God at the Center of Life
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|Dr Lee Fook Sin
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|Moh Ee Lin
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|Ng Cho Hoo
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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS – STUDY 6
Please look at the questions and discuss the answers. The case histories are designed to let you apply what theoretical knowledge you have gleaned from the study. There are intentionally many more questions and case histories than you can manage in one session but this is designed to cover the many and varied needs of the individuals in the church hence please pick and choose which ones to discuss as long as it gets people sharing and applying the Word to real life situations. Never feel obligated to finish all the questions The answers will be posted on the web the next day.
The usual stories of people who have had a near death experience seem to focus almost entirely on meeting their loved ones and activities in heaven. Very few of them focus on what John here describes which is God on His throne in the Center of all Creation.
People should not use their testimony on their near death experiences as a definitive truth about whether there is a heaven or not or whether there is God or not or even whether Jesus is the only way to God simply because the bible never utilises this modality outside those experiences and descriptions by the various prophets like Ezekiel, Isaiah and Daniel and in this case John. Jesus in his parable of the rich man and the bigger in Luke 16:31 says that the proof of eternal life must lie within the testimony of Scriptures and not by any other witness from someone crossing over to the realm of death and returning to tell the tale. In the parable the rich man in hell wanted to have the beggar in heaven sent back to the physical world to warn them of the eternal realities.
Jesus said it would not make any difference to their faith. Paul in 1 Cor 12 talks about a man who went into heaven but declines to share about it for he did not use the event either to authenticate his own credentials nor verify the authenticity of the Christian faith. There are also near death experiences that have happened to 5-14% of Americans to date and they will include the testimony of non believers who have claimed to enter the realms of heaven without any faith in Christ as well hence using these supernatural experiences can be misleading and not helpful
The lightning and thunder symbolise both the magnificence and awesome power of God the Creator and Lord of all nature as well a judgement and this immediately puts puts the person in his real life context of existence. We are weak finite creatures and awful sinners to boot and
suddenly we are confronted with an awesome all powerful God who has to punish all sins fairly. The frightening sights and sounds of the throne are balanced by the appearance of the rainbow which is the first sign God gave Noah after the flood that He would not again destroy mankind with the flood. Hence the sign is for both man and God to remember this covenant or promise God gave. Hence the rainbow is a symbol to us of God’s covenant of God’ promises to us as His people that in the midst of the tribulations of judgement that shall henceforth be inflicted upon
mankind unrelentlessly from Revelations 6-20 God will never once forget His promises to us as that rainbow is always around the throne of God.
Hence these two symbols give us justice and mercy. This is the correct understanding of God because we can always create our own version of God in our own minds. What starts of as genuine faith is often degenerated into an unfaithful rendering of some attributes of God over others so we have a disfigured God a God of our own making to suit our own culture or proclivities. True revelation will have none of that and the Bibles portrayal of God whether it be in Ezekiel , Daniel or Isaiah or John is always consistent. It is always a Holy God of Justice, Righteousness and Mercy
In Hebrew culture the sea is often perceived as a place of chaos and evil where sea monsters come from. In Revelations the beasts come from the sea the place of chaos and evil. Hence the sea of glass is a calm sea where there is no longer the turbulence of the heaving waves emblematic of unrestrained evil. The presence of the still waters near the throne indicate the overriding omnipotence of God against whom even the evil turbulence of the sea is no match and is tamed. It therefore symbolised God’s total control of evil in the world despite the outward appearance of tulmult that we see on the streets and in our homes today.
The number 24 is significant as it was the number of king David’s 24 orders of priests (1 Chron.24:3-19), Levitical gatekeepers 24 (1 Chron. 26:17-19) and Levitical worship leaders also 24 (1 Chron. 25:6-31), Revelations 21: 12-13 tells us that the walls of the new Jerusalem have 12 gates named after the 12 tribes of Israel and the foundations of the walls have the names of the 12 apostles on them giving a total of 24
Then the fact that they have white robes is taken from Revelations 3:5 where the triumphant believers will have white robes indicating purity and in Revelations 2:10b Jesus reassures the beleaguered believers in Smyrna that they who overcome and endure in the face of persecution will be rewarded with crowns. Angels don’t win crowns In Revelations 15:2 the saints sing both the song of Moses from their salvation from their slavery in Egypt the first exodus and the Song of the Lamb from their second exodus from the slavery of sin. Hence it is most likely that the 24 elders represent the believers of the Old and New Testament which are represented by the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles the heads of both the old and new covenants.
The significance of their proximity to the throne is that since they represent the entire people of God, the church, we are placed in a position of power due to their proximity to the throne. In the midst of persecution and troubles we are never far from the center of all power and control as our heavenly counterparts are right before the King of Kings.
The proximity to the throne also means there is a heavenly dimension of the church already present right next to the throne of God. Therefore our weekly worship has a heavenly component as the scene reminds us of our heavenly existence and identity in worship. The Crowns, white robes and thrones anticipates victory of the saints when they persevere which will be ours too one day
The crowns in ancient culture can be symbols of authority like those used by monarchs or the prizes of athletes. In Revelation 2:10b Jesus promises the believers in Smyrna crowns if they persevere through the persecution hence crowns represent the reward for persevering faith and
represent the victory that the perseverance brings. The 4 living creatures don’t wear crowns as they are angels and angels never wear crowns as it is symbol always reserved for the saints The crown is the symbol of persevering faith of believers tested by trials.
When the elders lay them before the throne what they are doing is declaring that even their best efforts, even their persevering faith is due to the provision of God. They are saying that they did not do it by themselves, they do not take credit as even their overcoming faith that resulted in external victory is owed to none other than to God.
When we realise that even our faith with which we utilised to take hold of the salvation provided by God originated from God it will naturally humble us and not allow us to usurp God’s glory by becoming proud of our achievements in the arena of faith. Whether it be an apostle a prophet or a lowly janitor who God uses to share the gospel and persevere in faith, the ability to do so comes from God hence there is no place for pride when we look back on our own record. Instead there will be humble and grateful acknowledgement which brings more glory to God. The humility will also allow a spirit of anticipation in the way we will want to wait upon God in ministry and see how He moves in church instead of powering ahead with our own ideas and agendas.
Paul in 2 Tim 4:6-8 speaks of a crown that he will receive. How does this expectation enable his endurance? Does the prospect of gaining this crown motivate you personally as you navigate through troubles in your life? How does one keep this aspect of our faith clearly within our sights on a daily basis in order to to spur our obedience and endurance. What are the ways in which the expectation of this crown are often blurred and forgotten. What effects will that have on our lives . The picture of worship is the posture ..bow down, cast crowns and verbalisation what does this mean to us?
The fact that people say that they wont want to be heaven if Jeffrey Dahmer is there betrays their attitude towards the gospel in salvation. It is always a tendency at the back of our minds to believe that we deserve to be in heaven either because we did not commit many bad sins before we came to Christ..(low sin debt burden) so we are relatively “good “ people or that since our conversion we have been really do and deserve heaven.
The presence of Dahmer in heaven really cheapens grace as if there was a bar to entrance into heaven to be set so low that even a despicable creature like him could be afforded entry based on a simple claim to repentance and trust in Jesus. Comments like this in reality detracts from the beauty of grace because the sinner always gets to heaven not on the basis of the magnitude of his sin but the magnitude of God’s grace that even a dastardly serial like Jeffrey can be saved by the blood of Christ.
To be worthy is that it be morally beautiful and if believers like the ones in Sardis in Rev 3:5 are described as worthy it is not because they deserved it as they deserve like all we deserve God’s judgement and condemnation but that because of the blood of Christ it is morally beautiful in the eyes of God. It is morally beautiful because the sinner deserving of death gets life because of the sacrifice of Jesus to which the sinner clings on to dear life with the faith which God provides for him.
Magnifying glass is a poor metaphor because it implies God’s goodness is on a microscopic level and we need to amplify it so people can see it.
The metaphor of the telescope is better because we are trying to with the use of the telescope get a grasp of the enormity of God’s magnificence and the instrument enables us to do that without compiromising the actual enormity of God’s brilliance in the universe. The cons on using this term is the unwieldy ness of using this term, imagine saying “ Lord we telescope your glory in the heavens” sounds weird doesn’t it?
Saying we magnify your glory is easier and sounds better as long as the hearers understand and most do that we are making a big deal of God not that He is so small that we have to make a big deal out of Him but our perception of Him is so small and distorted that we have to amplify His attributes into consciousness of the people we are speaking or singing to
The term refers to the externality of God as opposed to the kings and the most powerful people who have authority over us in the world today. This is important because these kings will pass away but our God and His purposes are eternal and permanent and will come to pass. The rainbow was set from the beginning of this world after the flood it is still in the skies as it is above the throne and the eternal God will never forget his commitment to us. We live in a world characterised by one important thing, that every thing changes which in effect makes things very difficult. How many business are still present in your neighbourhood after 10 year or 20 years? How many governments last more than 100 years..very few. The only constant with the history of mankind is change hence we cannot trust man but we can trust the eternal God.
No it does not mean God is lacking in all these three characteristics or attributes. These three attributes are intrinsic attributes of God and He has them whether we see of recognise them at all. When we worship what we are doing is more subjective were are expressing verbally or responding to our perception of His glory, Honour and power. He already has them and we are as worshippers seeing it , experiencing it and now expressing it verbally to Him and in this sense we are giving Him glory, honour and power. We are not giving Him what He lack but expressing his qualities that we perceive and respond to verbally. There is not only the verbal expression but the physical expression which is falling down before God which indicates submission to His will and Greatness.
Hence worship is not only verbal expression of our appreciation of who He is but also physical in submitting to His will and His plans for us. There cannot be one without the other. We cannot be verbalising our praise and not submitting our will be cause that would be an inauthentic expression not heart felt. True worship is on our knees our lives in submission to Him.
God is the most perfect person in the universe and in the entire span of the universe there is only God and His creation. He is the most perfect morally person and everything else is beneath Him. If his aim is not to glorify Himself then He has to glorify His creation which would be idolatry as all creation is lesser than the Creator. To glorify the Creator is the natural obligation and privilege of all created beings.
If there was a person like the Roman Emperor who desired to be worshiped, that desire would in itself be egotistical and proud no matter how powerful of good he was he would still be a creature and sinful hence the desire to be glorified in this case would not be a morally fit proposition because he would be human and is exceeding his station in life. Only God deserves or is worthy to be glorified.
What is the central focus of heaven in Revelations 4? Doesn’t How does this influence the way we live? How should we endeavour to have this aspect our our spiritual lives enhanced going forward?
Answers will be available on 5th November 2020.