It’s snowing today in North Carolina and for the past couple of days, many of my neighbors anticipated the weather with great anxiety while I joyfully looked forward to hunkering down and writing. My apparent 180 degree difference of opinion on things is especially prevalent in class.
The Revelation study has evoked visible anxiety in several women; they fear that loved ones who don’t share their belief system, unbelievers, are damned. Of course, this couldn’t be farther from my truth and although I work hard not to judge, I feel sorry for them; their anxiety robs them of their joy.
The benefit of my religious studies is that I can now find numerous passages of scripture to back that last statement up. If I’ve learned anything, I now know, without a doubt, that Bible passages can be sited to support numerous points of view and although I am very happy with my spiritual path, it is not lost on me that others in the circle think I need saving.
A few weeks back, a classmate said something like, “The devil could be sitting among us.” after I had shared my answer to a homework question. No offense was taken but I had to laugh. How fearsome could five foot nothing of me be? Neither my children nor my husband are allowed to answer that question. It’s rhetorical.
Revelation 8-9 is where we start seeing the seemingly scary stuff gain momentum; Jesus opens the seventh seal which releases a second cascade of judgments. The notes indicate that there are a total of three sets of seven judgments; the seal judgments, trumpet judgments, and bowl judgments. My number language tells me that seven and three are symbolic of divinity and creativity respectively revealing that what is to follow is God’s creation, God’s plan, God’s will.
In Breaking the Seals, I didn’t interpret the seal judgments as judgments at all; I thought they were a history of humanity. Trumpet judgments read more like a box office hit with tons of special effects. Here we have seven angels who each blow a trumpet warning. The question was asked, “Why trumpets?” I said trumpets are used to announce, signal, or call to action. This isn’t wrong, but softer than the class consensus that trumpets are used to announce destruction. Argh!
In John’s vision, after each of the first four trumpets are sounded, very Exodus like, Egyptian like, Moses like, plague like things happen. The difference is that the Revelation happenings are more quantitative; basically, one third of the earth, sea, and sky are eliminated. Then we get to the fifth and sixth trumpet blasts where we see the word abyss for the first time and people shudder. One third of humanity gets zinged. One third, there’s that three again signifying God’s will or a catalyst for change.
What comes to mind is cleaning my closet. The kind of closet cleaning when you purge what is outdated, dysfunctional, or excessive. That’s what I get from all this doom and gloom trumpet judgment jargon. My interpretation says God is cleaning house; ridding humanity of outdated belief systems and dysfunctional and unbalanced behavior.
Call me crazy, but when bad things happen, doesn’t it often facilitate change? Doesn’t it make one focus on what’s really important? Isn’t it often an opportunity to start fresh? Not everyone is going to get with the program right away; they’ll need more nudging, more judgments (consequences). My point is that unlike many people in class, I do not take what is written in Revelation literally. I think John’s vision is meant to depict a potential path toward the spiritual development of humanity.
I’m about halfway through my commitment to study Revelation and document the experience. When I review previous posts in this series I wonder, “Where did my sense of humor go? Where is my spiritual growth? I’m all over the place?” People don’t read Revelation for a reason. It’s hard.
My objective has always been to develop a deeper understanding of the southern culture and use that knowledge to nurture meaningful relationships with those around me. Last year, I learned to translate Bible lingo and found common ground. This current study has punctuated fundamental belief system differences and I find myself sharing Bible verses in my writing to let the reader decide. Revelation is one of those books known by many and read by few. People just don’t want to go there. I get why.
It’s not easy for me to have a joyful conversation about the content in Revelation. Anxiety of some sort gets expressed (generally from fundamental Christians) over loved ones who haven’t accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Many believe their sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, etc. will literally experience all this death and destruction described in Revelation. Am I evangelizing if I try to steer these conversations away from the dark side by asking the following series of questions?
Does the loved one in question believe in a higher power?
Yes: “Great! You believe Jesus is God, right? Be joyful. There is no need for anxiety.”
No: “Is the person loving?
Yes: “Great! Jesus is God and God is Love, right?” Be joyful. There is no need for anxiety.”
No: “Most likely they have mental health issues. Jesus takes care of the sick, right? Be joyful. There is no need for anxiety.”
I do really try to honor everyone’s spiritual path, but when it comes to this, my point of view often gets blurted out in an attempt to demonstrate what I see as blatant contradiction. It’s troubling for me to observe people suffering under what I believe to be fear based, man-made doctrine. Isn’t it funny how they are trying to rescue me and I’m trying to rescue them? We’re all definitely going to be making theological and/or scientific adjustments when we get to the other side of the veil.
My angel trumpets a declaration, “Choose joy!”