In the Office last week, we read a poignant passage from the Book of Revelation. It reminds us that there are some things that are not for us to know.
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down” (Rev 10:1-4).
A similar passage occurs in the Book of Daniel, where, having had certain things revealed to him, he is told,
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end (Dan 12:4).
And to the Apostles, who pined for knowledge of the last things, Jesus said,
It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power (Acts 1:7).
In all these texts we are reminded that there are some things, even many things, that are not for us to know. This is a warning against sinful curiosity and a solemn reminder that not all God’s purposes or plans are revealed to us.
Several reasons come to mind for this silence and for the command to seal up the revelation of the seven thunders:
- It is an instruction against arrogance and sinful curiosity. Usually, especially in our modern setting, people think they have right to know just about anything. The press speaks of the people’s “right to know.” And while this may be true about the affairs of government, it is not true about people’s private lives, and it is surely not true about all the mysteries of God. There are just some things that we have no right to know, that are none of our business. Much of our prying and nosing around is a mere pretext for gossip, and for the opportunity to see others’ failures and faults. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that more than half of what we talk about all day long is none of our business.
- It is a rebuke of our misuse of knowledge. Sadly, especially in the “information age,” we speak of knowledge as power. We seek to know in order to control, rather than to repent and conform to the truth. We think that we should be able to do anything we know how to do. Even more reason, then, that God should withhold from us the knowledge of many things, seeing as how we have confused knowledge with wisdom, and have used our knowledge as a pretext to abuse power, to kill with nuclear might, and to pervert the glory of human life with “reproductive technology.” Knowledge abused in this way is not wisdom; it is foolishness and is a path to grave evils.
- It is to spare us from the effects of knowing things we cannot handle. The very fact that the Revelation text above describes this knowledge as “seven thunders” indicates that these hidden utterances are of fearful weightiness. Seven is a number that refers to the fullness of something, so these are loud and devastating thunders. God, in His mercy to us, does not reveal all the fearsome terrors that will come on this sinful world, which cannot endure the glorious and fiery presence of His justice. Too much for this world are the arrows of His quiver, which are not exhausted. Besides the terrors already foretold in Scripture, the seven thunders may well conceal others that are unutterable and too horrifying for the world to endure, a world that is incapable of enduring His holiness or of standing when He shall appear.
What, then, is to be our stance in light of the many things too great for us to know and which God mercifully conceals from us? We should have the humility of a child, who knows what he does not know but is content that his father knows. One of the psalms says,
O Lord, my heart is not proud
nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
nor marvels beyond me.
Truly I have set my soul
in silence and peace.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
even so is my soul.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
both now and forever (Psalm 131 in toto).
Yes, like a humble child we should seek to learn, realizing that there are many things that are beyond us, that are too great for us. So we should seek to learn, but in the humility that is the reverence for the truth, a humility that realizes that we are but little children, not lords and masters.
Scripture says, Beyond these created wonders many things lie hid. Only a few of God’s works have we seen (Sirach 43:34).
Thank you, Lord, for what you have taught us and revealed to us. Thank you, too, for what you have mercifully kept hidden and which is too much for us to know. Thank you, Lord. Help us learn and keep us humble, like little children.
28 Replies to “There Are Some Things That Are Not for You to Know – A Meditation on the Seven Thunders of the Book of Revelation”
“Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”
Very nice. Thank you.
In view of this article of the many things that lay hidden for the reasons listed, one conclusion clear it is… we are still given much knowledge and insights. What do we do with it? for this we will have to give count. This scares me so because I love reading books and certainly learn much from them, especially deep Catholic Spirituality… yet I doubt I diffuse a microscopic percentage.
Thank you so much for opening our eyes to the wisdom to let hidden things be as is according to God’s Holy Plan!
Yours in Christ
I agree with you, Regina. Confucius said it well: “The essence of wisdom is: having it, to put it into action.”
Regina, what you learnt from these books, the world cannot stand it.
Don’t feel yourself guilty. Even once the chastisement has begun, the men will not repent.
Thanks for the music and the reminder that some things are the Lord’s alone and not for me.
One must always trust in God.
This is particularly on point for me. I struggle with the relationship between reason and will. I am, objectively, a very intelligent man and strive to be a faithful Catholic. That said, I have a long standing disagreement with a number of spiritual authors and even saints who have a decidedly anti-rational bent to their spirituality – de Caussade, Ignatius of Loyola, a Kempis, Francis of Assisi. All emphasize will over reason – it seems to be that it doesn’t matter what is in your mind or reason just do His Will. I do not, of course, deny the crucial importance of doing God’s will. But what do we have a mind or reason for if all we are told is pay no attention to it. I remember reading, years ago, a hagiographical story of how a saint was told to go plant pencils in the garden. He did it and was praised for his obedience. Was Luther right, is reason “a whore”? Is it not the LOGOS (the Divine Rational Ordering principle) that became incarnate and not the Divine Voluntas?
Ignatius in the First Principle of his famous Exercises goes so far as to deny that health and having a roof over your head and food on the table are objectively good things. In this way Ignatius seems to implicitly deny the ability of a Christian to suffer for if we actually WANT everything to happen to us that does happen to us than there is nothing to really suffer or endure since we want it all.
I do mean this seriously. Any thoughts?
We have to avoid absolutizing the principles involved. This article is a call to intellectual humility not to a denial of the intellect or reason. Humility is reverence fro the truth and the truth is that reason and the intellect are given to us by God to be used. But as gifts they have the use the creator intended and have their limits. There is much that is beyond us and yet much that we have beautifully discerned. Both are needed, and humility rejoices in the intellect but knows its limits
I think it also matters who is telling us what to do when exercising will and/or reason.
Here is something I wrote for myself after prayer today. It is about the end times and
what to grab when the enemy is at your door.
WE HAVE BEEN HANDED THE SLINGSHOT OF DAVID
Just as David’s sling was an absurdity next to the sword and shield of Goliath, so too is our Lady’s rosary! It seems absurd that this collection of beads strung together with a crucifix is the key the future of our world.
Hold your laughter. Pick it up! But don’t just say it. If you do, your “prayer” is without heart. It is then just a mechanical, repetitive noise. It is a sling with no stone. PRAY IT! When the sling is filled with the intertwined Hearts of Jesus and Mary, watch out Satan!
Who would have believed the small slingshot of David could take out Goliath? Not even the Israelites. Who would ever believe that the rosary PRAYED can take out Satan? Not even most Catholics! Believe Oh Brother and Sister! The soul of the rosary are the MYSTERIES, of The life of our very Lord, Jesus Christ – His life, His work, His death, and the glorious plan He has made for His mother, Queen of Heaven, and for us! Her Hands are “full of graces” for me, for you! Ask her for them.
JESUS gave us HIS OWN MOTHER as He was dying! He honored her. Model your Savior, who died for you, by honoring His mother. Hide yourselves in her Immaculate Heart. The enemy will be blinded. Pray the rosary with full attention, as did David as he was aiming his sling at Goliath.
When the pagan King Naman sought a cure from the miracle working prophet Elisha, he did not believe that the dirty waters of the river Jordan would heal his leprosy. It was too simple. It did not make sense. It was not a glamorous “Mayo Clinic” kind of cure. But he obeyed the man of God and emerged from the dirty waters, healed.
Our world is sick, and the enemy is knocking at our gate. We have been given the cure, the little slingshot of David, the rosary. Obey the instructions from the mother of your Savior. PRAY the rosary, with all your heart. The “mystery” of the rosary is that it can alter the course of history!
We have been told at Fatima, and every place where Jesus’ Mother has appeared around the world. “Pray the rosary!” “Pray for peace on our earth.” The secret weapon of Heaven, against war and hatred, against hell itself, is the rosary, the sling of David. Ten fingers will do too!
How right you are, Julie, and how easily we forget.
I heard a story about padre Pio and the rosary as a physical weapon against the devil.
As Pio was walking in the garden praying his rosary, the devil, in the form of a vicious dog, appeared in front of him. Padre used his rosary to fend off the dog that subsequently disappeared.
The rosary is symbolic of the power of heaven.
MYSTERY religions were the hot topics of the early church era and Christians competed with Gnosticism as to who offered the best explanation of the knowledge of God. The New Testament says the mysteries of God are explained in the revelation of Jesus Christ, confirmed by the Holy Spirit. DON’T STIFLE THE HOLY SPIRIT. Whenever the end times comes, don’t we want to know what’s in store for us? After all, it is called THE BOOK OF REVELATION.
Mathew this is the whole point , its a bit like a parent and his/her child, the child has reason but he/she knows nothing compared with the parent. Even what Einstein knew was nothing compared to God, I believe we are being tested to see how we handle the little knowledge we have been given, some have obviously more than others and so more is expected of them. He keeps some things from all of us to save us from ourselves.
Amen alleluia. So much consolation if we just but surrender and become like children
Whenever I hear that I think of the little kid who is always asking “WHY?” I will gladly be a child as long as I can keep asking “Why?”.
I used to always ask why. Usually I ignored God’s will and did what I thought best unless I knew why God wanted me to do something. Then I kept finding out why long after the fact, when I discovered the negative results of my disobedience. I had the intelligence to learn, even if it was learning the hard way. I don’t ask God why any more; if I think God wants me to do something, I do it because I know He wants what is best for me.
Your reply made me smile, Matthew, as I am also a “why” child. Sometimes God answers me fully and other times it’s more like a “because I’m the Dad” kind of reply!
Knowledge can be found in books. Wisdom can only be found in prayer/
When a sinner confesses a serious sin with sincere contrition to a priest who is sincerely disposed to grant mercy to a contrite sinner, maybe that confession, which the priest is forbidden to reveal, inwardly has the effect on him of the Seven Thunders of God, even if he isn’t able to recognize that in this life.
Daniel and the Evangelist must have wondered at times why awesome things were revealed to them that they were obliged to keep inward.
Bible scriptures: Sirach 2:18 “We place our destiny in the hands of the Lord, not in the hands of men,because His mercy is as great as His majesty.” Romans 9:16 “So then, everything depends not on what man wants or does , but only on God’s mercy.”
The Book Of Revelation is “Greek” to me. What a “Pandora’s Box.” Someday I will get around it but not now. Currently, pursuing Pope Emeritus Joseph Ratzinger’s “Introduction To Christianity and am struck by his superior intellect and spirituality. I’ll probably have to read it twice to get an inkling on what he is writing.
“It is the Glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honour of kings is to search out a matter
It is nice to live in a time when men can still ponder the things of God. By the time these thunders speak their lines, almost half of the population will be dead or close to it. If any of us make it to that point, how will we look back on these days when we still had time to ponder? Praise God always. And thank Him always.
Study Divine Mercy in My Soul by St Maria Faustina Kowalska, understand God’s plan for Mercy through her, John Paul II and what has unfolded in our times. This understanding was a game changer for me, I am living in an historic time, of God’s Mercy. I am in awe and want to tell everyone to respond. How????? Read the book, go to confession 8 days before or after Divine Mercy Sunday and receive Eucharist on Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter. If only priests would study this they would preach it endlessly. Jesus promises forgiveness of sins and punishment (something needed in our day) and these graces are equivalent to those that we received in baptism… Our times lead us into mortal sin, this grace grants an exit from purgatory to heaven upon death…learn about this study this, Priests preach this PLEASE!!!!!!!
“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
If something is not to be known then there would be no mention of it, some things are hidden for a while until the proper time comes to reveal it, why give the enemy a heads up.
Hopefully we have hear the message of Fr Gruner and the Message of Fatima…….time is sooooo short. may Fr Gruner interceeed for us and Rest in Peace
Father Gruner Passed away yesterday 04/29/15 from a heart attack getting ready for the May Confrence about Fatima….He gave every last breath to preach the mesage of Fatima….May God Bless
RIP Father Gruner humble servant of our Lord.
Go to http://www.childrenoftheeucharist.org where you will find a program for YOUR CHURCH to have families and children of the world come to church always on the first Friday of October and listen to the message of Fatima. Over 142 countries go to their chapels, churches, schools and Consecrate themselves to Our Lady, pray for Canonization of Fatima children, pray before the Blessed Sacrament and say the rosary for PEACE in their families and PEACE in all families of the WORLD. (Without knowing it, they are praying for neighbors and enemies of their faith). Pope JPII said” It is thru the innocent, pure children of the World that PEACE will come to the World.” “Do not hinder them.” This program is in the 13th year and is carried by EWTN from the Bascillica in Washington, D.C. May you be inspired to go to this website and bring this program to your church. There are over one million children doing this. More are welcome. May Our Lady of Fatima Bless You and Your Family with Peace!
Wow! I needed to hear this. Wracking my brain for nothing…. needed to hear that some things are just not for me and how I need to be like a child. Thank you and God bless
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