[Most weeks, I present as many updates on my reflections and study of the Biblical texts on which our weekend worship celebrations will be built as I can. The purpose is to help the people of the congregation I serve as pastor, Friendship Lutheran Church of Amelia, Ohio, get ready for worship. Hopefully, it's helpful to others as well, since our Bible lesson is usually one from the weekly lectionary, variations of which are used in most of the churches of the world.]
The Bible Lesson: Revelation 7:9-17
9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
1. We began our Easter season consideration of Revelation two weeks ago with a passage from the first chapter. Last week, we jumped to chapter 5 and this week, we take another leap, this time to the seventh chapter.
Because the lectionary is meant to cover Revelation in the six weeks in the season after Easter itself, these leaps are necessary. But the way they're done makes sense. Last week's verses, for example, represented the culmination of the second unit of the book. This week's lesson is the culmination of a unit that begins at Revelation 6:1.
2. Our lesson last week ended with the acclamation of Jesus' worthiness to break the seals of the scroll. (More on that in a moment.) Revelation 6:1-7:17, designated by commentator Richard L. Jeske as The Book of the Seven Seals, tells what happens when the Lamb/Lion, Jesus, breaks the seals. Jesus has control of history, from beginning to end, and can reveal its often hidden meanings and drama to us.
3. As Jeske and others point out, Revelation presents a "series of word pictures...organized around the number seven. The letter to the seven churches [Revelation 2:1-3:22] is followed by seven vision-cycles depicting the book of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven visions of conflict, the seven visions of Mount Zion, the seven bowls of the wrath of God, the seven visions of the fall of 'Babylon,' and the seven visions of recompense. Beginning with the book of the seven seals, the seventh number in each series sets in motion the unfolding of the next septet, connecting each series and creating a sense of anticipation for what is to come."
4. It's important to realize that the book of the seven seals doesn't represent a book of prophecy about what will happen. Rather, it represents the experience of a fallen humanity in the world. These are the experiences of human beings in all of history since Adam and Eve rebelled in the garden.
5. For all the terrors revealed in this part of Revelation, it also gives hope. "In Chapter 7, John tells us that the destruction of all things is delayed until the assembling of God's people is complete. The present time is the time of God's patience, the time of his restraining the winds of destruction, the time of the gathering of his people."
Tomorrow, I hope to share a few more general comments and then begin a verse-by-verse consideration of the passage.