To a church facing persecution and fearing abandonment, John describes the vision granted to him of the heavenly throne room. God sits in ultimate glory – suddenly placing Roman imperial power in cosmic perspective – and holds in his right hand the plan for the consummation of the age. The scroll he holds is sealed with seven seals – each of which must be broken for the plan to be read (enacted). From behind the throne emerges the Lion of Judah (messianic figure) who has the appearance of the lamb who was slain (Jesus is the one worthy to bring the end).
What follows is a description (in highly symbolic terms!) of the events that accompany the breaking of each seal. Many are scenes of judgment that can be quite terrifying at first glance (bringing into question the very goodness of God and the breadth of his grace). But a deeper look reveals that the main point of the seals is to locate the church in time (most of these events are actually in the past) – standing on the edge of Jesus’s return.
In this episode we explore the cultural and historical background to the seven seals of the scroll and how they contribute to our larger interpretation of the book of Revelation. In so doing, we learn the larger lesson being given to the church: judgement alone can never bring reconciliation. The project of salvation is rooted in love, and it is only love that can bring it to completion.
This is a sermon that was originally presented at Canvas (a Presbyterian church in Irvine, CA), August 17, 2014. To learn more about Canvas, click here!
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