Diggin' Into "The Rev"
Today's reflection has been written by Daniel D. Maurer.
Here we get into the story. John, the one who has been announced as the author of this letter, begins to share the details how this revelation came to him.
Understand, a revelation is different than a prophecy. With a revelation (Greek: apokalypsis – a term we get the word "apocalypse" from) it was a particular form of literature where the message of the apocalyptic writers was of patience and trust for that deliverance and reward were sure to come, eventually. Prophecies have a different goal at stake. With prophecies, the message of the prophets was primarily a preaching of repentance and righteousness needed for the nation to escape judgment. (Source)
As the story goes, Jesus approaches John and confronts him with a message. He then shows John two of many symbols yet to come. A couple of points you need to keep in mind.
- NUMBERS always mean something. Seven is considered a "perfect" number. It signifies wholeness. So, the seven lampstands (churches) mean ALL the churches, everywhere, not just the churches that are mentioned in the opening paragraph.
- The IMAGES usually always stand for something else. Here, Jesus goes easy on us and just flat out tells John what they stand for. The lampstands are churches; the stars are angels. Later on, we won't always get to see what they mean – readers just had to know! And sometimes, the meaning is obscure. However, we can still discern what the overall, whole message was intended to be.
These two points shouldn't be taken to extremes, though. And by that, I mean modern readers shouldn't get all bent out of shape interpreting events that happen TODAY (i.e. 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, a new President being elected) as ANYTHING having to do with what the original revelation was all about. Revelation has NOTHING to do with present historical events. Nor, I would argue, did the original author ever INTEND it to be taken this way.
Note: This DOES NOT mean that the Book of Revelation IS NOT the Word of God. IT IS. (At least for me it is.)
However, the message that we can gather from it today is that it is an historical document speaking to a particular people and giving them a message. And, here, I'll reiterate that which I said from yesterday's Narrative Lectionary Daily Reading . . .
** The Book of Revelation is a Book of Hope **
It's not just a book of hope for First- and Second-Century Christians, either. It's a book of hope for us, too.
And what a wild ride it is! Personally, I enjoy the imagery and find the whole message beautiful. I hope you will too, as well.
Narrative Lectionary Text
A Vision of Christ
I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’
Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades. Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.