Corinthian correspondence

several sevens

As we approach chapters 19 and 20 in Revelation, we see the defeat of evil and death themselves. “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire” (20:14). John tries to put into words the vision of what he sees.

In Breaking the Code, Bruce Metzger again reminds us how John’s language involves the much-more-than-sevenfold use of “seven.” It is a recurring theme throughout the book. We see seven uses of “then I saw,” starting with 19:11 and ending with 21:1, signaling “visions preparatory to the end.” (90) He says, “This is symbolism at its highest. No one imagines that such statements are literal.” (91) I wouldn’t be so quick to make that claim. There seems to be a limitless supply of timelines created by folks who see John’s visions as only predictions of the future, with nothing to say in the here and now.

The constant employment of “seven” in Revelation is a clear sign of symbolism at work. To cite only seven examples (there are plenty more!), we have seven churches, seven golden lampstands, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven bowls, and…seven beatitudes:

1:3. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.
14:13. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”
16:15. (“See, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed, not going about naked and exposed to shame.”)
19:9. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
20:6. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years.
22:7. “See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
22:14. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.

Can we see how the book of Revelation is itself beatitude, a blessing?


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