Seven Lamps of Fire - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 5 - A GLIMPSE BEYOND THE VEIL
John is bidden to "Come up hither" and view the Heavenly Sanctuary behind the door "that was opened in Heaven" (Rev. 4:1). We mentioned how the veil was torn asunder, that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy -- and so now we have access into the very presence of God. There is a certain teaching in some segments of the church .. about our standing in Christ, and our earthly state. I have no problem with the doctrine, and I have found it gives strength and a living hope .. knowing that God has placed us in that holy standing because of the redemption we have in Christ Jesus, even though we have not arrived. And God sees us in that heavenly calling, even as we seek to pursue it. In consequence of this, there is an open door into the immediate presence of God .. into this position that He has purchased for us by His blood. Paul places a lot of emphasis on this position in Christ where God has brought us by His grace:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3).
"But, God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-6).
There are many scriptures like this, especially in Paulís writings, and we need to be assured of this lest we flounder in times of trial and temptation. But we must recognize this high and holy standing in Christ, is also a high and holy calling -- and not just a Term Deposit in Heaven which we cannot draw from till we get there. We badly need to draw from it in this life. I have never been satisfied with a doctrine that promises so much for The Hereafter, and very little for The Here. Scriptural hope is beyond faith. It is both sure and steadfast because it is anchored there within the veil, "whither the Forerunner has for us entered" (Heb. 6:20). He is there as our High Priest and Mediator of the New Covenant. When storms assail -- we feel the tug on the anchor to encourage us to keep following on, for He is there within the veil. The veil has already been torn asunder between us, and He beckons us to "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:22). And to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). The Spirit encourages us to explore "what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:18, 19). God has much for His people that we cannot see, or hear, or comprehend as yet -- and so He gives us His Spirit to show us things that our minds cannot comprehend .. to draw us closer to the heart of God.
Behold, a Throne in Heaven
When John heard the call to "Come up hither" .. Immediately he was in the Spirit: "and, behold, a throne was set in Heaven, and One sat on the throne". John was in the Spirit before, and saw One like the Son of Man walking among the lampstands. Now He is in the Spirit in a higher dimension, and he sees the glories of the throne in the Most Holy Place, where our Lord Jesus rules as a Lamb upon the throne. As we read on we see Him in the very center of the throne, for He is there as our High Priest preparing a place for His redeemed, "that where I am there ye may be also". He bids us to "come boldly unto the throne of grace" in every hour of need (Heb. 4:16).
"And round about the throne were four and twenty seats (thrones): and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment, and they had on their heads crowns of gold" (Rev. 4:4). This is the heavenly sanctuary, and those who reign with him in priestly ministry, are there around the throne. They are clothed in priestly array, with golden crowns on their heads. The high priest of the order of Aaron wore a mitre on his head, and engraved in gold were the words which revealed the essence of his consecration: Holiness to the LORD; and when they were anointed with the holy oil, they were crowned with oil (see Ex. 28:36; Lev. 21:12). As members of Christ we are a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9). In Solomonís Temple there were twenty four princes of the sanctuary .. which I believe would typify these twenty four elders. "And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices; and there were Seven Lamps of Fire burning before the throne, which are the Seven Spirits of God (Rev. 4:5). The lightnings and thunders are to prepare the great storm that is coming, which in its full manifestation will bring to naught the kingdoms of men, and all the powers of evil will be subdued under the feet of Christ. But in the midst of the storm there is a rainbow of promise to the people of God, speaking of the Covenant of Life and of Glory that is being mediated by the High Priest on the throne. And the Seven Spirits of God are working mightily throughout the earth (Rev. 5:6). John was given a preview of what would take place in the earth and in the heavens, as the Lamb begins to move in "the day of His power".
Four Living Creatures (see our writing, From Tent to Temple, Ch 4)
"And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts (four living beings) full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come" (see Rev. 4:6-8).
The living creatures are very much like the cherubim that Ezekiel saw -- and they minister on behalf of Godís redeemed ones in the earth. Therefore they must become acquainted with the wisdom of God that flows from the cross. Peter tells us that they "desire to look into these things" that pertain to our redemption (1 Pet. 1:12). Even the highest powers in the heavens learn wisdom from a church that is motivated and led and endued by the Spirit -- while the evil "principalities and powers" must release their hold on the souls of men as Godís people walk in the "wisdom of the cross" (Eph. 3:10). Only the gospel that goes forth in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit will make an impact on men who are captivated by a world of darkness. If the manifold wisdom of God does not shine forth from a church that is known in heavenly places, those powers are secure in their strongholds, and "his goods are in peace" (Lk. 11:21; see Eph. 3:10). (See the writing, Who are You? -- Ch 7).
The Song of the Elders and the Living Creatures
The description of the living creatures is very similar to that of the cherubim which Ezekiel saw (see Ezek. 1:5, 18, 22; 10:14). As the Lamb comes forward to take the book that is sealed with seven seals, the twenty four elders and the living creatures fall down and worship Him, "And they sing a new song, saying: Worthy art Thou to take the booklet, and to open the seals thereof; because Thou wast slain, and didst purchase to God with Thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and madest them a kingdom and priests to our God; and they reign upon the earth" (Rev. 5:9, 10 -- Numeric English New Testament, by Ivan Panin, who used numerics to verify the original Greek. Several other versions support this rendering, using they or them or men, instead of us, or we -- as in the A.V.). I believe the living creatures belong to the heavenly hosts of the Lord; but they are very much identified with the earthly redeemed people of God -- and together they sing this song of Redemption.
Ezekiel heard "the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty" (vs. 24), for it is God speaking from Heaven, and His voice was as "the noise of a host". It is the allied forces of heavenly realms, as well as the sounds that come from the hosts of Godís chosen ones in the earth. When Jacob left his uncle Laban, and started on his way back to his father in Canaan -- we are told: "the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is Godís host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim". The word means two camps, or two hosts. Jacobís host was now identified with the heavenly host. Jacob was in great fear, and in great need of help -- especially when he heard that his brother Esau was on the way to meet him, and God sent the hosts of heaven to be with him along the way (see Gen. 32:1).
As individuals we have heavenly beings with us, who are commissioned to "minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Heb. 1:14). As His people walk with Him, I believe He wants us to know that we are overshadowed with the hosts of Heaven. We must not exalt them or give them worship. Sometimes they become visible, for God may see fit to assure His people that God is looking after them. When David was in deep distress he cried unto God, and God rose up in anger against His enemies. David said: "He rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, He did fly upon the wings of the wind" (Ps. 18:10). We are not to tempt God, by doing dangerous things, and expect the hosts of Heaven to run to our rescue (Lk. 4:12). But we are not to shun danger either, if God calls us to walk in dangerous places.
We have it all wrong in the world, as well as in the church. We want the majority on our side, if we expect to get anything done for Jesus. But God cares not about the majority, whether it be in the world of politics, or in the church. He generally chooses to work with the minority -- then He gets all the glory. The hosts of Heaven provide us with the majority. I think of Elisha to whom the Lord had given information to pass on to the king of Israel, to warn him against a surprise attack by the Syrians, who were enemies at that time. The enemy would seek to take up positions in a strategic place -- only to discover the forces of Israel were already there and waiting for them. This happened two or three times, and finally the king of Syria concluded that there was a spy in their midst, and he was determined to find out who it was. But one of his soldiers knew what was happening, and told the king: "We are loyal men, O king -- but thereís a man in Israel who tells the king everything youíre planning in your bedroom". They inquired and found out where the man was, and the king of Syria sent a contingent of soldiers to capture him. Elisha was in the little town of Dothan at the time, so they surrounded the town with horses and chariots, ready to capture him the next morning. But when morning came Elishaís servant went outside, and he was terrified when he saw dozens or perhaps hundreds of Syrian soldiers, along with horses and chariots, surrounding the little down of Dothan. He quickly ran to Elisha and told him what he saw: the whole town was surrounded by the Syrians. Elisha calmly told him not to fear .. "Weíve got more warriors on our side, than they have!" he said. The young man looked around but couldnít see anybody except the enemy. So Elisha prayed a short prayer, "LORD, open his eyes, that he may see". And suddenly he saw the mountain "full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha". The young fellow was excited! Suddenly he realized they had a far greater army than the Syrians. Then the prophet prayed, "Lord, smite the enemy with blindness". So Elisha walked up to the commander and asked him what they wanted. He said, "We are here looking for a man called Elisha .. but suddenly we all went blind, and we canít find our way". "Follow me," Elisha said, and "Iíll lead you to the man youíre looking for". Then he led them all the way to Samaria, every man holding the hand or the shirt sleeve of his neighbour, with Elijah leading the head man. And he brought them like prisoners of war to the king of Israel. Then Elisha prayed again: "Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see". So God opened their eyes. What a shock! The whole battalion was in enemy territory, and at the mercy of the king of Israel. "Will I kill them all, my father..?" he asked Elisha in excitement. "No", said the prophet, "you donít slay soldiers that are captured in battle, do you?. Just give them something to eat and drink, and send them back home". So they made a great feast for them, for they were very hungry after that long journey -- and sent them back home.
How easily God can handle nations, and armies, and national leaders, and perverse men who presume to fight against God!
"So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel" (see 2 Kgs. 6:8-23).
Of course that was Old Testament, and we do not expect things like that to happen today, do we?.. So is the Old Testament better and more powerful than the New Testament?
The New Testament Mercy Seat
The cherubim are identified in the scriptures as protectors and guardians of Godís holiness and righteousness, and so must it be with the priests of the Lord. We must become very jealous for Godís holiness and truth. When Adam and Eve sinned, the cherubim were stationed at the gate of Eden, turning their swords around in all directions to keep them from the Tree of Life. But now all this has changed, because of the redemption we have in Christ Jesus. Now they are "in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne" to protect the redeemed from the accusations of Satan, who is called the accuser of the brethren. Let us understand this very important fact concerning our salvation: It is Godís righteousness, not only His mercy, that becomes our assurance and our boldness as we come to the mercy seat. And so the apostle Paul declares that we are "justified (declared righteous) freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith, in His blood" (Rom. 3:24, 25). The word propitiation is the same word that is translated mercy seat in Heb. 9:5: "And over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat.." The cherubim who once were posted at the Gate of Eden to keep man away from the Tree of Life, with their flashing swords -- are now in the Holiest of All to welcome us back to the Tree of Life. Christ is our Mercy Seat, because of His redemption on our behalf. And now we see the cherubim identified with the Mercy Seat, as were the golden cherubim sitting on each end of the mercy seat of the Old Testament. They are part of the mercy seat .. facing each other, but looking down at the blood that was sprinkled there for our redemption. We are saved by Godís righteousness as well as by His mercy. And it is because the blood of Christ has made us righteous, "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). It is here at the cross that --
"Mercy and truth are met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85:10)
The tomb is empty, for Christ is risen -- Godís assurance to us that His redemption on our behalf is well pleasing to God. Christ rose from the dead in a spiritual body that was not hampered by material obstructions. He walked through closed and locked doors. It was a spiritual body, as compared to a natural body of flesh and blood. His resurrected body is still tangible, corporeal, visible .. but now it is flesh and bones rather than flesh and blood (1 Cor. 15:44, 45). And so He came out of His grave clothes without any one unwinding the cloth like they did with Lazarus. The shroud was left all wound together as it was when they placed Him in the tomb -- and John took special note of it: "The napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself". Bands of cloth were mingled with the embalming ointments and wrapped around the head, and likewise around the body. No man had meddled with it. He had come out of the shroud as from a cocoon, and left it as it was in its original form. No doubt it was still stained with the blood from His head, His hands, His side, and His feet. But this new mercy seat was sprinkled once for all, by the blood of Jesus. John noticed further that there were "two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain" (Jn. 20:12).
What a beautiful picture of the old mercy seat that was made of gold, with a cherub on either side -- facing each other, but looking down at the blood sprinkled mercy seat (Ex. 37:7-9). The old one was sprinkled with blood once a year, on the Day of Atonement. But the true mercy seat has been sprinkled with the "blood of the everlasting covenant" .. enacted on earth outside the City of Jerusalem, but eternally imprinted in the heavenly sanctuary by the Spirit of the living God. For He was there that day bearing witness to all that transpired at the cross at the hands of wicked men. And because He was there by Godís appointment, what men did in hate and cruelty and in violence was transformed into an effectual Sacrifice for the sins of all the world. And because He is the eternal Spirit He has never forgotten what He saw, and He still bears witness to the efficacy of that Sacrifice, and to the water and the blood that flowed from His side. And that is why His blood still avails to make the vilest sinner clean.
Some Christian people cherish the thought of a new temple in Jerusalem, where the Levites will serve, and will once again slay bullocks and red heifers for the sins of the people. They tell us that those sacrifices will be memorial. Perish the thought! The Holy Spirit is dwelling within to bear witness to the blood and the water .. for He is Truth. And as we receive the Lord Jesus and His redemption on our behalf, the Spirit of God comes into our hearts to apply the blood and the water of the Word to our hearts and lives. Read the book of Hebrews and see the folly and abomination of any sacrifice for sins, other than the one that Jesus offered when He became the Lamb that was slain. Those sacrifices back there in the Old Testament were the ones that were memorial -- calling sins to remembrance every year on the Day of Atonement; but also reminding us in the New Covenant, that there was a better Sacrifice offered once for all, when the Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world (see Heb. 10:3). Let us not think lightly of this idea of a new temple in Jerusalem, where animal sacrifices will once again be offered on Jewish altars. It is abomination of the worst sort. I believe it was the animal sacrifices in the old temple (which continued on for many years after the true Sacrifice had been offered outside Jerusalem) that brought about the desolation of the temple by the Romans in A.D. 70 -- as foretold by Daniel, and later by Jesus (see Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15).
"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:14).
"But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared for Me" (Heb. 10:3-5).
Five bleeding wounds He bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers,
They strongly plead for me.
Forgive him, O forgive they cry,
Forgive him, O forgive they cry,
Nor let that ransomed sinner die.
Chapter 6 - The Seven Spirits of God
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