ALL SAINTS’ DAY
Lesson: Revelation 7:9-17
9 After this I, John, looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;
17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The Book of Revelation is also known as the “Apocalypse” (from a Greek word meaning an “unveiling” or “disclosure” of a new age or of heaven, or both). Apocalyptic writing generally described a dire situation ruled by evil powers that can be overcome only by the “in-breaking” of a force (such as God) to bring about a new age.
Like apocalyptic writings in the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Revelation used dualistic (either/or) language and extreme images and metaphors to describe the conflict between good and evil. Apocalyptic literature is often presented as a revelation from God conveyed by an angel or other heavenly body. Apocalyptic writings used symbolic language to convey God’s hidden plan and presents a vision of an eschatological victory leading to a “New Jerusalem.”
The author of Revelation identified himself as “John” but most scholars conclude that the author was not John the Apostle because of (among other things) the reference to the 12 apostles in 21:14. Because of the internal references in the Book, most scholars date Revelation to the late First Century. The author of Revelation has a profound knowledge of the Hebrew Bible and more than half the verses in Revelation allude to passages in the Hebrew Bible.
In today’s reading, those who worship the Lamb have symbols of righteousness (white robes) and victory (palm branches) (v. 9) because blood (sacrifice) leads to victory (white). The idyllic state that is described in verse 16 (hunger and thirst no more) is derived from Isaiah 49:10. Paradoxically, the Lamb is also the shepherd (verse 17). God as “shepherd” is best known from Psalm 23 and the Fourth Gospel.
Epistle: 1 John 3:1-3
1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
The author of the First Letter of John was likely a disciple of the author of the Fourth Gospel, and part of a group of teachers (“We declare to you” – 1:1). The letter was written after 100 CE to a group of Jesus Followers who were receiving conflicting messages about the messiahship of Jesus. Some false teachers denied the humanity of Jesus; others denied the equivalence of the Son and the Father. The letter was written in opposition to these false teachers.
Eusebius (c.260-340 CE) attributed the letter the author of the Fourth Gospel. Eusebius was a bishop who wrote the first “history” of Christianity during and after the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine (272-337 CE). Scholars today recognize that although some phrases in 1 John remind readers of the Fourth Gospel, both the language and the theology indicate that it was written by a person who was part of a group of followers of the author of the Fourth Gospel.
Today’s reading emphasizes that God shares God’s love with us, and we can therefore be called “children of God.” As such, we are called to become like Jesus the Christ.
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”