Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reading Revelation III

Previous posts have discussed how the book of Revelation should be read as apocalyptic literature with substantial illusions to the Old Testament. There is much that is not clear, but the overall message is very clear: God saves sinners by the blood of Jesus (the Lamb) and their salvation is sealed regardless of the tribulations they face in this life. Those who reject this wonderful salvation face a terrible and just judgement when Jesus returns.

In contrast, a rigid reading of Revelation presents all sorts of problems. Consider the passage below from chapter 7. Note the vivid imagery and the "contradiction" about the number of the God's people (highlighted in bold) and what nation that they are from.
1After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads." 4And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

512,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,........

9After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
The same thing is considered from two different angles. The common idea is that God's people are "sealed" (i.e. preserved for eternity). It does not matter how much they suffer in this life at the hands of the powerful and rich opposed to the Kingdom of God.

Note also the focus: the Lamb and God who rules from the throne.

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