I hardly view my opinion as that of an expert, but I believe from the reading that to be marked with God’s seal as it is mentioned in the text this week (Rev. 7) does a couple of things, indicates divine protection and security through persecution and suffering, not divine protection from suffering. Reddish notes that the way of the Lamb is the way of the cross (Reddish, 145). The other thing “sealing” alludes to is the new people of God, or in other words, designates “new ownership.” We know that letters or other important documents from the ancient world were sealed with a signet ring. These important documents were sealed for protection and the seal indicated from whom the document came.
I think Boring’s mentioning the contact with the Pauline stream of tradition and his seeing a reference to a believer’s baptism to be helpful. Boring writes, “Incorporation into the body of Christ by baptism (1 Cor. 12:13) was sometimes pictured in Pauline churches as the seal which stamped the new Christian belonging to God (ii Cor. 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30)” (Boring, 129).
So for readers of Revelation, John’s first audience and for us today, I think the significance of “being marked with God’s seal,” speaks to our protection, security, and new identity in Jesus. Baptism takes on a political meaning, we are exchanging the allegiance and affiliation with Caeasar/Babylon to join or to put on a new Lord, Jesus. Even though we exchange the comforts of Babylon for the cross of Christ, we can expect hardship and suffering. Our seal protects from loosing our new identity as God’s own precious child. This question is a bit more elaborate than an ordinary forum question; nevertheless, it is an important question for ministers. Revelation describes Jesus as a “lamb”. How does this metaphor agree with/contradict God’s dealings with humankind in the course of biblical history? In other words, is this metaphor for Jesus surprising for one familiar with the Bible? Why or why not?
The metaphor of Jesus as a/the “lamb,” when seen just at face value as Jesus being compared to a lowly lamb, seems to contradict God’s dealing with humankind in the course of biblical history. God is depicted as a divine warrior at times in the OT, who vanquishes his enemies. God is depicted as a father, as sovereign over all creation, nations, or earthly powers and then John casts this image of a lamb as that of God’s agent is quite a metaphor. Lambs were animals used for sacrifice, what better picture of Jesus is there than a slaughtered lamb (Isa 53). I think then also, though from first glances the lamb imagery seems to be an almost defeat, really it turns out to be victory won by God at the cross. The way of the lamb is the cross, there as Colossians 2:13-15 so wonderfully declares, our victory was won as a result of the cross, “13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” So, what we see in the lamb imagery is God being sovereign, choosing to intervene in history in a way that was unexpected, a way that is certainly powerful, life altering and truly sacrificial. God laid all his cards on the table in the Incarnation, and as a result defeated his enemies through the lion-lamb imagery of Jesus.
After the wrath of the 6 seals, John’s interlude, or new vision of heaven, is a needed reminder that God is in control, and that even though God’s people will face hardships and trials, they are his, and will be protected through the trials. According to Boring, in Rev. 7:1-17, John has led his readers to anticipating the coming of God, judgment, and the End culminating in the seventh seal. As in other places in Revelation, this section or interlude is an example of John’s artistry. John is free with the apocalyptic traditions, and instead of seeing the End, John shows us the church. The opening of the seventh seal leads to the seven trumpets, but before we get there, John wants to assure his readers of God’s grand plan, Boring writes, “…it is a reflection of the experience of first-century Christianity. They looked for the End and what came was the church, not as a substitute for the act of God but itself a dimension of God’s saving activity”(Boring, 128).
The church is compromised not of a select few. Let us be reminded that 10, and 12 are important numbers, and have a symbolic meaning of completeness. So, the 144,000 is a multiple of 12 and 10 and is a way of John saying, look here is the new Israel, the new people of God. Then “1000” has a military connotation, this is a picture of a group preparing for battle. Boring sees the text as dividing along “7:1-8…the church militant on earth, sealed and drawn up in battle formation before the coming struggle, 7:9-17 presents the church after the battle triumphant in heaven” (Boring 131).
The great multitude that is seen in 7:9-17 is from every tribe, language and nation is another inclusive picture of the church that reveals the beauty of the church and the grand scope of the gospel’s reach. For persecuted believers, a vision of the church from heaven’s perspective would be encouraging to small house churches, maybe scattered about different cities and maybe meeting in secret for fear of persecution.
Eugene Boring, Intrepretation: A Biblical Commentary for Preaching and Teaching
Mitchell G. Reddish, Revelation.