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Nov 4, 2012(신현철 목사)

2012.11.07 07:11

소풍 조회 수:3228

【본문】요한계시록 7:9~17

【제목】내 주여 당신이 아시나이다 (Sir, you know.)

 1.

 

Maybe I am the first to preach about ‘Revelation of John Divine’ in our church…

So far, intentionally I haven’t preached about ‘Revelation of St. John because I have had a several reasons. First, many people have a misunderstanding about ‘Revelation of John Divine’. They think that through the analysis on Revelations, they can find out the timetables of the day of doom. A typical person from this event is ‘Russel’, who is the creator of Jehovah’s Witness. Russel predicted when the doom of the world would be, and repeated this happening many times. What is worse, in 1874, he argued that Jesus already came back to us in a spiritual form. In 1914, he said ‘the generation of Gentile’ would end, and ‘the Millennium’ would be built. Also, at the first time, he argued that only one hundred forty four thousand people would be get salvation, and then he changed to the new assertion again that the one hundred forty four thousand people would rule the kingdom of God with Jesus Christ, and there would also be more lower class  believers.

 

Anyway, through the ‘Revelation of John Divine’, some people think that they can find out when the doomsday is, and other people believe this kind of false rumor. That’s why I have hesitated to preach about Revelations.

 2.

 

 Another reason why “The Book of Revelation” is has not been preached was because of the difference of between the conditions of the era in “The Book of Revelation” and those of the current era.

 

“The Book of Revelation” took place in Rome when the emperor Domitian was in reign. Domitian was an emperor who strongly supported the worship of the emperor, so he built many temples, and issued an imperial order to worship the Roman emperor. At the time, in Domitian’s temple, fires were lit so brightly, and should not be put out. The people worshipped and threw incenses at the fire.

 

In the same era in Ephesus, there was an old man named John. He was the son of Zebedee, brother of James, disciple of Jesus, believed in Jesus as a saviour, lived with sincerity and honesty, and had no will to kneel down to the Roman Emperor who made the people fall into decay. His disciples did as he did. John and his disciples refused to throw incenses at Domitian’s altar.

 

Therefore, the persecution began, and the Romans had the ability to immediately kill John. However, they decided not to do that. This is because the sly Romans thought if they killed John, he would become a martyr, and Christianity would only become spiritually awakened. For that reason, instead of killing old John, they exiled him into an island called, “Patmos” which was far away from the coast of Ephesus.

 

 Trapped in the island, St. John wrote letters to his fellow Christians who were to be persecuted. Those hopeless fellows were at the edge of giving up their faith after St. John was arrested. Back then, St John’s imprisonment was considered an immoral act, a religious dilemma to the people- Why the Great Jesus, the son of God with infinite power, would leave his people fragile and unprotected? Why the powerful Jesus, the ruler of the heaven and earth, allow Rome to gain power and let his disciple to be imprisoned? - thought the people in wild confusion.
 This religious dilemma misguided some people to give up their faith in Christianity and fall into Caesar.

St. John explained in his letters to those who felt abandoned by God and depressed by the belief that devils are dominating the world. He interpreted the essence of the suffering people are facing and explicated further that God didn’t abandon them but he is the only one with a final answer...

 

This is the historical background documented in The Revelation to John. Now, take a moment to think about the world we are living in. It is quite different from the world portrayed in the Revelation. Even though there are still cases where people are heavily persecuted for their religious belief in countries like North Korea and Middle East, most places allow religious freedom. And this difference is why I was hesitant to talk about the Revelation.

 

However as I contemplated on St. John's Revelation, I came to a conclusion that, regardless of different living environment, our lives are still full of hardships. Perhaps, we have reached the peak of religious conflict and hopelessness, because the society is suppressing us with even more pressure than Domitian once did. As a result, a lot of people stray aimlessly without a firm belief. There has never been a time when so many people have lost faith in Our Father's promise of final victory. I thought this was a part of the reason why many people have become "superficial" Christians. 

 

Today, the Revelation has given us a meaningful insight, and I hope through this scripture, we regain our hope in the final victory which St. John tried to tell us of. 

 

3.

 

First of all we must look at the context with which the letter was written in. We must remember that at the time, John was in jail and had to worry about his letter being censored. Thus, he couldn’t write anything that criticized the Roman Empire and the emperor. Instead, he had to rely on imageries and similes, which at first sight, would seem meaningless and insignificant.

 

 

However, those who received the letter were able to decipher the message. They were able to understand the hidden messages and became hopeful.

 

 

Contextually, this was how Revelations was written. Today’s scripture, chapter 7 is in a unique position in that in verse 1 of chapter 6 it says, “I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals” and chapter 8 verse 1 says, “When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heave for about half an hour.” Thus, chapter 7 is a story of what occurs between the opening of the sixth and the seventh seals – war, famine, death, martyr, earthquake etc., omens that signal the end of the world.

 

 

But why is the last seal taken off in the next chapter? Chapter 6 verse 17 asks, “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Simply put, it’s asking what happens to those who were saved while the sixth seal is being opened. The answer to the question is in chapter 7. It answers how people react when such disasters occur.

 

The first answer is from verses 1 to 8, “Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel” (7:4). 144,000, it’s both a famous and infamous number and people have debated the meaning behind it for centuries. Some have said that it’s the number of martyrs; others have said that that’s the magic number to fill before the end of the world.

 

 

However, we need to look at the number in the perspective of the Jews. Three was the number that symbolized God for the Jews, 4 meant the four cardinal directions (North, South, West, East). Thus, a number that arises when you either add or multiply the heaven and the earth were 7 and 12. These numbers connote completeness – the reason behind the 12 disciples and the 12 tribes. One hundred forty-four arises when you multiply 12 and 12 – highlighting the ‘perfect’ aspect of the number. The Jews also had illustrated something big by multiplying 10’s. 144,000 arises when 144, a perfect number, was multiplied by 10 three times, connoting the epitome of perfect.

 

 

Thus, the number 144,000 doesn’t mean that that’s how many people are to be saved. Instead, it’s telling those who are doubtful of the power of God to save, that he is a savior for all. He is saying that all those who keep true to their faith and to God, will be saved, without an exception, in the end.

 

 

Thus, when he was asked, who can stand? He is telling them not to worry, as he has the ability and the power to make all stand.

4.

 

After that, there is the today’s passage:

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Verse 9)

 

In this verse, the great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language is the 144,000 people who are mentioned earlier in the Bible. The white robes represent purity and the palm branches represent victory. This multitude of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language was holding palm branches of victory, as pure believers.

 

And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (Verse 10)

The word, “cried” in this verse also has another meaning, “to declare” or “to proclaim.” They were proclaiming that Jesus Christ obeyed to God on the cross, thereby fulfilling the people’s salvation.

 

This is an unexpected event, and a traumatic one as seen from the Rome’s perspective. The multitude of people has all come out from hiding, and they were refusing to worship the Roman emperor and confessing and proclaiming that Salvation belongs to God and the Lamb...

 

I think we will get a similar kind of event on the day of reunification of our nation… People will be shocked and amazed to realize how many people in North Korea have been secretly keeping faith as Christians.

 

Anyway, someone asks, “These in white robes – who are they, and where they come from?”

“I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Verse 14)

 

Who were these people? They were those who kept their faith despite the troubles.

 

But John also says in Verse 14, “Sir, you know.” What he means is that God already knows those people who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

 

I have already explained a bit about the background of the Book of Revelation. John was exiled to the island of Patmos and many people’s faith was shaken from this. Perhaps John’s had been most severely shaken. He believed that God would use His amazing ability and would save John from this situation, but nothing happened. So how disappointed would John have been? But John wrote a letter to himself and to the beloved saints. I am suffering from this tribulation, but Lord, you know.

 

The troubles and the challenges that we face in our lives may be different from the tribulation, the suffering and the persecution that John faced. However, the essence is similar. We all carry problems that are difficult to handle. We want to believe in God, but there are other concerns that make us stray from our beliefs. There are things that keep trying to get us hooked. And often we think that even our belief, our family, and our friends won’t help us in our difficult situations. While there may be no one who can understand our situations and the difficulties we face, our Lord will know.

5.

 

 I will conclude the sermon. Currently the Japanese ‘Shinkai 6500’ submarine is the most advanced submarine which can go down 6500m. The most critical factor to inventing a submarine is the pressure which it could sustain, at 5000m it is equivalent to the weight of putting a mid-sized bus on top of your head. Therefore, the non-deep sea submarine can go down 150m, and the nuclear submarines can go down 500-700m.

 

It is said that at 1000m deep into the sea there are much more species that exist there than those living above ground level… How can there be life when a submarine cannot even go there?

 

 There are two principles to making the deep sea submarines; one of them is to build a submarine which can withstand the pressure from the outside. But a better way to test this is by putting pressure from the interior, and this method is called the ‘hydraulic offset.’ Actually, the deep sea species live by the same principle.

 

 We all live on this earth with great pressure and stress. How can we overcome this? How did John overcome such stress at Patmos Island? How did the early church withstand stress? How did the Reformers fight over this stress?

 

 They all had something in them. The ones who won during distress did not win because they were naturally gifted from the start, they had the power to stand up to the pressure… They had belief and hope for God, which gave them the strength.

 

A Pastor wrote a poem…

Even if no one understands my heart, be happy/ God knows/

If you have no one to talk to, be happy/ this is a gift for starting to being free from humans/

Those who seek acceptance and consolation will live their entire life as a miserable beggar/

Let go of these desires and use your energy to understanding other’s hearts.

 

 John confessed, “Sir, you know,” that God’s people will go through afflictions and win and that He will not forgot those who win. I hope that we can all achieve the ultimate victory from the pressure the world is giving to us…

 

God knows of those who wash their clothes with Jesus’ blood and become white. He watches us. To bring us to God’s Tabernacle, we will not get hungry or become thirsty or be in agony or deteriorate from the heat, He will be our Shepherd to lead us to the Fountain of Life. Also, God will wipe all the tears from our eyes. Sir, you know.