13 November 2007Revelation 1:12-18
"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." (v.17-18)
The book of Revelation was written to encourage, and challenge,
Christians facing severe persecution at the hands of Rome,
following the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple, and the
final painful separation of the young Christian churches from the
The book is presented as a series of visions of 'what must soon take place', experienced by John in exile on the Greek island of Patmos.
The language is vivid and poetic, full of apocalyptic images, and describes a cosmic conflict between God and his enemies, the final outcome being victory for God and his people, and the establishment of the 'new Jerusalem' on a renewed earth.
The way in which Revelation is read, of course, depends on the extent to which you want to understand it as an extended poetic 'parable' or as a precise prediction of the future. Given that 2000 years have passed since John wrote 'what must soon take place', and it still hasn't happened, the reader may decide to go with the first suggestion!
Our passage for today, like much of Revelation, borrows heavily on the language and imagery of the Old Testament book of Daniel, another splendid example of apocalyptic writing.
In his vision John sees 'one like the Son of Man' - a spectacularly supernatural figure who terrifies him so that he falls down 'as though dead'. But the figure now touches him and speaks to him in the words of the text for today - words that identify 'one like the Son of Man' as the risen Christ.
John has patiently endured persecution and 'paid the price' of faithful witness to Jesus (verse 9) and now he sees the risen Lord face to face. Faith that still dares to believe, despite challenges and difficulties, reveals the true people of God.
Why do you think that reading Revelation as 'a precise prediction of the future' is still so popular?
How does John's vision relate to your own experience?
How might 'faith that still dares to believe' reveal God's people today?