Tuesday 09 September 2014

Bible Book:

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” (v. 12)

Revelation 5:11-14 Tuesday 9 September 2014


"I wandered lonely as a cloud
that floats on high o'er vales and hills,
when all at once I saw a crowd,
a host of golden daffodils...

You probably wouldn't consult Wordsworth about botany ormeteorology, nor would you mistake him for a cumulonimbus. It'spoetry, not science. And it would also be a mistake to consult thebook of Revelation for detailed forecasts of the future. It's'apocalyptic', not prediction. Apocalypse (or revelation) is astyle of biblical writing that claims to reveal the 'hidden'reality behind a current crisis (especially violent persecution)and which seeks to reassure the faithful that a better future isnot far away. And it is written in a vivid, visionary, poeticstyle, using fantastical, dream-like (even nightmarish) imageswhich while revealing the truth to 'insiders', conceals it fromoutsiders. Be penitent, and persevere in the face of today'spersecution, and there's the promise of a brighter tomorrow. So'apocalyptic' is a particular kind of biblical 'prophecy' (properlyunderstood as 'promise', rather than 'prediction') in response topersecution. It's found in the Old Testament books of Daniel andEzekiel, for example (set in the time of the Babylonian exile, butprobably written later, around 200BC) and also in Mark 13, writtenin response to the Roman persecution that led to the fall ofJerusalem in AD70. The book of Revelation itself was probablywritten around AD95, during the persecution by EmperorDomitian.

A good way to read Revelation is to think of it as an elaborate'hymn' with seven 'verses', each describing the current crisis inever more vivid terms, and with each 'verse' followed by a 'chorus'that equally vividly describes the ultimate triumph of God over hisenemies. Today's passage is the chorus that follows the opening'verse' which urges the seven churches to penitence andperseverance.

To Ponder

  • "Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to takeplace after this" (Revelation 1:19). This verse may provide a clueto help the reader make sense of Revelation. Do you find myexplanation helpful, or do you prefer the popular view that it ispredicting a future that is still unfolding today? Why?
  • John, the author of Revelation, was very keen on the image ofJesus as 'the Lamb of God' (it's familiar from John's Gospel - egJohn 1:29). Why might that image have appealedespecially to persecuted Christians?
  • The persecution that prompted the writing of Revelation is longsince past (and the ultimate triumph of God over his enemies hasnot yet happened!), so how might we find this book of the Bibleuseful today?
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