He Who Sat Upon the White Throne

12 May
Great White Throne

from Google Images

In Revelation 20:11 we are told that John saw a great white throne, and he mentions that he saw One sitting on that throne. It is difficult to read this and not remember the opening of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17). There everyone tried to hide from him who sat upon the throne. Thus, we are faced with the problem of taking the writing of the Apocalypse in chronological order. Instead, it seems that Jesus is presented first as the High Priest (Revelation 1 through 8:5), then as Prophet (Revelation 8:6 through 14), and finally as the King of kings (Revelation 15 through 22). In each representation of Christ (High Priest, Prophet and King) he is seen as coming to judge the earth (Revelation 6:16-17; 14:1, 14-16; and 19:11). Therefore, his offices are overlaid one upon the other, showing Revelation 6:16 is the same time as Revelation 20:11.

Moreover, he saw the One who sat upon this throne, and heaven and earth fled from his presence, and there was no place found for heaven and earth! What does this mean? If this were literally true, what would creation look like, if there were no heaven and no earth?

Jesus also spoke of a time when there would be no heaven and no earth. However, he specifically placed the time of that event within the first century AD. During his Olivet Discourse, Jesus told his disciples that “the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken” (Mark 13:25), and he placed the time of these occurrences at his Second Coming (Mark 13:26). Then, referring back to Mark 13:25, he claimed: “heaven and earth shall pass away…” (Mark 13:31). So, once again, what would that look like, if it were literally true, and where would the Lord place the elect, if there were no creation left in which to put them?

Peter, also, mentions a time when “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2Peter 3:10), and, according to Peter, this event would occur in the Day of the Lord, which Peter said in his first epistle would occur in a little while (1Peter 1:6; cp Hebrews 10:37)! So, whatever Jesus and Peter meant by the destruction of heaven and earth, it would occur from their perspective in a little while, meaning during the first century AD (cp. Matthew 23:34-36).

Notice what Jesus said about the days just before his coming:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near…  because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. (Luke 21:20, 22 NASB)

“All things which are written will be fulfilled” when? According to Jesus all prophecy would be fulfilled at or about the time when the (Roman) armies surrounded Jerusalem—when the destruction of Jerusalem was near! And, Peter, when he wrote of these things, he claimed “the end of all things is at hand…” (1Peter 4:7). So, whether the Scriptures speak of the coming of Christ or the destruction of Jerusalem, or when all prophecy would be fulfilled, the claim was all things would be fulfilled in a little while—i.e. during the first century AD! Nevertheless, what does the coming of Christ, the fulfillment of all prophecy and the destruction of Jerusalem have to do with Revelation 20:11 and heaven and earth having no place before him who sat upon the great white throne?

Josephus, the Jewish historian during the first century AD, had some remarkable things to say about the Temple that stood in Jerusalem. The veil of the Temple, the altar of incense, the lampstand, and the table of shewbread all had a religious or spiritual significance. Embroidered upon the veil was an image of the universe—the stars and their constellations etc. He claimed the veil was embroidered in blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple. The scarlet signified fire, the fine linen pointed to the earth, while the blue represented the heavens and the purple the sea. The seven branches of the lamp signified the seven planets. The twelve loaves pointed to the twelve signs of the zodiac, and the altar of incense pointed to God as possessor of the whole earth, and all things were for his use.[1]

Therefore, if one destroyed the Temple, one might describe such an event as “the heavens and the earth have passed away” (viz. how Josephus described the veil and the furniture of the Temple and what they represented; cp. Matthew 24:35; Revelation 21:1), or “the heavens passed away with a great noise, and the elements melted with fervent heat, and the earth was burned up” (2Peter 3:10), or one might say it represented “the Son of man coming in the glory of his Father (seated on a white throne – Revelation 20:11; cp. Matthew 16:27-28), and came in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64; bold emphasis mine). Isn’t that logically true, considering how the ancient Jews thought of the Temple of God?


[1] Josephus; Wars of the Jews; 5.5.4 to 5 (212 to 218).

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Posted by on May 12, 2020 in Apocalypse, Book of Revelation


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