Amidst so many judgments relative to the imminent destruction of the wicked, there is this passage of hope reminding us that Jehovah never forgets what we do for him. (Heb. 6:10) While here it is speaking specifically of the “holy ones” who will reign with Christ in heaven, we can be sure that anyone making sincere sacrifices in God’s name does not go unappreciated. (Mal. 3:16; Rev. 13:10; 14:12)
“…When [the angel] cried out, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. Now when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write, but I heard a voice out of heaven say: ‘Seal up the things the seven thunders spoke, and do not write them down.'”
Who is represented by “the seven thunders”?
In other Bible passages, the sound of a thunderous voice is often times attributed to Jehovah. (Job 37:4,5; 40:9; Ps. 29:3; John 12:28,29)
The number seven is used figuratively to convey completeness. (Insight, “Numbers”)
So in this case, the “seven thunders” seem to allude to Jehovah speaking about the completion of his purpose.
This theory is encouraged by what the angel then declares to John: “There will be no delay any longer. But in the days when the seventh angel is about to blow his trumpet, the sacred secret that God declared as good news to his own slaves the prophets is indeed brought to a finish.” (Rev. 10:6,7)
But because John was not allowed to write down the announcement from “the seven thunders,” and then he was instructed to seal the blank scroll, one can only guess what Jehovah’s message was about.
In any case, it was not meant to be understood in our times.
Is the star representing the same thing or spirit in both passages?
There are so many “star” references in Revelation that it comes in handy to have a list of how the word is used in other Bible passages.
- Messiah (Num. 24:17)
- Jesus in heaven (Rev. 22:16)
- Kings descended from David (Is. 14:13)
- Angels (Job 38:7)
- Demons (Rev. 12:4)
- Holy ones (Dan. 7:25; 8:10,24)
- Acts of divine intervention (Jg. 5:20)
- Gloomy outlook (Is. 13:10; Ez. 32:7,8)
Revelation continues the sequence of events by calling Jesus “Apollyon,” which means Destroyer. (Rev. 9:11)
Wormwood represents bitterness, and a message of destruction would be bitter to those about to be destroyed.
So at the risk of being completely wrong, it seems logical to me to infer that the stars in both passages refer to Jesus.
We can also take into account a parallel passage which explains that the rivers and springs became the blood of the holy ones and prophets being poured out in God’s anger. (Rev. 15:7; 16:1,4)
It is common to equate bitterness with anger.
It does not seem that God would use a demon to execute an act of justice, but rather, he would use Jesus, as he usually does.
Additionally, the passage goes on to say a third of the sun, moon and stars were darkened, that neither the day nor night might have any light in them. (Rev. 8:12)
This is obviously symbolic because a literal application would wipe out life as we know it.
But this symbolism is in stark contrast to the star that burns like a lamp in its descent.
The passage seems to compare Christ’s enlightened message denouncing those who have persecuted God’s people with the spiritual darkness that they now find themselves in.
“[…] I saw underneath the altar the souls of those slaughtered […]. A white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer, until the number was filled of their fellow slaves and their brothers who were about to be killed as they had been.”
After the four horsemen account, this passage says there are “souls” shouting out for justice. (Rev. 6:10)
God’s Word explains that someone’s soul, or person, is in their blood. (Lev. 17:11)
The imagery of a person’s blood calling for justice is not new. (Gen. 4:10)
And Christians who died before Christ’s second coming were actually dead and not lingering in some sort of afterlife. (1 Thess. 4:15,16)
If the “souls” shouting out for justice are representative of Christians’ shed blood, in what sense are they given white robes?
This chapter begins by dynamically describing Christ’s coronation and subsequent catastrophic events on earth. (Rev. 6:2-8)
Between then and the ‘number of fellow slaves being filled,’ there was a moment in which dead Christians who were meant to rule with Christ in heaven were raised and each granted a white robe.
They have been resurrected to immortality and the white robes symbolize their righteous acts. (Rev. 3:5; 19:8)
They “rest” in the sense that they must patiently wait for God’s judgment day before being allowed to avenge their deaths. (Rev. 7:3,4; Rev. 17:14)
So while initially the word “souls” represents the shed blood of loyal Christians, halfway through the passage it is referring to their resurrected selves.
If we feel our love for true worship waning, what can we do to revive it?
We can try to remember what drew us to Jehovah in the first place and what convinced us that we had found the truth.
Those reasons are probably still valid. (Ps. 119:151,152; Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17)
We can also meditate on what Jehovah has done for us over the years since we dedicated our lives to him.
What trials has he helped us to endure? (1 Cor. 10:13)
What blessings have we personally received as a result of obeying him? (Ps. 34:8)
We may find that the time we have available for spiritual matters has lessened due to changes in personal circumstances.
If that is the case, we can remember the struggle the Ephesians had to keep a balanced life.
Ephesus was a very wealthy city, having a long street paved in marble.
There was a temple for the Greek goddess of fertility and a stadium featuring live violent entertainment.
It was also known for its dark magical arts.
Every year, it hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors. (Ephesus; Ephesians, Letter)
The Christians who lived there towards the end of the first century were enduring despite the pressures, but what Jesus asked of them was wholehearted resolve to grow in zeal. (Rev. 2:3,5)
Why do some believe that the Apostle John was using the phrase “the chosen lady” as a metaphor to address a specific congregation?
John had spent two years exiled on Patmos for being an active Christian, but was liberated by Emperor Nerva in the year 98 C.E. (Rev. 1:9; Insight)
Emperor Nerva had ruled for less than two years and died shortly thereafter. (Nerva Rises to Power, Legacy)
He was succeeded by his adopted son, Trajan around the time John wrote his epistles.
It is possible that John used the phrase “chosen lady” as a metaphor to protect that congregation from persecutors.
John was in Ephesus at the time and the new Emperor’s stance toward Christians was unknown for the first few years of his reign.
At least thirteen years later, the governor of the nearby Bithynia wrote to the emperor about his execution of Christians who refused to bow before Ceasar and requested more instructions on the matter. (Letters between Pliny and Trajan; ancient map of Turkey).
It can be deduced, then, that even under the reign of Trajan, Christians had to remain anonymous to feel any measure of security.
It is also interesting to note that all of John’s references to love in his letter are in the Greek form “agape,” which is a love based on ethical responsibility, as opposed to the Greek words used for brotherly or romantic affection.
A couple other passages I enjoyed from last week’s reading:
While I personally do not have children, it is an incomparable joy when I see some of my Bible students develop their love for God and benefit from applying Bible principles in their lives. Even though they may make mistakes down the line, it strengthens me to hear they are humble and continue to “put up a hard fight for the faith.”
Living in the information age, we are constantly learning about new discoveries and ideas about how to live better.
We might assume, for the most part, that what we read or hear has at least some factual basis.
Likewise, when we first learned about Bible truths, we probably heard them from a person.
Regardless of what type of information we come upon, we would want to make sure it does not turn us into skeptical Bible students who start to doubt that it is the inspired Word of God.
While human knowledge in its many fields has a lot to offer, it does not compare with the infallible wisdom and hope offered by Jehovah and Jesus. (Num. 23:19)