This is the last in a series of columns on the afterlife and the unseen realm.
Ghosts are everywhere. They star in major motion pictures from The Shining to Scary Movie 2. Some ghosts are friendly (Casper) and some are frightening (Bloody Mary).
Popular television shows like Ghost Adventures use the latest technologies to “prove” that spirits of the dead are all around us – and want to make their presence known.
But is this true? The short answer is no. As Christians, we must gauge all truth claims by the Bible, the ultimate and unchanging measure of reality.
Rev. 4:4 – Around that throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones sat 24 elders dressed in white clothes, with gold crowns on their heads. 5From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and thunder. Burning before the throne were seven fiery torches, which are the seven spirits of God. 6Also before the throne was something like a sea of glass, similar to crystal. In the middle and around the throne were four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back. 7The first living creature was like a lion; the second living creature was like a calf; the third living creature had a face like a man; and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. 8Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying:
Lord God, the Almighty,
who was, who is, and who is coming.
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the One seated on the throne, the One who lives forever and ever, 10 the 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne, worship the One who lives forever and ever, cast their crowns before the throne, and say:
11 Our Lord and God,
You are worthy to receive
glory and honor and power,
because You have created all things,
and because of Your will
they exist and were created (HCSB).
An overview of Rev. 4:4-11
These verses introduce us to some fascinating beings: 24 elders, the seven spirits of God, and four living creatures. Who are they? And what is the significance, if any, to their numbers? No doubt they are important beings, for they inhabit the throne room of heaven and are busy with their unique ministries. Bible students over the years have differed widely in their views about these heavenly occupants.
For example, some see the 24 elders as representing the church; others, the first 24 ancestors of Christ, from Adam to Pharez; still others, celestial representatives of all the redeemed. Some interpret the elders as angelic representatives of the 24 priestly and 24 Levitical orders, or the 12 patriarchs and 12 apostles.
There also is diversity in scholars’ views of the seven spirits of God. Some see these as angels, while others argue these are the seven churches of Asia Minor (chapters 2-3) now taken up into heaven. Most, however, see the seven spirits as the seven-fold Spirit of God – the Holy Spirit.
And what of the four living creatures? Some commentators argue that they represent the whole of creation, or the ministers of the gospel, or angels, archangels, cherubim or seraphim. Others say these heavenly beings symbolize the attributes or qualities of God. One writer compares the four faces with the middle signs in the four quarters of the zodiac, namely Leo (the lion), Taurus (the bull or calf), Aquarius (the man), and Scorpio (the eagle). Not that this scholar embraces astrology; rather, he argues that as the heavens declare the glory of God, so do these creatures (Ps. 19:1).
Next: 24 thrones, 24 elders