It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve posted. I would like to blame it on our family being stuck with colds, or getting carried away with Christmas activity, or the annual onslaught of year-end work, but I think I’ve been putting off this next passage! As I’ve shared many times, I’ve been reading a wonderful book called “Writing in the Margins” and Lisa Nichols Hickman offered the prompt to ask friends and family members for a favorite Bible passage, and someone near and dear to me gave me this answer: “You know that part about the seven seals?” And I thought “Really?” Not that there’s any part of scripture that I wouldn’t love to spend time with, but apocalyptic visions aren’t where I turn first when I open the pages of my Bible. And it’s hard for me to do them justice. As you will see below, I think I ended up with the four little ponies of the apocalypse. The upside is that I can now remember what happens with each of the seven seals–I find illustrating the passages helps my memory so much if nothing else! Revelations doesn’t lend itself well to cute and fun, nor is it a passage to put one in the Christmas spirit!!! But I worked my way through this passage beloved by at least one.
As I read and reread this passage and made it my own, the most poignant part of the passage for me is the breaking of the fifth seal when the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne cry out. The hard answer the voices receive is simply a white robe and a command to rest. As I read this part, I can’t help but think of John alone on the isle of Patmos after having lost Jesus and all of the disciples who started out, of the apocalypse he faced personally, hopes dashed, the worst come to pass. In this vision, it feels that John himself is learning to trust, to be patient and wait for God.
The other part of the passage that speaks to me is when everyone goes to the caves to hide: the kings, the great ones, the generals, the rich, the powerful, the slaves, and the free. “Who can stand?”—that’s the big question. Who can stand before God and Jesus Christ? Nobody on their own, but only with Jesus. St. Paul’s words come to mind in his letter to Romans: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 3:23-24)