December 1, 2011

Friday after the First Sunday in Advent

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 22, Is.5:8-30, Mk. 2:1-12
Evening - Ps.6, 13, Is. 6:1-11, Rev. 6:12-7:17

The sixth seal reduces the social structure of Jerusalem to ruble. The earthquake symbolises the destruction of the foundation of the culture, while the celestial bodies going dark, turning to blood, or falling represent people (see Gen. 37:9-11 and Mat. 24:29-30), the officers and leaders of religion and government, having their authority and power removed and plunging the city into moral and social chaos. The official powers actually did stop performing their functions during the siege of Jerusalem, and .rival gangs of criminals fought each other for control of the dying city. Thus, Revelation 6:15-17 show the leaders of the people falling from their positions of power and attempting to flee for their lives. They even prefer death to facing the judgment of God.

Chapter 7 brings a lull in the action while the angels mark 144,000 people as the servants of God (7:3). The mark is not literally in their foreheads. It is the inward mark of the renewed mind of a person saved by grace through faith. This mark saves the people from the destruction and suffering God brings upon the other dwellers in Jerusalem. It is similar to the mark of Jews God spared in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Ez. 9:1-7). So the 144,000 are Christians, mostly Jewish Christians of the various tribes of Israel (7:4-8) who would not be allowed to perish with the others in Jerusalem. Christ had warned that when the Christians saw the abomination of desolation in the holy place they were to flee to the mountains (Mt. 24:15-22). The abomination of desolation refers to the sack of Jerusalem by Antiochus in 167 B.C. (Dan. 9:26-27), and likens the Romans to the Greeks. The point is that when the Christians see the Romans preparing to attack Jerusalem, they are to get out. The Christians followed this warning, and left the city before the attack began, thus, they were saved from that destruction.

The peace of the Church in Heaven is the subject of verses 9-17. John sees a great multitude from every nation wearing white robes and worshiping God. The fact that they are from "all nations" means they were mostly Gentiles who had died in the persecution of the Church. They are now safe in Heaven where they can worship God without fear in a place where there is no sorrow or pain (16-17) and where they enjoy the full presence of God forever (7:15). This is a picture of the peace enjoyed by the martyrs in the tribulation that is spreading across the Roman Empire. It is a picture that inspires faith instead of fear. It shows that the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be given to them in Heaven (Rom. 8:18), where they will enjoy untold blessings, and God will wipe away all tears (Rev. 7:17).

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