International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday May 15, 2011
Purpose: To celebrate with joy that not even tribulation can separate us from God's saving presence in Christ Jesus
Scripture Text: Revelation 7:9-17 (NRSV)
(9)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. (10)They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (11)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, (12)singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
(13)Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” (14)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. (15)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. (16)They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; (17)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.”
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Let me say upfront, that some of you reading this may be disappointed in my understanding of the end times. Many of you like me, grew up in the 20th century studying and believing the footnotes of the Scofield Study Bible. Several years ago I came to realize that much of what we took as gospel was actually just a hoax, perpetrated by a series of hucksters, and scammers.
From a study of historical facts, you find that prior to 1830 there had never been a teaching of any kind concerning a “rapture” of the church prior to the tribulation or the millennium. The origin for the pre-tribulation rapture is well documented. The doctrine was publicly revealed first by a London preacher named Edward Irving. After receiving information by a woman named Margaret McDonald, who claimed to receive a revelation from God, Irving began to publish teachings about the pre-tribulation rapture in his journal, The Morning Watch, about 1830.
The list of individuals promoting this thought goes from Irving, to J. N. Darby, to Scofield, to Hal Lindsey. Hal Lindsey's book The Late, Great Planet Earth has sold millions of copies and opened up a whole new field of "ministry." The "ministry" is called Prophecy Teaching and it is the most exciting and entertaining enterprise that Christianity has ever seen. Currently the most popular stars in this very relatively new “ministry" is Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, two writers who teamed up to produce several best sellers. Their books reached the New York Times best seller list and the two authors have appeared on top rated talk shows including Larry King Live. There is not the time or space to address all of those that have helped to keep this hoax alive for the past 180 years. My point is all of our founding fathers, like Luther, Wesley and Calvin had no theology that allowed for a pre-millennial or pre-tribulation removing of the Church from our world. I hope this does not preclude you from doing your own research and study on the history of this relatively new idea of a pre-millennial rapture of God's Church.
Now let's look at today's text, first remember that John was introduced to Jesus Christ in Revelation chapter 4 (1) after this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this. And in Chapter 5:5-6 then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. As each seal is broken it reveals an aspect of life that each of us must face. The final words of chapter 6: “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” are followed by a comforting answer in chapter 7. But you need to go back to Zechariah 6:2-3, where we first met the four horses. (2)”The first chariot had red horses, the second chariot black horses, (3)the third chariot white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled gray horses.”
Now the four horsemen are more famous from the history of Notre Dame football than from Revelation chapter 6 where Jesus Christ opens the first four of the seven seals, which summons forth the four beasts that ride on white, red, black, and pale horses which each symbolize Conquest, War, famine and Death, respectively. The answer to chapter 6's question “who can stand?” is found in chapter 7 “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree. I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, saying, ‘Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.” Once again we need to go back to Zechariah 6:4-5 “Then I said to the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord?’The angel answered me, ‘These are the four winds of heaven going out, after presenting themselves before the LORD of all the earth.” From this we learn that the four horses are also called “winds.” With this we find the first half of the answer to “Who can stand.” Ephesians 1:13 says “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit" and in Ephesians 1:4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. For the rest of the answer we look at today's text.
In John's vision he sees multitudes from every nation, every tribe, and every language represented and they are all worshipping God, and they are all “robed in white” signifying pure and holy. Remember the question at the end of chapter 6 “who can stand?” This is another part of the answer. Notice these are all standing before the throne.
The word “salvation” used here is used in different ways in the New Testament's writings. Paul and the Synoptic Gospels use it as a deliverance from sin. In the Gospel of John it is rarely used but when it is, it has more of an Old Testament feel, that of being rescued or overcoming particular struggles and hardships. Those in “white robes” express gratitude. They offered a sevenfold offering of praise. The offering of praise is not an attempt to give something to God. It is an acknowledgment that God possess these items or attributes already. “Blessing” is the ability to speak a good or kind word on behalf of a person. Thus “Glory” is God's reputation. “Wisdom” is God's intimate knowledge for what we need and how to provide it, “Thanksgiving” points to God's grace and favor that he exhibits. “Honor is God's inherent worth or dignity. “Power” is God's ability to accomplish whatever God desires or wills. “Might” is God's strength that is most readily displayed in Christ's ability “to break Satan's fetters, to liberate the captives, and to win the victory over Satan.
Paul asks the question in Romans 8:35 “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Our text says nothing will separate us. That is why we worship an awesome God.