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The Vision of St. John the Divine (Part 1): The God John Did Not See in Heaven

I write on diverse religious issues, often analysing perspectives from the Abrahamic faiths (Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Bahá’í).

Stairway to heaven

Stairway to heaven

What the Book of Revelation Is About

A Prophetic Vision of the Future

The Book of Revelation recounts the prophetic vision of the Apostle John. The narrative is breathtaking—filled as it is with otherworldly drama, unearthly scenarios, enigmatic metaphors and symbols, and interspersed with omens and warnings.

Here are some of the opening verses that make clear that the events depicted are in the future, with obvious reference to the time of the vision:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass….

Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter…. (Revelation 1:1, 19)

(Note: All biblical references in this article are from the King James Bible)

The Circumstances of the Second Advent

But the Book is not about just any events of the future. It is about the circumstances of the Parousia (the Second Coming), the major events leading to it, and even offers a glimpse of developments “a thousand years” after (Revelation 20:4, 6).

What all this means is that the vision John saw is not about Jesus of Nazareth but the coming of the Christ of the end times. This is made clear from several of the verses:

Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him…

Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. (Revelation 1:7, 22:7)

In this article, a clear distinction is made between the Jesus we all know and the end-time Christ the world is yet to know. A separate article explains why the two Christs are separate and distinct personalities.

(That article, “Why the Messiah of the Last Day Will Not Be Jesus Christ,” can be accessed at https://hubpages.com/@kobby95.)

He Who Sits on the Throne

In the early stages of John’s vision, we encounter a Being on a throne in heaven. He appears to be highly exalted, infinitely holy, and worthy of all praise. Surrounding the throne are other entities who offer worship, praise, and thanks before this great Being.

We are first introduced to the One on the throne as follows:

…a door was opened in heaven…. and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne…. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting…. and they had on their heads crowns of gold…. and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts…. (Revelation 4:1-6)

With that, we are given an inkling as to the identity of this great Being thus:

And the four beasts… rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:8-11)

From these verses, we get to know that the One who sits on the throne is “holy,” lives “for ever and ever,” has “created all things,” and is “LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” The obvious implication is that the One on the throne is “God”.

Yet could John have truly seen God, the Infinite, Omnipresent Creator and Sustainer of the Universe?

The answer must be a resounding no, and the reason is because of the affirmation in the Gospel that:

No man hath seen God at any time…. (John 1:18)

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Moses’ Quest to See God’s Glory

We can gain further insight into this perplexing question by reviewing the experience of Moses. He, of course, was the Mediator between God and the children of Israel and the Founder of Judaism. We know that he not only conversed with God (as all God’s Mediators do in some form or other) but he spoke with Him “face to face”. We read in the Bible:

And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. (Exodus 33:11)

In underlining Moses’ towering spiritual station, God declared to his insubordinate siblings (and by extension, to the children of Israel):

If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold…. (Numbers 12:6-8)

Yet even he was denied an unobstructed vision of the Creator when he pleaded with Him:

I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. (Exodus 33:18)

No Man Can See God

In no uncertain terms, Moses was told:

Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live…. (Exodus 33:20)

He was then advised that the closest he could get to see the Supreme Being was catching a glimpse of His “back parts”. This probably meant he was allowed a passing glimpse of God’s glory without actually seeing His form and essence. God told him:

Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen. (Exodus 33:21-23)

So if Moses, the powerful Interlocutor of God, could not see God’s face, who was the seemingly finite Being John saw on the heavenly throne?

An image of Moses with the Ten Commandments on tables of stone he had received from God on the Mountain of Fire

An image of Moses with the Ten Commandments on tables of stone he had received from God on the Mountain of Fire

The Christ of the End Times

Alignment With Old Testament Prophecy

The answer (as to who John had seen on that heavenly throne) can be traced back to a prophecy of Isaiah in the Old Testament Bible, whereby “a child is born” and “a son is given” whose “name” will be “The mighty God, The everlasting Father”:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called… The mighty God, The everlasting Father…. Of the increase of his government… there shall be no end…. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Much as Christians might want to argue otherwise, the above cannot be about Jesus of Nazareth—who never claimed to be “the Father” but rather styled himself “the Son” (the Son of God, the Son of man)—and whose “kingdom” was “not of this world”. (John 18:36)

It is unquestionably about the latter-day Christ upon whose shoulder the Kingdom of God shall be when he appears in glory at the end times. This is when, as John saw it:

The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)

Alignment With Gospel Prophecy

Now, observe how this argument aligns closely with Jesus’ own prediction about “the Son of man” who will “come” as “the King,” “sit upon the throne of his glory,” preside over “all nations,” and invite deserving souls into “the kingdom”:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…. (Matthew 25:31-34)

Mind you, during his own ministry, Jesus could do no more than announce the emergence, in a future dispensation, of the Kingdom of God on earth. It is for this reason he asked his followers to pray for this eventuality. Thus, in Jesus’ only prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, the faithful are required to supplicate God in these words:

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

The Promised Christ as God Almighty

We can conclude then that the One on the throne is the end-time Christ, who is personified as “LORD God Almighty” in the Book of Revelation but as “The mighty God” in the prophecy of Isaiah. “God” is thus a title applied to him and not an indication that he is the Omnipresent God, in form, essence, or reality.

Indeed, a God who is visible to the naked eye, who occupies a finite space, has identifiable shape, form, size, appearance, and displays humanlike features, cannot be the Omnipotent Lord of the Universe.

While some scholars of the Bible might regard the Revelation of John as a literal account of impending events, the reality is that the narrative is built around symbols, as scriptural prophecies usually are. Therefore, most aspects of the vision cannot be interpreted literally.

He Who Sits on the White Horse

The end-time Christ remains incognito to unsuspecting students of the Bible throughout John's narrative. And this is on account of his portrayal as “God” (seated on a throne in heaven). What the students might also miss is that the same Christ is portrayed elsewhere in the narrative by different symbols and metaphors.

While it does not say so explicitly, we can deduce from the detailed description that the end-time Christ, the One on the throne in heaven, is the same One that was seen on a white horse in the 19th chapter:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. (Revelation 19:11-12)

Let’s now review the description, distinguishing characteristics, and roles of the One on the horse.

John saw "heaven opened, and behold a white horse...."

John saw "heaven opened, and behold a white horse...."

The Horseman's Resemblance to the One on the Throne

  • Just as the One on the throne was first seen by John when “a door was opened in heaven”, so the One on the horse was also seen by the same John when “heaven opened”. (Revelation 4:1, 19:11)
  • While “true and righteous” are the “judgments” of the One on the throne, the One on the horse is described in similar terms as “Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge….” And these two descriptions occur, incidentally, in the same chapter. (Revelation 19:2, 11)
  • White is the colour of the attire worn by those around the One on the throne—including “the elders” and “a great multitude” of “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” —while the One on the white horse was “followed” by “the armies which were in heaven,” “clothed” in “white” and seated on horses that were also “white”. (Revelation 4:4, 7:9; 19:14)
  • And finally, the One on the throne has been called “God Almighty”. Yet the One on the white horse will tread “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath” of “Almighty God” (Revelation 19:15)—the same name in reverse. And this is another thing that interconnects the two into one and the same Being.

So, we are basically describing different aspects of the same reality.

The Holy One sits on a white horse.

The Holy One sits on a white horse.

The Horseman's Unknown Name

Interestingly, as already noted, the One on the white horse has a name “that no man knew, but he himself.” That should ring a bell—because beyond pledging to return with a “new name,” Jesus promises to also give a “new name” (presumably his new name) “to him that overcometh,” a name that “no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” (Revelation 3:12, 2:17)

The Horseman as King of Kings

Paradoxically, despite having “a name… that no man knew, but he himself,” the One on the horse has “on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16). And this name, being in capitals, undoubtedly suggests that he exercises sovereignty to a superlative degree. Such a level of sovereignty and overlordship is also underscored by the “many crowns” he has “on his head”.

And this is one more reason to believe the One on the horse is the same One whose sovereignty is symbolised by the “throne” he sits on.

A monarch's crown. The One on the horse wears "many crowns".

A monarch's crown. The One on the horse wears "many crowns".

The Horseman as The Word of God

Again, beyond having a name “that no man knew,” the One on the horse has some descriptive appellations. He is “called Faithful and True” while “his name” is also “called The Word of God” (Revelation 19:11, 13). This second name, The Word of God, will identify him with a Messianic station, the station occupied by all Mediators of God.

Interestingly, “the Word” is glorified as another reality of God in the following verse of the Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

But “God” is also the title of the One on the throne, confirming once again that the two Beings are one and the same reality.

The Horseman's War to Reclaim the Earth

Here follows a summary of the horseman's activities as narrated in Revelation 19:11-21:

We already know that the horseman is The Word of God. Unsurprisingly then, “the kings of the earth, and their armies,” gather themselves “together to make war against him… and against his army.” (It is unsurprising because opposing the Mediator of God is an unchanging reality in the emergence of any new religion.)

There follows a titanic war of global proportions. This, of course, is a spiritual war, for the One on the horse is “Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” He fights back with his army, wielding only his sword, “which sword proceeded out of his mouth….”

Thus, “out of his mouth,” the “sharp sword” of the Word of God is unsheathed to “smite the nations” into submission, routing the rebellious multitudes, reclaiming the world, and returning it to its rightful Owner. In the process, “the beast” of iniquity and decadence is “taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him….”

In that way, the spreaders of perversity and error are vanquished and consigned to the hellfire of utter destruction, thus leaving the earth free of their corruption.

Having subdued the people, the horseman takes his place at the helm of affairs, to “rule” the nations “with a rod of iron” —or, in other words, to guide them with divine might and power according to the Law of God.

And this is the summary of the activities of the One on the white horse. It is clearly a snapshot of the mission of the Mediator of the Last Day, the Christ of the end times, as he prepares the world for the establishment of God’s Rule and Kingdom on planet earth.

Thus, a centuries-long drama of the divine Kingdom has here been condensed into a few brief lines of biblical prophecy.

The spiritual war of the Promised Christ will end all forms of decadence and perversity on earth.

The spiritual war of the Promised Christ will end all forms of decadence and perversity on earth.

The God on the Throne

All divine Mediators speak and act on God’s behalf when they interact with the people to whom they are sent. In that role, therefore, they symbolically become God to the people—as the examples of Moses and Jesus will confirm (in Exodus 7:1 and John 14:9). Yet having the end-time Christ so forthrightly and stridently styled “LORD God Almighty” takes this concept to a whole new level.

This manner of address must surely be an indication that the end-time Christ will represent God in a much more complete and profound way, in a manner that could not have been possible in previous religious dispensations. This can best be understood in the context of his mission to cleanse the whole earth and exercise complete and unchallengeable sovereignty over its inhabitants. Thus, under his mandate will emerge the long-awaited Kingdom of God on earth—the first time this has happened in the history of mankind.

He, therefore, becomes the first Universal Mediator of God, one sent to the whole of mankind rather than to a specific tribe of people or a specific region of the globe. This will contrast with Moses who was sent to “the children of Israel” (Exodus 3:10), Jesus who was “not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), and Muhammad whose mission was to the tribes of Arabia.

Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were sent to populations in the Middle East. The Promised Christ comes to the whole of humanity.

Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were sent to populations in the Middle East. The Promised Christ comes to the whole of humanity.

The Lamb by the Throne

It is important to note that John did not only see “God” on the “throne” “set in heaven”. As earlier noted, surrounding the throne were “four and twenty elders” and “four beasts”. But

…in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb…. (Revelation 5:6)

The fact that the Lamb was seen by John at the same time as the One on the throne is a clear indication that the two are separate Entities. Having been crucified to atone for the sins of the world, Jesus has been symbolised in Bible scripture as a Lamb. But if the One on the throne is the Christ awaited on earth at the end times, who is the Lamb John saw?

This will be the subject of the second of this four-part series (to be accessible at https://hubpages.com/@kobby95.)

© 2022 Kobina Amissah-Fynn

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