We started the year asking the question “How can we get through the year ahead?” Here’s a bit more of the answer.
- Keep trusting -knowing that God has promised to keep you safe through the trials and tribulations of this life (v 1-8)
– A sense of drama, we are waiting for the last of the 7 seals to be broken
– Judgement is coming – image of the 4 angels holding back the winds that will cause chaos and destruction across creation
– A cry “Hold on” – God’ people must be sealed
Q: Who are kept safe?
– Answer ‘All God’s people”
144, 000 = 12x 12 x 1000 -another symbolic focus on the completeness and extent of God’s salvation
The OT keeps talking about a remnant of God’s people (1 Kings19:18, Isaiah 10:21-22; 11:1,10-11)
Romans 11 “All Israel will be saved” – so don’t lose sight of God’s saving purposes for Israel but actually again this is representative of all God’s people -throughout history (i.e. not some special elite)).
They are sealed – marked out as belonging to God and being within his protection and care. Remember how the people had the mark/seal of blood on the doorposts and were kept safe from the Angel of Death (Exodus 12).
Our seal is salvation to be “hidden safe in Christ”
NB This will probably help us think about what it means to have the “mark of the beast” on foreheads and hands -something that the mark/Seal of God mirrors. It isn’t a case of looking out for people with barcodes on their heads -rather lives that demonstrate who owns them, who they look to for protection and provision.
Q How are we kept safe?
It’s not that we escape the real experiences of suffering -that’s very clear in the letters to the Churches
But – safe from judgement meaning:
– we can stand firm through suffering and persecution.
– That we do not see these things as signs that God is angry with us, has rejected us or does not love us
– That we do not have to fear death – it has lost its sting of condemnation
– That we will not be subjected to the final judgement of Hell
- Keep hoping – knowing that we have that great day to look forward to when we will be in God’s presence forever
– The 2nd picture makes it clear that this is all God’s people – every tribe, nation, language. Note that the Bible image is not of everyone being forced into one homogenous identity. We become more like Christ but not clones of each other. If you struggle with the idea of diversity in the church then you need to sort that out now because around the throne, that’s exactly what there will be. There’s no place for ethnic barriers in the Church. Is that clear enough? There’s no place for churches that only welcome one ethnic group, no place for social elites, no place for tribalism, no place for racism. If we have a problem with that now, then we’ve got some sorting out to do before eternity!
– An uncountable crowd. I love this bit because the Greek word here is the same one from which we get our word Arithmetic (as in the 3 rs). Maths is not my strong point and so often I have sat in lectures and exams and been completely unnerved by what looks like unsolvable arithmetic. So for all of us who struggle with maths – here’s the intentionally unsolvable sum. We are not meant to be sat calculating and working out who is in and who will be in and who will be out of God’s Kingdom on the final day. Just get on with telling everyone the good news!
– They are in God’s presence
– They are dressed in white – pure, clean
– They worship God – notice The Lamb – Jesus is included in that. He is God
– It’s loud and noisy -a roar
– They have come through suffering and tribulation -even to death. NB . Remember we’ve already seen that John is a co-sufferer (Rev 1:9) and that the church in his time were already experiencing suffering (cf 2-3) – so The Great Suffering/Tribulation isn’t one event for a few at the end of history, rather it’s about the experience of all God’s people. Note that the Greek text here literally refers to those who are “coming out of” the Great Tribulation. The NLT interprets this as “those who have died”. I guess the NLT is thinking that the way they will come through is either by dying or by Christ’s return because the point is that they have come through to the other side and have overcome by standing firm. The idea is that they have arrived at the Throne.
– The hope is in having washed robes – salvation/forgiveness (i.e. its not that they’ve been saved because they suffer, rather they suffer because they are saved)
This is good news.
– Think of this as like one of those big pictures of everyone at a wedding. You are looking at the photo, surveying all the faces. And there you are. You are in the picture.
– One of the blessings of reading and hearing the Book of Revelation is that it was written to give us assurance and security in Christ – the one who holds the seven stars (all of the church) in his hand.
This means we can face whatever is going to come our way this week with confidence in Christ.
It might mean a long day cleaning up other people’s mess or sat in traffic jams as you drive your lorry across the country or sitting in that unpleasant, angry meeting with a boss, customer, patient, parent.
It might mean facing a letter from the Home Office ….or still waiting and wishing the letter might come
It might mean someone laughing at you or causing trouble for you because you are a Christian
It might mean the inner pain that you experience as you battle to give up on that bad habit
But we can face those things because we are looking forward with hope – knowing we will one day be with Christ
In so far as you are able to believe and agree with what John says here – there is great peace and joy available to you.
Some of us don’t have that peace, joy and hope yet – the action required is simple. Put your trust in Christ
For those of us who do already believe, let’s prepare to face the week ahead with trust and with hope. Ready to suffer for Christ. Ready to speak for Christ.