THROUGH EYES of FIRE SERIES #29
BY: DANIEL YORDY
THEY SAT on THRONES
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them.
This is the third time in Revelation that God uses the pronoun “they” with NO antecedent. Nowhere does it indicate who “they” are. The following sentence: Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image – is talking about an entirely different set of people.
Who are they?
First, the immediate context of this line is brief. The first enemy to be defeated and removed is the beast and all those inside of it, that is, the world – in Revelation 19:20-21. The second enemy to be defeated is Satan and his angels, this is not the defeat of the lie, but the removal of the liar, the removal of ENVY from the human experience – in Revelation 20:1-3. Finally, the last enemy to be defeated, as Paul said, is death – in Revelation 20:4b-6.
But in between the removal of the liar and the defeat of death is this one ambiguous, but compelling line: And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them.
“They sat upon thrones” does not necessarily begin at this moment, rather, it is now seen openly here. The victory of God over those three specific enemies occurs inside the flow of time. And judgment was committed to them is not measured by time.
Earlier in this series I stated that the unfolding of the judgment upon the present age of human folly is entirely in the hands of the sons of God, that is, in their mouths. Now, though I yet see through a glass darkly, I see far, far beyond that thought.
And judgment was committed to them.
And judgment was committed to them.
What I see is so momentous, so “unreal” to human thinking. I wrote the title of this letter a few days ago, just one among the remaining titles for this series, not really knowing what I would say. Yet since writing the first three paragraphs of this letter, since writing, “Who are they?”, God has placed before my eyes an outline of something so terrible and so glorious and so contrary to human thinking.
I cannot define what I see by human reasoning. Rather, let me now assemble a number of different components and allow God to speak like lightning among them.
And judgment was committed to them.
First, I want to talk about a statement of Jesus that I mentioned recently:
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.
Do you see the awfulness found in these words.
This has nothing to do with “hearing” what God thinks and then implementing God's ideas. God has limited Himself entirely to our mouth. Judgment is an intensely personal action; God never forces Himself.
We could apply this to the realm of human psychology, as most do. That is, when you hold bitterness in your heart against your brother, your whole life is marred by that bitterness, but when you release your brother with forgiveness, your whole being is released into peace.
The problem is that Jesus was not speaking at that level. These words are entirely in this context:
As the Father sent Me, so I send you.
A judge sits upon his seat as a line of accused persons passes before him. To one, he says, “I judge you by forgiveness.” To the next he says, “I judge you by your sins.”
I know of two individuals who judge me by my sins. These two are both Spirit-filled believers in Christ. Do they have power from God to retain my sins? Jesus said they do. Do I have power from God to retain their sins? Jesus said I do.
It is not the prosecutor who judges, but the judge. It is not the law-giver who judges, but the judge. It is not the defense attorney, the advocate, who judges, but the judge. It is not the executioner who judges, but the judge.
And judgment was committed to them.
How many Christians judge you to perdition? Most of the Catholic hierarchy does; Augustine said that only those in submission to the Roman hierarchy can be saved. Most all Church of Christ people do. Most holiness, Jesus-only preachers do. Some of you even have family members who, though they might never say so outwardly, yet by their staked religious position, they also have judged you to perdition.
Let me give another picture now, from
We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth...: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down? They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God's using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom,
Now, before you have conniptions, the Spirit of God moved through this sermon on the day it was preached and through this meek and godly brother in Christ birthed the Great Awakening within the church, the first mighty turning of the church towards the coming restoration of Pentecost.
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else that you did not go to hell the last night; that you were suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship...
– Let me suggest that, by the law of God, Edward's words are 100% correct.
How awful are those words,
The quote from Isaiah is exactly what John saw in his vision:
Any teaching that poo-poo's the wrath of God CANNOT BE the grace of God. We can teach the grace of God in all joy without referring directly to His wrath, yes, but grace can never be divorced from justice and from wrath.
Here is the backdrop of Paul's gospel:
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek.
Before he ended his sermon, Edward's did present the open door of the mercy and salvation of God by being born again, and most everyone who heard him that day got themselves quickly into the kingdom. And God is not bashful, He will use most anything to bring people into the knowledge of Christ.
But what I want you to consider most is this quote from Edwards:
You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty.
Is this true? Is hopeless and unending torment the revelation of Jesus Christ, the One who walked this earth in the gospels? Will we know how great He is, will we adore Him, by seeing abject punishment?
We are presenting several different pictures, each of which raises huge questions, before making any connections.
Next, I mentioned earlier the verse from Hebrews 6 by which God restored my heart to Himself when I was nineteen years old. I would like to give a bit larger context.
In August of 1975, I sensed an alteration in my heavens. Somehow, from one day to the next, I became aware of the Hound of heaven hot on my tail. – I ran.
But in running, sometimes I would stumble and fall. There, in abject misery, sitting alone in my car, drunk and/or stoned on pot, I wept, trying to find faith, but faith fled far from me. And then I would run again from that Hound, wilder than before, yet every real evil to which I put my hand throughout those months was snatched away from me; I could not touch it. This cycle continued from August through December.
Finally, on December 20, 1975, a Saturday evening, I was at the end of my steam. I spent a quiet evening with a close friend of many years, smoking as much pot as we could. When I laid myself down on my bed that night, I saw a vision of great steel bank-vault doors slamming shut. In that instant, I knew that period of my life was closed forever. Now, I must find faith or die.
The next morning, Sunday, I gathered all my drug paraphernalia and ungodly books, etc., put them all into a burlap bag, drove up into the mountains, tossed the bag into the bushes, and sat there waiting for fire from God to destroy it so that I could believe and be saved. Needless to say, God did not show up. The next day, Monday, I drove again into the mountains with my Bible. This time I read the entire book of Job. (Don't ask me why.) God did not show up, and faith remained far away from me.
On Tuesday, December 23, 1975, in abject despair, unable to go forward, unable to go back, I attempted to drive up into the mountains again, my place of sanctuary, but the gate was closed and locked. Not knowing what else to do, I thought I would go talk with Jim Buerge, the only Christian man from my childhood I respected. The Buerge's had lived about ten miles north of us. When I knocked on the door, a strange woman answered and said, “No, the Buerge's moved to Canada a few months ago.”
Not knowing what else to do, I drove up into the mountains by another access, up to the front shoulder of Snow Peak (it was a winter of little snow). There I parked my car and sat. I opened my Bible and read these words:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
I have never known such despair. And thus, I said these words: “Jesus would you be crucified again for me? Would you put yourself to open shame for me?” Soon after I heard in my spirit, “My son.” In breathless anticipation, I tossed my pack of cigarettes out the window, grabbed my Bible tightly and began to drive slowly down the other side of the mountain. Suddenly, the picture of the closed gate came to my mind and in that instant I knew that if I arrived at that gate, three miles from home, and found it open, I could be saved; Jesus would receive me. As I came down towards the mainline, I saw the watchman's pickup go by. When I arrived at the gate, it was wide open.
Faith opened in my heart, and I knew that I was at peace with God.
Let me put this question before you. How could a verse that condemned me without hope become a wide-open gate into the grace of God?
Has God bound everything beforehand or did He place every final decision into our hand?
If God placed Satan before you right now and said, “Judge.” Would you retain or would you forgive? I beg of you, DO NOT answer that question. The judgment of angels is reserved entirely for another age, far in the future. The judgment of men is before us first.
Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
There are three questions before us; entirely different questions. Always before Christians have called them one question. Part of the terrifying thing God showed me is that no, they are three, very different questions.
Question 1: Is there eternal punishment against sin?
Question 2: Do any individuals persist in hardness of heart against love, against the power by which Jesus subdues all things to Himself and thus keep themselves far away from any hope of rescue?
Question 3: Does any human being remain in eternal hopelessness?
That is a question not given to you to answer, not yet.
I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them.
Next, I want to bring in the testimony of two men in the Bible. These two men have the right to speak. Their own personal decisions must stand inside of – and judgment was committed to them.
The first is Moses, the one individual, the only individual through whom God gave the law.
The second is Paul, through whom God gave us the revelation of Christ our life.
The entire context of Moses' words is found in Exodus 32 and Deuteronomy 9. Both chapters should be read together, both are central to the revelation of Jesus Christ. In fact, I have always seen the revelation of Christ undergirding with power the book of Deuteronomy, when I read parts of it the Spirit of God sings all through me. I cannot bring in even a reduced context, it would be too much, therefore I suggest you read both chapters, Deuteronomy 9 first. Here I will give you the two sides of Moses' testimony.
And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you committed in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
This is forty years later, the Israelites had no clue that all of them would have died on the spot that day EXCEPT.
Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”
In verse 33, God told Moses, “No,” that such judgment had not been granted to him. Yet because of Moses, only a few thousand died that day.
Here is Paul's testimony:
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh...
But neither Moses nor Paul yet stood in this place:
A judge does not make things up. Rather, he reaches back and finds what is called “precedence” for his decisions. A judge finds a word and by that word he establishes judgment.
What word will “they” find? Upon which precedent will “they” cast their judgments?
Paul reached back and found one tiny little word, in one minor and very obscure prophet,
By which line will “they” judge? The second witness of Christ possess all power to strike the earth with any plague they wish any time they want. Will they use that power?
Here is the entire human race, every single individual born of Adam, laboring under the vanity of not knowing God. Yet no judgment is ever given upon the group.
Paul said it this way:
But God is not the judge; “they” are: and judgment was committed to them.
Here is a scoundrel. Through his time on this earth, he has murdered 15 people and taken their wealth for his own lusts. He has raped 9 women, most of them young, some, over and over. He has boasted of his prowess and of the hardness of his heart. He refuses ever to look at justice or to consider anyone else's pain. He successfully avoided any thought of his own actions during his entire lifetime. All the centuries he has wandered in the shades of Hades, he has screamed and cried, denouncing God and everyone else, blaming everything on everyone. Never has one thought of his own personal responsibility ever crossed his mind.
He stands before you now, restored back into his physical body, yet naked and alone. Let's make the picture even more stark. He is slimy in appearance; coy deceit fills his eyes, thinking hard on what personal pain he can bring against you, his judge; and he stinks.
What is your judgment? Do you retain or do you forgive?
Do you retain or do you forgive? It is not a simple decision.
Let me give the larger picture. But first, let me give the foundational word beneath that larger picture.
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
You might say, “Well, he certainly is no brother.” But the moment you lay down your life for this wicked, wicked man, you have made him your brother.
“Ay, there's the rub.” Hamlet, line 1602
Before we look at just exactly what this “rub” is, consider your purpose as judge. Is your purpose to magnify sin or to prove, to reveal Christ? Don't be too hasty to answer that question.
Jonathan Edwards said that Christ is revealed in glory by the moment by moment infliction of unbearable pain on a human being, my former neighbor, my friend, my brother. Most Christians agree fully with Edwards.
Yet there is another judgment just as sickening. That judgment is expressed in this way, “I guess God just forgives everybody, so what's the big deal? In the end, everybody get's to 'go to' heaven.” This accusation pretends to exalt “the grace of God,” but in the end, it is just one more way to call God a liar, the snarling accusation of the accuser.
Let me continue to present a picture entirely different from both of those.
You are the judge! HOW do you judge?
Those who look AT Jesus walking the path of the Atonement see Him as their substitute sacrifice. But those who look out from His eyes alone, those who see through eyes of fire, knowing that they are utterly inside of Him, also know the full fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death. They know the words by which the determination of God has seized them: And we also.
Now listen, wasn't Paul's great “claim” and Moses' boasting, “Hey, send me to hell instead of that wicked, wicked man,” easy? – Because they “knew” that God would say, “No, such judgment is not granted to you”?
Without Abraham, we would never know the real meaning of the marriage supper of the Lamb, that He would sup with us and we with Him. We would never know the real meaning of “union with Christ.”
You see, we say, “union with Christ,” but we can know what we are only as we know who and what Christ is. The truth is, we hardly know Him. Part of our problem is that we carry an image of Christ that is not Him. Every element of our picture of Christ that is untrue serves to block from us the true seeing of Him as He is.
Christ is God revealed. When we see Christ as He is, we see the Father.
The clearest picture of Christ and the Father in the Old Testament is Genesis 22, Abraham on Mr. Moriah.
God told Abraham to offer his son as an offering to God. Isaac was about 35 years old, thus his submission to his father was very much a part of this picture.
“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Abraham walked up the mountain convinced, each step, that God would raise Isaac from the dead. Here are two more lines. God will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt offering (Abraham) – since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me (God).
Now, Abraham did not know that God would stay his hand and that he would not actually slay his son. But Abraham did know with all assurance of faith that Isaac would walk back down that mountain with him again. Abraham saw the resurrection.
And this is so very important. Jesus died once for all. There is no more death. A laid-down life is not physical death except in rare occasions. Neither does a laid-down life consist of doing things for others even when we don't want to. That approach comes from and adds to human psychosis. Rather, a laid-down life is God Himself present in Person in us. God is; when we know that we are filled with all the fullness of God, then God is what He is in and out from us.
Continually KNOWING that you are filled with all the fullness of God will change you and will change your seeing of everything more than you can comprehend.
But a laid-down life is never to death; rather, it is always, every moment, to resurrection life. It is the two-step walk of God. Step one – Father, I give You thanks. Step two – Father, I arise in You alive forevermore.
Thus for you to lay down your life for that wicked, wicked man is not for you to take his place “in hell.” Rather, it is to willfully bring him into the mercy seat of love, your own heart. It is to walk alongside of him, day after day, in persistent gentleness, in patient kindness, winning his attention, winning his heart, winning his soul, until Christ as you has subdued this hopeless one entirely to Himself.
How will you judge?
There is a phrase we shy away from because of the connotation of present separation that it holds: what would Jesus do? Yet here, in the center of this judgment facing us, the use of that phrase might be appropriate. Judgment must be based on precedent.
What would Jesus do?
Let's run another video clip of God. Actually this is the third such picture by which alone God is seen by the universe (the second is Jesus stumbling and falling, unable to carry His cross, stumbling with us in our weakness).
This final picture of God is a picture of extraordinary contrast. The first two pictures of God are Jesus Himself. This third picture has meaning only with the full presence of the most hostile enemies God has ever faced inside that video clip. The camera must pan back and forth between the face of Jesus and the faces of His enemies.
Here is David's view of that moment, found in
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people. All those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him...” Many bulls have surrounded Me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint... For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. But You, O Lord, do not be far from Me... Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog. Save Me from the lion’s mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen!
The men standing there before the cross screaming all the hatred of heaven and earth against this despicable “Christ,” were the epitome, the highest level of all that opposes God. They were filled with pride and self-righteousness. They had clothed themselves with the law, with the tree of knowledge, more than any humans before or since. They “knew” that God cannot appear in human flesh more than anyone “knows” that today.
Yet hanging there between heaven and earth, naked, bloody, bruised, and unashamed, Jesus spoke the judgment of God. –
I can assure you, this was no light matter, no flippant, “I guess God just forgives everybody.” Forgiveness is the first part of salvation, but salvation costs the bearer everything. We are saved only by His life – we are saved only by Christ living as us, carrying us all the way into the Father.
Jesus forgiving these men was Jesus bearing all that they were through all the tangled horror of their folly and hardheartedness, all the way into life. I have no doubt that every one of those men was born again in this life, and I have no doubt that among them were the Christian Judaizers who plagued Paul throughout his ministry, speaking against the truth of Christ our only life. Yet that same Christ carried them all the way through all.
That is salvation. Will you retain or will you forgive?
You see, when Moses said,
Jesus is not just the Passover Lamb; He is also the Scapegoat. It was not agreeing to be God's Lamb, only, that caused Jesus to sweat drops of blood in mortal agony. No, Jesus drank His Father's Cup by agreeing to be the Scapegoat, the One who lives as us, carrying all of our sin and agony to the forgetfulness of God, carrying us to the throne of heaven.
Would we know Him thus? Would we be just like Him?
Sam Fife wrote a song that we sang in the move of God, the fellowship I was a part of for many years. Here are some of the words.
Christ was born to die,
To submit while they cried, “Crucify.”
Now His purpose I see, is to fulfill it in me.
Christ was born to die.
I know we did not understand what those words meant. From them came the injunction, “Just die, brother,” words that brought only confusion and darkness, never life. In most people's minds this thought transferred itself from Christ to the flesh, that it's the flesh that must die. I wondered at that at times. How can it be Ishmael that is to die and not Christ?
Now I know without question that there can be no talk of death without talking of life far more. And those who sang that song and who “poured out their lives for others” over many years, died in sorrow, convinced deep down that they had never “made it,” that somehow, God had never proven Himself through them.
Yet seated now upon the throne of His grace as a judge, with the Word always in my mouth, I know that God fills me full with all that He is. I consider Christ my life alone. He died once for all; He dies no more. Yet He lives for all, carrying all inside Himself all the way into life, and I also. He in me and I in Him.
And we also laying down our lives for the brethren is not death, but salvation and life. Christ was born to live forevermore, to live for all, to live as all. A life laid-down is the very life and being of Almighty God.
And God cannot know death.
Here is the purpose of God.
For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
One final line before you judge. Always remember that you possess, and more than possess, you ARE the mighty energy by which Christ subdues ALL things to Himself.
I have presented the case and the precedence.
When I was twenty years old, a naive, ambitious, autistic, and tender boy, filled with every kind of
A sword shall pierce through your own heart also that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed.
Having the facts before you, let God rip your own heart wide open, that God might be known and read by all.
Why does God never say who “they” are?
Simple. Christ must be proven victorious in every level of creation, giving full answer to every accusation. The victory of Christ over death is known absolutely in its beginning and in its fullness as events in time. A Lamb Slain from before the foundation of the world cannot be known by anyone. The events of Friday – Sunday, April 15-17, AD 29, taking place in both heaven and earth at the same moment, are the ROCK upon which all salvation rests.
Who are they?
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.