Revelation (1)

Resources:

Beale, G.K.   The Book of Revelation.  Part of the New International Greek Testament Commentary series, I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner editors.  (Eerdmans Publishing Co..  Grand Rapids.  1999)

Blount, Brian K.  Revelation.  Part of the New Testament Library commentary series, C.Clifton Black, M. Eugene Boring, and John T. Carroll editorial board.  (Westminster John Knox Press.  Louisville.  2009)

Boring, M. Eugene.  Revelation.  Part of the Interpretation commentary series, James L. Mays series editor..  (John Knox Press.  Louisville.  1989)

Doyle O.F.M., Stephen.  Apocalypse: A Catholic Perspective on the Book of Revelation.  (St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, 2005)

Gorman, Michael J.   Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness / Following the Lamb into the New Creation.  (Cascade Books.  Eugene Oregon.  2011)

Harrington, O.P., Wilfrid J..  Revelation.  Part of the Sacra Pagina commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S.J.  (Liturgical Press.  Collegeville.  1993)

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Overview

Also called the “Apocalypse” – which means revelation in Greek.  Does NOT mean destruction or end of the world.  However, as a shorthand, “apocalyptic literature” has come to refer to things written in inter-testamental times that stressed the “end of things as we know it”.  The vast majority of these works were not incorporated into the Bible.

Gorman p. xv: “Revelation is not about the antichrist, but about the living Christ.  It is not about a rapture out of this world but about faithful discipleship in this world.”  Like every other book of the New Testament.

Beale p. 33: “John’s purpose in writing is, therefore, to encourage those not compromising with idolatry to continue in that stance and to jolt those who are compromising out of their spiritual anesthesia so that they will perceive the spiritual danger they are in and repent and become witnesses to the risen Christ as Lord.  For those who never respond, only judgment will ensue.”

Boring p. vii: “Revelation was designed to be read aloud and heard all at once, in the context of worship.  This is not optional; the Apocalypse must be grasped as a whole.”  A number of themes are woven throughout the text – picking up depth as the move through it.   Image upon image pile up and wash over hearers, they are not meant to be analyzed but experienced.

Boring p. 1.  2 summary points for his whole commentary: “1.  The last ‘book’ of the Bible is a pastoral letter to Christians in Asia in the late first century who were confronted with a critical religiopolitical situation from a Christian prophet who wrote in apocalyptic language and imagery.   2.  Like the Bible in general, there is some difficulty in understanding Revelation, but it can and should be understood, for it has had enormous influence in religion, history, and culture and has an urgently needed message for the contemporary church.”

Boring sees 5 “C’s” for the whole of the bible: Creation / Covenant / Christ / Church / Consummation.   Hence, Book of Revelation was placed at the end of our Christian Bible by the church to be the triumphant finale.

As a text it has been controversial from the beginning.  Accepted by the church as scripture but often taken out of context and adopted by eventual heretics – giving it a bad name, a “dangerous” vibe.

Boring p. 3: “To this day, Catholic and Protestant lectionaries have only minimal readings from Revelation, and the Greek Orthodox lectionary omits it altogether.”  My research identifies: Christ the King Year B; Second through Seventh Sundays of Easter in Year C; All Saints day every year.  Not a small number but also clearly not a major resource for reflection either.

Boring p. 4: “Although every biblical book is subject to misinterpretation, no other part of the Bible has provided such a happy hunting ground for all sorts of bizarre and dangerous interpretations.”   Every generation has had some folks using it to proclaim the end of the world at any moment.  Additionally – some things there seem inconsistent with other aspects of our tradition (forgiveness in particular).

Boring p. 5.   Shouldn’t we just kind of put it on the side?  No.  “Part of what it means to have a canon is that the Bible is not treated as a cafeteria from which we choose what appeals to our individualistic tastes; we accept it as a whole as the collective wisdom of the Spirit-guided community of faith.”

As with radio dramas of the past, Garrison Keeler today – this was meant to be heard, to fire up the imagination (though in a worship context).  Remembering – not really a book, it is a pastoral letter.  Not the last book of the Bible for centuries.   Boring p. 6: “The distinctive thing about the real letter as a communication form is that, in contrast to a book, both the author and the readers are particular persons.  A real letter presupposes the particular features of the situation of the readers and addresses them specifically.”  Meant in particular for worship situation – hence emphasis on messianic banquet within it.

Boring p. 7: “…it was written to specific Christians in a specific place, time, and situation. and it was not written to us.”  To take advantage of it, to learn from it, requires that we understand it through the lens or ears of the original hearers.

DATE is pretty firm = 95 / 96AD, to the churches of Western Turkey / Asia Minor.  Babylon always refers to Rome in post 70AD Jewish and Christian literature (Beale p. 19).  The author is an otherwise unknown “John”.  This is NOT John the Evangelist, either of the John’s mentioned in the gospels, or the author of the 3 letters of John.

Think about what our own “civil religious practices” back before Mary Madeline O’Hare: Protestant prayers in schools, Protestant versions of 10 Commandments on the wall, Protestant prayers before football games, use of the Protestant bible when quoting from it (frequently done) in the papers and courts ,  etc..  To the point that Catholics felt so oppressed that we isolated ourselves – parishes provided the center of our lives and all that we needed (along with Catholic merchants), Catholic school system.  Now – multiply by 10 in the times of the early church.  A pagan religious component in virtually everything – Gorman p. 31: “…watching or participating in athletic or rhetorical contests, buying and eating meat in the precincts of pagan temples; and frequenting trade guilds, clubs, and events in private homes, each with their meetings, drinking parties, and banquets.”  In coins, art, architecture, laws, and everything else.  Now think about the attempts or desires of so many in this country to bring this sort of thing back!  Think about how that strikes those with no religion or any one that is not “generic Christian” – something that is, in fact, very inauthentic as a form of Christian faith.  What happens to those who stop ‘cooperating’?  Senior at h.s. – playing of Dixie at first pep rally, pressure to stand and cheer despite the associations of the song.

Boring p. 8 – 10 : Asia is the Roman province of the coastal areas of western Turkey (today).  Boring goes with the general thrust of today’s scholars in dating the letter to the reign of Domitian around 96AD by John, a Christian prophet, to a church undergoing (or about to undergo) terrible trials.  This was an era of multiple wars (including some Roman losses), famines, earthquakes, the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 and specific (though limited) persecution of Christians in addition to all of that.  (They were considered unpatriotic followers of a new and untested religion, they were to be executed if they were accused of being Christian and persisted in it.)   If they refused to join / participate in trade guild sacrifices and customs they were isolated and suffered economically (MUCH more important then than now).  This is also the period within which Christians had been pushed out of the synagogues and therefore the letter is also rather angry in tone at Judaism.

The author of Revelation knew that several churches named in the letter had already undergone some significant persecution by the Romans and believed that others were about to undergo the same (or an escalated) treatment.  In reality – during the lifetime of John and the first hearers of the letter the expected persecution did NOT come about, in Boring’s view because Domitian died and the following emperor did not pursue them.

The persecution consisted: being accused by someone, being brought before the Romans, being required to say “Caesar is LORD” and to offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods, including a statue of Caesar.  Those who did the above were set free, those who would not were executed.  (note – the Christian statement of faith is “Jesus is LORD”.)

Nero was the first emperor to truly persecute Christians (fire in Rome etc.).  He committed suicide in 68 but in popular myth was thought to have fled instead.  He is the anti-Christ / Beliar figure who would return at the end of time wreaking havoc and destruction.

Domitian (emperor from 81 to 96) insisted on being considered a god and on being worshipped as such.  Not to do so was treason.   So, what were Christians in this time to do?  What could they do?  Boring p. 21 to 23 has the following options (some of which are theoretical only): quit Christianity, lie about faith and cooperate while having ‘mental reservations’, fight the Romans, game the system as best they could, adjust their faith to permit also worshipping the emperor, or die.

Blount p. 13,14: “John wants them to self-declare that they believed not in the lordship of Rome, its gods, its social, political, and economic infrastructure, nor its emperor, but in the lordship of Jesus Christ, and that they would now fight to make that religious lordship of the future the governing principle of social, political, cultic and religious practice in the present.”  No more passing themselves off as  good Roman citizens, living quietly with other beliefs.  According to Blount – he wants his followers to actually pick a fight with Rome.

Boring p. 24: “When interpreted responsibly, Revelation has a message to our time, but it does not make predictions about it.”

A prophet in those days – speaking a message from God to specific people in a specific situation, Jesus and John the Baptist both understood themselves to be prophets and were understood to be so by their followers.  They explained the current times to those caught up within them.  Within the situation that John was writing his letter was a persecution on the imminent horizon.

Did John actually have visions?  Yes and no.  A visionary experience – yes.  The current visions are not a “reporting” of his visions but are a literary devices sourced in the Bible / OT.  Boring p. 27: over 500 allusions to OT verses.  Also uses apocalyptic literature and images current in his day.  Does not seem to be aware of written gospels.

Boring p. 28, 29: “The content of Revelation may be briefly stated: The risen Christ appears to John on the island of Patmos and gives him messages to be sent to seven churches in Asia.  John is then caught up into the heavenly throneroom, where he sees Christ open the sealed book.  The seventh seal, rather than being the end, opens into seven trumpet scenes, the last of which again calls forth not the end but announces seven bowls of the wrath of God.  John beholds the plagues and devastation that result from the seals, trumpets, and bowls, climaxing in the destruction of Babylon.  Then come the visions of the final triumph of God as Christ returns: the dead are raised, the final judgment is held, and the new Jerusalem is established as the capital of the redeemed creation.”

In sum: this and all apocalyptic literature of the time: things are bad, things will get worse before they get better, God will come in triumph to punish the wicked and elevate the good, the end will be God’s Kingdom.

Boring p. 31: The number seven was already a significant symbolic number in apocalyptic literature.  There are lots of lists of sevens within the text that are not emphasized as such (7 beatitudes, 7 praises, 7 categories of people, 7 references to the altar, 7 prophetic affirmations of the coming return of Jesus).

Gorman p. 17,18: colors and numbers used to communicate: White – victory, red – blood, purple and scarlet – Roman decadence and empire, black – death, gold – wealth real or not.  Numbers used include 3, 3 ½, 4, 6, 7, 12 (24) (144), 1,000

Boring p. 32: “The series of visions is not a chaos of disorder, but neither is it architectonically precise.  It moves forward as a kind of impressionistic, interrelated spiral, bringing previous scenes before the imagination in new and intensified light, but never in some predictable, diagrammable way.  John’s style of communication is allusive and evocative, imaginative and pictorial, rather than rigidly logical and consistent.”

Gorman p. 38 sees 5 themes woven throughout the text: Creation / re-Creation, Redemption, Judgment, the Witness of the church community, and ultimately Victory.  Are truly woven together, not linear.

Gorman p. 20: “In Revelation, the cosmic struggle of God and the Lamb versus Satan (the dragon of ch. 12) manifests itself in the earthly struggle between God’s people redeemed by the Lamb and Satan’s agents, the beasts from the sea and the land – probably meant to signify the emperor and those who promote his cult.”

In the midst of the devastation there are also proclamations of redemption – not just at the end of a long series of plagues.  This is good Christian theology – Jesus has already come, we already experience the Kingdom of God (but not completely) …  Also good psychology on the part of John.

Revelation is NOT a symbolic allegory intended for all times, not a series of predictions for the long off future (now approaching), the seven churches were real churches then – not “church eras” from then to now.  All of these approaches would mean that the first generation of hearers of the letter would have found the letter to be meaningless.

Beale p. 47 lays out the “Dispensational” approach common to many conservative / evangelicals.  (The dispensations are the various lengths of time listed below, this is  19th century language for an approach that keeps getting renewed.)  The is the view held by the “Left Behind” series of books and movies and is heard from radio / tv evangelists:

  •     The restoration of Israel to it’s biblical land and boundaries immediately before trials begin
  •     The church (the faithful, the true believers) is raptured into heaven
  •    7 years of tribulation / woes
  •    The anti-christ reigns
  •    The assembly of evil nations fight over Jerusalem
  •    Christ comes the second time and defeats the evil nations
  •   Christ then reigns for 1,000 years (the millennia)
  •   Satan rebels one last time leading his own army of evil against Jesus and the saints
  •   Christ begins his eternal reign in new heaven and new earth

(Note – there are “pre-millenials” and “post-millenials” as these folks disagree over the exact timing of various elements above.”

Boring p. 52: “… the language of Revelation is visionary language that deals in pictures rather than propositions.  Pictures themselves are important to John as the vehicle of his message. ..  It does not communicate what it has to say by being reduced to discursive, propositional language.”  As a text might help one experience the works in an art gallery but not substitute for the visit.

Boring p. 52: pictures of Genesis communicate the meaning of creation; the pictures of Revelation communicate the meaning of the end of creation and its purpose.  In neither case are we to take them as literally descriptive of events.  John gives hearers a plurality of pictures (art gallery), not just one, not a logically consistent set.  Not making propositions.

Beale (p. 67 ff) does not quite go along with Boring’s approach.  p. 68: “Attempts to express Revelation’s images and metaphors in propositional, logical, factual language rob them of their power of persuasion.  However, as discussed above, symbols should be understood as metaphors, and proper understanding of metaphor involves both the emotive and the cognitive so that the reader can receive the intended effect.”

Is still relevant today: we are a minority in a hugely secular West and in the world.  What does it mean to be Christian in this context?

Chapters 1, 2, and 3:  The Exalted Lord and His messages to the churches of Asia

Jesus is not dead and gone.  Jesus is the Risen Lord, fully exalted by God the Father, and present to his Church through the Holy Spirit – especially as they gather for worship / Eucharist together.  This exalted one gives special and specific messages to the seven churches of Asia.  The seven symbolize the whole church of this part of Asia.

Boring: The opening verses were not written by John but added by the church in the process of adding the letter to the canon of the Bible.  Beale: NO, original to letter of John.   Functionally – doesn’t matter.

Boring p. 65: “What God has to say to the churches and through them to the world is mediated through Christ.”

Jesus is not a tragic victim of Roman tyranny resuscitated.  Boring p. 66: “In Jesus, God has defined himself as the one who suffers for others, whose suffering love is the instrument of the creation’s redemption.”

Angels were part of the worldview of ancient times – as messengers from God, created beings like ourselves without any great status.

The “nearness of the End” is central to the letter, to much of the NT.  It is woven throughout the letter.  Boring p. 70: “Major elements of earliest Christianity understood and expressed their new faith in apocalyptic terms, thus supposing that they were the last generation.  The resurrection of Jesus was interpreted as the beginning of the eschatological event of the resurrection of all.  Jesus was the ‘first fruits’; the remainder of the eschatological harvest was soon to follow.  This apocalyptic stream of thought was incorporated into the message of many New Testament documents.”

What calamities prompted an increased sense that they were in or approaching the End Times?  Boring p. 70:

  •      Caligula decides to put a statue of himself in the temple in Jerusalem in 39 (dies first);
  •      Nero persecutes Christians after fire in Rome in 64;
  •     war in Palestine between Romans and revolting Jews resulting in destruction of Temple, of Jerusalem, execution of priests and leaders of the Jews – 70
  •     famines
  •     earthquakes
  •     eruption of Vesuvius

What did Christians do when the End didn’t come?

  •      Reject the whole idea of the End, emphasize the salvation of individual souls
  •    Re-interpret.
    •   “Soon” does not literally mean “soon”.  “A thousand years in the eyes of God are but a single day” etc.
    •   Others – don’t read Revelation as expecting it “soon” but read it as a projection over millennia and NOW we are in the end time …
    •   Others – the End HAS come – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church.  The Anti-Christ are false teachers, the defeat of Satan was Jesus’ resurrection etc..

Boring p. 73: “He meant both “soon” and “End”.  Does this mean he was wrong?  Yes.  Christians who reverence the Bible as Scripture, the vehicle of God’s word, ought not to hesitate to acknowledge that its authors made errors.  It is an aspect of the humanity of the Bible, a part of the meaning of the incarnation, that God uses human thought (with its errors) and human beings (with their errors) to communicate his message.”

Boring p. 73 “Just as John accepted a flat earth with corners as the spatial framework within which he expressed his message (7:1) so he accepted a world shortly to come to an end as its temporal framework.  As he was wrong in the one case, so was he wrong in the other case.  But in neither case does the error of his worldview nullify the validity of the message expressed.  One must distinguish between gift and wrapper, baby and bathwater.”

Boring p. 73: “A reverent agnosticism concerning “times and seasons” is the more abiding biblical view (Mark 13:32, Acts 1:6 …).’

Aspects of Jesus emphasized by John of particular import for these folks:

  •        faithful witness even unto death
  •        Lord over the kings of the earth – which is what Caesar claimed for himself
  •        first-born of the dead (End is near)

There is a tension in Christianity and Church between the “already come” and the “not-yet” of the Kingdom.  Advent!

Boring p. 81: Patmos is a small island 75 miles west of Ephesus.  A fortified island, not a penal colony but a place where “trouble-makers” were banished to.  (Blount is not as sure about that point but says John’s location is not the main point – he has been removed from his community because of his witness.)

This is the very first use of “the Lord’s Day” in surviving Christian literature and probably refers to Sunday / day of resurrection.

Boring p. 83: “The prophets were not mystics who sought ‘religious experiences’; they were messengers sought out by the God who willed to speak to his people.”

Most of the symbols and phrases have OT roots – identity of the priests, kings, rulers, God, etc.  Jesus holds and controls the stars – not the stars controlling us…

Beale p. 224: the 7 letters do not correspond to letter format, are more  in the nature of “prophetic messages”.  p. 226: each letter ends with the promise of inheriting eternal life with Christ which is their main point.

Beale p. 226 analyzes the seven letters as a whole and due to the structuring of it (chiastic) sees the concern of John that, as a whole, the Asian church is in poor condition.   (The center seen as the core.)  ALTERNATIVELY – the heart of the problem is the need for faithful witness and the removal of those who advise otherwise.

  •         A (Ephesus)   in danger of losing their identity as church
    •    B (Smyrna) proven faithful even in the face of persecution
      •  c (Pergamum) some members faithful, some not
      •  c (Thyatira) some members faithful, some not
      •  c (Sardis) some members faithful, some not
    •   B (Philadelphia) proven faithful even in the face of persecution
  •       A (Laodicea) in danger of losing their identity as church

Boring p. 87: “It is not clear why these seven were chosen to represent the whole church, though they are all connected by being located on the main Roman roads at intervals of about thirty or forty miles.  Also, each of the cities named had a Roman law court, a location where Christians had been or could be charged with membership in the Christian sect, which was suspected of being subversive; and at least the first three churches addressed were sites of temples dedicated to Caesar (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum).”

Gorman p. 97: “It is the task of Revelation, in part, to convince its hearers and readers that faithful discipleship has both costs and rewards.  That is why the seven messages contain both words of challenge and promises drawn from the visions of chapters 21 and 22.”

Gorman p. 98: each church, not in some sort of progression, is complex – like churches / parishes today.  Some lack fervor, are afraid to stand for anything, are afraid of suffering, make doctrinal compromises, make moral compromises, are spiritually dead, don’t hold on to their faith in times of trouble, are lukewarm.  In each parish we might also find some things worthy of praise as well – ministry efforts, generosity, care for one another and so on.

Blount – Revelation written not so much from an experience of persecution as in the expectation of persecution (which would occur if Christians began to non-violently resist Roman claims and customs.

Christianity was an urban faith.  Ephesus was the capital of the province, Pergamum and Smyrna fairly major competitors.  Boring p. 87: “The contrast between two cities, “Babylon” and the new Jerusalem, forms the burden of John’s visions in the body of the book to follow (chapters 4-22).  Whether Christians who lived in the mundane cities of Asia would orient their lives to the “great city” of “Babylon” or the “Holy City,” the new Jerusalem, is a major theme of Revelation and a structural factor in its composition.”

Blount p. 37:  “He wants those who are accommodating themselves to cultic practices, social affiliations, economic buy-ins, and demonstrations of political loyalty  … support the lordship of Rome to repent from such activity.”  Jesus (executed but risen and now Lord of all) and his non-violent resistance to Rome is the model for his followers.  Nothing short of this is faithful on their part.

Blount p. 46: “Rome’s greatest power is its ability to consign Christ-believers to death.  John mitigates that power with his declaration, made in the vision by Christ himself, that Christ has the keys that will release persons from death into eternal life.”  Hence the use of OVERCOMING in the letters.  Beale p. 270: “Conquering spiritually by not compromising ironically entails being conquered in some material way by persecution …”

White stone = tickets used by those attending functions in pagan temples, where Christians could not freely go.

Blount p. 43: “The lamps, meaning the churches, are fired by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.”  This is not to push a one-to-one reading of symbols to reality but this was a proclaimed word, the imagination makes leaps etc.   Lampstand of the temple – menorah.

Blount p. 44:  the one like a “son of man” has hair the texture of wool – as do Africans and as don’t people of European descent.  Blount notes that this is the ONLY NT description of Jesus, there are none in the gospels.

hidden manna =  manna kept in the Ark of Covenant in the Temple, lost in destruction in 587 but in Jewish tradition to be returned at the end of time.  coupled with Christian Eucharist traditions, Jesus bread stories etc.

Boring p. 91: “John sees the conflict between the church and synagogue, and between the church and the established, respected cultural religions, as the this-worldly reality of a deeper conflict being waged in the transcendent sphere.  Thus the synagogues in Smyrna and Philadelphia are “synagogues of Satan” (2:9, 3:9) and the impressive temple to the emperor in Pergamum is “Satan’s Throne” 2:13.”

Blount p. 54 notes that Jews, as followers of an ancient religion, had won concessions from Rome regarding sacrifices to the emperor and Roman gods.  Not so for Christians, followers of a new religion, no longer Jews but pushed out of the synagogues.  He speculates – did they actively identify former Jews who followed the new way?  Romans did not seek out Christians – but if they were to come to their attention they made a point of it …   Beale p. 241 points out “satan” means “false accuser”.

Boring p. 93: the Nicolaitans, Balaam, and Jezebel – symbolized opposition to John and untrue doctrine, probably of accommodation to the culture around the church.  Attend pagan festivals?  Eat meat sacrificed to idols?    Participate in their celebrations?  Paul had also struggled with these issues in his letters.  Both oppose giving scandal, Paul sees some wiggle room but John comes down more strictly – NOT acceptable.

Blount p. 63: “The first Jezebel was immortalized as the manipulative foreign wife of the Israelite king Ahab.  The queen used her influence to prop up her native Baal cult, discredit and destroy the prophets of Yahweh, and lead the people idolatrously astray.  The rival woman prophet of Thyatira was correspondingly influential.”  See First Book of Kings.

Blount: Sardis was a fortified city on a hill, once taken in war because a soldier in the dark of night slipped through an unguarded place to open the gates.  The church there has been resting on its laurels and letting its fervor wane – like the ancient guards had done.

Blount p. 80: Laodicea was a wealthy important trading center.  It had no water supply and had to construct pipes / aqueducts to get spring water from Hieropolis.  It arrived in Laodicea neither hot nor cold and so foul that it was difficult to drink and people often simple spit it out.

Boring p. 95: “This insistence on the importance of Christian action shows that even in his situation of persecution, threat, and expectation of the near END John does not understand the Christian life to be simply passive waiting.  The reference to ‘service’ in 2:19 is more than incidental.  John calls his churches to do more than endure; there is a ministry to be performed in the meantime.”

Chapters 4 and 5 – The Heavenly Throneroom

Chapter 4 begins a new unit that runs through Chapter 18 a series of woes and tragedies that, according to apocalyptic thinking, must come before the kingdom.  Represented by 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls and the fall of “Babylon”.  Woven throughout the section are pictures of the eventual victory by God over all that is in opposition to God.

Gorman p. 103 – a vision of worship that becomes a call to worship.

Boring p. 100: “Revelation began with John on the earth with his hearer-readers, involved in the struggle of ordinary Christians to be loyal to Christ in their ambiguous situation.  The messages to the seven churches of Chapters 2-3 were often very critical of the Christians in the churches of Asia.  From 4:1 on they are almost idealized, as in the scene in 14:1-5.  Christians are no longer distinguished into good, bad, and indifferent but are uniformly assumed to be faithful and obedient.  Everything is now seen from the heavenly, eschatological perspective.”

Boring p. 102: “…before portraying these eschatological woes, John wants the hearer-reader to see what he has seen: At the heart of things God rules in sublime majesty, the God who has defined himself as the Lamb who suffers for others.”  The plagues etc. unfold from the hand of the crucified and risen Lord.

Boring says that John’s vision of the throne is very dependent on Ezekiel chapter 1 and the Jewish tradition which evolved from that.  Blount argues that John depends most heavily on Daniel.  Throughout this unit there are implicit contrasts with Satan’s throne / Roman claims for Caesar and Caesar’s rule.  Caesar is NOT worthy etc.

Blount p. 85: “The call to worship only God conflicts with Rome’s demand that its Caesar and its deities be recognized as the true sovereigns.  Worship of God alone becomes the resistant witness that Christ exhorted in the seven letters, the kind of witness that resists accommodation to the claim of Roman lordship and obstinately offers a provocative counterclaim in its place.”

Images in this section:

  • ·         lightning etc. – traditional theophany (Sinai…)
  • ·         book – many books of the tradition in one – Torah, book of life, prophetic scrolls)
  • ·         seals – similar to a signature – it guaranteed who was the author / sender / owner
  • ·         seven spirits – angels
  • ·         the sea – representing chaos in Genesis, in heaven it is totally controlled and smooth, will eventually disappear in chapter 21.  The “sea” in the temple area for washing of sacrificial animals.
  •         rainbow – Ezekiel, Noah
  •         living creatures – represent all created life.  Draws on images from Ezekiel 1 and Isaiah 6
  •         other thrones – for 24 elders, Jesus / the Lamb shares the main throne with the Father (not so much 2 beings though, one is IN the other and vice-versa).   24?  12 tribes plus 12 apostles?  24 star gods of the Babylonian zodiac?  24 shifts of priests in the temple?  24 hours in a day?  Regardless – 24 here represents a fullness, a completeness.
  •         note the action of throwing down their crowns before the one LORD.  “You alone are worthy”

Opened door – as a result of the faithfulness of Jesus and for those who are faithful despite the consequences – direct access to God

Blount p. 88ff : IF Jesus is truly LORD as chapter 1 establishes AND the churches in chapters 2 and 3 repent and witness to that reality as they ought, THEN – the disasters and calamities MUST happen – because Rome will escalate persecution and God will come in the end to vindicate.

The Lion of Judah / Lamb of God   at the beginning of Chapter 5.  The Lion / Traditional Messiah who is warrior king and conqueror vs.  Lamb of God sacrificed for others.  Boring p. 109 ff  sees this a crucial point:

  •          First Jesus came as Lamb, then he will come as Lion?
  •          Lamb to some, Lion to others?
  •          The Lamb is really a Lion?
  •          The Lion is really the lamb, representing the ultimate power of God.  The lamb conquers in love.  Boring p. 111: “Conquering in both cases, that of the Christ and that of Christians, means no more or less than dying.  It never in Revelation designates any destructive judgment on the enemies of Christ or Christians.  Jesus stood before the Roman court, was faithful unto death, and this was his victory and his reign.   …   For Christians, what it means to ‘win’ has been redefined by the cross of Jesus.”

Blount argues that the Lamb is worthy and redeems us not as an atonement sacrifice but simply because of faithful witness unto death.  This may be a case where Catholic and Protestant scholars will simply hear / read the text differently.

Chapter 5 concludes with all of creation in full worship.  Creation / the beginning is tied together with the future culmination of creation in eternal worship in the now / present.

 

 

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