A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Upcoming Sunday Scripture Commentary - November 2

Sermon (November 2) - "A Glimpse of Heaven"

Revelation 7:9-17

General information about the Book of Revelation - This book has a reputation for instilling fear because of its graphic imagery and symbolism. One of my New Testament professors in seminary made a point in saying that the actual purpose of this book is not to instill fear but to provide comfort for God's people as they face life's challenges.

Revelation is a book that brings us full circle. The bible begins with a garden and it concludes with a garden. God's purposes of redemption and new creation prevail in a world of brokenness, death, and sin. This is the ultimate hope of the Christian faith!

The word, "Revelation" is really the word, "Apocalypse" which has the meaning of a hidden truth becoming unveiled. In popular culture, we have redefined the meaning of the word, "apocalypse" by having it refer to something that is frightful and scary.

John wrote this book. He was probably not the same person who wrote the Gospel of John. John is using apocalyptic language which was a common literary device at the time to help people see behind the veil at God's unfolding purposes for the world.

When God's people began to experience persecution, this raised the question as to what is the ultimate purpose of being followers of Jesus Christ?

In our passage for this Sunday (All Saints' Sunday), John is helping the people of God in the facing of persecution for their faith. He wants them to know that God has already won the ultimate victory through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

The 144,000 number as referenced in the previous verses is symbolic of the complete people of God. It's a number that is also meant to reinforce that we are talking about a very large crowd of people who will worship God forever and ever. The number is derived by taking the 12 tribes of Israel and multiplying it by 12.

Palm branches are signs of victory. The people can't contain their enthusiasm and joy.

John sees himself in the throne room (the heavenly Temple.) Someone tells John who these people are. They are those who have come through the great suffering. The point is that God will protect the people through their time of persecution and this heavenly worship is what they can anticipate in the future.

When churches celebrate All Saints' Sunday as we will be doing this Sunday, this picture of all of God's people worshipping in heaven is to remind us that whenever we worship, we are joining with them in heaven and earth! What a powerful thought and reality!


[Note: The resources used for these scripture reading commentaries are based on the Everyone series by NT Wright, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, The Wesley Study Bible, and the “Montreal-Anglican”lectionary commentaries.]

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