Revelation 7 is the Christian Exodus. I don’t mean that Revelation 7 is teaching us about the Rapture of 144,000 saints at the end of the world: I mean that the meaning of Revelation 7 for every Christian, regardless of when they live, is the Exodus. In other words, I believe it’s possible to read the book of Revelation and encounter Jesus Christ in our lives today, regardless of our eschatology. If not, then maybe we shouldn’t read Revelation at all.
But what a tragic mistake that would be!
So how is Revelation 7 our Exodus? To understand this, let’s look at the Exodus in its most streamlined version. God’s people are in bondage and slavery; God is coming to judge the world for its sins; only those who have the Blood of the Lamb on their doors will be saved; God comes in judgment of the world but passes over those who have the Blood of the Lamb; God’s people sing songs of rejoicing in God’s salvation; and God’s people enter into the Promised Land.
This story of the Exodus is, I believe, not only the story of the book of Exodus but also the story of Revelation 7, the story of the Church, and the story of each of our lives. In this way, Revelation 7, and all of Scripture, becomes relevant and important to our lives.
In Revelation 6 we read about the terrible wrath of God that is being poured out on the world, but in Revelation 7 we read about how God is going to preserve a remnant from this judgment. We’ve seen this many times before: God provides Seth to replace the slain Abel and condemned Cain; God saves Noah and his family through the Ark; etc.
Just as all Israel who had the blood of the Lamb on their door were passed over by the Angel of Death, so all the Church who has the blood of the Lamb on their door are passed over by the Angel of Death. Just as all Israel passed through the Red Sea, so the whole Church passes through Christ in the waters of baptism (see I Corinthians 10). And here in Revelation, who is the great multitude who have been saved from the Tribulation, which is (among other things) salvation from sin and plague and death? They are those (verse 14) who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
This great multitude is the Church, the Bride of Christ, for whom He died. How is it that everyone knows that in the Old Testament God worked through an entire people but in that today we think He works only through individuals? It is the Church, like Israel, who has been passed over in death, and it is the Church who has passed through the waters of baptism. But, of course, the Church is made up of individual Christians, united together into one Body of Christ.
After we are saved, then what? We enter the Promised Land. Israel, in the Old Testament, never really got to enjoy the Promised Land for very long. It took them 40 years just to get there and 500 years to subdue their enemies. And then, after David had secured the borders, Israel only enjoyed a united peace for the life of Solomon, after which it was quickly divided.
But we enjoy the eternal presence of the Lamb Himself, which is heaven. One day we shall enter into that Blessed Presence in all of its glory and health and beauty. But we are also already in the Presence of the Lamb of God. One day, we shall hunger no more nor thirst nor be consumed by the heat. But already we have begun to experience the blessing of the Lamb, who is our Heavenly Food and Drink and is our Sun.
Revelation 7, therefore, is a picture of God’s salvation in our lives and our Exodus from the Egypt of sin and death and into the Promised Land of heaven, where the Lamb who is also the Shepherd shall guide us to springs of the Water of Life and wipe every tear from our eyes.
Resolution: I resolve to go back and read Revelation 7 with my own Exodus and the Exodus of God’s people in mind.
Prayer: Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to You, our God, forever and ever. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
- What hungers and thirsts and sufferings are you experiencing today? Come before the throne of the Lamb and ask Him to fill you with the good things of His presence.
- Meditate on verse 15: how those who have been delivered by God spend their days serving before the throne of God and in His temple. In what way is God calling you to show Him thanks by ministering in His Temple?
© 2011 Fr. Charles Erlandson
144,000 painting from Wikipedia entry on 144,000.jpg