After these things I looked, and behold, a great crowd that no one was able to number, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes and with palm branches in their hands. Rev 7:9 [LEB]
Two weeks ago I mentioned that our companions during the season of Easter this year are the Book of Acts, Revelation and the Gospel of John. Although Revelation can at times be a very confusing book, this week provides a powerful interlude in the narrative of the book. After setting the scene in chapter 1, Revelation 2-3 provides a series of seven letters to seven churches in the region of Asia Minor – representing thereby all churches across all time. Then, in chapter 4 and 5 we have the beginning of the Revelation per se that John received, as he is transported into the throne-room of heaven as it is now. In chapter 6 through 20 there is broadly a description of the great cleansing that has to take place to prepare the world for the final consummation, when heaven comes crashing into earth – described in the final two chapters of the book and the whole bible, 21 and 22.
In chapter 5 we are introduced to the scroll that the one who sits on the throne is holding – written on the front and back. But no one is worthy to open the scroll, except the lion of the tribe of Judah. Then in chapter six we watch as one-by-one the seals are opened by the Lamb and great calamities are released. So, when chapter 7 opens, the early church community would have expected that John would have moved straight onto the end times and the opening of the final seal, since that was so much a part of their own expectations. Yet he doesn’t. Instead there is an interlude when we are told of two ‘visions’ where John first hears then sees this great multitude of all those who have been sealed by the Lord because they are the slaves/servants of the Lord. This is the vision of the church – coming from every nation and tribe and people and tongue – which John understands is the way that God is beginning to clean up the world and prepare all creation for the final revelation of God’s glory.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (8’45”)