The Return of the Divine


After the brief intermission the seventh trumpet sounds. The scene is again in heaven, reminding us of the earlier worship scenes in chapter 4. One group proclaims the victory of the Kingdom of God, reclaiming all creation, and placing it under the Lordship of Christ, whose reign is unending. The significance of this is that John is proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is already a present reality on earth. As a matter of fact, the entire creation is the Kingdom of God, as fresh and new as it was in the beginning. Another group, the 24 elders, joins in the worship in response to the first, and renders praise in a lengthy prayer of thanksgiving. The form and content of this heavenly liturgical action certainly is drawn from the worship practices of John’s churches. It allows us an insight into the way in which the early church worshiped. There is also a hint in this song of thanksgiving of the early Eucharist, but not much can be concluded here. The thanksgiving is because the divine has reasserted its power, and its Lordship; that the divine has already judged and redeemed those who believe, both great and small. That is, the church gives thanks that God has come to its aid in a time of persecution and trial, and has delivered it, “destroying the destroyers of the earth,” rewarding the faithful just as the divine had promised earlier. Now there is a vision of the ark of the covenant, opened to the view of all believers for the first time, and this presentation of the ark is accompanied by “flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.” It is clear that John is describing another theophany, the self-presentation of the divine to the believers. John is announcing that the divine has re-appeared, coming out its hiddenness, and making its presence felt during worship. Once again the people may believe that “the Lord is in his holy temple.” The victory on the cross is a victory over all the world, judgment and grace simultaneously. The emergence from the tomb, the resurrection of Christ, is the reappearance of the divine from its hiddenness. Here is John’s version of the Passion of Christ as the Passion of the Church. He gives the church the assurance that the Lord has triumphed already, that the church already lives within the victory of Christ, and that for this reason the church will survive its time of trial. This is a message of hope for the suffering, that the divine has already accomplished its miracle, and that the church must surround itself in this miracle of redemption, the calling forth of the new creation.

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