What a sharp contrast in today’s reading. Yesterday was doom and gloom, today is hope of salvation. We are witness to a festive scene in heaven once again! I thought it was interesting that one of the 24 asked John who all the people were. John’s response was priceless. “Sir, you are the one who knows.” It was almost as if it were a trick question. I know what it’s like to be asked a question I don’t know the answer to but what should be obvious to the one asking!
This abrupt shift is like putting a movie on pause. It had to happen. We needed to halt the momentum of the fiery judgments of God brought by the horsemen in our last reading. Time was needed to make sure the faithful on earth could be marked “safe” before the full unleashing of God’s wrath. It speaks to me that God is always looking out for our best interests and will make sure we have what we need to stand strong in times of adversity.
John had just witnessed the vision of 144,000 followers being marked with the seal. They were now under the power and protection of God. That didn’t necessarily always mean “physical” protection, but certainly “spiritual.” These people now belonged to God. We can’t expect to be problem free, but we can be assured we have the Spirit inside, the seal of God, to keep us strong in the battle.
What do you think? Are the 144,000 who received the seal the same people who are now bowing before the throne of God dressed in white in the second vision? The location has changed. If it is, we could say that they are being blessed and strengthened by God to endure what is to come for them. They are being surrounded by God’s love, distracted with worship and praise. They will go forth empowered to prevail so that they can return to God and be fully redeemed.
I’ve heard it asked before, and you may be wondering, does this mean there are there only going to be 144,000 people in heaven? That would be a very small number of believers, after all! It is my understanding that though an exact number appears, it is to signify completeness. All of God’s believers and followers will be marked with the seal. Could that be something that happens in our baptism perhaps? I have heard the pastor say we are “marked with the seal of Christ.”
The chapter ends with words that have brought comfort to many at the time of losing a loved one. When our time comes and we stand before the throne, as believers we can be sure of this. (We are “they.”) “They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Such a beautiful picture of the heaven and future that awaits us.
Who are you in Christ? We are redeemed! Here is a beautiful song I just love about being set free, Redeemed. Enjoy.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank you for your promise of redemption. The day will come when there will be no more tears, no more stress, no more fear. You will fully redeem me, and I will join the faithful who are in constant worship of you. I thank you that you have chosen me and equipped me with the faith to stand strong in the face of evil. Continue to nurture my faith and strengthen me each day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.