This is the Gospel passage for All Saint's Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A. Most recently Nov 1, 2020.
Some words/language constructions I found interesting
αριθμησαι (form of αριθμεω, meaning "to count", 7:9) This word has a clear English cognate: arithmetic! The point here is that the writer records carefully how many people from each tribe will be in heaven. Then the seer says, wait, no, they can't be counted!! A lot of people make it to heaven :) For a funny view of what heaven with many cultures might look like, you can see the cartoon Simpson's Heaven. Laughing aside, this verse is a powerful reminder that early on the church understood its mission to exist far beyond its own culture and time.
λευκος (meaning "white", 7:9, 7:13). There is an increasing discomfort with the use of "white" to describe things that are pure. This is because of how we have often divided the world into skin-tone groups -- races -- with "white" being on the top of the pecking order. Thus, when churches use "white" albs, use white lilies and associate white with holiness, this could potentially communicates that white skin tones are likewise more holy. A few thoughts on this:
- White never refers to a skin-tone in the Bible. In fact, if skin is white, it is diseased. (See Leviticus 13). Most of the characters in the bible have far more olive toned than white toned skin
- The image in revelation is for people from every nation and language; it is not a forced mono-culture
- People in the bible almost never would have anything pure white for clothing. It would be been incredibly expensive to produce and keep clean. "Such as no one on earth could bleach them" is how Jesus' transfiguration clothing was described in Mark's Gospel. Bright white clothing would not be reserved for undergarments like in today's America, but would have been spectacular to behold.
- The whiteness is often associated with incredible brightness - like a star!
φοινικες (φοινιξ, meaning "palm branch", 7:9) The word for palm branch here is literally "phoenix"! Now, in John 12:13, the people wave these before Jesus, so translating it as "palm branch" seems fair, especially within the biblical context of triumphal celebrations for a king. However, I find it very amusing and poetic to imagine that in heaven we each get our own phoenix in celebration of the resurrection!
φωνη μεγαλη (meaning "loud voice", 7:10) The words for loud voice is literally "mega phone." It is interesting to consider, in an era of protests and megaphone, what words are we putting through our megaphones?
εξαλειψει (meaning "wipe away",
7.17) The word "wipe away" or "destroy" (εξαλειψω) is also found in Acts 3:19 and Col 2:14, where Jesus wipes away our sins. Jesus comes to wipe away both our sin and sorrow. It is not an either/or.
περιβεβλημενους (περιβαλλω, meaning "robe", 7:9)
The participle for "robed" is in the perfect. It
happened in the past but still effects the present states, namely, that
they are robed. Here it is used as a circumstantial participle; in 7.13
it will be used as a substantive.