In his second letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul told of an extraordinary experience. He was caught up to the third heaven (which he also called paradise). Inexpressible things were revealed to him, unutterable either by their celestial characteristics, or by a prohibition against describing them. So great and incredible was this experience - in fact, this experience was so incredible and, as far as we know, Paul was the only one to have such an experience – that Paul was told not to tell of all he had seen and experienced.
This whole thing brought about a “thorn in the flesh,” to
torment him for the rest of his life. And from what we know from Scripture, this
“thorn” was allowed as an ongoing pain, preventing Paul from being puffed up
with pride because the singular privilege he had enjoyed. (Understand that a
full fourteen years passed before Paul even told that much of his experience.)
About 50 years after Paul’s experience in Paradise, the Apostle John
(we talked some about this in our Sunday message yesterday) was taken to
heaven into the very presence of God on His throne. It was there that John saw
in the throne-room of God, the 24 elders around the throne seated themselves on
thrones and four living “creatures” on either side of the throne. John
writes, “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the
elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” Revelation 5:6a ESV.
And John saw many other things, however, unlike Paul he was not only
allowed, but commanded to write and tell about them; one exception being what
the seven thunders said about which he was told, “Seal up what the seven thunders
have said, and do not write it down” Revelation 10:4b ESV.
In this scene, I want to focus on the 24 elders before the throne of
God. What were they doing? Revelation 11:16-17 “And the
twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and
worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give You thanks, Lord God Almighty, who
is and who was, for You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.” (To
anyone’s knowledge, they are still, and forever will be, before the throne
Let’s move on to verse 18, “The nations raged, but Your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding Your servants, the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your Name, both small and the great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” ESV.
THE 24 ELDERS WERE GIVING GOD THANKS FOR HIS JUSTICE
With all that in mind: This week, as we approach Thanksgiving, I want
to offer some thoughts that came to mind.
In the Old Testament one of the offerings prescribed under the law was, specifically, a thank offering. (At some level, all of the prescribed offerings, implied, or explicitly expressed, thankfulness to God.) You can read the instructions for the “thank offering” as they were given in Leviticus 7:12-15; 22:29. Like all the offerings, thank offerings were to be given at the place God chose for His Name to dwell after the Israelites entered the Promised Land. (It was more than 400 years before that place was shown to be Jerusalem.)