Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC) Lectionary Reflection Year C, Easter 4, New Testament

Revelation 7:9-17

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'' And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.'' Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?'' I said to him, "My lord, you know.'' And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.''

Reflection on Revelation 7:9-17 by the Rev John Gibbs, PhD

It is significant that creation and redemption are brought together in the combined figures of the "throne" (where God the Creator sits) and the "Lamb" (who is the risen Redeemer). (The Creator and the Redeemer had equally been acclaimed in 6:13.) Salvation comes not from the Lamb alone, but also from "our God who is seated on the throne" (7:10).

God on the throne "shelters" humanity, or "spreads his tabernacle over them" (redolent of John 1:14's description of the Word tabernacling among us). God's pastoral ministry "will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (7:17). The Lamb, who now appears "at the center of the throne," is paradoxically at the same time the "shepherd" of the humanity that has "come out of the great ordeal" (7:14). He shepherds them to "springs of the water of life" (7:17).

At first sight one might notice that that the crowd in front of the throne consists of three apparently different beings: "a great multitude" of humanity from every nation and language, and "all the angels," and the "four living creatures." But take care, for these four creatures are symbolic rather than literal horses.

John Gibbs, a retired theologan, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 2000. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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