As we come to the end of our 52 Days of prayers we are going to look at one of the most difficult books in the Bible to understand. Many people would discourage teenagers from considering this but let’s give it a go!
Our reading today is the worship song prayers in Revelation 7:10-12. But to understand them we need to put them into context
Remember that John wrote the book of Revelation in Greek and explicitly addressed churches in Asia Minor. So to help us understand Revelation we should pay attention to what it would have meant to the church in that area at that time.
It is a vision, given to John, probably the same John that wrote the Gospel of John but may have been another John, we don’t know for sure.
The whole book is steeped in symbolism which would have been common at the time it was written but is very confusing and sometimes frightening to us now.
This vision begins with a glorious image of Jesus in Heaven.
Then it details letters written to some of the local churches in the region, encouraging and rebuking them.
Revelation then describes in more detail a wonderful picture of Jesus on a throne being continually worshipped by majestic heavenly creatures.
When we get to chapter 5 Jesus is holding a scroll that is sealed by 7 seals. The final part of legal documents were usually a list of witnesses. 5, 6 or 7 witnesses were quite usual. The document would be rolled up, tied with the same number of pieces of string as witnesses and hot wax poured over each of the strings. Each witness would then press their unique seal, often engraved on a signet ring, into the soft wax.
Once the wax had hardened, no one could open the document without breaking the seals and no one could replace a seal without the witness’ ring. The seals preserved the contents of the document for the rightful recipient, by witnesses who would swear to its authenticity and allow it to be opened at the proper time.
Jesus is the rightful recipient of this scroll that is about judging the Earth. And only he is allowed to open it.
As each seal on the scroll is broken a different representation of God’s judgement is revealed. First a white horse and rider represents conquest, a red horse and rider represents war, a black horse and rider represents famine and disease, which often follows war, and a pale green horse and rider represents death and hell. Each is given authority over the Earth, but God restricts their power and judgement, allowing people on Earth further opportunity to turn to Him.
The fifth seal reveals the souls of all those who have died because of their faith in Jesus. Their sacrifice has been recognised and a special recognition awaits them in due course. They cry out for justice for the their lives that were cut short.
The sixth seal reveals a time when the whole Earth will be shaken. At times of attack, people would often hide in caves in mountains, but the imagery here indicates that there will be no place to hide.
These pictures are not meant to frighten you and me. It is meant to frighten those that currently show no fear of God though.
Then at the beginning of chapter 7, when things become most desperate on the Earth and the people are unable to stand God’s judgement any more, four angels are said to hold back the winds of judgement as a fifth angel brings the seal of God. The seal of God is used to mark the souls of all those who believe and trust in Him, meaning that your soul and my soul is protected with God as our witness.
This doesn’t mean that we will never be hurt. Our bodies are fragile and may become battered and bruised and even completely broken but our soul is protected by the seal of God. We may face persecution and even death because of our faith but our eternal destiny has been secured.
Verses 4-8 of chapter 7 talks about 144,000 people being sealed. This does not mean that only 144,000 individuals will be able to go into Heaven. We have talked about numbers in the Bible having a special meaning in some of our other readings and this is the same. 144,000 probably represents absolute completeness. All of God’s followers will be sealed, not one will be missing, overlooked or forgotten.
Verse 9 describes a vast crowd, probably all the believers gathered together. They are wearing white, a symbol that they have been purified and they are waving palm branches, a symbol of victory. The crowd is cheering praises to God and to Jesus declaring that salvation comes from God and from Jesus who is represented as a gentle, innocent lamb. The crowd of people know that their salvation, the eternal life they now enjoy is not due to them in any way shape or form. And the present tense of the verb ‘to cry out’ indicates that this is a consistent and ongoing activity.
In the next verses, the rest of heaven joins in the song prayer. Note how the description of God heaps praises one on top of another. Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength belong to our God. Each phrase is adding emphasis to how worthy of worship God is. And of course 7 words of praise will symbolise how completely worthy he is.
So, what can we learn from it?
I think that Revelation gives us a little glimpse of how God sees Earth, from an eternal viewpoint. It gives us hope for eternal life yet to come and puts our suffering, here on Earth in perspective. While suffering, persecution and death now is terrible and painful and frightening, it is a small price to pay for eternity with God. We can stand firm in the face of adversity, understanding that suffering and persecution is fleeting and that we have a greater hope to come.
It shows us that when we worship, we are worshipping alongside the angels and some pretty impressive heavenly creatures. That when we worship, offering God and Jesus the glory they deserve all of heaven joins in and says ‘Amen!’
I think this is one of those Bible readings that require us to think about it over and over. To meditate on the words and allow the Holy Spirit to grow our hope and faith. God not only has a plan for our life here on Earth, he has a plan to gather us together in the next life too. He wants us to know Him in this life, through prayer and scripture and then he wants to amaze us all over again with eternal life in Heaven. And to ensure that we are able to join Him in Heaven God sent Jesus to make the way clear for us.
If that does not make God worthy of our worship and praise, I don’t know what does!
I hope you have enjoyed our 52 days of prayers. Please leave your feedback and comments for us below, telling us about anything that you have learned and look out for our next 52 days challenge coming soon.