Friday, May 21, 2010

revelation..interludes 1

Interludes
Where have we been?
1 Revelation is looking behind the scenes…Bethany’s cross stitch
It’s like a look behind the scene…it’s reality but not quite as we know it
2 to understand revelation…you got to take your shoes off.
3 Revelation is about God’s Kingdom come and coming – that requires change
Change requires sorting - Also known as judgment.
We had scroll, trumpets and bowls…

Between 6th and 7th we had pauses – interludes…
At the cross Judgment started- in Jesus God’s kingdom has begun.. the bowls scrolls and trumpets have begun
These interludes are the time we live in

But again and again judgment won’t come until Jesus returns
Where he will according to the old version of the creed – judge the quick and the dead

At the 6th judgment - in Rev 6:17
We are posed a question… if God Judgment is coming who will be able to stand

The thing about judgment is who gets judged…
Do we all escape judgment?
or are we in the thick of it?
Depending on who you ask you will get different answers.
And dare I say it how you answer that question may well effect how you live in the hear and now…

There is a segment of the church that see’s in scripture a time when the Church will be raptured…. Carried away.
I am not part of that school of thought…

When the world is judged…and judgment has started – we are in the thick of it.
This interlude I believe speak into that situation…

READING
So when the great day of God’s wrath comes who will be able to stand?
Think about it for a moment…do you have what it takes?

In chapter 7 we have the sealing of 144,000 introduced… the angels are just about to release God’s fury but there is this pause…

Now what this all means is very much up for debate- it’s not clear language – it’s like much of revelation speaking in a type of code.
If you read it with you emotions it might give you some clues.
If you read it literally it might confuse you and like some have done in the past cause them to draw up formulas
The JW’s for instance say the 144,000 is a literal number meaning those who are the elect of God…so if your 144001 you don’t get in…144002 no chance 144003 forget it and so on…

If you put it in the context of the wider book and the question "who can stand?"– The sealing of the 144,000 is what allows them to stand.
Somehow when times get tough and god’ judgment is knocking on the door these 144,000 will somehow because they are sealed be able to withstand what is happening…

It’s not that these guys are excused...
Or carried off to a safe place
– They are the one’s that don’t denounce their faith
They won’t turn their back on god or sell out to the world the 144,000 are the faithful ones…
More on that in a moment...
But what about the number…what’s the significance in that?

Well is don’t think it‘s a literal number, an accountants number or even a census number
– it’s a number that conveys meaning and feeling rather than a specific figure..

What I believe is more appropriate is to see the number as a code for something else
12… what does that mean
12 is the sum of the divine number which is 3 and the earthly number which is 4 our elements: earth, air, fire, and water.
Or better still it’s supposed to remind us of the witness of the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles…
It’s not the literal figure as much as what the figure reminds us of...

12 tribes…12 apostles…

Now it sounds like it’s the nation of Israel, but it isn’t that either. – It doesn’t quite match your historical listings of the tribes…
Joseph is listed as a tribe along with his son Manasseh.
Ephraim isn’t listed
Reuben is listed, but not Dan
The 144,000 are a people who are like the nation of Israel but different

The changes are I think deliberate…
its John pointing to another reality
Those who are sealed are like the 12 tribes…
but not the 12 tribes
A Historical continuation of God’s work that he began with Abraham…

Its John pointing to the church – the Church is the one’s who are sealed...
So who will be able to stand in the face of God’s judgment...
– the Church will…
That’s you and me….

Were not going to be raptured.. Carried off, but somehow when trouble hits we will be able to stand..
The sealing allows us to stand

Look at yourself… you may think that just standing in my work place is hard enough.. How on earth can I stand when all hell breaks loose?

Somehow God will seal in you that little mustard seed of faith and you will make it through.

I guess this is a reminder that we are in Christ because of the grace of God..
Not by anything we have done…
We can stand not because we are superhuman..
But because God props us up…

It’s not the number that counts… but overcoming
And this is something we can only do because Christ is working in and through us….

You see this time and time again, I have heard 100’s of testimonies of this reality – that when times are hard God picks us up…
Psalm 40..
Its God’s Grace, not out human ability…

In the next section we move from one vision to another
Here we see a great multitude from every nation…
If the first vision is of people overcoming in the present reality..
The second is of those who have overcome…
Its people past, present and future
All over comers from every age..
All people who have felt God lifting their hands when theory could stand no more
All people who have received the seal and been propped up by God

And they sing a song of joy… it’s the only possible response to God’s work, to God lifting you
Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. AMEN

Take your shoes off and feel that
… if their is not a lump in your throat you may need to check your pulse…

This is the song of the redeemed – it our song
I hope that when you face struggles this song would become a daily reality… you are not alone.
God is holding you up…

But this image is for us a future reality – we have not overcome the final hurdle we keep moving on and moving forward..
But this promise awaits us…

That not only will God seal us, but that is we give our lives for the sake of the gospel – and stand we will overcome – we will be washed – cleansed.

Conclusion
In this interlude we have two images of the church
In the first part the church is in battle – called to stand firm and with God’s sealing overcome – this is a reality we face daily...
Whether it be through persecution or even just in failing church attendances
What ever we face we are called to remain true to the gospel – you look at the 7 letters from the beginning of revelation and how many stand firm, how many stay true… read that for yourself
In calling these seven churches back to Christ John is calling them to remain faithful

The second image is of the church triumphant who have overcome and that is why they sing:
Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength are to our God for ever and ever. AMEN
It’s a heart felt response to the realization of what God has done for you…

In a moment we will gather round the table and in doing so we peak behind the curtain into a small upper room where Jesus gathered with his friends for one last time before heading to the cross.
It reminds us that in the cross judgment has begun.
That sin is being overcome

But also communion helps us peak into the future it gives us a foretaste of the reality to come,
when Christ shall reign,
Wars will end,
Famines will no longer exist
And God’s Kingdom will have come...
Interludes deal with judgment on pause…
My prayer for you is that as we gather this new reality will begin to break in and that what ever you face in the week ahead you will be the grace of God be able to stand…firm

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