Chapter 4 of Revelation: The Times and The Seasons

CloudsAfter this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice,
which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will
show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold,
a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. (Rev 4:1-2)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

When I was in high school, the youth director at church, who knew that I was shy, appointed me photographer for the summer retreat. This was a brilliant move onher part because my new job required that I meet everyone and take their picture. Open doors and open windows became my favorite backdrop for these photos. In my mind, open doors and windows were a symbol of our new life in Christ: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Rom 12:2).

Doors and Windows in Time

There are also doors and windows in time. The Greek language distinguishes two types of time. When the disciples asked the risen Christ, he refers to both types of time: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority (Acts 1:6-7). The Greek word for times is: chronos (χρόνους (Acts 1:7 BNT)). The Greek word for seasons is: Kairos (καιροὺς (Acts 1:7 BGT)). Chronos time is watch or calendar time. Kairos time is a decision moment or crisis. In other words, Kairos is a door in time. Once you go through it, you enter a new phase in life. Entering the door into heaven is a Kairos moment.

A lot of the discussion over interpreting the book Revelations has to do with attitudes about time. Does Christ return to earth before reigning for a thousand years (pre-millennial) or after (post-millennial)? Are the biblical covenants exclusively and consecutively administrated? That is: Adamic/creation covenant (Gen 1-2)=>the Noahic/recreation covenant (Gen 9:1-17)=>the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 15)=>the Mosaic covenant (Exod 20-24)=>Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:1-17)=>New Covenant (dispensational). Or, can more than one covenant be in effect at the same time? (Non-dispensational) Is there a rapture? If so, when does it occur in reference to all of the above? All of these interpretations of the end times can be confusing.

The Alpha and The Omega

Jesus said: I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (Rev 1:8). The use of the phrase alpha to omega is a literary merism. A merism is a description of a continuum, defined by its end points, but which refers to the whole continuum. When Jesus says, I am the Alpha and the Omega, he really means: I am the alpha, beta, gamma, delta…omega. In other words the whole alphabet! The doublet that follows—who is and who was and who is to come—makes this clear. It also clearly refers to time—all of it. The implication is that Christ stands above and outside of time.

This is an important clue as to how to interpret Revelations. If one stands outside of time, the sequence within time is irrelevant. When we confront the living God, we are in Kairos time, not Chronos time. The image of a throne underscores this point because it is an image of judgment—also a Kairos image.

Amillennial Defined

For this reason, the conventional view of the end-times (eschatology) since the early church has been that to interpret biblical glimpses of the future as primarily focused on how we live today (amillennial), not hints as how to interpret end-time events or sequences. This is why Jesus said: It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority (Acts 1:7 ESV). Be ready and watch out for those doors…

Questions

Read Revelations 4. Then read: Isaiah 6:1-5, Ezekiel 1:4-28, and Daniel 7:9-14

1. How long was the journey up to heaven that John traveled? Why makes this journey special?
2. What does the door to heaven (v 1) mean to you? What does it mean to John?
3. How is heaven decorated? Is this more or less than you might expect? How does this compare to a typical king’s palace? How about the president’s office?
4. How does one get a crown normally in ancient times? What do you suppose the crowns indicate here?
5. What does the number 24 signify?
6. What do the creature eye symbolize (v 6) and mean? What is the job description of the creatures?

Chapter 4 of Revelation: The Times and The Seasons

Also see:

Chapter 5 of Revelation: Harp and Bowl

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2fEPbBK

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Blackaby: Take Heart, Spring is Around the Corner

Blackaby_11172014Richard Blackaby. 2012. The Seasons of God:  How the Shifting Patterns of Your Life Reveal His Purposes for You. Colorado Springs:  Multnomah Books.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

“You have to know when to cut bait and when to go fishing.”

Whoever said it first was certainly a fishing expert. A good friend of mine, who is an obsessive fisherman that actually put himself through school working in fisheries, advised:  the time to fish is at twilight—morning and evening.  I never caught a fish with an artificial lure until the day I followed his advice.  Timing is everything if you want to catch fish.

Richard Blackaby’s book, The Seasons of God, builds on the basic premise of King Solomon (7):  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV).  Blackaby (3) writes:

This book explores something that involves getting your timing right for all you do and where you do it.  It’s about being free to really enjoy what you’re doing and where you’re doing—and to make the most of the experience.

Blackaby (13) reminds us also of the Apostle Paul’s observation that: at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6 ESV).

Blackaby (24-41) summarzes his observations about timing in a chapter entitled: Ten Laws of the Seasons of Life.  These laws are:

  1. Each of us experiences repeated cycles in life that are profoundly mirrored in the seasons we see in nature.
  2. These seasons are more than simply a metaphor for aging.
  3. Each season is unique and adds important dimensions to life.
  4. Our seasons follow a set order.
  5. Our seasons vary in length and intensity—and in what they require from us.
  6. The way we handle one season profoundly impacts how we experience the seasons that follow.
  7. We can—and often do—fail to recognize and understand our particular season.
  8. Understanding our seasons of life requires a vital, open, trusting relationship with God.
  9. We experience different seasons in different aspects of our lives.
  10. We are meant to thrive in every season.

This last point is terribly important—thriving is God’s will for our lives and his guidance is the key to making the most of each season (40).

The four seasons of life are taken from nature.  Blackaby (25-26) describes them as follows:

  1. Spring is about potential, promise, and possibilities.
  2. Summer is a time of growth and maturation.
  3. Autumn is the season of harvest.
  4. Winter is a season of winding down—withdrawal, retreat, and closure.

Problems (47) arise when we are impatient for the next season (season rushers) or refuse to give up the previous season (season graspers).  I am more prone to impatience—friends used to say that I was born 16 years old—but we all know someone who reports their age on their birthday as 29—again.  Getting stuck in a particularly happy season or particularly sad season seems to be a pattern repeated in many unhappy lives.

Blackaby’s book is written in 3 parts:  Embracing the Pattern, Embracing each Season, and Thriving in All Our Seasons.  These parts are composed of 29 chapters.  Chapters 6 through 25 are found in part 2 where Blackaby introduces a classification system:  4 seasons described in 4 areas of life.  The seasons are listed above; the 4 areas of life affected by the seasons are: your identity, your relationships, your roles, and your faith (58-60).  The first and third parts of the book introduce the subject, summarize the lessons learned, and suggest what to do with it.

Many people will want to skip straight to chapter 28:  With Joy Comes Laughter.  Here Blackaby talks about how to have fun.  How do you become a joy-producing person? (238)  Blackaby suggests house decorations (240), a chocolate fountain (241), a costume closet (241), holiday themes (242), and homemade movies (242).  Richard: please invite me to your home sometime!

Blackaby’s writing has been influential in my walk with the Lord.  Although I was exposed to Experiencing God[1] in my church, I actually spent more time with Hearing God’s Voice[2].  It was about a year later that I began to sense a call into pastoral ministry.  Blackaby’s The Seasons of God is a good holiday read and a thoughtful book anytime.  It may change your life.

[1] Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King.  1990.  Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Nashville:  Lifeway Press.

[2] Henry and Richard Blackaby.  2002.  Hearing God’s Voice.  Nashville:  Broadman and Holman Publishers.

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Vaughn: Experiencing, Managing, and Cherishing Time God’s Way

Time_06132014Ellen Vaughn.  2007.  Time Peace: Living Here and Now with a Timeless God.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra [1]

Ellen Vaughn starts her book, Time Peace, with a question:  How can an earth-bound person really connect with an eternal God? Does God’s Shalom rub off on the people we meet every day or are we afflicted with hurry sickness? (16-17)  If our lives are deprived of Shalom and dominated by hurry sickness, what can be done about it?

Ellen segments the time problem into 4 parts:

  1. Experiencing Time;
  2. Managing Time;
  3. Re-viewing Time:  A New Paradigm; and
  4. Enjoying Time.

God’s perspective on time is different than ours. God manages time; time manages us.  For us, a wristwatch serves as a kind of virtual handcuff (61).  God is eternal and the stars serve as his wrist-watch (Job 9:3-9; 19).

The biblical notion of stewardship: doesn’t really strike a cord with many 21-century Americans (74). Ellen asks: whether we live to the age of of 34 or 104, how do we use the time we are given? (77)  The biblical view of time (stewardship) is in strong tension with our everyday experience of time (the wristwatch)?

Reviewing many details of quantum physics, Ellen notes that science does not seem to explain the created universe as neatly as we learned in high school.  She remarks:

I do find it interesting that in the Bible…that is thousands of years old…[it] casually makes claims that seem to jibe with what is intimated in the weird world of 21st century quantum physics (187).

When we experience the eternal God, God must deliberately break into our time-bound world to touch our lives.  We experience God’s intrusion as a kairos momenta Greek word describing a moment of crisis and decision [2].  Our usual experience of timechronos time as measure by our watchesis not nearly so threatening.

In evaluating how to enjoy time, Ellen asks:  How do we seize the moment and invest time to extend God’s kingdom? (206)

In her book, Time Peace, Ellen’s writing craft is displayed in at least 4 dimensions:

  1. She does her homework. In researching time as a topic, she reviewed film, time management books, scripture, and scientific literature. I suspect that she also did a number of interviews.
  2. She paints wonderful mental pictures and tells numerous stories. I will never forget her lesson on the six deadly sins and how they relate to Gilligan’s Island (8) [3].
  3. She is willing to take theological and intellectual risks. Most Luke commentaries do not offer alternative readings of the Mary and Martha story. Likewise, I suspect that most English majors do not write extensively on Einstein’s theory of relativity and string theory.
  4. She throws curve balls in her prose. I doubt, for example, that she really sits much on the beach throwing alka seltzer tablets in the air to the sea gulls, but the thought is interesting.

Time Peace is perceptive, theologically engaging, and witty. Small groups will want to look at it for study and discussion.

 

[1]  Ellen Vaughn (www.EllenVaughn.com) is a local author who I met in 2007 at a meeting of the Capital Christian Writers Club (www.CapitalChristianWriters.org).

[2] I was personally touched by her story about Vicky Armel, a police officer gunned down for no apparent reason within walking distance of my home in Centreville, Virginia.  Only 2 years prior to her death, Vicky unexpectedly committed her life to Christa kairos moment. Her testimony was recorded on Easter Sunday.  Vicky accordingly had the rare privilege of addressing her own funeral via video tape (183-185).

[3] Ellen writes:  Students of the show advance the theory that the Professor exhibits the deadly sin of pride…Ginger, the lascivious movie star, represents lust.  Envy goes to Maryann who wanted to be Ginger. Thurston Howell the Third, who took a large trunck full of money on a three-hour cruise, is greed.  Since Mrs Howell never did much of anything at all, she is sloth…We are left with the sins of anger and gluttony, and the mad and corpulent Skipper personifies them both (88).

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