Rev. Mark H. Creech
Revelation Chapter 4: Seven torches and a sea of glass
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By Rev. Mark H. Creech
October 22, 2022

D. Martin Lloyd Jones, the famed Welsh-English theologian and preacher, said: “Nothing is more dangerous than to put a wedge between the Word and the Spirit, to emphasize either one at the expense of the other. It is the Spirit and the Word, the Spirit upon the Word, and the Spirit in us as we read the Word.”

In Revelation chapter 4, after being raptured into heaven, the apostle John stood in awe within the throne room of God and witnessed things that were not of this earth. He saw the throne of God with the Lord sitting upon it, shining brilliantly like magnificent gemstones. He saw the glow of an emerald rainbow that encircled the throne. Twenty-four elders were seated on thrones with crowns on their heads encompassing the Lord. From the throne came lightning and thundering. Then the apostle said:

    And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God. In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal (v. 5).

William Evans, in The Great Doctrines of the Bible, wrote:

    We are living in the age of the Spirit. The Old Testament period may be called the age of the Father; the period covered by the Gospels, the age of the Son; from Pentecost until the Second Coming of Christ, the age of the Spirit. All matters pertaining to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit should, therefore, be of special interest to us who live in this age of special privilege.

Indeed, we should be very concerned with any matter that pertains to the Holy Spirit’s work. In Old Testament times, only a few, such as priests and prophets, were given the Spirit of God.

In Numbers 11, the Bible says God, who had given Moses his Spirit, also distributed his Spirit among seventy elders so God’s work could be effectively done. During this time, Moses prayed, “Would that the Lord’s Spirit was given to all of his people.”

Moses’ prayer became a prophecy in the book of Joel, and the fulfillment of it was seen at Pentecost when God poured out his Spirit on all who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This current era in God’s economy is especially rich for those who trust in Christ. God’s Holy Spirit is poured out on every believer – no matter their background, nationality, or station in life.

In the Bible, the number seven represents “completion.” Therefore, the seven torches mentioned in verse 5 are about the comprehensive seven-fold ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Some believe the seven torches denote the seven-fold ministry of the Holy Spirit who 1) restrains evil, 2) convicts of sin, 3) regenerates the soul dead in sin, 4) seals the believer in Christ, 5) baptizes the believer, 6) indwells the believer, and 7) fills the believer.

Christian apologist Dr. Henry Morris has argued the seven torches represent seven designations of God’s Spirit delineated in the New Testament, 1) the Spirit of Truth, 2) the Spirit of Holiness, 3) the Spirit of Faith, 4) the Spirit of Wisdom, 5) the Spirit of Power, 6) the Spirit of Grace, and 7) the Spirit of Glory.

The context of the verse, however, seems more closely aligned with the seven-fold relationship of the Holy Spirit to Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity in the Godhead, the One who sits upon the throne.

Isaiah 11:1-3 spells out this relationship, saying:

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 1) The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him — 2) the Spirit of wisdom and of 3) understanding, 4) the Spirit of counsel and of 5) might, 6) the Spirit of the knowledge and 7) fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” [Numbers included by the author for clarity.]

The Scriptures also show that Christ is the living Word of God (John: 1:1). He is the very expression of God’s mind, character, and will. So, in everything Jesus, the promised Messiah, did, he operated entirely according to the direction and power of the Spirit of God. Thus, there is always this holy collaboration between the Spirit and the Word of God.

Again, look at what John said he saw with the seven torches before the throne of God – a “sea of glass.” What is this glassy sea?

The sea of glass calls to remembrance the laver, a piece of furniture in the Tabernacle that was the portable dwelling place of the God of Israel. The laver was also called the “sea” (Exodus 30:17-21; I Kings 7:23-26). It symbolized God’s Word because it contained water the priests had to wash and be cleansed in before performing their priestly duties. God used this symbolism to help his people understand the importance of purity of life and service.

The apostle Paul referenced this same imagery when in Ephesians 5:16 he talked about how Christ sanctifies and cleanses his church, by “the washing of water by the Word.”

However, in Revelation 4:5, this “sea” is not about cleansing. It still represents God’s Word but it is no longer needed for cleansing because the days of sinning and confession have passed. The “sea” to which John bears witness is like sparkling crystal, and in Revelation 15:2, he says it’s also mingled with fire – something on which the martyred tribulation saints are seen standing. The apostle writes:

“ I saw before me what seemed to be a glass sea mixed with fire. And on it stood all the people who had been victorious over the beast and his statue and the number representing his name. They were all holding harps that God had given them.”

The representation here is fixating. God’s Word is like a “glassy sea” – like “sparkling crystal” – a foundation of incomparable purity upon which believers may forever stand. It is mingled with fire. “‘Is not my Word like as a fire?’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:29). God’s Word, the Scriptures, are like a consuming fire that ultimately destroys everything opposed to God and his people. And on this, God’s children may eternally stand.

Let every believer notice: The Spirit and God’s Word always work in tandem.

Let me share a memorable quote from the late Ray Stedman, one of the twentieth century’s foremost pastors and biblical expositors. Stedman wrote:

“There is no salvation without both of these [the Spirit and the Word]. These are the instruments by which God performs his work. It is always a mistake to emphasize one of these to the exclusion of the other. There are groups today who are doing this: Some say, ‘No, we don’t need the Word. All we need is the Spirit’s guidance within. All we need is simply to trust the feelings we have. God the Spirit is dwelling in us and he will lead us.’ But whenever a group does that, they follow the pattern of similar groups in the past, and it invariably results in impractical ideas, in mysticism, in fanaticism, in rigid, hard-eyed determinism, and in individualism — everybody going his own way and doing his own thing. Utter confusion results if you set aside the Word and try to follow only the Spirit.”

Several years ago, a Christian lawmaker in my home state of North Carolina was clearly making political decisions against biblical ethics. He was making himself a partner with forces that forged what the Bible prohibits and calls “an unequal yoke” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). As his brother in Christ and a lobbyist for the Christian Action League, I called him on the telephone to talk with him about what he was doing. He insisted he didn’t believe he was doing anything wrong. He said he had prayed about it and God was leading him to do what he was doing.

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent he really wasn’t hearing from God. He ended up at the heart of a political scandal of corruption and bribes and was sentenced to five years in prison.

God’s Spirit never leads in a way contrary to biblically revealed ethics. The Spirit and the Word always work together. Can God act against himself? The assertion is farcical. Yet this is seen in a thousand different ways today.

Seven torches and a glassy sea before the throne of God – the ministry of the Spirit and the Word – nothing is more dangerous than to put a wedge between the two. Nothing is more hazardous than “to emphasize either one at the expense of the other. It is the Spirit and the Word, the Spirit upon the Word, and the Spirit in us as we read the Word.”

© Rev. Mark H. Creech

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Rev. Mark H. Creech

Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.

Rev. Creech is a prolific speaker and writer, and has served as a radio commentator for Christians In Action, a daily program featuring Rev. Creech's commentary on social issues from a Christian worldview.

In addition to RenewAmerica.com, his weekly editorials are featured on the Christian Action League website and Agape Press, a national Christian newswire.

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