Scripture text for Wednesday, May 19th, 2010: Revelation 4:1 – 7:17
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“This is an apocalyptic passage, through and through. Interestingly, there is wide appeal for this genre, especially when you consider apocalyptic films. Recent examples would include the Terminator series, I am Legend, and V is for Vendetta. I would speculate on at least the following two reasons for this. First, we like to know where we are going and so, we enjoy a film that seeks to capture that even if we know the odds of it happening as it does in any one film are very low. We like to at least think and imagine various ways the world might go. Second, we recognize that the world, the universe, is in fact much, much bigger than any one of us. These films confirm this recognition by portraying large numbers of people and their lives being completely overwhelmed by the events.
I won’t be the first to note that pinning down what each symbolic item Revelation refers to is not the point, and, in the end, impossible. Apocalyptic literature like Revelation, and the last half of the book of Daniel, is characterized by being generated through visions, making use of extremely symbolic and figurative language, and focusing on future events. The section for today begins with a description of heavenly worship which helps us see where we are to be headed in our worship together. The emphasis is clearly on God, acknowledging his glory, honor, power, worthiness, and, especially, his holiness. What an incredible antidote for our natural inclination to be focused on self. What an alternative to a culture and an economy that gives us one role and then plays to us to engage in that role; the role of customer/ consumer.
But the passage turns to the seven seals and the judgment of the first four (the four horses of the apocalypse) and then the events leading to the final judgment with the seventh seal. The dramatic and devastating events portrayed have generated any number of films, essays, poems, and artwork of varying types depicting the opening of the seven seals. They are troubling and difficult and painful to imagine. What is more, at last in these chapters there is no happy ending, at least as that notion is traditionally understood. The take home? Surely it must go back to the first few chapters of the readings for today, worship of the only one who is holy and the only one who fully knows and understands the significance of these events.
Devotion prepared by Dave Timmerman