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Mar 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapter 7 – 03/10/2024



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion!                    Grace and Peace to you!

Do you remember your fractions?  A numerator and a denominator—the numerator above the line and the denominator beneath?  The upper part is what we select or what we’re measuring and comparing; the lower part is the complete, the whole.  The numerator isn’t larger than the denominator, or then it’s called an “improper” fraction.   And they are of the same kind, above and below—not apples to pears, but apples to apples.

Chuck’s been reminding us that our minds are like that in the Conscious Mind and the Unconscious Mind.  If my conscious life can be considered the numerator sitting atop a larger denominator, there is always more to me than what I see.  We are each a manifestation of the underlying whole.  We are A over B, and A can be each one of us, or maybe a community, or a tribe or a nation.  The way I see it, the world as we know it is only a numerator.  And we have this common denominator which we can call love, the eternal, God.

If we become fixated on life above the line, our rigid self-definition, we lose our true selves, because we are not living whole.  The whole is the thing that names us, defines us. We are all parts of this same essence but are each a different expression of it.  And no matter how many expressions there are, they don’t deduct from the whole.

I think we often forget that we are connected like this, thinking that we are like free-floating iceberg tops or independent conscious minds on sticks.  I think that what we call sin is a lot about feeling separated or alienated.  I am not you and you are not me, but I am not other than you in my essence;  we can realize that greater reality, that which is hidden but always present.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “Practicing the Presence.”  We can practice being a manifestation of  God, of Love.  If we don’t give attention to that, we are really “Practicing the Absence” of God.  Though we cannot see Him clearly, we can know that our ground of being is the ground of all being.  I believe that this is the beginning of becoming enlightened. It’s a weird thing to believe that there is more light the deeper in the ground we go, but maybe we live in an upside-down world.

Will you pray with me?

Jesus, you have manifested the Name to us, the Great I AM. Thank you that you gave  yourself that we may  realize the truth of who we are.  You prayed that we might know that we are one. As you are in the Father may we also be, so that the world may know you through us and that we may love as you have loved us.  For the sake of the Name of the eternal One God.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

After these 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. Then 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, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” Revelation 7:1-3

Intro: You may not have noticed, but something is missing

The action that began prior to this chapter involved a magic scroll secured with seven seals
– six of those seals have been opened (chapter 6)
• but now in chapter 7, there’s no mention of the seventh seal
• instead, we have come to an interlude before returning to the seventh seal
– this will happen again (after six trumpets sound, then there’s a delay before the seventh)
• while I’m at it, “After this” is not chronological
◦ it does not refer to the next thing that happened as in a sequence, but the next thing John saw
• he’s not marking days on calendar, he’s “changing channels”
◦ John says, “Let’s see what’s happening over here”
– then he takes us two places:
• in verses 1-8 we see what is happening on the earth
• in verses 9-17 we see what is happening in heaven

I learned a new word this week: “psychodrama”

In a psychodrama a story’s theme is psychological rather than being built around action, romance, or adventure
– Revelation works at a deep psychological level
• it stirs the unconscious with symbols and dream images
our spirits absorb the spiritual elements of the Revelation
◦ we cannot probe these elements with our rational minds (without mangling them)
– so before the opening of the seventh seal, there is this interlude so other matters can receive attention

What dream symbols appear here?
the number four – often symbolized as a square; with its solid base, the square is stable
• it doesn’t roll like a circle, and you can set things on it unlike a triangle
• in the temple there were two altars built in the form of a square
◦ and the most holy room of the temple was a cube
angels – perhaps a way for us to embrace angels is with a childlike heart
• in the same place where Jesus said
unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven – he also said, in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven (Mt. 18:3-11)
• angels come and go, as in Jacob’s dream(Gen. 28:12)
◦ they carry on their work in five-dimensional space (sometimes appearing and disappearing in our four-dimensional space)
Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word! (Ps. 103:20)
– the four corners of the earth are the four compass points
• so this covers the entire planet
the four winds – God commands the elements
• the storm, thunder cloud and lightning, wind, rain, hail, and so on
Praise the LORD from the earth,
. . . fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word! (Ps. 148:7-8)
◦ God’s command over nature is demonstrated literally and also in prophetic symbolism
Literal: And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm (Mk. 4:39)
Symbol: “Prophecy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath [Hebrew “ruach” which can mean breath, wind, or spirit], Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain that they might live” (Eze. 37:9)
◦ breath (or spirit)associated with the winds suggest cosmic connection (like the Spirit’s activity in the beginning of the creation story; Gen. 1:2)
• for now, the destructive winds are restrained by the four angels

Here in Southern California, we have an idea of how Santa Ana winds affect us
– they’re also called “devil winds” and in N. CA, Diablo winds
• not only cause people to be irritable and lethargic (especially those whose allergies act up),
◦ but they are also a serious and treacherous fire hazard
• the four winds are meant to cause serious harm, but not yet
– next, there comes a fifth angel, ascending from the rising of the sun
• I imagine this appeared to John, as a spectacle on the eastern horizon
◦ it seems he brings an emergency announcement, a warning siren
• he has a seal–which is the same word used for the seals on the scroll
◦ only this isn’t the impression of a seal on clay or wax, but the stamp that makes the impression
(my grandson Drake at four years old often said, “That’s gonna leave a mark!”)
◦ seals were also used on purchased items to authenticate ownership

The winds are restrained until God’s servants are marked
– a mark on the forehead would be hard to miss
• a couple of weeks ago on Ash Wednesday–you may have seen people whose forehead was marked with ashes
– in Nazi Germany, Jews forced to wear badge with the star of David, in Poland they were made to wear armbands
◦ they were marked for mistreatment and deportation to labor camps
• here in Rev. the mark has the opposite purpose – it is protective
◦ a fairly recent trend, when an area is hit by a local disaster, people will post on social media “So-and-so marked safe from tornado”
◦ in this case, the people are “Marked safe from God’s judgment”

The vision becomes surprisingly specific
And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben

(and so on: Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin) Revelation 7:4-8

We are given the precise number and ethnicity of these people
– 144,000 doesn’t sound like a lot of people in a world of 8 billion
• but the significance of the number is not its literal sum
◦ rather, it is a compact, tidy, meaningful number — 12 X 12 X 1,000
• we know why the key number is twelve – there were twelve tribes of Israel
◦ to illustrate this, we are given a list of each tribe
– now I believe the Bible should be read literally where it speaks literally
• but also, it is a serious mistake to interpret it literally, when it uses metaphors, symbols, and parables
◦ for instance, “they who wait for the LORD . . . shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isa. 40:31)
◦ this does not mean we sprout wings and feathers
• the right way to read most of (perhaps all of) Revelation is symbolically
◦ how does that apply here?
– the twelve tribes are listed by name, but there are two problems with this list:
• first, the tribe of Dan is missing, yet there are still twelve tribes in the list
• Ephraim is also missing from the list, but that is because he is replaced by his father’s name, Joseph

Before Jacob died in Egypt, Joseph came to him to present his two sons to Jacob for his blessing. Those boys were were Manasseh and Ephraim. Jacob told Joseph, “And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mind, as Reuben and Simeon are (Gen. 48:5). If Joseph would not be listed with his brothers, but was replaced by Manasseh and Ephraim, there would be thirteen tribes and not twelve. However, in the book of Numbers Joseph’s two sons are in the list, but still there are only twelve tribes. That is because the tribe of Levi was excluded from the list. But the Levites were not listed along with them by their ancestral tribe. For the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Only the tribe of Levi you should not list . . . .” (Num. 1:47-48). But here in Revelation Levi is included in the list. This seems odd for a book that draws heavily from the instructions found in the books of the Law.

If the precise number and names are not to be taken literally, what could it mean?
– one way to answer this question is to ask,
What do you feel when you read this passage?
Putting aside the subtraction and addition of names,
Does the list with its precise numbers feel complete or incomplete?
• the way I see it, is that when the roll is taken, all are present and accounted for
• I realize that no one who belongs to God is missing or overlooked
– if the list does not apply strictly to Israel (or Hebrews), then who does it represent?
• in verse 3 these people are described as “the servants of our God”
◦ that could apply to all of God’s people who are on the earth

We have a fundamental need to feel secure and safe, and God assures us that we are!

Now we zip up into heaven
After 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, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and the fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” Revelation 7:9-12

First, we notice there is a considerable contrast with the scene on earth
on earth there was a limited number of servants of God and they all belonged to one ethnicity
in heaven there is an enumerable multitude before God, and from every nation and ethnicity
• in fact, the inclusiveness of the throng is almost overdone:
every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages
on earth God’s servants need protection
in heaven all needs are met
Next, we notice white robes (we’ll learn more about them) and palm branches (cf. Jn. 12:12-13)
– the Hosanna the people shouted when Jesus entered Jerusalem means “Save now!”
• in this heavenly scene, it is as if Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is re-enacted and celebrated
Then, everyone throws themselves face down on the ground before God in worship
• this is not a degrading act or posture, it is an expression of total devotion
Note: the words of worship in verse 12 are enveloped within the word “Amen,” front and back

The heavenly crowd is identified
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the treat tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore the are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away ever tear from their eyes
Revelation 7:13-17

When the elder asks John who these people are, John answers with a statement Ezekiel used in a similar situation (Eze. 37:3, “you know”)
– if the question is over our head, we do not have to answer– we need to learn
– we have already encountered the word “tribulation” in Revelation, and even “great tribulation” (Rev. 2:9, 22)
• Jesus also spoke of great tribulation (Mt. 24:21)
• we need to understand that tribulation is ongoing throughout the history of humankind
◦ today, there is tribulation all over this planet, and we need not be surprised, because Jesus warned us,
“in the world you will have tribulation” (Jn. 16:33)
◦ in this book of symbols and dream images, it seems we should be cautious about predicting any specific historical event

There is an irony in the fact that the white robes of this multitude have been washed in blood
• blood usually stains clothing — even in the Scriptures (cf. Isa. 63:3)
• the symbolism of a cleansing blood is intriguing
– this passage is replete with beautiful word pictures, as with these victims of the great tribulation being sheltered in God’s presence
– no more hunger calls to mind John 6:35, where Jesus claims to be the bread of life, and whoever eats this bread will never hunger
– no more thirst calls to mind John 4:10-14, where Jesus offers the Samaritan woman living water, telling her that whoever drinks it will never thirst
– there is yet one more irony when the Lamb becomes the shepherd

Conclusion: I have left this statement for last, “He will wipe away every tear”

This is so picturesque and down to earth that we may not see its depth
It is a gesture of caring, comforting, and consoling – but here, far deeper
God won’t be running around heaven with a hanky wiping tears from cheeks
What will be wiped away is every cause of sorrow and pain
Our relentless and excruciating wounds of loss, emptiness, loneliness, futility, meaninglessness, and hopelessness — all gone and forgotten
There will be no tears of grief or sadness, because, as James Brownson says, “all our experiences of intimacy, fruitfulness, and communion in this life will be seen as only hints and foretastes of a deeper intimacy, fruitfulness, and communion that our present experiences of faithfulness, love, and intimacy in this life can only suggest and prefigure, as the old creation gives way to the new.”

Jesus once told his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears” (Lk. 9:44)
I hope that is what happens for us regarding what we’ve heard this morning;
that these words would sink into our hearts and our spirits,
and there give shape our trust in, and relationship with Jesus

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