Revelation: talking in pictures and not words
So now we come to a reading of the book of Revelation. This book contains the vision God revealed to the apostle John (the traditional view of authorship) and we have to believe that God wants to reveal himself to us through this book too. It’s a complex one and I don’t feel very confident approaching it, so I’m enlisting the help of Michael Wilcock and his book ‘The Message of Revelation’. It’s part of a series called ‘The Bible Speaks Today’, because that is what all the contributors to this series firmly believe: God has something to say to us through His word. God continues to speak through what He has spoken.
There’s an awful lot of deep stuff in Revelation to try to get our heads around, but prepare for a sensory experience too – symbols, music, colour, texture, tastes and smells! This journey through the book of Revelation will not explain every last complicated detail. This is an example of apocalyptic writing, unveiling in some way that which is beyond human understanding. Wilcock explains that as a prophecy, this book expresses the voice of the oppressed seeking vindication and comes from a black and white perspective – extremes of pessimism and optimism are found within its pages. This work originally took the form of a circular letter to be read aloud in the Christian church in seven towns of Asia Minor, bringing both encouragement and challenge.
We come to this book believing that God will reveal truth through our reading without spelling it all out in detail. Wilcock likens it to a rainbow – ‘Logical analysis is not what they are for. They are meant to be used and enjoyed.’ (page 24). It’s talking in pictures and not words.
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:1-8
This opening is known as the Prologue.
Many of the letters we have read in the Bible so far have been addressed to an individual or individual church and yet we still recognise that what is spoken to those recipients can still have a value and significance for us today. The context may have changed but the underlying truth of the message has not. And this is also true for Revelation. What is written specifically to these seven churches has wider implications for us today too. In fact, we are clearly told here at the opening of this book that ‘Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it.’ That’s us, right? Let’s read it aloud if we are able to and hear what it has to say for us. I’m up for being blessed by this book. Are you?
This is not John’s revelation, but comes straight from Jesus himself, who received it from His Father. Grace and peace come to the recipients from God who is Father, Spirit and Son. Seven spirits are mentioned _ is that because seven is the symbolic divine number repeated throughout this book, or because the spirit is going to seven churches?
Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has already begun the work that will be brought to completion when he comes again. We’ve seen that already with Tom Wright over the last few days. It will be exciting for those who follow him – those who know him will be expecting. Less so for those who have rejected him.
This book of Revelation has been given to us ‘to show his servants what must soon take place.’ We should not fear its complexity but come to appreciate its beauty. And not just as an academic exercise but to inform how we live and work to bring God’s kingdom as priests and servants of the living God.
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come.