Monday, July 23, 2012

Scroll and Seals–Great Multitude

Outline: Seven Seals - Great Multitude
Passage: Revelation 7:9-17
Discussion audio (1h 22m)

It’s been a few weeks since the last discussion. We’ve had people away from town during this time, but we are back for one week at least.

We took a look at the last half of Revelation 7 where a description of “the”1 Great Multitude is given. We establish that the 144,000 of the first half the chapter and the Great Multitude are the same group, and that they are probably also the “every creature” of 5:13. We also establish that this group, which is the Redeemed, is not limited to a specific period in time (such as the end-time) but is the entirety of all the Redeemed throughout history: past, present, and future.

We spent some time discussing the identity of the “great tribulation.” There are several possibilities, and argument can be made for each of them. Commonly the great tribulation is suggested as something that is externally pressed onto believers (i.e., persecution). However, in the context of the OT allusion of the sealing (c.f., Rev. 7:3) in Ezekiel 9 (discussed in the previous session), the tribulation is internal to the righteous (c.f., v.4). The word translated as tribulation can certainly mean “persecution” but it can also be translated as affliction or anguish2. Given the allusion to Ezekiel and the other possible translations for θλιψισ (thlipsis), another interpretation for “the great tribulation” can be offered: an internal struggle and crying out against the evils in the world, and for God to bring justice (not punishment, but righting wrongs) to the world.

Whatever the precise interpretation of the details may mean, the overall message of Revelation 7 is that of hope for and vindication of the servants of God. This chapter answers unequivocally the question posed at the end of the opening of the sixth seal, “Who can stand [the judgment Day of the Lord]?”

1The discussion includes the possible differences between English and Greek in the use of definite articles.

2g2347. θλιψισ thlipsis; from 2346; pressure ( literally or figuratively): ― afflicted (- tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble. [Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary]