How to avoid a Goose-Chase (Understanding the book of Revelation)
17/07/2022 - Matt Destry
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
What did you imagine as a child?
I do not read the Revelation to get additional information about the life of faith in Christ. I have read it all before in law and prophet, in gospel and epistle. Everything in the Revelation can be found in the previous sixty-five books of the Bible. The Revelation adds nothing of substance to what we already know. The truth of the gospel is already complete, revealed in Jesus Christ. There is nothing new to say on the subject. But there is a new way to say it. I read the Revelation not to get more information but to revive my imagination. St. John uses words the way poets do, recombining them in fresh ways so that old truth is freshly perceived.
So, what is Revelation all about, and how do we understand it?
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne…
A letter of encouragement
A prophecy about God’s purposes
A revelation of God’s unseen activity
Good questions for biblical interpretation:
1. What is the context?
2. How does this inform my imagination?
3. What details get my attention?
4. What references to the OT or to the Roman world do you notice?
5. What was John’s purpose in telling this story?
1. A letter of hope
2. A prophetic blessing
3. An apocalypse of war and love
We may describe the Book of the Revelation as all the action of God were, given us ‘on the big screen’. John has, as it a grand overview of history as it should be seen from the vantage point of the throne of God. Here God is seen in all his glory and majesty; Jesus is seen in his victorious splendour; the church is seen as the people of God, secure and fully equipped even in the midst of great tribulation; and the enemy is seen as he truly is, vicious, deceptive and defeated. John’s point is that he has seen Jesus! History no longer holds any fear or uncertainty, for Jesus is Lord.
1/ Will I allow this book to increase my commitment to Jesus?
2/ In what way might reading this book increase my passion for the Kingdom?
3/ Where do I need to increase my hope that God is at work?
4/ How might this book unsettle me out of my middle-class comfort?