Saturday, December 1, 2018

Revelation Read-Along Day 1

Reading: Revelation 1 

Advent Theme: Promise

What’s happening here? Someone named John is writing to at least seven churches, with which he has a relationship and has been seen in the role of teacher or leader. He writes that he has been exiled to the island of Patmos and the implication is that the exile happened because of his teaching and Christian leadership.

This is probably not the John who is Jesus’ beloved apostle. John is a common name and the writing apocalyptic writing. While some of the gospel accounts have apocalyptic elements, only Daniel uses this style of writing in the same way. In both Daniel and Revelation, apocalyptic writing uses sharp metaphors, strong descriptions, and a future tense to describe present realities. By present realities, I mean the present of the writers, not necessarily the present of the modern reader.
in Revelation is different from either the Fourth Gospel or the Johannine epistles. This John, the writer of Revelation, chooses to use the style of apocalyptic writing. While some of the gospel accounts have apocalyptic elements, only Daniel uses this style of writing in the same way. In both Daniel and Revelation, apocalyptic writing uses sharp metaphors, strong descriptions, and a future tense to describe present realities. By present realities, I mean the present of the writers, not necessarily the present of the modern reader. 

For example, the bit about the stars and the angels and the lampstands can be broken down and understood as how John the Revelator is describing the churches to whom he is writing, in east Asia, to themselves. They are lampstands, meant to shine Christ’s light to the world (see Matthew 5:16). They have heavenly guardians- angels- who guard and guide their work. The work of the churches is known in heaven and known on earth.

Look again at the description of the “one like the Son of Man”. The description is meant to boggle the mind. How does a voice sound like many waters? John is humbled by the self-revelation of the heavenly messenger and recognizes the power of the messenger’s words. The words are described as being like a “sharp, two-edged sword”. These words with cut in two directions, piercing human power and knowledge to reveal that it is God’s power and knowledge, revealed in Christ, that truly stands.

What are a couple things to take away from this reading? First, martyrdom or harassment do not come about by the mere fact of being a Christian. They are the result of the forces that oppose God resenting and trying to stop the fruits of discipleship- equality, community, and generosity in service to the one true God. Secondly, dramatic images are not meant to be found by readers then or now in exact replica. They are meant to be arresting to our thoughts and deeds, causing us to re-orient ourselves to the truth.

PrayerDear God, when the written word is confusing or challenging, it feels easier to turn away than to be uncomfortable. Guide me in faithful listening to your words. Help me to be not afraid, but to trust that You indeed hold all things in Your everlasting arms. Where the sword of Your truth pierces my heart, heal me and strengthen my faith. Amen.

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