Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Revelation 8
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie

Yesterday's Tour de France was very exciting, but very disappointing for those who were rooting for Andy Schleck. Just as he was shifting into a different chainring to attack Alberto Contador on the Port de Bales he experienced "chain suck" and locked up his drivetrain. In trying to free it, he dropped his chain and lost 30 seconds trying to get it back in place. That mechanical incident cost him the yellow jersey, as Alberto Contador raced ahead of him and on to the finish line 39 seconds in front of Andy. That left Schleck 8 seconds down on the new wearer of the yellow jersey. But it was just one of a huge number of incidents that have knocked competitor after competitor out of the Tour de France this year. The toll has been staggering, and now, with two days still remaining in the Pyrenees this is beginning to feel like the never ending tour of disasters.

I've been reading the book of Revelation for the past week and I'm beginning to feel that same way about the apocalyptic events portrayed in John's revelation. First there's the seven churches with all of their sins and shortcomings. Then there are the seven seals. And when you get to the seventh one, suddenly there are seven trumpets. The punishments threatened and disasters pictured go on and on and on. It's enough to make you lose hope!

But that's not the purpose of the book of Revelation. It is intended to give hope. First, it's important to remember that John gives us a glimpse of the future from several different prespectives. The accounts of the end are progressive and recapitulative. The most important thing, however, is that they all lead to the ultimate triumph of Christ over Satan, and the victory of the saints who persevere to the end. Yes, Revelation 8:13 does warn us: "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth." but that is not the end of the story.

The end of this year's Tour de France has not yet come, and there are still six or seven cyclists who have great chance of standing on that podium in Paris if they can avoid disaster and persevere to the end. Revelation makes it clear that the end times will bring much tribulation, but the end will come and Christ's promise from Revelation 2:10 will be fulfilled: "Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life." So just as the riders in the Tour will get on their bikes once again after their rest day tomorrow and pedal on towards Paris, so the saints of God must continue to be faithful even to the point of death, and just as surely as the Tour will end July 25 at the Podium in Paris, so too will Christ return and take us to be with him in glory!

Pastoral Commentary for Revelation 8
Author: Pastor Zach

One of my favorite movies is 1993's "Groundhog Day." In this movie, Bill Murray portrays a narcissistic, egocentric meteorologist named Phil Connors who begrudgingly travels from the television station where he works in Pittsburgh to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for their renowned Groundhog Day celebration. After giving a half-hearted report on the day's festivities, Phil tries to leave Punxsutawney, along with his crew, only to be snowed in by a blizzard which forces them to stay an extra night. When Phil wakes up the next morning, ready and eager to leave this reviled township, he finds that it is February 2 all over again. The balance of the movie portrays Phil trying to exit Punxsutawney in sometimes comical, sometimes romantic, sometimes pathetic ways. But he remains perpetually trapped in Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day until he finally finds true love with a member of his crew named Rita and the movie ends.

Talk about a day that never ends. Over and over again, Phil tries to bring February 2 to its terminus. Over and over again, he is unsuccessful. It seems like Groundhog Day would have to end eventually. But it didn't.

Perhaps you've had a similar, even if not so paranormal, experience. It seems like something would have to end eventually. But it doesn't. You try to reach a destination, but the road in front of you seems to stretch endlessly into the horizon. You are caring for a baby who, despite your best efforts at feeding, diaper changing, and rocking, won't stop crying. You are listening to a sermon, and again and again you glance at your watch, waiting and wondering, "When will this end?" It seems like these things would have to end eventually. But they don't.

In our reading for today from Revelation 8, we reach what seems to be the end of John's vision. For the world has suffered its final terrible moments as seals of destruction are opened, and chapter 7 then ends with what sounds like God's final promise of salvation: "Never again will people hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:16-17). Chapter 8 then opens, "When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour" (verse 1). Silence is a well-known image for the Day of the Lord in the Old Testament. As the prophet Zephaniah says, "Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near" (Zephaniah 1:7). John's verbal and visual cues are unmistakable: the end of the world has come.

"Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them" (verse 6). What? I thought the world had already ended with the opening of the seven seals. What are these seven trumpets? It seems like the end of the world should have come. But it doesn't.

There is much biblical literature, especially that of an apocalyptic and symbolic character, which progresses in a non-linear fashion. That is, the events explicated in some biblical stories are not so much sequential as they are thematic. Indeed, one of the most famous and obvious examples of this comes to us in the very first chapters in the very first book of the Bible. Genesis 1:27 informs us, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Thus, human beings come into existence. But then, in the very next chapter, we learn, "This is the account of the heavens and earth when they were created. The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" (Genesis 2:4, 7). God here creates a human being named Adam. But wait. I thought God already created humans in Genesis 1. What's going on here? The author of Genesis is doing what many biblical writers do. He gives a preliminary description of an event and then comes back and takes another pass at it.

Such is what John is doing with his seven seals followed by his seven trumpets. These two sequences of "sevens" actually cover the same period of time, as told from two different perspectives. Indeed, the NIV translates verse 6 unfortunately when it begins, "Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them." The Greek word for "then" is kai, a simple conjunction meaning "and" rather than a temporal marker meaning "then." Thus, John is saying, "I've given you one take at what the end of the world will look like. Now, I'm going to take another pass at it. Now, I'm going to give you a new perspective. I know it seems like everything should end, but in my book, it doesn't. It's going to be Groundhog Day all over again."

So, as we continue our trek through Revelation, time has ended once. But it will end again. And for that matter, it will end again after that. After all, you can never talk about Christ's return enough. That's why I'm thankful for all the different perspectives that John gives us.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2019-11-15 09:44:23