Revelation 7 – The Great Multitude

Read Revelation 7

John records a delay before the opening of the seventh seal in which a different sort of seal is placed on those who are faithful to God.  This seal of God is said to be a protection and is a sign of belonging or “ownership” of God’s people for Himself.  Somehow, they will be protected, possibly from the many things that we just read about in chapter 6.  The four angels could very well be the four horsemen given that they had been given the power to harm the earth.

As John records those who are sealed, we see him using the names of the tribes of Israel with at least one exception, Joseph, as he did not have his own tribe and the omission of Dan, possibly because of their idolatry which is recorded in Judges 18.  In some of the mainstream books and discussion about the book of Revelation, a great deal of emphasis is placed on Israel; this is true in America as well.  Evangelical beliefs have led us to take a vested interest in the land of Israel, thinking that doing so will somehow put us on the good side of God at the end times.  However, long after the nation split and the Northern Kingdom was destroyed, Scripture still uses the language of “Israel,”to talk about the people of God.  More than likely that is what is the case here as well.

It also doesn’t make much sense for the direction that Revelation has been taking, talking about Christians, the Church, Christ’s work, and even those that have been martyred for the faith, and then to suddenly jump back to Biblical Israel for 8 verses, before returning to Christians again.  Instead, what John is referring to here is the whole of the people of God.  He references that 12 tribes of Israel and that 12,000 from each tribe were sealed.

The number 12 is a significant number in Scripture as well, representing the fullness of the people of God.  In addition to that, the number 10, as well as its multiples (10, 100, 1000), are readily used in Scripture to talk about things being complete.  So, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes is symbolic of the whole of the people of God being sealed and protected.

What happens next is a familiar sight for both John and his readers as once again worship around the throne of God is recorded.  All the people of God from everywhere in the world and throughout all time raise their voices in worship to God and to the Lamb.  Once again, their sole concern is worship to God above all else.

All of these people are wearing white robes, representing the purity they have because they are washed in Jesus’ blood.  John writes that they have come out of the “great tribulation” which could be reflective of their experience of persecution on earth.  Jesus refers to such a time in Matthew 24, a time that is near the end of time.  Perhaps this is reflective of a period of time in which the world will see a worsening of persecution against the Church and those who faithfully follow Jesus.

I’m probably not telling anyone anything new when I say that most people don’t relish the idea of persecution, much less greater persecution than one is already experiencing.  However, Scripture says time and again that the world will hate those who love Jesus.  But Jesus also reassures His disciples to “take heart, for I have overcome the world.”  This reassurance is exactly what God is communicating in Revelation; despite everything that has taken and will take place, Christ is the victorious conqueror and our victory, like those depicted in this chapter, is found solely in Him.



Revelation 2 – Letters to the Seven Churches (part 1)

Read Revelation 2

After seeing Jesus, John is told to write a letter to each of the seven churches, represented by the seven lampstands.  These letters could simply be letters to each of those churches, addressing issues that were present at that time.  However, with the greater arc of this book being to the Church Universal, limiting the writing and its meaning in that way wouldn’t necessarily fit the whole of the book of Revelation.  Notes in my Study Bible suggest the possibility of these letters being a “preview of church history in its downward course toward Laodicean lukewarmness.”  Another possible interpretation would be that these letters represent the “characteristics of various kinds of Christian congregations that have existed from John’s day until the present time.”  Being that we believe God’s Word to be “living and active,” each and/or all of these could have some semblance of truth to them.

The words for each church come from Jesus, but His introduction in them bears one of the different characteristics of His appearance, found in chapter one.  Each difference is based on the message that is coming to them, both the tone and the type of message.

The Church in Ephesus:

By now, the church in Ephesus is quite familiar to us.  Having read Paul’s letter to them as well as some discussion around the church in other letters, we know that the city was one of great importance and as such, the church there faced a number of challenges from false teachers both outside and inside the church.  To that, though, Christ speaks words of praise; they have readily resisted those teachings including those of the Nicolaitans, a heretical sect that had worked out a compromise with pagan society.

Yet, in the midst of this battle, they seem to have forgotten that which is most important, love.  It’s easy to begin with love but as many in relationships know, love takes hard work and dedication to continue on in.  This isn’t simply true in human relationships, it is also very true in our relationship with God.  We need to hold onto this love because it is that love, the love of God in Jesus Christ, that will bring victory in the end.

The Church in Smyrna:

Smyrna was a city that was closely affiliated with Rome and therefore desired greatly to worship the Emperor.  It was also home to a very large Jewish population that was hostile to the church there.  Christians here likely experienced a lot of persecution, something that Jesus Himself was familiar with.  Jesus’ words are those of encouragement to persevere despite the conditions there for their true home and true victory lie in something much greater than this life.

The Church in Pergamum:

The city of Pergamum was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and as such it was the official center of emperor worship in that region.  This gives light to the comment that “satan’s throne” was there and it also explains why Jesus uses the image of the sword in His introduction.  Antipas is traditionally known as the first martyr in Asia.  His death makes some of the things we hear about terrorists doing today look tame.

Though they have remained faithful in the midst of intense persecution and cultural pressure, Jesus still calls them out on some false teachings that they continue to allow within the church.  It is not enough for us to remain open and functioning as a church in the midst of persecution.  If we give in and allow for culture and heresies to change us, we might as well not even be there.  True victory comes from faith in Jesus Christ, the true victor, not in remaining physically present at the expense of salvation.

The Church in Thyatira:

Thyatira was a military outpost known for its guilds and trading.  It is also known for being the home of Lydia, a prominent woman in the early church.  This may be one of the reasons for the images Jesus uses in his introduction; refining fire and burnished bronze are both things that would be familiar to this city, their worth, having been refined, was much greater.  Jesus commends the church here for their growth, how things seem to be getting better.  Yet, just one is growing does not mean that evil things within its bounds can be tolerated.

Yet, just one is growing does not mean that evil things within its bounds can be tolerated.  This has applications both personally and corporately.  Sometimes, when things are going well, we want to ignore the negative things that might be happening so as to not create waves.  To this, Jesus says “no”.  He is not in the business of comfort, nor does He desire half growth… we cannot keep our pet sins as we continue to grow and be sanctified.  True victory comes in wholeheartedly following Jesus, putting off all other things.