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."

5 Comments:

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Larry said...

You likely know this already, but the Jehovah Witnesses, a very biblical group, as I understand their theology, consider themselves the 144,000 and all the rest of us the folk with white robes praising God.

Not bad theology although I find the tribalism distasteful.

 
At 6:05 PM, Blogger forrest said...

First of all, we're back in Egypt, with the Jews putting the passover mark on their foreheads--and in Ezekiel 9, where all "who sigh and groan for the abominations committed in [the city]" are marked for their protection before angels [apparently] kill the other residents. Killed them why?--because "The land is full of blood, and the city full of injustice; for they say 'The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see.' " This mark is specifically a Hebrew tau, "written as our X" and it was "currently taken by Jews as [shorthand for] the Divine Name... It may already have been the custom in baptism, as it was later, to make the 'tau' sign on the candidate's forehead." [JPM Sweet].

So who is getting marked? Is this "The Rapture?" Are these people who've been snatched from the wheel of their SUV, leaving it free to smite some family of Sinners in a Prius? Are these people who have formally "accepted Jesus as their Personal Savior", or demanded that we have? Why are they waving palm branches?

Palm branches belong in the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. The King is supposed to come to the Temple, greeted by people waving these branches, and publically read the Torah passages as to his responsibilities under the Covenant. It seems likely to me (and a few other readers) that this was the festival when Jesus actually entered Jerusalem and went to the Temple; people wouldn't normally collect these branches to wave in the Spring, while the Messiah would have been obligated to come for Tabernacles. The psalm associated with all this is 118: ..."Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. With the Lord at my side I do not fear. What can man do to me? It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes... The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation... Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it... Blessed be he who enters in the name of the Lord!..." [Bits of this psalm are "frequently quoted in the New Testament," as my Bible footnotes say.]

I'm interpreting "come out of the great ordeal" as "having passed through it," not "having avoided it." They are saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" Sweet says this is "the Greek 'soteria,' total well-being, in this world and beyond, of which the official source is Caesar."

What I'm seeing here, then, is a group of people who pass safely through tribulation because they are turning to God for protection, not to Caesar." It is inwardly trusting in God, rather than any particular outward thing they might do, that makes them "servants of God."

So it's trusting in Caesar (and the various other Earthly powers) for salvation that makes for tribulation. Such powers don't do the job; they produce apparent benefits that leave the basic problem untouched and growing; they simply are not the Rock one can safely build on.

 
At 5:28 PM, Blogger david said...

I like what Forrest says here about coming through the ordeal and not avoiding it -- a sobering thought for teh bring on the apocalypse so we can go home to glory camp.

One thing: It is inwardly trusting in God, rather than any particular outward thing they might do, that makes them "servants of God."

Inwardly trusting requires and outwardly expression to authenticate. This is not to say a legalistic adherence to the letetr is required, only that feeling love for me in your heart doesn't do me much good when I'm being evicted for back rent after you bounced my last two paycheques.

 
At 5:31 PM, Blogger david said...

Jehovah Witnesses, a very biblical group, as I understand their theology, consider themselves the 144,000 and all the rest of us the folk with white robes praising God.

That's much more liberal than I thought of them. I thought they were the 144,000 and the rest of us were crispy critters. Question: are there more than 144,00 JW in the world by this point? Just curious.

And I don't mind the tribalism so much if their tribe ain't point their javelins at mine.

 
At 3:16 AM, Blogger crystal said...

wikipedia says about the JWs .. those going to heaven, whose number totals 144,000. The vast majority of God's faithful servants will live on a renewed paradise earth.

 

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