“After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “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)
As I sat down to write and comment on this passage, I had to take myself in hand and tell myself to sit with the passage, and let it whisper to me what its message was to me. It may me wish I had a tour guide as the writer of the book of Revelation did. (Well, maybe in a way I do!)
“Theology,” it said to me. This is about setting down theology and an understanding of the Divine as it is in heaven. Maybe not a theology that aligns with more modern world thinking. But a set down theology that was relevant to New Testament thinking and the world those believers lived in. This idea that I had aligns also with the teaching method that is used in the time of the New Testament. A question is asked that the “student” does know the answer to, or more precisely is not really expected to know because it has not been taught. The student who is open to learning will allow their deficient in knowledge to be educated. The stubborn student who is not open to learning will substitute their own thinking, and thereby show their resistance to new learning.
“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Verses 13 – 17)
This realization did not make the book of Revelation any more endearing or discernible. But it did make me more patient with it. What I do know of the book of Revelation is that many biblical scholars feel it was constructed to teach a group of fledgling churches. It was not, strictly speaking, to be prophetic in that these exact things will happen. That evil contends with good, and there will be those who suffer is one lesson. That while evil may for a time have the upper hand but good and the Divine will triumph in the end is another. That figures and places in New Testament geography are used as symbols and images is another thing to keep in mind. And that any suffering that believers go through will rewarded and recompensed is a very strong theme and is presented as unquestionable outcome. Lastly, there will be teachers who instruct those who are willing to learn. But, beloved reader, learning comes from many places, many sources, and within the spectrum of the beginning of time to the end of days. While we may hold sacred scripture as, well, sacred . . . . does not mean that learning cannot and does not happen in other ways. Be open to the leading of the Lord, and the inspiration of the Spirit. Selah!