For the Advancement of the World 2: The Living and the Dead1

Thereafter, actually “after a great while” (7:9), in the heavens a great multitude is seen, having come from everywhere on earth, having already prepared their white garments on earth, as is explained to John: they have come out of the great tribulation, having come to terms with their destiny without being stained (7:14). They break out not in a lament but in a great hymn: “Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb” (7:10). They know what to call the “One sitting on the throne”, and perceive the Lamb present there. The “soteria”, “salvation”, which they speak unto God and the Lamb, shows that through human beings the redeeming deed of Christ on earth now is mirrored back into the heavens – and the angels now take up this song of praise (7:11) of the news “into which they themselves longed to look” (with 1 Peter 1:12). As explained to John, the dead who carry the seed of resurrection in themselves are privileged to become active in heaven, guided to spring of living water by their shepherd in the midst of the throne (7:15-18).

When then the 7th seal is opened, silence envelops the heavens for a while (8:1). Now the seven angels standing before God each receive a trumpet, signaling that the next stage of Christian engagement is about to begin. Another angel stands at the heavenly altar to mix much new incense with the “prayers of all the saints”, which have risen up from the earth, in a golden censer. Then, adding fire from the altar, the censer is thrown on the earth, bringing about the same elemental phenomena as first observed as coming from the throne – as well as an earthquake (8:5 and 4:5). In the increasing destruction “sounded in” over the earth by the trumpets, inner human Christian deeds will play a role.

Continuing in the text, we would be able to follow this human evolution in its various stages. For the moment, I’d just mention how Rudolf Frieling, at the end of his essay “Human Evolution in the Apocalypse of John”4, looks back at specific places in the text of the Apocalypse. He focuses on the places at which “the visions are inserted which have as their content the progressive development of the excarnated Christian souls in the higher world”. He finds that they appear about the end of the three main structural elements of the book, the vision of the sevenfold opening of the seals, of the sevenfold sounding of the trumpets and of the sevenfold pouring out of the bowls of wrath. This happens between the opening of the 6th and 7th seal out of which the sequence of the trumpets grows: in the vision of the great multitude standing before the throne and before the Lamb, singing their song of salvation (7:9-17). Once more this progress becomes visible when the aftereffects of the 7th trumpet have all died away: in the vision of “those who had conquered the beast”, and now are standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hand, singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb (15:2-4). And finally, after the 7th bowl of wrath has been poured out: in the visions of those appearing as knights with white horses, and working as priests and kings, seated on thrones (19:14 and 20:4).

In the last vision of the Apocalypse a new heaven and a new earth appear, and John sees the holy city, new Jerusalem, come down out of heaven from God: the dwelling of God has arrived among human beings. Those who conquer will receive from the fountain of the water of life, the water of life which flows as a river from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city, with the tree of life on either side of the river (21:1-22:5). It is that city of which the wall is built according to a man’s measure, which is that of an angel.

Between the words of the Risen Christ to his congregations, appearing as “a Son of Man” in the first vision, and the last vision of the World of Resurrection on a human scale, within a new heaven and a new earth, we find the middle, main part of the Apocalypse, grounded in visions of the throne. In what emanates from the throne an increasingly active role, as we have seen, is played by human beings who are either incarnated on earth or live without a physical body in the heavens.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *