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To many the book of Revelation is a complex puzzle. Imagine that you find a letter, written in English, that your great-grand-father wrote to your great-grand-mother and she kept it. The letter is in old English so you can read it but there are words you don’t understand. How do you make sense of the letter?
It is by investigation and research – you will ask in the family and research old English words; you will want to know what the letter meant to your great-grand-mom and why she kept it. This is similar to understanding Revelation. We have to ask, what did Revelation mean to the early Christians who first read it? Why did they keep and pass it on to us. This is the path I follow in teaching Revelation.
In Revelation we see Jesus comforting the early Christians (Chapters 1-3). We see John taken in vision to the heavenly council in Chapters 4-5 where he saw Jesus given the sealed scroll, making him the appointed executioner of heaven’s plans for the earth after his resurrection. In Chapter 6 which we studied last week, we see Jesus removing the seals from the scroll, and the consequences on earth.
Chapter 7 follows from the removal of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17), and the announcement that it is judgement season. On opening the sixth seal there was great panic among the powerful and the poor on earth. While this was going on, in Chapter 7 verse 3, the angels are told that no action should be taken until they “have placed the Seal of God upon the foreheads of his servants.”
How many are these servants? First is the symbolic number of 144,000 from Israel; inspite of Israel’s numerous failures to stay faithful, every Israelite who stayed true to God will be redeemed. Then John saw “a vast crowd, too great to count, from all nations and provinces and languages” who are also redeemed. At this time the gospel had not been preached all over the world, but John saw people from all over. To the early Christians this showed that the world was not ending soon.
Revelation 7:13-17 (The Living Bible) (shortened) says: ‘Then one of the twenty-four Elders asked me, “Do you know who these [redeemed] are… “No, sir,” I replied… “These are the ones coming out of the Great Tribulation,”… The one sitting on the throne will shelter them; they will never be hungry again, nor thirsty… For the Lamb [Jesus] standing in front of the throne will feed them and be their Shepherd and lead them to the springs of the Water of Life. And God will wipe their tears away.”
We see that when seal six was removed, the great judgement was announced, but the main action that took place was complete protection for God’s people from Israel and from among the gentiles with Jesus leading the way. These billions of redeemed people did not happen in a day, its been going on now for the past 2000 years. If we are celebrating Easter this weekend, it is because the resurrection of Jesus has made it possible for you to be among that vast crowd too great to count.
Lord, we see your plan of redemption; it seems slow, but we see the outcome, a people too vast to count; keep us in that number, Amen!