“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”
Revelation 4 : 8
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose gift your servants, in confessing the true Faith, acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and adore the Unity in the power of your Majesty: Grant that by steadfastness of the same Faith, we may be defended from all adversities; through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
The Scope of Scriptural Recognition (Examples).
Isaiah 6: 1-8, Revelation 4:1-11, John 3: 1-15.
Isaiah 6: 1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two that covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe is me!” I cried. I am ruined! For I am man of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him and worship him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
PROPHET AND APOSTLE
There is a remarkable affinity between Isaiah and John. They are visionaries of great profundity and descriptive power. They are men of similar experience and spiritual insight into the mysteries of heaven - mysteries in the sense that the realities they report are the disclosures of divine revelation beyond the reach of normal or natural observation. They were bidden to special and supernatural access to God and beheld something of his unique and awesome splendor, and they each ably relate the depth of the affects/effects of the sight of the divine glory and exaltedness upon the inner life of these astonished witnesses of God’s majesty and radiant holiness. They perceive something of the character, arrangements, and service concerning the denizens of the heavenly realm, their ordered activities and adoring demeanor under the sovereign sway of the Lord of All. Isaiah and John correspond in the musing and message of their encounter with Occupant of the Throne.
The throne of the Almighty was the centerpiece of their visionary experience. Each of them could enunciate their heartfelt tribute to the thrice holy God suggesting a plurality in the divine being that is now revealed to us in the fullness of Trinitarian doctrine. There is enthralling abundance and richness in the nature of God that yields, from his self-descriptive information laid before us, the discernment of three Persons forming a unity of one mind, one will, one power, in a community of social love and action. We now “acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and adore the Unity in the power of his Majesty.”
The themes of Old Testament treatment were valid, insofar as they went, in their own time of presentation, but bounded by terms of incompletion and futurity of final fulfillment. They carried a message to be better ascertained in future installments. As the recipients of the features of the New Covenant we have the hindsight to better comprehend the clues embedded in the witness of the former covenant, and we rejoice in both the teaching and expectation of the past now fully unfurled, and therefore we engage in the wondrous matching of earlier data to the information of our day, which is confirmatory of our conclusions arrived at in faith and reflection (this is that).
Prophet and apostle extol and exalt the grandeur of God, unsurpassably majestic and glorious, arrayed in appearance and attire of uttermost brilliance, and we see the veneration and homage offered by every rank of angels and all worshipful saints from every nation on earth. Isaiah foreshadows atonement for sin and awakens assignment to the spreading of the gospel. St. John exhorts the service of the gospel with the boldness of a lion, the strength of an ox, the humanity befitting “the man of God”, and the speed and endurance of an eagle. The united task is to bring the ruined to redemption.
John 3: 1-15
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus Answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and you do not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven — the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
I TELL YOU THE TRUTH
Jesus expounds the miracle and necessity of new birth from above, of which we have no true conception and for which we have no sincere desire.
Natural birth and life in the flesh cannot admit us to the kingdom of God. The plain fact is that to know God the Three-in-One and enter his kingdom it is essential to be born again. Regeneration is an exclusive achievement of God alone. There is no human contribution or co-operation, not a scintilla of human assistance, in the birth of the children of God. Each is an entirely new creature born of God through the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. No effort of man prepares for this supernatural birth nor assists the Spirit in performing his act of recreation.
Nicodemus had no grasp of this extraordinary fact intimated in the Scriptures of Israel, yet he was regarded as an eminent teacher of the people of God on matters of eternal salvation. “You are Israel’s teacher” remarks Jesus, “and you do not understand these things?” How many experts poring over Scripture fail to identify this absolutely essential teaching of the Word of God? “You must be born again!” - the extension of the right to become children of God is the prerogative of God.
Jesus deftly draws “these things” that Nicodemus should be acquainted with from the prophecy of Ezekiel specifically: In chapter 36 of the book of Ezekiel the Lord promises Israel, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
In the valley of dry bones (Chapter 37) the prophet is commanded to summon the breath of life to raise the scattered bones of the long dead to life, - Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophecy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain that they may live’” (verse 9). It is the puff of the wind (spirit) that confers life to its skeletal recipients.
For Ezekiel water and wind (breath) point to the spiritual phenomenon of the sovereign work of regeneration - birth from above. And so Jesus differentiates natural birth and the second birth, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit (verse 6). Jesus asserts that believers are born of water, even the Spirit, to which water is analogous in its cleansing effect. Water is a reference to the purification wrought by the third person of the Holy Trinity.
Likewise Jesus compares the sovereignty and power of the Spirit to the wind which is beyond human control and direction. Water and wind are emblematic of the life- giver, the Holy Spirit. These and other instances of imagery and symbolism in the Bible of the Hebrews ought to have conveyed the truth of the new heart which amounts to the fact of the new birth and its radical necessity. Nicodemus and his colleagues, bound up in a religion of “do this” for divine approval (and human praise), missed the point of effectual grace in the divine enterprise of salvation.
In the teaching of Jesus our eyes are turned from the religious quests and qualifications of human nature for a right relationship with our Maker to his marvelous mercy and grace alone which remakes us in his kind and loving role as Redeemer.