Day 345 – The Beasts and the Number of the Beast

Today’s reading: Revelation 13

In today’s reading, we see the Dragon and the two beasts.  These make a trinity meant to ape the Holy Trinity.

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems upon its horns and a blasphemous name upon its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. Revelation 13:1-3

And

Then I saw another beast which rose out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.  It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. Revelation 13:11-12

Notice, the dragon gives his power and thrown to the sea beast, aping the Father giving authority to the son.  The earth (or land beast) exercises the authority of the sea beast and makes everyone worship it.  Here aping the way the Holy Spirit brings people to Christ.

Then there is the prophecy that everyone knows.  The number of the beast:

Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Rev 13:16-18

The famous “666” reference is almost certainly a reference to the Roman emperor Nero of the first century.  The Hebrew letters for his name as well as the Hebrew letters for the word “beast” add up to 666.  Nero as the main reference is also corroborated by the fact that beast is given authority to act for forty-two months which is exactly how long Nero’s persecution of the Christians would last.

So the next question is, does the “666” point to anyone else in history?  The answer is a little indirect.  Nero and Rome probably also represent all pagan secular governments that persecute Christians.  So when a government turns against the Church this is in some small manner the fulfillment of this prophecy.  We have seen this happen many times in history and will undoubtedly see it again.  Ultimately, it is likely to occur on a worldwide scale.

One of the interesting aspects of the rise of these beasts is:

And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

Rev 13:4

This is an important verse.  Note that worship of the beast stems in part, from indifference and despair.  The people see the power of the beast. They see the rest of the world go that way.  What can they do?  So they choose not to resist.  They go along to get along.  Jesus warned against just this attitude of being lukewarm.  This we must not do.  Remember, Jesus said that the world hated him so it will hate us. However, the world won’t hate us because we give to the poor, or because we run schools and hospitals. It will hate us when we refuse to go the way the secular world and embrace sin.  The secular world wants contraception, abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia, and cloning, etc.  We see again why true doctrine is so important.  How do we know the right answers to these questions in a changing world?  The Church was given a divine voice to speak for God on these questions. So that when the world is going one way when it is lukewarm and follows the beast so to get along, we can instead know the right way and turn to the Lord.

Tomorrow: Revelation 14

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Day 344 – The Woman Clothed in the Sun

Today’s reading: Revelation 12

Today we read one of the most famous and debated passages in Revelation:

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Rev 12:1-6

Who is this woman?

She is many things.  She is Israel.  She is the Church.  However, most directly she is the Blessed Virgin Mary. That is clear from the text in that she is pregnant and gives birth to a male child that will rule all the nations.  The child is, “caught up to God and his throne”.  It is obvious that this child is Jesus and therefore the woman must, at least in one sense, be Mary.

In addition, God has made her identify definitively known it us in a profound way.  I would like to share with you is the story of a simple man from Mexico, named Juan Diego.

In the early 1500′s, the Spanish had come to Mexico and the Aztec’s had been defeated (contrary to pop-history this was not a case of Europeans slaughtering simple peaceful Indians, the Aztec were fierce people who sought to capture the Spanish and use them as fuel for their religion of human sacrifice).  The Spanish sought to convert the population from paganism, for decades they labored with almost no success.

In 1531, Juan Diego was an old man of about 50, a peasant, and a rare exception in that he had converted to Catholicism. One day traveling to Mass he saw a woman on the hillside.  She spoke to him, identified herself as the Virgin Mary and told him to tell the Catholic Bishop that she wanted a Church built in her honor on that spot.  Juan Diego went immediately to the Bishop and told him what had happened.  The Bishop asked for a sign.  Unbeknownst to Juan Diego, the Bishop specifically had in mind Yellow Spanish Roses as the sign.  They did not grow in Mexico but only in Spain and even if someone transported them to the new world they were not in season.

Juan Diego returned to the spot and told the woman the Bishop’s request for a sign.  In the field, flowers bloomed and the Woman told Juan Diego to take off his “Tilma”, the cloak made of cactus fiber that Mexican peasants wear.  She arranged the flowers in the Tilma, folded it up and sent Juan Diego back to the bishop.

When Juan Diego arrived he opened his cloak to show the Bishop the flowers.  They spilled out onto the floor and Bishop instantly fell to his knees in fervent prayer.  On the inside of the Tilma was an image – A women clothed in the sun, standing on the moon, dressed in a cloak of stars.  She wears a traditional Aztec necklace, given to women when they are pregnant.  She looks similar to images of the Virgin Mary made throughout history, but she is also a “Meztica”, a half-Indian half-Spanish woman. She is undeniably the woman from Revelation 12.  The image can be seen here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe

After the appearance of this image, a Church was built on the spot of the Apparition.  Whereas before the conversion of the Mexican people to Christianity had been slow, afterward 3,000 Mexicans converted every day for 10 years. Imagine that?  At the first Pentecost, when Peter preached just weeks after the Resurrection the bible tells us that 3,000 people were converted.  After the appearance of the image, now known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, a mini-Pentecost occurred every day for 10 years.  In the end, the entire country of Mexico, upwards of 3 million people had become Catholic.

Juan Diego’s tilma still hangs in the Church built on that site.  The tilma is made of simple cactus fibers, even under the best conditions it should last only 10 years but it has survived for 500.  It has been examined by scientists and no explanation for the image can be found.  In fact, the image is not even on the tilma.  It floats above it.  In the eyes of the Tilma, the image of the bishop dropping to his knees at its unveiling is forever frozen.  No known technology from the 1500’s could produce this tiny detailed image.  The stars on her cloak are arranged exactly as they appeared in the sky in 1531.   Other miraculous details also exist.  Scans of the image so no brush strokes even at the microscopic level.  Once when the image tilma was taken down cleaning fluid spilled on the tilma – the harsh fluid should have destroyed the ancient cactus fibers but they repaired themselves.  Furthermore, the tilma maintains itself at a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees, the same temperature as a human person.

Follow the links below to see the image and learn more about what has come to be known as “Our Lady of Guadalupe”:

http://www.catholic.org/about/guadalupe.php

Tomorrow: Revelation 13

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Day 343 – The Two Witnesses

Today’s reading: Revelation 11

Over the last few days, we have been reading about the blowing of the 7 Trumpets and the judgments that follow.  There are three important things about the first six judgments that one should keep in mind:

(1)       there is almost certainly a symbolic aspect to the judgments in which they are repeating themselves throughout history.  Just as wars and plagues, etc. tend to get larger and more devastating over the decades and centuries so will these judgments until the final ones.

(2)       no one can say whether the final incarnation of these judgments will be literal or symbolic. I.e., will there be locusts with the monstrous appearance described in Chapter 9:7?

In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions ‘teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.

Rev 9:7-9

or does this represent some kind of plague, perhaps a newly discovered bacteria or virus?  We don’t know.

(3)       no one can say how long they will take – i.e, whether they will play out over many years or roll across the earth in quick succession, one after the other.

In Chapter 11, we reach the judgment of the final trumpet and the coming of the Two Witnesses.  The question here is not just whether they will be literal or figurative (for example, they could be two countries that stand against the growing secular forces or they could stand for the Church and Israel) but if they are literal, who will they be?  Since the two witness die and are resurrected, I tend to think they will be literal people.

One of the most popular theories is that they will be Moses or Elijah or perhaps Enoch.  In describing the witnesses we are told that they will have that power to turn water into blood calling to mind Moses as he did to the Nile during the Exodus.  The theory that the Two Witnesses will be the return of these two Old Testament prophets also stems from the verse in Hebrews that says,

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Heb 9:27-28

We know from scripture that Enoch did not die and that Elijah was taken up into heaven body and soul.  We also know that Moses, although traditionally believed to have died, appears alive with Elijah at the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Thus, they seem to be an exception to the verse in Hebrews.  We see here in Revelation the death of the two witnesses is followed by their resurrection and then the final judgment.  Thus, if the two witnesses are the return of these Old Testament figures then their return and death would end the exception and make the verse in Hebrews literally true.

However, we must be careful.  Recall that Jesus talked of John the Baptist as the return of Elijah.  Similarly, one can read the two witnesses as coming in “the way of” or “the manner of” the Old Testament prophets.  They very well could be two new men who come “in the manner of” the Old Testament prophets.  Perhaps, one Christian and one Hebrew calling people to repentance.

In the final analysis what can be definitively said?  This is the KEY takeaway:

But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

Rev 11:11-13

Of all the judgments released on the world in the Book of Revelation, this is the ONLY ONE that causes some people to repent and turn to God.

So what we see up until this point is God continually trying to rouse people out of their sinful existence.  However, people have become so distant from God that despite their calamities they do not turn to God in repentance.  Finally, God gives them a definitive sign.  He sends two witnesses who:

…these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.  Rev11:10

Why would they be a torment?  Because they call for repentance.  But the people are so desirous of remaining in their sin that they celebrate the death of the two witnesses.  They refuse to let the bodies be buried for 3 1/2 days.  This is important, after three days there would be no doubt of their death, the corpses would have been rotting.  God then resurrects the witnesses.  Thus, they represent the definitive final sign, the last warning, and the last chance for repentance.

Tomorrow: Revelation 12

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Day 342 – The Angel with the Small Scroll

Today’s reading: Revelation 10

In today’s reading, another angel appears.  This angel stands astride the whole earth with is had up to heaven.  It is unclear whether this figure is, in fact, an angel or whether it is the Lord himself.  The angel has a “face like the sun” as Jesus did at the transfiguration.  Also, the angel is surrounded by a cloud, again as Jesus was at his Baptism and the Transfiguration.  I think the case could be made either way.

One thing that weighs in favor of this angel actually being the Lord himself is the Eucharistic overtones of the “little scroll”.  The figure tells John:

Then the voice which I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll which is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, “Take it and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. Revelation 10:8-10

The taking and eating of the scroll can be thought of as taking and eating the “word”.  Of course, Jesus is the word become flesh and we consume the word in the Eucharist.  The scroll is both sweet and bitter because salvation is good news but it comes through suffering and the purging of sin.

Tomorrow: Revelation 11

 

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Day 341 – Confirmation in the Book of Revelation

Today’s reading: Revelation 9

In today’s reading, we see some of the plagues and punishments released on the world. The firth trumpet blows and the fiery pit is open.  In reading, the chapter we are given fantastic descriptions of the “locusts” that spread across the earth. What are these fantastic creatures?  I think it is fair to infer that they are armies.  I would argue that they represent both ancient and modern armies.

The most important clue is the text as to what these locusts are is that we are told:

They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abad′don, and in Greek he is called Apol′lyon.  Revelation 9:11

It turns out that the 15th Roman legion was called Apollinaris.  It was first formed in 41/40 BC and is known to have fought in first Jewish revolt from AD 66-73. They had as their emblem the pagan god Apollo.  The appearance of the locusts are described as, “horses ready for battle” and their armor is described as similar to the armor of Roman soldiers.  During the Jewish revolt, Jerusalem was surrounded and put under siege.  The fire and smoke described in the chapter sound very much like Roman siege weapons.  Thus, I think this chapter can be fairly attributed to the events of the Jewish revolt.

One specific verse also makes me think that the chapter also describes modern armies.  The verse is:

For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; their tails are like serpents, with heads that inflict harm. Revelation 9:19

Obviously, modern armies will not be riding on literal horses, so what can this be?  What has power both at the front end and the back end?  To me, this sounds like a missile.  The back end has the rocket engine that projects a tongue of fire that narrows to a point and leaves behind a twisting tail of smoke.  The exhaust from a rocket could fairly be described as a “serpent”.  The front of the missile carries the warhead, obviously designed to inflict harm.  Thus, I see here an allusion to modern armies and a great future war.

Finally, there is a key passage that corresponds to some of the events of the great Jewish revolt and the sacrament of Confirmation.  During the war, there was a power struggle back in Rome.  The Roman general in command of the 15th was vying to become emperor.  As the situation played out he felt he needed more troops and he ordered the army to abandon the siege of Jerusalem and return to Rome.  When the army left, the Christians realized that these events were prophesied by the Lord and they took the opportunity to leave the city.   Just then, the power struggle in Rome was won and the general, now emperor, ordered the legion to turn back around and resume the siege.  They did so and ended up starving the city into surrender and sacking it.  Only the Christians made it out because they left when they had the chance.  Now notice what this passage says:

Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth; they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads… Revelation 9:3-4

As Catholics, we know that initiation into Christianity comes with baptism and confirmation.  This is clearly seen in Acts 8:

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samar′ia had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:14-17

So in Acts 8, we see the Apostles laying hands on recent converts and sealing them with the Holy Spirit.  To this day Bishops say, “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit” when conferring Confirmation onto people.  Here, we see that it is that seal which prevents the “locusts” from including the Christians in the destruction.

 

Tomorrow: Revelation 10

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Day 340 – Prayer is a Weapon of God

Today’s reading: Rev 8

Some amazing imagery in today’s reading.  When people read Chapter 8 (and going into chapter 9) they often focus on the blowing of the 7 trumpets and he devastation they wreak upon the earth.  However, look how the chapter starts:

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

Rev 8:1-5

Here we see again that our prayers are mixed with incense in heaven.  Then the angel throws down the censer filled with the incense, prayers, and fire from the altar in heaven to the earth and begins the end times.  Thus, the prayers of righteous people will be used by God to judge the earth and man.  One can see how all the calls throughout the generations for justice from inequity are answered at this moment.

Tomorrow: Rev 9

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Day 339 – The One Hundred and Forty Four Thousand

Today’s Reading: Rev 7

Similarly to the Four Horsemen, the 144,000 is a symbol.  Here is the verse:

And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel: From the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed. Rev 7:4-8

The one hundred and forty-four thousand is a symbol or perfection as it is twelve times twelve times one-thousand.  It symbolizes that the end will come when God has finished the work of creation and salvation and therefore achieved the “perfection” he intends. Here perfection simply implies the finishing of the task.

We know the 144,000 is symbolic because there were not twelve tribes of Israel but actually thirteen.  Even a cursory examination of the text shows that the tribe of Dan is missing from the list.  Instead, the list counts the tribe of Joseph and its split-off, the tribe of Manasseh as two tribes.  Ancient tradition holds that the tribe of Dan is left out because it is from Dan that the Anti-Christ will rise.

Some denominations and sects take the 144,000 too literally and hold that only that number of souls in all human history will be saved.  However, there is an easy way to disprove that, simply look at the next sentence:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  Rev 7:9-10

Here are people, in heaven, clearly saved, who believe in and follow the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are told that they are a “great multitude which no man could number”.  Since 144,000 is a finite number which a person could, in fact, count too, by definition there must be more people in heaven then just 144k.  That’s good news!  (To say the least).

One interesting thing about the 144,000 is that they are “sealed”.  In Ezekiel 9 there is a story of God’s people being sealed before destruction comes to the city.  The people are sealed with the Hebrew letter “taw” which is written as an “X” or more correctly a “t” on its side.   (Hmmm, what do you think that is a foreshadowing of?)  Later, the Jewish priests of the temple in Jerusalem would bless people by holding up the Bread of Presence and using it to make a “taw” sign over the crowd as they filed by while repeating, “God loves you”.  (Again, a not so subtle foreshadowing of the Eucharist).  So in the past, there were literal sealings of the Jewish people.  Catholics today are sealed with the Holy Spirit during the sacrament of confirmation.  During the sacrament, the Bishop seals the confirmandi with oil by making the sign of the cross on their forehead.

We see that the imagery of the book of Revelation has reliable symbolic meaning that can be found in the Old Testament and in Catholicism.  However, the 144,000 may also have a more literal prophetic meaning.  Since the 144,000 are seen coming directly out of the Jewish tribes it may have something to do with Jesus’ prophecy that the end times will not arrive until the Jewish people convert and accept Jesus.  Recall Luke 13:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Luke 13:34-35

So while it does not mean that only 144,000 will be saved it might coincide with a great conversion of the Jews just before the end of days.  One could envision a great war in which 144,000 represents a substantial percentage of Jews still living in Israel or Jerusalem.  Potentially, their sealing with the “taw” could represent their conversion to Christianity and the final acceptance of Jesus by the Jewish people.

Tomorrow: Rev 8

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Day 338 – The Four Horsemen

Today’s reading: Rev 6

In Revelation chapters 6 we see some of the most vivid imagery in the Bible.  When they are read untethered from the teaching authority of the Church many people read into the chapter overly literalistic interpretations that have stuck in the public consciousness for generations.  Let’s be clear the chapter is primarily symbolic imagery.

The White horse symbolizes Conquering:

And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

Rev 6:2

The Red horse symbolizes Bloodshed:

And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Rev 6:4

The Black horse symbolizes famine:

A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius …

Rev 6:6

To interpret this correctly you must know a little history.  These are exorbitant prices for wheat and barley roughly equivalent to a day’s wages for a loaf of bread.  When food is scarce the price goes up.

And the Pale horse symbolizes Death:

And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him.

Rev 6:8

Together the Four Horses symbolize war.  And we know from experience that war comes to each and every generation.  Historically, the four horsemen are closely associated with a PARTICULAR war, that of the Jewish uprising in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 that led to the destruction of the temple.

In part, we can infer this because the famine was the key lynchpin to that war.  The Jewish people revolted to throw off Roman rule.  The Romans surrounded the city.  However, Jerusalem was a true fortress city.  It had an underground spring to supply water and it had diligently saved up stores of wheat and barley sufficient that they should have had food sufficient for ten years, enough that they could have easily outlasted the Romans.  However, the residents of Jerusalem turned on each other.  The factions within the city destroyed each other’s food supplies.  With no food, the taking of the city was an easy victory for the Romans.  So the Four Horsemen most closely represent the war that destroyed the temple in Jerusalem.  The four horseman also represent all wars to come but most particularly wars in which Christian peoples are martyred for their faith (hence the souls under the alter praying for justice).

What do the Four Horseman say about the end of days?  I think it is safe to say that end of time will be proceeded by a great war.  Will the final day of Judgement contain four actual horsemen riding across the earth in some great spiritual culling of the wicked?  Well, certainly anything is possible with God.  However, God seems to consistently work by using simple things in significant ways.  Maybe the uniforms or flags of the offending armies will be white, red, black and pale.  The important thing to remember is that Jesus himself said that no one knows the day or the hour.

 

Tomorrow: Rev 7

 

 

 

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Day 337 – Between the Throne of God and Men

Today’s reading: Rev 5

Yesterday and today we are privileged to read the vision of what is happening at the throne of God!  We see that around the throne are twenty-four elders, these are human beings living in glory in Heaven.  Today, we see what one of their roles is:

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty- four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints, and they sang a new song, saying

Rev 5:8

So each elder has a bowl of incense and we are explicitly told that incense is the prayers of the saints.  Note, here “saints” is used in the way Paul often uses it, to describe the faithful on earth.  Thus, the elders in heaven are interceding (or mediating) the prayers of the faithful on earth.  They bring the faithful’s prayers to the throne of God. Presumably, they know that the incense is the prayers of the faithful (otherwise we on earth would know more than they do in heaven which seems unlikely).  Also, presumably they know what each individual prayer is (because again otherwise the person who prayed the prayer on earth would know more than someone in heaven – again unlikely).

The “new song” they sing is the song of the New Covenant.  Because these Elders are Priests (verse 10) and sing of the New Covenant we know there must be Priests in the New Covenant.  Finally, we know that in the New Covenant we are joined together in the common priesthood of all believers, so we, when we die, must have a similar role to play in Heaven as these elders do.  THEREFORE, we see that in Heaven, those who have gone before us are there, interceding for us, taking our prayers to the throne of God.  With this in mind, read the larger passage again!

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty- four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

Rev 5:6-10

Jesus stands BETWEEN the throne of God and the rest of heaven.  Thus, he is quite literally the one final and unique mediator between God and Man.  Here we see explicitly that we intercede for each other – the saints in heaven bring our prayers to the throne of God – but ultimately those prayers are delivered to the lamb and all worship and praise go through Jesus to the Father.

Tomorrow: Rev 6

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Day 336 – Around the Throne in Heaven

Today’s reading: Rev 4

There is a lot of great symbolism in today’s reading.  First, we see a reappearance of the rainbow, a reference back to the story of Noah

And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Rev 4:3

The reappearance of the rainbow shows that God keeps his original promise to Noah that he shall not again destroy the earth.  As we continue to see in Revelation the earth will suffer great devastation during the final days but it will not be totally destroyed.  Ultimately, a new heaven and a new earth will be created.

Next, we see that there are twenty-four elders seated around the throne of God:

Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Rev 4:4

It is generally accepted that twenty-four represents the joining of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve Apostles.  This shows that both covenants will be represented in heaven.  Notice, they wear white robes.  Elsewhere, white robes are identified as the good works one did in their life.  They also wear crowns.  This shows that they have a higher level of honor and have authority and confirms that authority was transferred from the Old Covenant to the New.

Then we see four unique creatures:

Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. Rev 4:6-7

Traditionally, these are considered to be the four evangelists, Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John – respectively.

I particularly like the next verse:

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Rev 4:9-11

If you have ever seen a Catholic Bishop say Mass you will see that he takes his mitre on and off during the Mass.  That is because of this passage. Whenever the Bishop performs acts of worship at Mass he removes the mitre because of this passage.  Notice, also the verse says, “And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne…”.   This implies that the worship is perpetual and the action is repeated over and over.  So these elders have crowns but they throw them down but God returns the crowns to the elders who again worship God and thrown down the crowns.  There is a lot of meaning in these actions.  The elders have authority but they worship God and submit that authority to him.  God in turn perpetually grants that authority back to the elders.  In addition, this action resembles the eternal love and knowledge shared between the persons of the Holy Trinity.

Tomorrow: Rev 5

 

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