Of Seals and Sealed


What are we to make of the opening of the seals? It is clear that the living one, who has the power to open and shut, is the one who opens the seals. The opening is a revelation. Something is seen that has not been seen before, something that has been hidden is now in the open, something that was not known is now known. But what is this “something?” Revelation, Biblical revelation, and especially the Apocalypse, is always about the divine. Revelation makes known the divine for the first time in each new age and generation. Revelation presents the divine as it is in the act of making itself present, and in whose presence, there is cleansing. From this perspective, the four horsemen make present the divine as a warrior against the demonic. The divine comes forth in four different manifestations to confront four different aspects of the demonic. In each instance the victory is already assured, the faithful are already “sealed” as in 7:3, 4, 9. The warfare is not human but divine, and this goes back to the incarnation, the sending forth of the divine to reclaim the human. The fifth and sixth seals reveal some of the consequences of the warfare for humans. Human being are caught in the middle, they are the stakes. The revelation of the divine makes clear that all creation, all nature, all human beings are involved, and that some will indeed suffer greatly. The unfolding narrative of the intersection of the divine story with the human story has already disclosed that death is experienced along the way, from Eden to now. That the divine in the fourth seal is identified as Death demonstrates that the living one must become other than itself in order to reclaim those who are disposed to Death. He becomes Death and so receives his dead, and welcomes them to a place whose eternity is not yet revealed, until the opening of the seventh seal. There the divine again becomes itself in the theophany, and is revealed as Present, that is, as Eternal. The horsemen are not to be feared. They are to be embraced as the otherness of the divine, God as the Totally Other, the awesome one, whose countenance is sure death. To die in the Presence of the divine is to inherit eternal life. This is what the Spirit says to the Churches!

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