Look! [Jesus] is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. (NRSV 1:7)
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (KJV 1:7)
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Jesus! John's reaction here is pretty spot on. Tell us you wouldn't be freaking out a little if the Son of God ascended from Heaven right in front of you.
I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. (NRSV 1:13-17)
And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. (KJV 1:13-17)
John just can't keep his stuff together in the presence of his Savior. The sight of Jesus in all his bronze-footed glory has our narrator going weak in the knees.
There in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder (NRSV 4:2-5)
And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. (KJV 4:2-5)
Yeah, it's a pretty impressive throne. Though we're guessing God would have people on their knees even if the thing was made of pine and had tiny sparklers coming out of the side.
Everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (NRSV 6:15-17)
And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (KJV 6:15-17)
Again with the falling down. God really gives people vertigo. Even those who don't believe in the Christian God are completely awe-struck out by the idea of his coming… and not really looking forward to his vengeance.
Then the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, singing, "We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign." (NRSV 11:16-17)
And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O LORD God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. (KJV 11:16-17
Now the heavenly council of elders have gone weak in the knees. Even though they're in the presence of God all day and all night, they still can't help falling down and thanking the Big Guy for all that he is and all that he's about to do (like turning some rivers to blood).
They worshiped the Dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?" (Revelation 13:4, NRSV)
And they worshipped the Dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? (Revelation 13:4, KJV)
Okay, so the Sea Beast gets a little reverence here. He's got the Dragon backing him and he's pretty impressive otherwise, so it's no surprise that the people of the world are falling for his charms. Seven heads will do that to you. The last question, though, almost leads into a response. Who can fight against the Beast? God, of course (and all the armies of Heaven.
[The Earth Beast] performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of all; and by the signs that it is allowed to perform on behalf of the beast, it deceives the inhabitants of earth. (NRSV 13:13-14)
And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. (KJV 13:13-14)
The Earth Beast performs signs (like Jesus did) in order to convince the people he's legit. Sure, magic fire raining down from Heaven is pretty cool. But is it anything compared to mountains falling into the sea?
Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues […] And they sing[…] the song of the Lamb: "Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations!" (NRSV 15:2-3)
Them that had gotten the victory over the beast […] sing the song […] of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. (KJV 15:2-3)
Again, the seven angels (who are pretty awesome in their own right), sing praises to God for every amazing thing he has done so far in the apocalypse. Nice work, Lord!
When I saw [the Whore of Babylon], I was greatly amazed. But the angel said to me, "Why are you so amazed?" (NRSV 17:6-7)
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? (KJV 17:6-7)
Um, fair question. This happens pretty late in the story and John has seen some pretty fantastical sights so far. Why does the Whore of Babylon tip the scales of amazement?
I fell down at his feet to worship [the angel], but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!" (NRSV 19:10)
And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (KJV 19:10)
John takes the worship a little too far here. He tries to praise the angel, but he is not having any of it. This almost seems like a warning: sure, we've all seen some amazing things here, but let's remember who is the most amazing of all.
[The angel] carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. It has a great, high wall with twelve gates[…] The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; And[…] each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass. (NRSV 21:10-12, 18-19, 21)
And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates[…] And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones[…] And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. (KJV 21:10-12, 18-19, 21)
Wow, God is one heck of an architect. The final dwelling place for the faithful is probably one of the most astonishing sights in the whole book. Our only question is, when do we get the jewel-encrusted keys?