Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.
And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:
‘Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgements have been revealed.’
After this I looked, and the temple of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues, robed in pure bright linen, with golden sashes across their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever; and the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were ended.
Have you missed the experience of worship in a big gathering in the last year? A festival, like Greenbelt or Spring Harvest, with thousands of people celebrating together. A packed cathedral for a special service. Arriving in Santiago de Compostela cathedral square in a company of dusty pilgrims from all over the world. Or indeed, being in a football crowd cheering on your team! Life is poorer without these mountain top experiences. Mask wearers distanced in church, or screens on Zoom, don’t lift us in the same way – but better than not meeting at all, and online worship has enabled us to connect with people far away.
Without Revelation, our hymn imagery would also be poorer. We wouldn’t have all the saints casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea, or the children in white crowned like stars, or being brought safe through Jordan to the Father’s throne. Leaving aside the riches of the Old Testament, we’d have glimpses of the glory of God in the Christmas angels, Jesus’ baptism and the Transfiguration, the angels at the tomb and the road to Damascus. But add Revelation and we find the glory of God in the brightness of the glassy sea, the fire and the shining crowns; the sound of harps and joyful praise and dancing; the sense of joining a huge crowd in a never-ending stream of praise and adoration of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We don’t have to understand it: we can just go with the flow, lost in wonder, love and praise.
Revelation is a book of hope based on symbolism. My hope this summer is to join again the countless host streaming in through the gates of Greenbelt to sing praises to God spilling out of the tent of worship (and the tent of beer!): God’s Kingdom on earth and a foretaste of heaven. What’s yours?
Prayer ( from Psalm 150)
Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in his mighty firmament Praise him according to his surpassing greatness Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!