“King of Saints”
One thing (of many) strikes me in my ministry – it is the loose way Christians (or those who claim to be) treat the character and person of the triune God. Many today wish to bring Him down to their own level and even call Him ‘Dad’. Many talk to Him as though He were the man next door. Many reject His many facets of character, preferring to avoid anything that is not called ‘love’. And many attribute to God their own wishes and human emotions, which, again, drags Him down to the level of degenerate human beings.
It is worth repeating that God is Almighty God. He is the Creator. He gives life and He takes it away. He has absolute, total power over all creation. He has no emotions, only pure thought and action, based on His own law and commands. He cannot make mistakes and He cannot change His mind, because everything He says and does is holy and perfect, and has existed throughout eternity. Therefore, as a consequence, God cannot react, though He does respond.
There is never a time (to use a term we understand) when what God says and does is not already existing in eternity, therefore there is no need for Him to change His mind or act emotionally. If God only once changed His mind, He would not be God, for He would not know everything and would have made an error of judgement. If God only once allowed a man to choose his own salvation, then that man becomes as God and God becomes as man. God is above His creation, yet many wish to draw Him down to their own created level, complete with human thoughts, emotions and reactions, imperfect and inappropriate.
Almighty God the Father sent His Son for our salvation, but that does not mean He is like us in every way. Jesus was and was/is without sin. He is very God. God is to be feared to the point of distraction by all who are unsaved, and feared to the point of everlasting reverence by those who are saved. Even Christians must know the terrors God can bring upon not just the unsaved, but also upon those saved who are disobedient. He is King of kings and Lord of lords, above all and beyond all. He gives us a sample of His love and wrath in this world, but we can never know Him fully when we are still in pre-death human form.
Let us revere Him, then, as He demands, with the respect due to a royal Father, Whose character has no flaws or human traits. Then, perhaps, Christians will duly throw away their small, inappropriately familiar, ideas of Who God is and wonder at His full breadth of power and authority. In this text we see God as ‘King of saints’. Let us display the true features of our privileged position in Christ, that we do not fall foul of our own personalised vision of God, that makes Him less than He really is, and makes us more than we really are.
“And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.”
John now sees part of the final stage of human existence on the earth, for he sees some of the last acts of judgement upon mankind for their disobedience and rejection of God. He sees a ‘sign’ of such magnitude that it was ‘great and marvellous’. It was a sign of unprecedented scale and application, passing all human comprehension. It was a miraculous wonder or miracle. ‘Sign’ means here a portent of things to come, an unusual thing not normally found in our mortal lives. Such signs are used by God to show that it is He Who operates, that something horrendous or wonderful is about to occur, and that it is a physical activity proving His hand in the matter. (‘Plagues’, plēgē, in this text, are public disasters of huge proportion).
The thing John saw was the letting loose of seven angels, who came out of the temple of God. They were to bring seven plagues or judgements upon unsaved mankind as a whole, including all who presently think they belong to God but who follow a godless profession and system. In amongst these are Christians who are lax, thinking they are acceptable in their behaviour and thoughts, when, all along, they are sinning profusely. There are many of these, and they must not relax in their sin, for God can remove their lives at any time, because of their impure hearts and actions, which portray the Lord badly.
Again, as a warning, I include those who are in charismatic churches, who think they have been saved by their own choice (Arminianism), and who deliberately follow charismatic errors, false prophets and false miracles and gifts... Rome is not the only liar in the pack!
The angels were to be the carriers of the seven last plagues. This is a reference to activities that occur at the latter end of time. They are judgements on mankind that will come to pass. They are not myths or spiritualised ideas. They are actual physical punishments. By ‘plague’ is meant something terrible, a public woe inflicting injury and trouble so widespread as to be obvious in its source – God. The seven plagues contained all the wrath of God against anti-Christ and those who were of his kind. (Be warned - even Christians can bow to the anti-Christ, by not using discernment and accepting ‘religious’ ideas without examination).
“And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
“And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgements are made manifest.”
John now saw ‘as it were’… that is, something that ‘looked like’, a ‘sea of glass mingled with fire’. There are a number of theories concerning what this means, all of which I disagree with. My first impression of this text is that of a transparent floor of fiery colour, or of the reflection of fire. It signifies, to me, the symbol of Believers standing in triumph over (or, against) the place set aside by God for the wicked, and also the holiness of God. They stand upon a tranquil ‘sea of glass’ that reflects the tempestuous fire of their persecutions and horrendous trials, which cannot harm them because they are covered by the power and authority of the Lord. Today, the foul Satanic state of most nations on earth can be included as being ‘under’ this glass, in the sense of being made powerless by God’s own power.
The Christians who stand on the glass are those who have known victory over the temptation to side with Satan and what he stands for. They do not have his mark (that is, do not deliberately succumb to Satan - 666), and did not even have sympathy for his image or the things of Satan. (2013 note: Currently countless ‘Christians’ have fallen for the satanic lie of nations, and openly accept wicked leaders, preachers, and sin, based on untrue theology and warped biblical teachings. Are you one of them? God will call all to account!).
Christians ought to remember that Satan’s image is on/in a vast array of things, many of them seemingly innocuous and possibly even ‘minor’ in our own eyes. Let me list a few examples of these things that are part of the image of Satan; they include the obvious and the not so obvious:
Knowing the truth and joining with those who teach falsely – such as churches whose pastors knowingly replace scripture with their own theories; these can be anything from charismatic churches to reformed churches, the blatant paganised churches such as Roman Catholic, etc., to cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. And what about joining, or remaining in, a church where truth is avoided, or where the teaching is suspect? Or, where false prophecy is given, or where false miracles abound? Then there is the sympathetic ear for perversions, or for that which is definitely unscriptural. There is the common error of agreeing to scripture and the private following after one’s own heart, which is sin… I think of, say, the avoidance of the proper disciplinary procedure given in scripture, because one wishes to vent one’s anger or state one’s own position.
There is also the private interpretation of scripture that goes against what scripture itself says. This is the sin of pride and arrogance, which is really based on not knowing God or His word, and the lack of Holy Spirit witness to the soul because of it. There is also a growing tendency to ignore certain doctrinal teachings in favour of one’s own choice – Arminianism is just one example, which is used to replace truth and is sin.
Many Christians also have sympathy for such sins as fortune-telling, or they watch films that should not be watched, containing horror, witchcraft, spiritualism, etc. (Communism is rooted in these). They might read horoscopes ‘just for fun’, or believe in ‘ghosts’ (Note: ‘ghosts’ are demons). They might use the name of God in vain. They might have close unsaved friends who they spend social time with. They might speak inappropriately when outside the local church environment. Married men might mistreat their wives, or even hit them. They might resort to neuroses instead of to God. The list is endless, sad and shaming!
As we fast approach a global government and religion, those who bear the mark of Satan will do so by capitulating to whatever forces us to obey godlessness. For example – would you take on an homosexual as a pastor, or as a ministry worker, because the law will otherwise penalise you? Would you dismiss such a person for admitting to the perversion? Would you stop preaching against error and heresy, because it is not ‘correct’ to do so? Would you remove your children from a school that was teaching frank sex lessons that included homosexuality? Would you accept any form of godlessness simply because the law upholds it? (2013 note: These questions are now even more pertinent, as many Christians are persecuted for their beliefs).
Those who stay loyal to the Lord and reject Satan’s master-moves and demands will stand on the sea of glass and play holy music to the Lord. Here this is depicted as harpistry. As previously, the word ‘harp’ in this text specifically means a harp used to accompany the praises of God in heaven. Hence ‘harps of God’.
This principle is found throughout Christian life, for only that which is given by God can properly praise God. This can be seen in all parts of our lives, from who we marry to what we think, our jobs or ministries, and our beliefs. Most folk do whatever they think is fit, and then ‘offer’ it to God! This is godless, not of God. This is how many ministries see their task. Thus, they have ‘committees’ that think-up this or that activity. After much personal and human thought they then present the results to God and the churches, believing them to be holy. God forbid! Sadly, this is the usual method of Christian activity today.
The Christians who stand on the sea of glass and play harps, sing the praises of God, as sung by Moses and Christ. This song praises God alone for everything. The song is an ode (Greek) or narrative stating why God is holy and above all, and worthy of praise. Do you know why God alone is worthy of praise? If you do not know, how can you properly pray to God or praise Him in this life? How can you witness truly and heartily?
See how God is referred to in this verse (3) as ‘Lord God Almighty’! He is above all and great beyond human understanding. He is ho theos - THE God. The same ho theos found in John’s magnificent statement that the Word was (THE) God! He is the supreme Master Who decides everything about His creation, whilst we are merely ‘servants’ or slaves. Do not vaunt yourselves, friends; we are as nothing and only have our being in Jesus Christ, not in ourselves or in anything we can do or say. Forget this and you forget God.
Everything God does is ‘just and true’. That is, they are righteous and good. They are also true – not just what He says, but what He does, because He cannot be anything other than perfect. He speaks truth and upholds it. It does not matter if we understand everything in His word, for we must simply accept it all as true, because God uttered it. Many try to make a consistent theory out of scripture, but in doing so they introduce their own ideas.
In my ministry one of the most prominent human theories I oppose is that of Arminianism, in which ‘Christians’ claim to choose their own salvation and everything that goes with supposed ‘human freedom’ and ‘free will’. Behind this error is the heart’s claim to choose its own destiny, which is of Satan, for it presupposes the lowness of God.
Because His ways are always true and above reproach or change, God is called the ‘King of saints’. He is the basileus Who is the basis. That is, He is the prince and commander, the King of all He surveys (basileus), because He is its source or foundation (basis). And not just a king, but THE King of kings. He is the King of the holy ones (saints) and so is their Protector and Sustainer. All of this the harpists sing to God.
They continue, by singing of His glory, might and authenticity. Who is foolish enough not to fear Him? they ask. I would repeat that this ‘fear’ is actual fear. It means to be very afraid, to be terrified by His power and awesome might; to panic at the sound of His name and activity, to stop doing something He will not like because of fear of judgement. It also means to revere and obey because of Who He is.
Thus, Christian fear of God is that rightful awe we should give to Him, but rounded by our reverence because of what He has done for us through and in Jesus Christ. It incorporates a true sense of fear if we disobey Him, for He can and will judge us on this earth, at His own discretion. Do not think that our misfortunes are only due to the ordinary affairs of men – think of the fact that God does and will punish us for disobedience. Such thoughts ought to drive us closer to Him and to cling to holiness rather than to human weaknesses.
Only God is holy in His own right. Only He can demand praise and honour. And when He displays His might and power, all peoples will bow their knees. By ‘all nations’ is not meant everybody, but all who God calls out. This is obvious from the rest of the text, where we see many who reject Him, though He executes judgement amongst them. Do not think that people will automatically bow to God or follow Him because He displays His awesome might on earth! No, most will continue to ignore Him or, worse, shake their fists at Him. (Yet, they will ALL bow the knee, at least in fear, at the end, because they will have no choice).
“And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.
And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.
And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.”
After the Believers sang their praises to God, John then saw the ‘temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven’ being opened. The ‘temple’ is the sanctuary of the Holy of Holies where only the high priest could enter. The ‘tabernacle’ is the whole temple area and contents. The ‘testimony’ refers to the witness of God. And this temple, was in heaven, so it was the ‘heavenly Jerusalem’. The angels, then, came out of the temple, from the Holiest of Holies. That is, from the very presence of God.
Dressed in pure white linen, symbolising their holiness, and golden girdles or belts on their chests, symbolising God’s delegated power, they had with them the seven plagues. This is not separate from the plagues shown in verse one. Rather, John was using a typically Hebraic argumentation structure, firstly presenting a summary and then later providing the details.
One of the four beasts that were continually before God’s throne then handed a golden vial to each of the angels. They already had the task of bringing judgement to the people of the world. Now they received the authority, symbolised by the vials, which had to be opened before they could operate. This showed that only God could authorise such immense power.
The vials contained the ‘wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever’. This signifies that God’s wrath is eternal, as is the punishment... yet another indication of predestination. The vials existed eternally, and so the punishments could not be altered or stopped.
The temple itself was full of smoke. John provides the meaning of this – it was caused by the ‘glory of God, and from his power’. Smoke is often linked with His presence, as is fire and lightning. It is probably the purifying smoke of His altar. The Holy of Holies could not be entered until the angels of doom had fulfilled their tasks. Thus, the end of all creation was due.
This tells us that certain functions were suspended whilst the angels came to the earth with their judgements. ‘No man’ (e.g. nothing and no-one) could go near God until He had executed His punishments on the earth. This seems similar to His command that no-one should approach the mountain where He gave Moses the tablets of the law, or they would die.
It is worth reminding ourselves of the contents of this chapter, for they show us the might of God and His terrible power to destroy. He is our Creator and cannot do anything against men out of chagrin, emotion, or frailty. His judgements are always pure and just, for they are based on His own word, the law of divine election. It is even trite to speak of God’s ‘thoughts’ for God has no human thought pattern or processes. Whatever He knows now He knew before the world began, for whatever He is and does was known to Him in eternity, without change or the possibility of change. His ‘mind’, then, is absolute in knowledge.
When human beings think, they are weighing a variety of possibilities. That is why they think… to evaluate and to come up with answers. But, God knows all and already has instant answers! He does not need to ‘think’ in terms of processes, memories or comparisons. Because everything is already known to Him and determined by Him, He does not need to ‘think’ – He merely speaks and it is so! Such is His Almightiness. It is this that we do well to remember.
© March 2002 (Revised August 2013)