The Holiness of God
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The Bible never defines holiness as such, especially when applied to God; rather, it is a term which in many respects signifies the otherness of God, the Godness of God if you will - how he is so utterly and wholly unlike us in his divine attributes. It speaks of the uniqueness of his being. It is a term often associated with the radiance of God (Shekinah) which far outshines anything we could imagine. It is sometimes linked to ‘glory’, the weight of God (kabod), which outweighs the entire cosmos. The absolute, transcendent, otherness of God - his holiness - is conveyed in the vision of chapter 4 in several ways.
First, by the way the divine throne is enhanced by spectacular heavenly beings, 4:4, ‘Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.’
There is some debate regarding the identity of the elders, for example, whether they are angelic beings. The focus however, is not so much what they are but who they represent. They are wearing crowns indicating rule, and dressed in white which is the colour of victory. Their number, 24, has a representative function. So it would seem these figures represent before the throne of God the entire people of God-the 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and the 12 apostles in the New, symbolising the entire community of the redeemed of both Testaments.
One implication of this is that God’s people are never without supernatural representatives in heaven, such they are never out of God’s mind for a single moment. That is how much we are of value to God; he has so arranged the courtroom of heaven to make sure we are never forgotten. Not that God is capable of forgetting! Rather, the symbolism is of advocates in a royal court. It would be of great comfort for a citizen of an ancient country to know that he had a representative before the King.
How much more is it consoling to know that we are always before the King of kings? In other words, the arrangement is more for our benefit than God’s.
The crowns and clothing symbolise kingship and victory. The suffering Christians of Asia Minor are to see themselves and their martyred companions in this light. They may have suffered on earth but they reign in heaven; they may have been despised here but are honoured there. Christians in John’s churches can look from a Roman prison or a slave mine to the throne room of God and with the eyes of faith see this. In short, what we have is a picture of the Church in glory. This is the way
Greg Beale describes it, ‘The church is pictured in angelic guise to remind its members that already a dimension of their existence is heavenly, that their real home is not with the unbelieving “earth-dwellers”, and that they have heavenly help and protection in their struggle to obtain their reward and not be conformed to their pagan environment.’
One of the reasons for a church fellowship meeting each week is so they can have this kind of perspective renewed and strengthened. Christians are meant to see their lives, careers, years of strength and days of weakness in this light and having this significance. This is where we shall be one day; this is where we now belong in principle. It is our true home. Even as Christians meet together in whatever building might be available to them, they at the same time meet in the divine throne-room which stretches to their feet as they worship.
Teach us, O gracious Lord, to begin our works with fear, to go on with obedience, and to finish them in love, and then to wait patiently in hope, and with cheerful confidence to look to you, whose promises are faithful and rewards infinite; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
Gafcon Devotions. This month the daily devotions are led by Rev Melvin Tinker, England. The focus is on the Book of Revelation and the Trinity. Pray for many people to be spiritually refreshed and provoked.
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