Breaking Open the Word: Revelation Ch. 7

Detail of the Isenheim Altarpiece by Mathias Grunewald [common domain]

Sunday, November 4th, 2018 – Revelation Chapter 7

               Today we took a look at Revelation 7, which presents an “interlude” between the breaking of the first six seals and the breaking of the seventh.  The “one hundred and forty-four thousand from every tribe of Israel” are marked with the protective “seal” of God (vs 3-8) and then John sees the victorious redeemed, “a huge crowd which no one could count from every nation and race, people and tongue. (vs 9). Right away, a Sister noted how these two visions represent the fulfillment of the promise made to the martyrs under the altar in Chapter 6. These “ones who have survived the great period of trial [and] have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (vs 14) are the “fellow servants and brothers to be slain” (6:11).

               But what exactly is the “great period of trial” which these saints have endured? Some have seen it as the journey of life itself, where we are constantly tested by forms of internal and external persecution. Satan uses every ounce of his angelic intellect attempting to keep us from God, but the glorious fact is that, by resisting temptation, we actually grow closer to God! However, we must keep a firm grip on our most powerful weapons: praise and thanksgiving. One Sister brought up as an example the book Prison to Praise, written by Protestant military chaplain Merlin R. Carothers. This man discovered through his own experience how praising God in every situation – good or bad – takes away the enemy’s power and can work true miracles of grace.

               Another Sister was particularly moved by verse 14b: “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” We, as members of the Church, have the privilege of doing this every day, even many times a day! Whether in Holy Communion, in acts of repentance (especially Confession), or in using sacramentals like holy water, we can constantly claim the saving merits of the Blood of Christ, “washing” our white Baptismal robes to new purity. But we must remember that it is our responsibility to bring our spiritual “laundry” before the Lord – only then can He take over and make it white again!

               We also found a lot of food for thought in a strange phrase in verse 17: “the Lamb in the center of [or in the midst of] the throne.”  Shouldn’t that read “on the throne”? And this is no translation error, either – according to one commentator, the phrase is unusual in Greek as well. So what was John’s purpose in using this strange wording? In her prayer with this verse, one Sister saw this as referring to Christ dwelling in the bosom of the Father, Who is seated on the throne. Completing the Trinitarian imagery, the “springs of living water” later in the verse could refer to the Holy Spirit.

For with thee is the fountain of life...
— Psalm 36:10 (Douay-Rheims)

The most incredible part about all of this is that WE are invited into this mysterious life of God! We are called to enter the Trinity through the slain and risen Lamb of God, so that we may rest in the bosom of the Father and drink eternally from the “living water” that is the Spirit. The passage gains even more depth if we consider the “throne” to be the Cross, from which Christ reigns eternally; the “living waters” came forth from His side as the Church was born in the Holy Spirit, and it is through this Paschal Mystery that we enter into the bosom of the Father.

It’s a pleasure to have you with us for this study of the Book of Revelation! We hope you’ll join us next week for the seven trumpets in Chapters 8 and 9!