Power and Imagination

“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And in his hand was a small scroll that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. And he gave a great shout like the roar of a lion. And when he shouted, the seven thunders answered.
Revelation‬ ‭10:1-3‬ ‭NLT

The Apostle John’s eschatological vision continues with the appearance of another angel. A mighty angel. This angel was surrounded by a cloud and had a rainbow positioned over his head. And John was struck by the brightness of the angel’s face and he also noticed that the angel’s feet were like pillars of fire. The angel obviously had something to say, related to the scroll he was carrying. And he must have been huge, to be able to stand astride on sea and land. He gave a “great shout like the roar of a lion”  and received a response from the seven thunders.

What is all that about, was my first thought. Do we accept the picture that is forming in our minds at face value or do we try and make sense of it, interpreting the vision in a way that imparts a meaning? Firstly, this episode takes place between the sixth and seventh trumpets. An interlude perhaps? Did the people still alive see this angel – something that big wouldn’t have been hard to miss – or was this a spiritual event portrayed for John’s benefit, and ultimately ours as well?

We can draw some associations between what we see and what has been written in the Bible. For example, we remember that God led the Israelite slaves through the wilderness during their exodus from Egypt from within a cloud. And Psalm 104:3 reads, “You lay out the rafters of Your home in the rain clouds. You make the clouds Your chariot; You ride upon the wings of the wind.” So the angel’s message from a cloud perhaps means that it has God’s backing, His seal of approval. Also we know about rainbows. In Genesis 9:13, God said, “I have placed My rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of My covenant with you and with all the earth.” We also have a Biblical precedent for a bright face. When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain, we read in Matthew 17:2 that “His face shone like the sun”. Regarding the “feet … like pillars of fire” we remember that God led the Israelites at night in the wilderness with a pillar of fire. So we, at the very least, can assume this “mighty angel” was someone of great importance. In fact, some have even suggested that He was Jesus Himself.

Regarding the mighty shout, we read in Hosea 11:10. “For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return trembling from the west.” In Joel 3:16 we read, “The Lord’s voice will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth will shake. But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel.” John didn’t record in his vision what the great angel shout was about, and neither do we really know what the seven thunders represent. But we do know that when God responded to Jesus’s prayer in John 12, some people thought it had thundered. But, everything considered, this event in Revelation was a momentous event. God was about to say something very important and significant through the mighty angel.

Is there a message in this vision for us pilgrims today? Not many of us, if any at all, will have received such a vision as John did that day. But that is not to say that God has overlooked us and has failed to deliver an important word, tailor-made just for us. Over the years I have received several important messages from God – one of them delivered with His audible voice. Something intensely personal and encouraging. God is always listening to our prayers, to our petitions, to the anguished cries from our hearts, and He will graciously and lovingly always provide the answers and encouragement that we need. 

Jesus said that when He left this earth, He would send the Holy Spirit as His representative. And through Him we will have access to the same power that Jesus had. In Acts 1:8 He said to His disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…”. Today we pilgrims are Jesus’s disciples with the potential to be powerful for God through His Spirit. I know that many claim that the power of the Holy Spirit was just for the original disciples and their generation and that it disappeared when they all died. But that is not my experience, and neither can I find any Scriptures that explicitly say that this is what happened. 

I have always been challenged with what Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Paul wrote that to a church fellowship located in the city of Ephesus. He didn’t pick out the apostles and the favoured few who knew them. This was written to all those in the fellowship of Ephesian believers. And I firmly believe today that it applies to us as well, and we all have that accessible power deep within us. Just waiting to be tapped. In the power of this Spirit, we can dream. We can allow our imaginations to be led by the Holy Spirit. There is no limit to what can be achieved through the power that is within us. So there may be a pilgrim reading this today who feels inadequate and is lacking confidence in who they are. They might be feeling inferior and incapable. But God wants to encourage us all today. In Ephesians 1:19-20 we read, “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honour at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” So let’s press in today, flexing our spiritual faith muscles, believing God for more of that Holy Spirit power to touch us and touch those around us. In Jesus there is no limit to what we can achieve, if we only believe.

Dear Father God. We confess that we feel most of the time like fragile clay jars. But we declare today our confidence in You, the One who uses such ordinary vessels as us to do great things for You. Thank You. Amen.

Flashes and Rumbles

“From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God.”
Revelation‬ ‭4:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

John’s field of vision becomes more focused as other features in his revelation are revealed. This is a place unbounded by the limitations of human sight and hearing, because John is in the spirit. He is seeing and hearing things that would be invisible to humans. So in the Spirit, the “flashes of lightning” would have been incredibly bright and powerful, far greater than the flashes we see on Planet Earth, should that even be possible. Perhaps with the inclusion of spectacular colours never before seen in a lightning flash. And they originated from the throne of God. The “rumble of thunder” too would have encompassed a range of frequencies totally beyond human comprehension. In our smartphone-dominated world, we are used to hearing sounds through tiny loudspeakers, where only a narrow range of frequencies can be transmitted. But what a difference there is, hearing the same sounds but in an auditorium with a professional sound system. The bass end of the spectrum will be felt as well as heard, with vibrations manifested in every part of our beings. That was John’s experience. In the spirit he was exposed to light and sound he had never experienced before. 

In front of God’s throne appeared seven burning torches. Flaming noticeably. And John intuitively knew that this is the “sevenfold Spirit of God”. We have twice before, in the early chapters of Revelation, encountered this image and can refer back to Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 11:2. The image too refers to the number seven, often used in Scripture to signify perfection or completeness. 

We pilgrims will often have difficulty in relating this vision to our work-a-day world. That is, until we too connect “in the Spirit”. What vision of God and His domain, whether here on earth or in Heaven do we hold? It is generally more difficult to hold on to our faith without some idea, picture even, of where we are heading. This vision of the Apostle John in Revelation grabs and intrigues our imaginations. It encourages us to think “outside the box” beyond our natural boundaries. And if, in times of need, we ask God for a vision to support our own faiths He will be gracious and help. Jesus gave John an amazing revelation of the future, and he faithfully recorded it for posterity. But the most important vision of all starts at Calvary, with the Son of God hanging on a Roman cross, dying for us, that we too can one day check out Heaven for ourselves. If we ask Him.

Dear Lord. We thank You for Calvary and selflessly sacrificing Yourself for each one of us. We are so grateful. And I pray that we all hold on to the mental pictures we have of Calvary, pictures and visions that are only superseded by the excitement of Easter Sunday. We praise and worship You today. Amen.