Peeling the Onion: Revelation 7, 8:1

So the 6 seals are opened, 4 horsemen released – And here’s a re-framing, a new shot in your movie

Pull back, wa-ay back – See the blue planet in space, as John might have seen the celestial dome over flat earth – and see 4 angels, holding back the winds, from the four corners of the earth. Cosmic defence shields, in science fiction terms protecting land, sea, and forests from gales and see another angel, rising in the east, holding the seal – Imagine that.

Did your scroll have red was seals like mine? One drips red wax, then uses a corporate seal, or signet ring, To mark a document distinctively… As authorized by the One identified with the seal. This angel is carrying not just the sealing wax – she’s entrusted with the thing to imprint the hot wax, in Alberta terms the brand for the cattle. And what’s it for?

To mark, to seal, some of God’s people, before the angels let loose the winds, to wreak environmental havoc on the earth. They’ll be marked on their foreheads (yes, we’ll come back to this, and ‘the mark of the beast’, later) as God’s people –144,000, 12,000 from each of 12 tribes. Perfect numbers, not a head count.

Good news, if you’re circumcised – God will know her own, and hold them safe from this tribulation. They did not waste those millennia of witness! Lots of folks obsess over the 14,000 sealed – either from the inside, wanting to join the club, or from the outside, in derision – from what are these 144,000 saved, and to what end?

Just as people abuse John 3, perseverating on individuals’ salvation, ignoring the universal promise in adjoining verses, so it’s an offence to Revelation 7 to omit v.9:

Change your mental movie shot,

Reframe: We’re back in the familiar ‘court in heaven’ tableau (throne, 24 thrones and elders, 4 beasts, lampstands, myriads on myriads of angels… gems, glassy crystal floors…)

John sees countless figures in white robes, from every nation, tribe, people, language singing in chorus around the throne far more than 144,000!

Once more – This is not an exclusive club – but an inclusive limitless host of heaven, beyond time and space, innumerable. The soundtrack is another ‘greatest hits’ number of praise and doxology sung by the whole heavenly host, and echoed in our worship.

One of the 24 elders asks John – Who are these in white robes? John says ‘you know, not I’ ‘These are people, Who’ve come out of the great ordeal, washed their robes, and made them white, in the blood of the Lamb.’

I’m at my 500 word quota for the day –And you know how our tradition applies the rest:

After the passage of death, not always pretty, we assure one another in bereavement that our person belongs in this vision…don’t get too fancy with your modern lack of metaphysics, at least not with the recently bereaved!

But what’s the liminal boundary of death for you?

The text ends, and our week ends, as the 7th seal is opened, and silence descends.

New Jerusalem Bible

Revelation c.7

1 Next I saw four angels, standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the world to keep them from blowing over the land or the sea or any tree.

2 Then I saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea,

3 'Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.' Chapter 7:4-10 - Sealed & Saved

4 And I heard how many had been sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel.

5 From the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand had been sealed; from the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand; from the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand;

6 from the tribe of Asher, twelve thousand; from the tribe of Naphtali, twelve thousand; from the tribe of Manasseh, twelve thousand;

7 from the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand; from the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand; from the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand;

8 from the tribe of Zebulun, twelve thousand; and from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand had been sealed.

9 After that I saw that there was a huge number, impossible for anyone to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted in a loud voice,

10 'Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!' After the 6th seal… to the 7th

11 And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four living creatures, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God

12 with these words: Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.

13 One of the elders then spoke and asked me, 'Who are these people, dressed in white robes, and where have they come from?'

14 I answered him, 'You can tell me, sir.' Then he said, 'These are the people who have been through the great trial; they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.

15 That is why they are standing in front of God's throne and serving him day and night in his sanctuary; and the One who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.

16 They will never hunger or thirst again; sun and scorching wind will never plague them,

17 because the Lamb who is at the heart of the throne will be their shepherd and will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.'

8:1 The Lamb then broke the seventh seal, and there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

New Revised Standard Version

144,000 from 12 Tribes

7:1 After this I saw four angels Standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree.

2I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea,

3saying, ‘Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.’

4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel:

5From the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,

6from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,

7from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,

8from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed.

9 After 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 worshipped God,

12singing, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’

13 Then 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.

15 For 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.

16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;

17 for the Lamb at the centre 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.’

8:1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.