These words, read in a group study, can be just like red meat to a lion! Many a home Bible study is derailed when you come to a little sentence like this—“seven horns and seven eyes,” and so on. And before you know it, Mrs. Jenkins immediately wants to tell everyone all about the seven horns—and suddenly the big picture of who Jesus is disappears in a discussion of Russia, or China, or the European Economic Community. This is the point at which the firm and wise leader asks Mrs. Jenkins to go make the tea and coffee! She should never have bought that big book that gave so much detailed explanation of how contemporary world history is minutely described in Revelation but said so little about the sheer glory of the Lord Jesus! It can be all very fascinating and wonderful, like sudoku, or math. But it can take you deep into the night.
No, God is much simpler than all that. The horns speak of power and majesty; the eyes remind us that Christ has sent his Holy Spirit into the world, with all of his omniscience, perfect understanding, and wonderful discernment. And the fact that there are seven horns, eyes, and spirits simply expresses numerically the idea of fullness and perfection.
It would be a great pity to have been shown this vivid picture of the Father seated on the throne, the Son in all his redeeming grace and glory, and the Holy Spirit in all the fullness of his saving ministry but see only horns, eyes, and numbers! That would be to obscure what is plain and clear and to marginalize what is central.
Actually, there is a litmus test for interpretation written into the text here. It is this: what effect does this vision have on me? Perplexity? Debate? Calculation? All wrong responses. For the response of heaven is this:
The four creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
Alistair Begg and Sinclair B. Ferguson, Name above All Names (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).
This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.