Vision on a clear night

18 07 2016

night caveJohn the apostle, now an aging man, is alone on the isle of Patmos, looking out at night from a hilltop, in front of the cave he now calls home. He looks into the distance and sees fires on the mainland where the seven churches of Asia lie. As night falls the  afternoon winds calm down, the way they did suddenly at the command of the Master. Oh what a day that had been. How their anxiety turned to awe at the authority of His voice, “Peace be still.”

The apostle ponders the seven churches that burden his heart, the sheep given to his charge. The Ephesians, so strong in doctrine but lagging in love. Those in Smyrna, the flock in Pergamum. What is their future, these tender congregations? Will they huddle to themselves in self-preservation, unaware of the power given to them in the Spirit? Will they cling to each other around common likes and dislikes, rather than throwing open their arms to rich and poor, Jew and gentile, high class and low?

Suddenly a breeze blows across John’s face, as if the Spirit of God is visiting him afresh. The apostle’s heart surges with the joy of a hopeful vision of things to come. He sees a heavenly multitude gathering around the throne of the Ancient of Days, for a time has come to right the wrongs on the earth. The evil that has twisted humanity must be driven out by righteous judgment. The 24 elders stand in worshipful consternation. The dilemma is this: The scrolls of judgment are sealed, and none has the authority to open them. Heaven waits for the answer.

In time the vision becomes clear. It is not by military might that righteousness reigns. No, heaven has a different scale. Into the throne room walks the one who embodies righteousness. Like a lamb, slain in sacrifice, the Savior enters and in an instant all know that the scrolls will now be opened, not by force, but in voluntary subjection to the power of humility.

The followers of the Lamb are then revealed and the sight gives John new hope, for the throng of worshipers are from every tribe, tongue and nation. They are one, a new community, fashioned after the humble character of their Lord. “Worthy!” they cry. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to open the scroll!”

While the vision became clear, so had the night sky. He looks over in the direction of the churches and ponders their future. He knows they will struggle, even suffer. But He now has confidence that the gospel will spread to every people. He knows that God will choose for Himself a new community whose love will overcome all divisions. He knows that the sacrifice of the Lamb will not be forgotten, but will be victorious in the end.

(Based on Revelation 7:9)
Photo credit: Eric Nathan photography

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