Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This Sunday we celebrate All Saints Sunday. It is good not only to honor the saints in heaven, but also to pray for those who struggle on earth.
Chapter seven is one of the most important in the book of Revelation. The seventh chapter opens with four angels whose intention is to destroy life on earth. But another angel forbids them from doing harm until the total number of God's elect is sealed.
In verses 4-8, God's elect are described as 144,000, a multiplication of the twelve tribes of Israel. It is clear from the context that this sealing is a mark of all members of the church, past and present, as belonging to God. The 144,000 symbolize the people of God on earth, the militant church, ready to carry out the mission that God entrusted to it.
The sealing has been accomplished on earth through baptism; which is followed by the vision of the great multitude surrounding the throne of God in heaven. It is such a large crowd that no one is able to number it from a human point of view. But the number 144,000 in verse four tells us that God has counted each one.
Those who came out to meet Jesus as he rode to Jerusalem on the day of the triumphal entry carried palm branches, according to John 12:13. Here the great crowd, the triumphant church in heaven, salutes the King of Kings.
Then one of the elders asked me: "These in white robes, who are they and where do they come from?" He asks to teach.
“And I said to him: Lord, you know it. And he said to me: These are the ones who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their clothes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. "
Now, some sects speak of this great tribulation as a period of seven years and associate it with what they call the "rapture of the saints". Not everyone agrees on whether to put this rapture before, during, or after the tribulation. However, Revelation 7 says nothing of such a rapture. Indeed, the Greek text says "great tribulation", not "the great tribulation". Furthermore, the present Greek participle in the text would be better translated as "those who are coming out" than "those who have come out." John sees the exit from great tribulation as an ongoing process.
In Matthew 24: 15-31, our Lord speaks of a great tribulation before his second coming in which even the faithful would not be saved if those days were not shortened. But, there he prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and also the final destruction of the world. The great tribulation before the fall of Jerusalem can be understood as a harbinger of another great tribulation just before the Lord's return in glory. There is no indication that there will be a rapture of the saints before, during, or after the tribulation. Nowhere in Scripture is the word "great tribulation" used with a reference to seven years.
Therefore, our text for today should not be understood as applying only to the saints who will be alive when the Lord returns. Trial and suffering, even persecution, will be the lot of all who follow Christ, says Saint Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12.
The revelation of eternal glory in Revelation 7:14 is for the comfort of all Christians of all time as they experience any tribulation that tests their faith and patience.
“For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tabernacle over them. They will no longer hunger or thirst; and the sun will no longer fall on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them, and will guide them to living springs of water: And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. "
This verse is quoted from Isaiah 49:10. These words were originally a promise from God to the children of Israel returning from captivity in Babylon. And the words remind us of our gospel for today (Matthew 5: 1-12), "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
As followers of Christ, we do not experience only the common problems of humanity, also in Matthew 5, the Lord warns us of persecution.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they reproach you and persecute you for my sake, and speak all manner of evil against you, lying. Rejoice and be glad; for your reward is great in heaven, for thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. "
Today, more than 300 million Christians around the world live in places where they are
persecuted. These Christians face harassment, detention, legal restrictions, violence, and even
death for his faith in Jesus. Last year, on average, daily:
• 13 Christians were killed for their faith.
• 13 Christians were unjustly detained or imprisoned.
• 5 Christians were kidnapped.
With the pandemic, persecuted Christians, often impoverished and marginalized, face greater challenges and vulnerabilities. So, let's remember the persecuted Christians in our prayers.
The disciples of Jesuchrist are subject to conditions and circumstances that provoke mourning. Bitter pain will become supreme and abundant comfort and joy. As the hymn says, "Oh blessed communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine. Yet all are one, because are thine. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!"
In this hope we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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