Six seals down and we are all expecting the seventh seal next. We know only more woe will come. Before that seal is broken an angel rushes in to plead that God’s people be marked on their foreheads (a visible place that one sees immediately when meeting a person) lest they be caught up in the judgment to come. We think of the blood on the door frames of the houses of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt during the Exodus. One hundred and forty-four thousand people from the twelve Jewish tribes are marked. As 12 and 1000 are both numbers in ancient numerology that connote completeness, the point is not a literal number but that God’s plan has reached completion.
Lest we think this vision only favors the Jews, next we see a countless number of people from “every nation and tribe and people and language” (7:9) gather before the throne of God dressed in white robes, praising God and waving palm branches. The New Creation will be a place for all people, not just the chosen people. Not just people like us.
Presently, there is once again an anti-immigrant sentiment sweeping through Europe, not unlike what was present in the 1930s and at various points before, though not to that degree and wide acceptance (remember that mass shooting at a summer camp in Norway a year ago?). Sadly, these same feelings are becoming more and more prevalent in America as well, even in our churches. Socially, this concerns me for what’s coming. Spiritually, this cultural enculturation saddens and sickens me. God’s Kingdom is the place where color, language, citizenship, and customs neither matter nor separate because there is a more important commonality in the blood of the Christ that trumps all of these. There is no place for racism, suspicion, and cultural superiority in the Body of Christ.
That being said, today’s chapter ends with an incredible encouragement. Imagine how welcome these words would have been to the original recipients of this letter, those who knew they would have to suffer before this passage came true. When asked who the countless masses are, one of the elders says:
These are the ones who have come out of the great suffering. They have washed their clothes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. That is why they are there in front of God’s throne, serving him day and night in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They will never be hungry again, or thirsty again. The sun will not scorch them, nor will any fierce heat. The lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of running water, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes. (7:14-17)
There is suffering to come, but then there are blessed days ahead in the New Creation.