9After 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. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And 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, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I 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. 15For 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. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for 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.”
What I am Learning:
Revelation is a book reflecting on two things:
Life under the Roman Empire
What the true nature of God and the universe are
Empires promote and are built on the idea, the spirituality that God is powerful and that the more powerful you are the more human you are. Since we are not powerful over the winds and waters, not powerful to change our own aging, we seek power over each other and over the earth. Over time, this creates a society of haves and have-nots, a dog-eat-dog society, a society that is willing to exploit others for their own gain. The Christians were recognized for living in a different idea, a different worldview and spirituality. They were persecuted for it.
The Christian idea is that God is vulnerable. Or at least that although God is powerful, God chooses to come to us in a vulnerable way - that is God would rather suffer at our hand and suffer on our behalf than cause suffering. In TCC we call this the "Theology of the Cross:"
Because the earth is beautiful with its species, people and cultures and broken with injustice and violence, God suffers with and brings new life and new ways of living together as revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Just as God enters into the despair and darkness of human beings and human community, so we are called. We follow the lamb who was slain, the nonviolent Jesus.
Revelation says that while Empire is in charge now, it is based on a lie and will not last forever. Those who are despised and persecuted now will be given the clothing of honor, their tears will be washed away, and they will sing a song of joy.
Notice that the text says "from every nation." This is not an "us versus them" scenario. This is an "us for all, even though some are not for all" scenario."
Many say that the "ordeal" is yet to come. Nope. The ordeal is not some timeline laid out in a script by God, an orgy of fantasy violence. The ordeal is simply what life is like for Christians when Empire or domination has gripped the culture.
John says, in style of poetic writing familiar to those in his time, that we are free to live in and out of a different worldview in the midst of the ordeal because empire is a lie, and the God of vulnerability is bringing healing to all things. One day the ordeal will be over, and we will sing to the God who knows us, the God who became us, the God who risks all for us.
That God is worthy of praise.
That God is worthy to live our life by.
A future worth living for.