder in their impressiveness and in pronouncing judgment upon his enemies. “The glorious God himself has thundered.” (Ps. 29:3) His prophecies of things to come have foretold of his coming to his great spiritual temple for the purpose of judging men.—Mal. 3:1.
26. What is meant by the “seven lamps of fire,” and why should lighted lamps be before him?
26 God’s spirit or active force is invisible to human eyes, but it can cause creations to move and to work. It can produce results that our feeble eyes can see and that our other senses can perceive. By his spirit or active force God can cause enlightenment, revealing things that no ordinary human mind could think up or understand, through light shed on long-hidden sacred secrets. His spirit is like “seven lamps of fire” burning before God in his heavenly temple, not to give him light but to make things light for those who come into his presence. Those seven lamps of fire, John says, “mean the seven spirits of God.” Not that seven spirit persons are meant by these seven spirits, but that the spirit or active force of God is to be looked upon in a sevenfold way. Seven being the Bible number that stands for spiritual completeness or perfection, the seven spirits denote the complete fullness of God’s spirit. The fully needed amount of his spirit or active force he uses for enlightening those who serve him in his spiritual temple. In their turn, these enlightened ones reflect the spiritual light to other creatures to bring them a knowledge of God’s truth.
27. Upon what did those seven lamps shine, and what did this fact picture?
27 Those seven symbolic lamps of fire must have shed their light upon the “glassy sea like crystal,” at which priests could wash. So, too, the sevenfold spirit of God works only through an organization or group of creatures that is clean in his eyes. His spirit operates through a cleansed organization and helps the members to keep the organization and its offerings to God clean. Remember that the great “sea” of King Solomon’s temple could hold about 19,600 gallons of water and was “for the priests to wash in it.” (2 Chron. 4:2-6) Like clean water, God’s truth is cleansing and purifying in its power. Those who are admitted into God’s presence, like the twenty-four elders, need such water of truth, in order to carry out their priestly duties acceptably to God and for the good of all men of good will. True to this picture, the congregation of 144,000 faithful followers of Jesus Christ are spoken of as receiving from him a cleansing “with the bath of water by means of the word, that he might present the congregation to himself in its splendor, not having a spot or a wrinkle or any of such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27) God believes in religious cleanness. He has near him what is clean.
(To be continued)
Twenty-four was the number of the divisions into which King David divided the priests of the nation of Israel, to serve at Jerusalem’s temple. The Christian congregation will be a “royal priesthood.”—1 Chron. 24:1-19; Luke 1:5-24, 57-67; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 20:6. See The Watchtower in its issue of April 15, 1956, pages 253-256.