~ Come Up Here! ~
"After this I looked, and there before me was a door
standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like
a trumpet said, 'Come up here' " (Revelation 4:1a). "You have come to Mount
Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come
to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of
the first born, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God,
the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus
the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a
better word than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse him
who speaks" (Hebrews 12:22-25a, NIV).
"For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it
for His habitation: 'This is my resting place forever; here I will sit enthroned,
for I have desired it' " (Psalm 132:13-14). That divine Voice calls out to
us, "Come up here!"
The apostle Paul explained how he was "caught [lifted] up" to the third heaven
and "heard inexpressible things." (See 2 Corinthians 12.) John was as well,
and did give us a description as best he could using metaphor and bizarre
images. He witnessed the heavenly liturgy of worship: "There before me was
a throne...the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian.
A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne
were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders.
They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the
throne came flashes of lightning, rumbling and peals of thunder. Before the
throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also
before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
"In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were
covered with eyes, in front and in back...Day and night they never stop saying,
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.'
...And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to
break the seals and open the scroll?' But no one in heaven or on earth or
under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it...Then I saw
a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne...He
had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out
into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him
who sat on the throne...'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open it
seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for
God'...Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands
upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand...I heard every creature
in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is
in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise
and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!' The four living creatures
said, 'Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshiped" (Revelation 4 and 5).
How striking! What a worship service! Isn't the metaphor of a "lamb" an odd
choice for a Being with that power and subject of universal worship? Unlike
lions, tigers, grizzly bears or eagles, lambs do not evoke majesty, fear
or even power to be respected and admired. The power of this Lamb springs
from His being slaughtered, a mysterious sacrifice that made "captivity [itself]
captive," and death, itself, dead.
When we pray, privately or as an assembly, "We lift up our hearts," we are
responding to the injunction, "Come up here!" A popular prayer involves the
"lifting up" of a person, need or problem. "Oh Lord, I lift up brother [sister]
to you..." Is it not better to "lift up" from the heavenly end than to "push
up" from the earth? To lift up anything or anyone to God means we have lifted
up our hearts first, that we have responded to His call to "Come up here!"
Only from there can we do the lifting up of others.
The words of our prayers cannot "rise like incense" when we are thinking
about earthly matters. When we pray, "Open for me the gates of righteousness;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord" (Psalm 118:19) or "We lift up our
hearts," our visualizations would best compare to John's. If we say, "Our
Father who is in heaven, holy be your name" while we are thinking about the
food getting cold, we are lifting nothing up, not our gratitude, praise or
hearts. This is not worshiping "in spirit and in truth."
Popular Christian culture tends to treat the Book of Revelation as a code
to be broken and you probably well know the authors of hype who made tons
of money expounding on this treatment of such sacred text. The Greek word
for "revelation" is "apokalypsis." That literally translates into "unveiling,"
a term well known by the first century Jews in the context of the lifting
of a bride's veil, an indicator of the time for the bride and groom to consummate
and sanctify their marriage in sexual union. The New Testament Scriptures
drive home the image of the Church, God's people, being the bride of Christ.
The Apocalypse or Revelation is a grand announcement of the marriage supper
of the Lamb to His people. (See Revelation 19:9.) As such, it had as much
(actually a more recognized) meaning for the first century Christians as
it does for us relegating it to being a code of end-times predictions. It
is a wondrous revelation of how to worship. It is also a delightful and loving
invitation to "Come up here!" now, to participate in the heavenly realm and
communion of saints while still on earth.
"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing
waters and the loud peals of thunder, shouting, 'Hallelujah! For our Lord
God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the
wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready...(Revelation
19:6-7)...'I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the
churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning
Star.' The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come [up here]!' And let him who hears
say, 'Come [up here]!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes,
let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Revelation 22:16-17).
That is what the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the unveiling, is essentially
about. And that revelation is, indeed, quite clear.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
in the Christian Faith ~
Spiritual Resource Services © September 1, 2005
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