Bible blog 1772


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Today it reflects on Christianity, animals and the earth.

In Bible blog I have just completed a look at Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthian Assembly. My new project is an examination of The Revelation, the final book in the Christian Bible. It’s controversial but fun, offering trumpets, angels, the four horsemen, a beast from sea and the whore of Babylon. What’s not to like? It begins on 30th July. Join me.

Revelation chapter 1 Contemporary English Version (CEV)image

1 This is what God showed to Jesus Messiah so that he could tell his servants what must happen soon. The Messiah then sent his angel with the message to his servant John. 2 And John told everything that he had seen about God’s message and about what Jesus Messiah had seen and told.

3 God will bless everyone who reads this prophecy to others, and he will bless everyone who hears and obeys it. The time is almost here.

4 From John to the seven Assemblies in Asia.

I pray that you
will be blessed
with kindness and peace
from God, who is and was
and is to come.
May you receive
kindness and peace
from the seven spirits
before the throne of God.
5 May kindness and peace
be yours
from Jesus Messiah,
the faithful witness.
Jesus was the first
to conquer death,
and he is the ruler
of all earthly kings.
He loves us,
and by his blood
Has set us free
from our sins.
6 He lets us rule as kings
and serve God his Father
as priests.

To him be glory and power
forever and ever! Amen.
7 Look! He is coming
with the clouds.
Everyone will see him,
even the ones who stuck
a sword through him.
All people on earth
will weep because of him.

Yes, it will happen! Amen.
8 The Lord God says, “I am A and Z, the one who is and was and is to come. I am God All-Powerful!”

imageThe language of this book is the farthest from educated Greek of  all the books of the New Testament, but is strangely dignified and powerful. The author is a church leader called John who has been exiled to the island of Patmos, probably from his hometown of Ephesos, because of his “witness” to Jesus Messiah. He has been fingered by the Roman security services as a person who doesn’t share Roman values, belongs to a non- Roman sect, and may be a political danger to the state. Consequently they have removed him from his place of influence and confined him to a Greek island. There are probably many modern believers who would volunteer for this punishment.

Another feature of this text is its use of Jewish scripture in its Greek version the Septuagint. Indeed the text as a whole is a collection of texts, some from scripture and some from other prophetic writings, creating a unique verbal texture which constantly refers the knowledgeable reader to words and phrases from very different contexts. The more you know the Jewish scripture the more exciting this book becomes. I have printed words and phrases from these scriptures in bold.

The Greek for ” this is what God showed” is the single word apocalupsis which means showing or revealing something which has been concealed. In this case the hidden thing turns out to be the ultimate future of what is going on in the world. I’ve tried to word that carefully, for it’s not just the general future course of history which is revealed but the precise future of each action and suffering. So for example we are not just shown the unfolding of God’s Rule, but the specific future of ” the great number of people who have come through the great distress.” (Chapter 7)

So John is being entrusted with the ultimate meaning of what is  happening in the world; and it’s therefore appropriate that God has placed this message in the hands of Jesus Messiah, the human being in whom earth and heaven are united and whose crucifixion is the model for all the revelations. Just as Jesus’ death on the cross has the ultimate future of resurrection so all the sufferings of the believers have the ultimate future of their victory over evil and death.

We should  note that John expects his prophecy to be read aloud to people in the Assemblies of believers. This is probably true of most of our New Testament, and is worth doing to remind us of the difference between reading and listening.

The author prays blessings on his hearers. The good he wishes for them is “kindness and peace” from God. Although he/she has no doctrine of Trinity he does differentiate, among the divine presences, God who exists in past, present and future, ( the eternal one), the seven spirits who are before God’s throne ( seven means perfection and is also the number of the Assemblies)  and Jesus Messiah ( the faithful witness who has seen and told the nature of God).

Jesus Messiah has a historic dimension: he is the first to conquer death; a political dimension: he is the true ruler of all earthly rulers; and a rescuing dimension: he loves those who trust him and has set them free from their sins by his violent death and has made them what Israel was meant to be, kings who serve God’s holiness. These things are not explained at this point, but the hearer of the text is given a brief sketch of what is meant by “peace and kindness from God”image

The one who is coming is identified by a reference to Daniel 7 ” coming on the clouds” as the Son of Man, the representative ruler of the Humane Kingdom which will succeed the Savage Kingdoms of the world; and as the mysterious victim from Zechariah 12 who is mourned by those who pierced him. Taken together these mean that Jesus the crucified Messiah will come back in the power of God, to the discomfort of all crucifiers.

As far as I know only I have translated the description of God as ” alpha and omega” into the obvious English, “A and Z”. All human activity, good and evil, is inclosed by the being of God.

You can’t read this opening sequence without marvelling at the strangeness and majesty of the vision.

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