Friday, December 09, 2016

Revelation Advent -- December 9

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” (Revelation 7:1-4, ESV)

The judgment has come, the wrath of Christ, the Lamb of God, has come to the evil doers of the earth. They ask, "who can stand?"

John's vision of the seals being broken is interrupted with another vision. This vision takes us back to another time prior to the events of the sixth seal. Think of it as a flashback from God's perspective. Four angels are standing at the four corners of the earth. They are holding back the four winds from harming the earth. Before any harm, God sends another angel to put God's seal of protection on all God's servants. The angel applies this seal to the foreheads of all God's people. Later in Revelation, we will see that the seal is the name of Christ and the name of God. All who receive this seal are "branded" as being owned by God. All who have God's seal will be protected from the wrath of the Lamb that we see in the sixth seal.

The passage immediately following says, "I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel." The tribes are then listed in none of the ways they were listed in the Old Testament. One commentator has noted that ordering of the tribes elevates the sons of the concubines (slaves, outsiders) to positions 3 through 6, and eliminates Dan, the tribe that became notorious or leading the northern kingdom of Israel into idolatry. The changes made here in Revelation, versus the Old Testament, are not accidental. It indicates a symbolic nature of the 144,000. It includes not only the Jews, but also outsiders, the Gentiles, and excludes the idolaters. The number, 144,000, is also symbolic, representing a large number of the saints on earth prepared for battle. Remember, numbers above 1000 in ancient times were considered huge numbers. But this number, 144,000, compared immediately to "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation" makes the 144,000 look small in comparison.

What do we learn from Revelation, chapter 7? First of all, when the judgment comes with the wrath of the Lamb, all of God's people are protected from God's wrath. Secondly, God has organized his people to be ready for battle. But the victory is achieved through suffering and ultimately death. Those who come through suffering and death will be an uncountable multitude who will praise God. They will wear white robes, having been cleansed by Christ's death, and will have the joy of shouting to God their victory because what God the Father and Christ has done for them.

It is most interesting to note that the uncountable multitude shouting their joy before God are the same ones who were under the alter earlier, who pleaded, "how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" God answers their prayer, and John records,

“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelation 7:16-17, ESV)

Those of you who are believers, who rely on Christ for your salvation, you are the ones who are sealed with God's protection. While others will wither before God's judgment, you will persevere with the others, withstanding the onslaught of all the evil in this world. The evil can be blatant power against God's people, or it can be the insidious call to comprise and comfort rather than standing with God. If you belong to God, you are part of God's army. You will persevere -- so persevere in the faith. Do not compromise, do not give up. As the Apostle Paul says:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18, ESV)

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