Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Reading Through The Revelation #3 (Chapters 6-9)

Revelation WrightI am continuing the read-through of the Revelation in this year’s devotional read through of the General Epistles of the New Testament, accompanied by The Early Christian Letters For Everyone by N.T. Wright. Chapters 6-9 describe the “seal judgments” as the scroll is opened and the “trumpet judgments” as 7 angels sound trumpets to announce God’s climactic judgments on human and demonic evil. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

With the opening of the scroll the process to set the world right begins. It begins (I think in John's time and throughout history until a final intensification of evil) by allowing evil to do its worse and show that it is worthy of judgment. The 4 horsemen, and the events that follow, represent the worldly use of violence and oppression, with all its collateral damage, until the final rebellion at the end is put down by the lion-lamb. During this time, the martyrs cry out to God for justice and are told to wait for the judgment to be complete. The evil of the world will reach its peak before God steps in and removes it. God's people will be protected through it, even in death, but must be patient until and wait for God's perfect timing.

These four are the basic ills which humans inflict upon one another. They charge off around the world, and must be allowed to do this in order that the saving message of the scroll can have its full effect...if God’s new creation is to be brought to birth, the deepest ills of the old one must be exposed, allowed to come out, and be dealt with. 62, Revelation 6.1-8

What has to happen, it seems, is for evil to do its worst, to reach its height, and so to be at last ripe for the judgment that wise and faithful people know, in advance, it deserves. 66, Revelation 6.9-17

The point of chapter 7 is that God's people will be protected through this judgment. Before final judgment can take place God's people are "marked" or "sealed" as a sign of his ownership and protection. God's people are the ones "Who can stand on the day of God's wrath." Their focus on the lamb removes them from suffering and pain as they follow Him and their eternal service is to praise and worship God.

Even though evil must be allowed to come to its full height, in order eventually to be fully and finally overthrown, God will not allow this process to put in jeopardy the ultimate rescue of his true people. This true people, redefined as they are around the lion of Judah, are to be marked out. The events around them will no doubt be terrifying, but they may rest assured that God has them in his care. 72, Revelation 7.1-8

The reality is that the creator God and the lamb have already won the victory, the victory which means that those who follow the lamb are rescued from harm. The reality is that the people who claim the lamb’s protection may well have to come through a time of great suffering, but they will then find themselves in the true reality, in God’s throne room, worshipping and serving him day and night with great, abundant and exuberant joy. 73-74, Revelation 7.9-17

In chapter 8 the 7th seal is opened and ushers in the 7 trumpet judgments. But before the trumpets sound John sees an angel with a golden censer symbolizing the prayers of the saints for justice and the coming of God's Kingdom. The trumpet judgments are God's answer: He will vindicate His people and set the world right. The first 4 trumpet judgments bring damage to the natural world. The fifth and sixth trumpets (9) bring a nightmare of judgment to people - demonic horror and invasion. Human misuse of the world and worship of demons rather than God will be allowed to come to its full expression and receive its full judgment before God's kingdom is fully implemented.

The sequence of divine judgments, necessary for evil to be conquered and God’s glorious new world to emerge, is not a mechanical plan which will grind forward irrespective of human agency. God, as we have seen, is committed to working in the world through human beings. Prayer, even the anguished prayer of those who do not understand what is going on, is a vital element in this mysterious co-operation. 79, Revelation 8.1-5

(John) was talking about God’s drastic action to purify the world, to cut it back as one would with a tree that had become dangerously diseased, removing the deadly cancer so that the rest may be saved. He was talking about the necessary work of radically upsetting the human systems by which millions had been enslaved and degraded, but which were kept in place by structures of apparent beauty, nobility and high culture. A little modification will not be enough. Only major surgery will do. 81-82, Revelation 8.6-13

The point is the nightmare: all your worst dreams realized in an instant. The fifth angel has unleashed something truly monstrous, truly hellish. 86, Revelation 9.1-12

It is as though John is systematically saying, ‘Think of your worst nightmares; now double them; and then imagine them coming true all at once, together. That’s what it’s going to be like. This is God’s way of letting evil do its worst, so that it may eventually fall under its own weight. 91-92, Revelation 9.13-21

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