The voice from the throne
Aug 05, 2016
Revelation 19:5 says,
5 And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.”
Whose voice was this coming from the throne? It seems inappropriate for God Himself to tell the people to “give praise to our God.” The speaker is a co-worshiper who recognizes “our God” as separate from himself.
We know that the twenty-four elders “sit on their thrones before God” (Revelation 11:16). They also worship “God who sits on the throne” (Revelation 19:4), that is, another (greater) throne. Hence, the voice cannot be coming from the thrones of the twenty-four elders.
The voice can only be coming from the highest throne, and yet the words imply that someone other than God Himself is speaking. But what if there is more than one God, or God-identity? After all, even Moses was “a god unto Pharaoh.” Likewise, Psalm 82:6 says “You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High.” Jesus validated this in John 10:33-36,
33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”
This controversy is one of the basic differences between Judaism and Christianity, mostly because it involves the balance between Monotheism and Sonship. To be a “god” is to occupy a position of power or authority that is higher than others. While there is truly only one God in the ultimate sense, there are lesser “gods” as well—including Moses (Exodus 7:1) and all whom the Psalmist called “gods” in Psalm 82:6.
The question is whether a “son of God” has the right to be called “God” without infringing upon the position of the Most High God and without creating a polytheistic religion. Yet even the term “Most High God” implies subordinate positions that may still be called “God.” Hence, when all things are subjected under the feet of Christ, He is the God of the whole earth, yet “it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him” (1 Corinthians 15:27). Paul tells us in the next verse, 1 Corinthians 15:28,
28 And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.
There are two great issues involved in this: substance and position. Jesus and His Father are of one substance, and in that sense Paul could make Him equal to God in Philippians 2:5-7,
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
In other words, Christ Jesus, in spite of His status as “God,” did not refuse to take upon Himself the position of “a bond-servant,” appearing on earth “in the likeness of men.”
Even so, the Son is subjected to the Father in His position. Another way of looking at it is that the Most High God has self-derived power (dunamis), while the Son was given authority (exousia), as He Himself said in Matthew 28:18,
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority [exousia] has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
Authority is authorized, or “given,” by a higher power. In no way does this disqualify Jesus from being called God, for Hebrews 1:8 says,
8 But of the Son He says, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.”
Hence, Jesus has a “throne” that is distinct from the Father’s throne. Hebrews 12:2 says that He “has sat down at the right hand [i.e., on the right-hand side] of the throne of God.” Since there is more than one throne, then from which throne does the voice come, telling the people to praise “our God” in Revelation 19:5? Is it the throne of the Father? Or is it the throne of the Son pictured on the right side of the Father’s throne?
It can only be the voice of the Son of God, telling the people to praise “our God,” for Jesus always deferred to His Father, saying in John 20:17, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” For this reason, I conclude that the voice coming from the throne in Revelation 19:5 is the voice of Jesus Himself.
The Authority of Church Councils
There have been many books written in the attempt to explain the nature of Christ and His relationship with the Father. This controversy dominated all other issues from the fourth century on, and many were killed for even slightly deviating from established creeds (on all sides of this issue). In fact, in the controversy between the Aryans and the Orthodox, one’s belief on this issue largely replaced faith as the litmus test of a genuine believer. It raised the importance of church creeds and men’s understanding of God and Christ to the point where it was thought that true believers were those who confessed the established creeds, rather than faith in Christ.
If Church Councils had truly been led by the Holy Spirit, as the church claims, the bishops would have acted in love. They would have prayed until the word of prophecy came to give them the understanding necessary to know the truth. However, they came with their own pre-conceived answers to argue, bribe, and threaten their opponents, in order to establish truth by the power of the flesh.
In 382 A.D. Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the most revered bishops in the early church, described an ecumenical council held a year earlier:
“To tell the truth, I am inclined to shun every collection of bishops, because I have never yet seen that a synod came to a good end, or abated evils instead of increasing them. For in those assemblies (and I do not think I express myself too strongly here) indescribable contentiousness and ambition prevail, and it is easier for one to incur the reproach of wishing to set himself up as judge of the wickedness of others, than to attain any success in putting the wickedness away. Therefore I have withdrawn myself, and have found rest to my soul only in solitude.” [Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. III, p. 347]
Schaff makes his own comment on pages 347-348, saying,
“Yet there remains enough in his many unfavorable pictures of the bishops and synods of his time, to dispel all illusions of their immaculate purity… In the fifth century it was no better, but rather worse. At the third general council, at Ephesus, 431, all accounts agree that shameful intrigue, uncharitable lust of condemnation, and coarse violence of conduct were almost as prevalent as in the notorious robber-council of Ephesus in 449; though with the important difference, that the former synod was contending for truth, the latter for error. Even at Chalcedon, the introduction of the renowned expositor and historian Theodoret provoked a scene, which almost involuntarily reminds us of the modern brawls of Greek and Roman monks at the holy sepulcher under the restraining supervision of the Turkish police.”
Such behavior among the church leaders does not inspire confidence that they fought their way to the truth. If Jesus had truly led such Church Councils, the wisdom of God would have become apparent to all, and we could then treat their decisions with the respect of Scripture itself. But unfortunately, Christ had already been banished from the Councils that met in His name, and so their decisions were mere “traditions of men.” While their creeds certainly contain truth, they are not as reliable as Scripture itself.
There is no way to deal fully with the nature of Christ and His relationship to His Father, nor will we try. Our main purpose is to determine whose voice it was coming from the throne, telling the great multitude to praise “our God.”
Revelation 19:6 continues,
6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
The praise here goes to both the Father and the Son. Both can be said to reign, as we see from Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:27, 28. What is this great multitude? Obviously, they are all in agreement with God and His judgments upon the great harlot and Babylon. The multitude is certainly the same group seen earlier in Revelation 5:11.
It does not yet seem to include the greater multitude in Revelation 5:13, which pictures praise from “every living thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea.” The voice from the throne seems to limit the command to “His bondservants, you who fear Him,” as if there are still others who are NOT God’s bond-servants. Since this praise comes at the time of Babylon’s judgment, it is evident that not all things are yet put under His feet. Hence, we cannot think of this as a scene of universal reconciliation and agreement with God.
In fact, as we proceed in our study, we find that the judgment of Babylon and the praise of the saints comes around the time of the coming of Christ (Revelation 19:11-16). We know from other Scriptures that there will be many unbelievers in the earth at that time, and that during the Kingdom Age that follows, many will want to learn His ways (Isaiah 2:3). The curious idea that Christ’s second coming is a deadline to believe and to be saved is, of course, a misunderstanding of the divine plan. The second coming of Christ is only a deadline for inclusion in the body of overcomers who are raised in the first resurrection. These will “reign upon the earth” (Revelation 5:10) “for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, 6).
The purpose of their reign will be to demonstrate the power of God as the gospel is preached to the nations, as the great “stone” kingdom grows until it fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35). Hence, rather than seeing Christ’s second coming as a deadline for salvation, we ought to see it as a new beginning point for the gospel to be preached with greater power than ever seen, even surpassing the signs and wonders that occurred after Pentecost was fulfilled in the book of Acts.
This is part 151 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones