Yes, The Church Has a Hierarchy


Chapter 4 begins with the phrase, “after these things,” which means John has just finished noting down Christ's last dictation.  He looks up and sees “a door standing open in heaven.”  Then, the voice like a trumpet from Chapter 1 commands him,

            “Come up hither, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”

            The opening and concluding phrases are the same, “μετὰ ταῦτα…μετὰ ταῦτα” [Meta tauta...meta tauta]; the latter alludes to the former, and both allude to Christ's command in verse 19 of Chapter 1.  From this point on, the book is future history, the future history of the Church and of the world, insofar as the world will connect with the Church or affect her destiny.

Common sense should see the book will tell about the kingdom of heaven on earth, not in eternity; for, as John himself wrote in his first epistle [4:12], “No one has seen God.”  Nowhere in the New Testament did any divinely inspired writer even attempt to describe eternity.  If any had done so, verily, the comical would have entered, a category all alien to Him who said,

“The eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, what awaits those who keep my commandments.” [cf. 1 Cor. 2]

Therefore, faith must reject absolutely the view that the Apocalypse is merely a book of parables and consolations.

The description of future history, however, does not begin until Chapter 6, until after Christ opens the sealed scroll in Chapter 5, because something most important must be shown first.

John looked through the door and saw that...

“a throne stood in heaven, and upon the throne one seated...Around the throne are 24 thrones, and seated on the thrones are 24 elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads...and in front of the throne there is as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.  And within the space before the throne and around the throne are four living beings, full of eyes in front and behind.  The first living being is like a lion; the second like an ox; the third has a face like that of a man; and the fourth is like an eagle flying.”

Regarding the “four living beings,” the Greek reads, “καὶ ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ θρόνου” [kai en mesö tou thronou = and in the midst of the throne], described in verse 6.  This does not mean the four are sitting in God's lap, for heaven's sake.  Rather, the throne is not only the seat at the top where God is, but also the rest of it lower down, perhaps, something like a dais.  Hence, the “four living beings” are midway on the dais, between the top and bottom of the whole throne; but, they are, nonetheless, together with God ON THE THRONE.

In a ring around the foot of the throne, but not on it, are the “twenty-four elders,” each seated on his own smaller throne.  Farthest out is the Crystal Sea.

In 5:11, John wrote that the angels [real ones] surround “the throne and the Four Living Beings and the Elders.”  It is, thus, a logical deduction that the angels are between the Elders and the Crystal Sea.

What John described is the Church as an organization with a hierarchy.  He mentioned God first and the Four Living Beings last, even though the Four Living Beings are second in rank, probably because the first and last positions in a sentence or paragraph are the strongest, psychologically speaking.  Euphemistically speaking, his description was circuitous.  Rationally speaking, it was meticulously deliberate.

In Chapter 5, John's description of those worshipping proceeds from the Four Living Beings, to the Elders, to the Angels, and to the Crystal Sea.  But, in Chapter 7, it proceeds from the Crystal Sea, to the Angels, to the Elders, and to the Four Living Beings.

Likewise, he mentions “lightning” first, then “thunder” in Chapter 4; but, he reverses the order of mention in verse 5 of Chapter 8.  In both instances, he altered the order of mention for a specific, concrete reason.  His method came neither of madness nor of the intention to occasion it, but of the desire to demonstrate to the reader that, unless God grants a private revelation, faith must reason discursively to find the meaning.

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