We’re still plowing through the book of Revelation. Hopefully, you’re seeing the big picture, grasping the main ideas of the book: the need to avenge the martyr’s blood, the suffering God will bring to the sinful world, the unrepentance of the world, and God’s care and concern for His people. This will continue today as the martyrs are comforted and the world suffers woe at the blast of God’s trumpets. Keep in mind as you read today that these matters were to be understood as happening “soon” — apparently in the days of the original readers of the Revelation who were living the tribulation. This isn’t to say that some of these sorts of things might not occur toward the end of the time — double prophecy is a common occurrence in Scripture — but since it is a mystery (as we discussed earlier) it is not possible to be sure one way or the other.
Victorious through the tribulation — 7:9ff
After the Lamb breaks the sixth seal, there is a “time-out” before more woe falls on the earth to be sure to protect God’s people, those with God’s seal on their foreheads. Seals were used in a general sense to prevent tampering. You marked stuff important to you with your seal, so that others wouldn’t mistake it for their own, or to insure that others wouldn’t just take your stuff — after all, it had your seal or mark on it. Seals were also used to prove that no one had tampered with something (food, drink, or document); if the seal were broken without the owner’s knowledge, someone had stolen some of your stuff or had done something to alter a document. God’s people were going to be sealed — marked as His and not tampered with. The 144,000 was not intended to be an exact number, like Jehovah’s Witnesses claim, but rather it was intended to indicate the whole number (12 being a perfect number and 1000 being a large number) of God’s people — no one left out. This same great multitude (which couldn’t be numbered this time) are carrying palm branches (symbols of victory) in their hands and coming from the great tribulation. These are being comforted by the Lord: God spreads His tabernacle over them, they will never again hunger or thirst, they’ll never be again struck down by the sun, and God will tenderly wipe away every tear from their eyes! The point for us? Hang on through trial and suffering, the reward is great and tender and comforting and victorious! You don’t win with revenge and getting even; you win by persevering and letting God execute justice.
Prayers like a firebomb — 8:3-5
This is such a powerful mental picture as you read through. The Lamb breaks the seventh seal, followed by… wait for it … wait for it … silence. Dramatic effect or meaning? And the answer might be yes to both. Something dramatic is about to happen, for sure; but it could also mean that just because nothing appears to be happening now, that nothing will happen. All down through time and history God has chosen the proper times for all that He has done — and it all has been done perfectly with everyone’s best interest at heart. We can trust His judgment on such things. But once He chooses to act, watch out. The bowl of the saints prayers mixed with incense, set afire by the coals of the altar in Heaven is thrown to the earth like a firebomb!
Still trying to call them to repentance — 8 and 9
Even though these things are intended to be judgment from God, however, it is also clear that they are intended to have been calls to repentance, too. There are woes upon the world itself, there are spiritual woes, and even warfare! Yet, despite all these things men still refused to turn away from their wicked and sinful ways — specifically their idolatry, murders, theft, and sexual immorality (possible ways in which they are persecuting or oppressing the saints). The bad things that happen in this world can often be “two-furs” — punishment for wrongdoing and pleadings to return (just like the appropriate punishment of a parent to a child).
See you tomorrow, Lord willing