October 29, 2006

Seventh Trumpet Sounds/Revelation 11:15-19

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and voices could be heard shouting in heaven, calling, The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.

The twenty-four elders, enthroned in the presence of God, prostrated themselves and touched the ground with their foreheads worshipping God with these words,

We give thanks to you, Almighty Lord God, He who is, He who was, for assuming your great power and beginning your reign. The nations were in uproar and now the time has come for your retribution, and for the dead to be judged, and for your servants the prophets, for the saints and for those who fear your name, small and great alike, to be rewarded. The time has come to destroy those who are destroying the earth.

Then the sanctuary of God in heaven opened, and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake and violent hail.

Cecil B. DeMille eat your heart out

October 26, 2006

Revelation 11:1-14

Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, "Come and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for one thousand two hundred sixty days, wearing sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes; anyone who wants to harm them must be killed in this manner. They have authority to shut the sky, so that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have authority over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that is prophetically called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days members of the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb; and the inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to the inhabitants of the earth. But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and those who saw them were terrified. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here!" And they went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies watched them. At that moment there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe has passed. The third woe is coming very soon.

October 21, 2006

prophetic calls

What jumps out at me from this reading -- and especially the last paragraph (eating the book) -- is the theophany from Isaiah. So I post that here as well for reference.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out." Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!"

Revelation 10

And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He held a little scroll open in his hand. Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, he gave a great shout, like a lion roaring.

And when he shouted, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down."

Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: "There will be no more delay, but in the days when the seventh angel is to blow his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, as he announced to his servants the prophets." Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, "Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land."

So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, "Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth." So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. Then they said to me, "You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings."

October 20, 2006


But the rest of the human race, who escaped death by these plagues, refused either to abandon their own handiwork or to stop worshipping devils, the idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood that can neither see nor hear nor move. Nor did they give up their murdering, or witchcraft, or fornication or stealing.

Issues come and go. Today commentators are quick to say that whatever the bible means by idolatry, it isn't what Hindus of good conscience do as they practice their devotions, or what Eastern Orthodox folks as they pray before icons or Roman Catholics and their devotion to the saints -- no none of that is idolatry.

And I want to agree. Of the few Hindus I've met they seem like fairly nice friendly folks. I've met even fewer Easter Orthodox, but I've met a fair number of Protestants with icons in their homes. I have a modern print handing on the wall intended to be a contemporary icon. As for Catholics with their cults of the saints, I have met quite a few Catholics, and while they have all been flawed human beings, they have not been any more flawed than the Protestants I've met. So I'm not altogether sure what all the fuss is about.

Past generations have not felt this way. Iconoclasm was a movement that in its extreme expressions went about smashing religious images in churches. The modern austerity of Quaker meetinghouses is the end product of that movement. We are wise to not altogether disown it -- at least until we full appreciated it.

For me the idols of this world are corporate logos and national emblems. Golden Arches. Canadian Tire. Calvin Klein. The Gap. Exxon. It troubles me to see national flags displayed in church sanctuaries. This because these are representations of the powers and principalities that overrule us.

And yet. This attitude is a very liberal Christian kinda attitude. It too is socially constructed. I point my finger -- power principalities idolatries -- at all this stuff and conveniently turn a blind eye to what my own devotions to the powers that constrain my life. Where am I then?

October 18, 2006

Sixth Trumpet Sounds/Reveleation 9:13-21

The sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a single voice issuing from the four horns of the golden altar in God's presence. It spoke to the sixth angel with the trumpet, and said, 'Release the four angels that are chained up at the great river Euphrates.'

These four angels had been ready for this hour of this day of this month of this year, and ready to destroy a third of the human race. I learnt how many there were in their army: twice ten thousand times ten thousand mounted men. In my vision I saw the horses, and the riders with their breastplates of flame colour, hyacinth-blue and sulphur-yellow; the horses had lions' heads, and fire, smoke and sulphur were coming from their mouths. It was by these three plagues, the fire, the smoke and the sulphur coming from their mouths, that the one third of the human race was killed. All the horses' power was in their mouths and their tails: their tails were like snakes, and had heads which inflicted wounds.

But the rest of the human race, who escaped death by these plagues, refused either to abandon their own handiwork or to stop worshipping devils, the idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood that can neither see nor hear nor move. Nor did they give up their murdering, or witchcraft, or fornication or stealing.

October 14, 2006

Jacques Is Back!

Jacques Ellul saw this whole section of trumpets and woes as the center of Revelation. "It is there that we must situate what follows: in particular the judgment, because the judgment and the end of the world cannot be read or understood except in terms of the judgment which has fallen upon the Son of God; and those who are condemned in the final destruction are not men but the rebellious powers who are described for us in the central section, upon whom men depend and whom men represent only figuratively. It is indeed the action of these Satanic powers that in every circumstance provokes death in the Apocalypse, and not at all, never directly, the action of God upon men....

"Before studying the 'plagues' in the perspective that we have indicated, it is necessary to make at least two remarks. The first is that each act of God in Jesus Christ implies an aspect of catastrophe for the men enclosed in the world, in solidarity with the world, separated from God, and in conflict with him. Man is so much the prey of the powers, so closely associated with their work, enjoys himself so thoroughly to their profit, desires so much all that they offer, conceives his life to such a degree separated from God, that every approach of God, every positive work of God, appears to him as an unacceptable disturbance and finally an attack upon him. When God comes to deliver him, he does not at all perceive his liberation; he protests against the breaking of those marvelous objects, which are his chains or the doors of his prison, the adored chains....

"The second remark is that since Jesus Christ incarnates all humanity... all that which happens to him is in reality a catastrophe for the entire human race... But also, inversely, all that happens to humanity is in reality that which falls upon Jesus... Thus we must never read the plagues and judgments of the Apocalypse outside of this perspective of perfect, absolute, unbreakable association between Christ and men--all men, those of the past and of the future, those of all races and religions: man, the sole and unique Adam, come from the hands of the Father with his billions of possibilities, which are the billions of our visages."

I'm Back

Thogh I don't know for how long.

Numbers 11:29

Fifth Trumpet Sounds/Revelation 9:1-12

Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven onto the earth, and the angel was given the key to the shaft leading down to the Abyss. When he unlocked the shaft of the Abyss, smoke rose out of the Abyss like the smoke from a huge furnace so that the sun and the sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss, and out of the smoke dropped locusts onto the earth: they were given the powers that scorpions have on the earth: they were forbidden to harm any fields or crops or trees and told to attack only those people who were without God's seal on their foreheads. They were not to kill them, but to give them anguish for five months, and the anguish was to be the anguish of a scorpion's sting. When this happens, people will long for death and not find it anywhere; they will want to die and death will evade them. These locusts looked like horses armoured for battle; they had what looked like gold crowns on their heads, and their faces looked human, and their hair was like women's hair, and teeth like lion's teeth. They had body-armour like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings sounded like the racket of chariots with many horses charging. Their tails were like scorpions' tails, with stings, and with their tails they were able to torture people for five months. As their leader they had their emperor, the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek Apollyon. That was the first of the disasters; there are still two more to come.

October 13, 2006

The Seven Trumpets

In searching for a picture for this post, I came across an Episcopal church's page - An Adult Sunday School Class On The Revelation to John - which can be found here. I don't know if it will be helpful or not, but speaking just for myself, any bit of insight couldn't hurt :-). The lesson on our reading for this week (7 trumpets) compares the plagues and woes to those experienced by Pharoh and Egypt ... interesting.

October 12, 2006

bitter medicine/david

We're stumbling into Hal Lindsey territory.

Hal Lindsey, for those who slept or drank their way through the 70s -- or just plain ignored the paranoid tenor evangelicalism in that decade, was this guy who sold mega-sales of books claiming that he could find point by point correspondences between Revelation and contemporary society -- especially warfare and geo-political situations. Coincidentally all the evil guys just happened to be folks who were political or economic competitors of the good old US of A.

Flaming mountains falling into the sea looks just a tad like underwater nuclear tests or naplaming of fishing villages. Wormwood poisoning the water afterwards. And once you get these images into your brain-box its hard to get them out.

For John, wormwood was a medicine designed to ease severe stomach cramps but which tasted awful. The stomach cramps were attributed to tapeworms (hence the name) and likely the recipient was not expected to survive anyway.

A medicine that kills off a third of the planet is a bitter one indeed.

Back at my earlier posting about the cosmic balance -- we're here a preserving salt -- preventing this kind of disaster -- a radically different position than the Hal Lindsey groupies who look forward to the disaster -- because they'll be safely raptured. But what if that is the whole point? What if while we're in this body,as long as it is today, our role is to be Abraham, and call on the HaShem to not obliterate the human race, to recall his covenant with Noah, to be the last ten righteous people and keep this horror-show from happening?

October 11, 2006

First Four Trumpets Sound/Revelation 8:6-13

The seven angels that had the seven trumpets now made ready to sound them.

The first blew his trumpet and, with that, hail and fire, mixed with blood, were hurled on the earth: a third of the earth was burnt up, and a third of all trees, and every blade of grass was burnt.

The second angel blew his trumpet, and it was as though a great mountain blazing with fire was hurled into the sea: a third of the sea turned into blood, a third of all the living things in the sea were killed, and a third of all ships were destroyed.

The third angel blew his trumpet, and a huge star fell from the sky, burning like a ball of fire, and it fell on a third of all rivers and on the springs of water; this was the star called Wormwood, and a third of all water turned to wormwood, so that many people died; the water had become so bitter.

The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were blasted, so that the light went out of a third of them and the day lost a third of its illumination, and likewise the night. In my vision, I heard an eagle, calling aloud as it flew high overhead, 'Disaster, disaster, disaster, on all the people on earth at the sound of the other three trumpets which the three angels have yet to blow!'

October 10, 2006

Bible Stuff

Two blog postings that Friends and friends here may find worthy of consideration:

A Place to Stand
EarthWitness Journal

October 08, 2006

Who Was That Marked Multitude Again?

The other thing about marks on one's forehead--They are not just a "Get out of Hell free" card; this is a matter of "Which side are you on?" as we will see when we get to those other marks in a later passage.

God is not a contender in some traditional human "Who's the King here?" contest. But ancient Middle-Easterners are familiar with that sort of event; they expect it to be serious and nasty; they know that Bad Decisions in picking the rightful side can be life-threatening.

On another hand... Consider the line-up: in this corner, high overhead on His throne overlooking the North Celestial Pole, surrounded by worshipful angels and creatures made of stars, is the Creator of the Universe. VS? A bunch of "inhabitants of the earth," worshiping Caesar and other false gods. Is this a fair contest? Why is it a contest at all?

Is God pulling his punches? Uprooting stars, peeling back the sky, throwing down plagues and flaming awful bloody objects like on a very bad day... The survivors nip out of town, hide under rocks, do absolutely everything but say "Uncle!" Man, we're tough! Bright?--no, but commendably stubborn.

At face value, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Why doesn't everyone just ask: "Who did you say we should call our Personal Savior, again?" There must be hidden subtleties involved.

The ones with the marks, who are not getting thumped, are those who "have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. Like the ancient Israelites who just marked their faces with lamb's blood, okay, but these are before the Thone worshipping God day and night, being sheltered and guided. The washing is "an ongoing action," according to my commentary.

What does this mean? The answer that makes sense to me was suggested by a yoga book I've been reading, by Erich Schiffmann (where I also think his description of meditation is closer to the core of what Quaker worship is supposed to be than I generally hear from Quakers--but then he isn't talking about a group process at all...) His view of divine guidance is that it's available to everybody. Most people don't follow it because they're too fixated on the physical, social, intellectual cues they think should be their basis for decisions. A few people think they're following it, but are really at the mercy of their own compulsive thinking and unexamined feelings. But it is possible to be led and taught by God, as our founders insisted, and it doesn't require a committee so much as openness, trust, and practice. (If the message keeps coming out "Bomb Iraq!" there are probably personal quirks corrupting the process.)

So what gets that countless multitude out of harm's way, in this story, is not being martyred, not performing some extraordinary service or finding some theological magic that entitles them to be led by God--It's simply being led by God. If you ask for help in small things, and pay attention to what you're given, Schiffmann says, you get more accustomed to living this way, and it gets better. (I can't claim to have practiced this enough, but I know it's true.)

October 07, 2006

quaker worship in heaven/david

Forrest has been talking about Revelation being a riff on monarchal models of government. In effect -- this is all about how God is the true king -- but also -- how the kingship of God is so radically different from any early kingship it deconstructs the very institution. I'm hoping Forrest will be feel free to explore this further.

My take is that Revelation is a Christian liturgy set in heaven. This is not exclusive to other interpretations. The activities of a royal courtroom with its pomp and circumstance is also a liturgy of sorts and the two social practices -- worship of God and honouring of the king -- mimic one another.

So -- from a regal standpoint we see praises of the king echoing his coronation. We see a worthy reader brought forth to read the royal edicts of the seven times sealed scroll, and we see the armies of the king finals sent forth to exact the royal imperative. And now, with the breaking of the last seal, we see this dramatic pause before the contents are actually read.

As liturgy, we begin with hymns of praise - the Trisagion -- hymn of three holies dominates. We then move into prayers of the people and prepare for the reading of the sacred prophecies. It is at this point there is silence in heaven for the space of about a half hour.

I rose and read this passage at Yearly Meeting once. I then closed the bible and said, so when we gather in worship, our worship is joined with the worship of heaven.

A number of people came to me following worship to talk to me. Two wanted the chapter references to look up -- they didn't recall this passage. One was just surprised the Book of Revelation should be read aloud in a Quaker Meeting (the original Friends practically lived and breathed this stuff, btw). And another simply had not imagined interpreting the passage as Friends' manner of worship.

Of course the logical implication of all this is that worship in heaven is semi-programmed -- high liturgy of the Easter Orthodox style with a half hour of open waiting worship plunked down just before the scripture reading.

Revelation 8:1-5

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

October 06, 2006

entering into the rest/david

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

This is a promise made to those who endure. The sufferings the work the persecution oppression all the insanities of this lifetime will fade away. Those who suffered will find rest. Those marginalized will find acceptance. Those oppressed by unjust systems will finally be led by the Good Shepherd. No more hunger, thirst, homelessness or want. No more weeping. And they shall drink from the waters of life.

Sounds pastoral. Sounds sweet. Sounds like an account of sheep herding written by a city boy.

This is one image we have of Paradise. The stereotyped one of sitting on clouds playing harps -- I don't know where that one comes from. But the sheep and the Good Shepherd. That's this one here.

The other powerful image of Paradise we get in scripture is one of rulership. Not where God rules alone from his throne and we obey submissively, but one where we get enthroned beside the great Ha'Shem, where we become co-inheritors with Christ Jesus, where we judge the angels, the powers and principalities. Where we reign with the Almighty.

Two very different images. Two very different implications for spirituality and for echatalogical hope. Two very different accounts of what it means to be saved.

But with common ground. Both are prophetic reversals of the (then) current established order. Common to both are the guys currently running the show get dethroned and the agendas set are set to favour the folks currently on the bottom of the heap.

Liberation theology calls this preferential option for the poor. Why don't these images make God-fearing, tithing folks with 100-G luxury cars and chunky pinky rings feel a tad uncomfortable. How can such folks really believe they are oppressed. How can a biblical literalist read Revelation and not feel uncomfortable about their timeshare in Maui?

October 04, 2006

Revelation Chapter 7 (New Jerusalem)

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

From the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed.

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. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And 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, singing,
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" I 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. 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. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for 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."

October 02, 2006

When Lord When?

So we're confronted by these meek and mild Christians living under the altar in heaven screaming for blood and we sort look at this and say, hey, wait a minute.

Larry calls the behaviour sub-christian. But then doesn't go on to explore any metaphorical implications that may help unpack this sub-christian behaviour.

Let me try.

First let's recall these guys are dead and from a mythic standpoint the rules for dead folks is different. DZ Phillips points this out in his books on prayer and immortality (good stuff BTW -- especially the one on prayer). Their cries for vengeance are kinda like Abel's blood.
Genesis 4:10 And the LORD said, "What have you done? Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground!

We can also draw on Forrest's anthropological analysis of "wrath" -- not emotional anger -- but social obligation. As martyred saints they're God's kinfolk now and God has an obligation of propriety to them.

Let me continue by linking this passage with two others that have little to do with one another in a logical connect the dots kinda way.

First consider Abraham as he haggled with God over the fate of Sodom. Suppose there are fifty upright people in the city. Will you really destroy it? Will you not spare the place for the sake of the fifty upright in it? he asks God in Genesis 18. He haggles God all the way down to ten and then gives up -- afraid because he doesn't think God will find ten honest men in Sodom.

Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot."

Now salt, is a preservative before there were fridges. We cured bacon, pickled meat, and in the process we toughened it and kept it from going bad. In a sense, by being the salt of the earth we function like the ten righteous men in Sodom. When when those ten righteous men get murdered by the multitudes of wicked folks living there? The salt is gone, the meat begins to rot. And the blood of Abel cries out from thee earth.

Its kinda like the fate of world is being weighed in the balance of the scales of justice. While in this world, the righteous keep this world from the judgment of God. When this world murders us, that self-same righteousness testifies against this world.

Biblical Interpretation

In an old post Forestt wrote "I think the people in the one synagogue I attended briefly were typical in treating the reading for each week as an event which was still occuring. Moses was still leading them out of Egypt, bringing the Torah down from Sinai, etc."

I've never attended a synagogue, but that's the only way I find scripture meaningful nowadays. These are eternal (timeless) metaphors pointing to spiritual realities that cannot be properly described in material terms, only poetically described.

I guess it was Blake who taught me to do that, emancipating me from any need to consider the literal meaning; the poetic meaning is what matters.

Those O.T. stories describe things that are happening in our lives day by day. Expressed differently we are invited to 'live into' the scenes we read about, and the way each of us lives into it will be unique to each of us.

I'm Confused ...

When he broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of all the people who had been killed on account of the Word of God, for witnessing to it. They shouted in a loud voice, 'Holy, true Master, how much longer will you wait before you pass sentence and take vengeance for our death on the inhabitants of the earth?' - Revelation

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew

- angels rolling up the heavens, fresco at Gracanica monestary

How Long?

Those people under the altar, asking, "How long, how much longer?" None of us (far as I remember) have been killed for witnessing to the Word of God. But we have observed what's being done in the world; we hunger and thirst to see righteousness prevail--and we don't see it. Every now and then we're shown some righteousness --like that Italian secret service man who threw himself over the escaping journalist a year or so ago--It was a beautiful act, and he did prevail, in the sense that his death protected her until the troops stopped firing. But none of the journalist's words have been enough to stop the war. So this question unavoidably comes to us.

And then I wondered: What is the relation, between all this and "seals"? There's a recurring pattern to the story: A seal is opened, something nasty results--Why?

A "seal" vouches for the authenticity of a document. In this case, as each seal is opened, an event follows to confirm that the author of the document is the One who can make such things happen.

The trouble is, we have too much of such confirmation. The sort of events the horsemen bring are all too familiar; they are exactly what people have done for as long as we've known them--and even before that, God was said to have drowned humankind because "the Earth was filled with violence from them."

Tyranny, warfare, greed, death [influences of Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn]--and from under "the altar" (a specific constellation, "Autel") martyrs demanding vengeance "on the inhabitants of the Earth." And then, once they've been told to be quiet a little while longer, that vengeance evidently commences.

Malina & Pilch say, "As in Israel's traditions, our seer considers the sky a large, rolled-out scroll. The stars in their configurations are like writing on the scroll from which one can obtain positive or negative communications from the divinity. When the sky is rolled up, God has nothing more to say, so to speak." What was once promised or threatened is being carried out.

The "wrath of the Lamb" that people flee sounds odd to us, not at all what we would consider "in character" for a "Lamb." But it doesn't mean there's bad feelings involved. In the society that produced this book, "'Wrath' is part of the vocabulary of honor and shame interactions. Wrath... is about revenge or vengeance that a person must take on one who dishonors in order to prove that one is honorable and thus maintain honor. The term does not connote anger or rage. Its focus is not the offender and the offense but the onlookers who acknowledge a person's honor."

The sixth seal signals the onset of vengeance; the seventh (coming soon!) leads to a seemingly endless series of calamities, worse by implicaton than the old familiar efforts of the four horsemen. Can that confirm this book as a true prophecy? Does it really vindicate God's honor? I think not. While every disaster that ever came along may have served to authenticate it for some readers, we'll just have to see what this scroll has to say for itself.

In our contemporary News Reality, we've reached a point where divine vengeance might be a blessing. The longer that things go on as they've been, the farther into hell our world threatens to sink. God's continued mercy seems only to enable further outrages.

I am frankly bewildered by all this. We'd better go on.