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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ 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.
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