The past three classes were packed full of information and although most of it was excellent, some of it felt like a commercial. I would have preferred a little less curriculum verbiage about how much I was going to love Revelation and how much Revelation was going to change my life. It’s just infinitely more enjoyable for me to read Revelation and reach personal conclusions than to regurgitate predictions from strangers.
Since Revelation is so controversial, my plan is to go over the verses and present my understanding of the information. Although I’m not sure there is enough evidence to say emphatically that the apostle John is the apocalyptic writer of Revelation, Christians believe it to be true. For the purpose of this blog series, let’s just say it’s him.
The first three verses (1:1-3) declare God gave Jesus the revelation and Jesus sent an angel to John. God wanted Jesus to give this important information to his servants so that they would know what must soon take place. Soon is relative. John and the angel were Jesus’ servants. At this juncture I am deciding not to go off on a tangent about how an angel is an angle of light. The final verse is a blessing.
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. Revelation 1:3
To be blessed is to be wrapped in the grace of God, surrounded by love. Having the ability to see through illusions brought on by fear is also a blessing. Illiteracy was prevalent when Revelation was written so it had to be read aloud by the learned for distribution to the masses. Preaching Revelation compromised one’s safety. It took great courage. I imagine the blessing evoked confidence. Now, if you’re fortunate enough to have computer access and can read, getting Revelation is as easy as downloading a free Bible app.
Followers were to take to heart the prophecy. I’ve always said that once one knows something, like a secret, it can’t be un-known. Learning a speech by heart is a mental exercise, rote memorization. To take something to heart is to internalize that thing so that it becomes part of the fiber of one’s being. Revelation was intended by early Christians to be held in the realm of a believer’s soul.
The next five verses (1:4-8) are a sort of introduction. We learn that the message is intended for the seven established churches in the Roman province of Asia. (Turkey) and is coming from God, the seven spirits before his throne, and Jesus Christ. Explaining the origin of the prophecy is significant. I think it connotes unity and attempts to describe God as one universal consciousness. Of particular interest to me is the reference to seven spirits. My interpretation is that the seven spirits represent the energy, or spiritual consciousness, of the churches as part of the whole, part of the Oneness of All That Is.
Jesus is described as the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Let’s take a look at some of this. The firstborn from the dead refers to Jesus coming from the other side of the veil to walk the earth in full God-consciousness. The ruler of the kings of the earth refers to his teaching that no earthly ruler can command one’s spirit. A simpler way for one to summarize this concept would be to say, “I’m the boss of me.”
The majority of these verses are dedicated to describing God. Our language limitations coupled with our lack of comprehension makes this mortally impossible. Humans tend to think linearly and God is multi-dimensional. Him (God) who is, and who was, and who is to come and I am the Alpha (beginning) and the Omega (end) are phrases meant to help our two dimensional brains embrace the vastness of God, ubiquitous and eternal.
In verse seven, John pulls from Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10 in the Old Testament. Cloud imagery used in both Revelation and Daniel is of particular interest to me.
Look, he is coming with the clouds. Revelation 1:7
I was immediately drawn to the phrase coming with the clouds because I believe it is a metaphor to acknowledge humanity’s lack of clarity; spiritual development will need to mature for understanding. I am filled with gratitude to my spiritual ancestors in the first century who transformed themselves to become the mothers and fathers of Christianity. Still foggy myself, I figure if I stare into the mists long enough, the mysteries will become clear.
The remaining twelve verses in chapter one (Revelation 1:9-20) describe John’s vision of Christ. John mentions in the opening sentence how he and others had suffered and endured hardships because of their beliefs in God and the teachings of Jesus. A full day of homework was dedicated to this statement. One of the questions wanted us to give an example of the persecution of Christians throughout history, the Bible, or present-day circumstances. There are more examples than I can count, but the one I gave was of the Albigensian Crusade.
Not many people know that in the very early years of the thirteenth century, the Pope initiated a crusade against the Cathars, Christians who were not in alignment with the church’s brand of Christianity. My understanding is that it’s the only time in human history when the church ordered a crusade against other Christians. Nearly one million people were killed in this scarcely acknowledged, but very well documented, genocide. The Cathars believed and supposedly had evidence that they were descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Whether they were physical or spiritual descendants doesn’t really matter much. The Prince of Peace never would have endorsed Christians killing Christians, or anyone for that matter.
It’s not for me to judge early Gnostic belief systems. I can’t help but wonder though, why the gospels of Thomas and Philip and Mary Magdalene were not included in the Bible. There were more than four original Apostles. Help me understand why Matthew, Mark, Luke and John held more weight than the others. Paul gets to be in the Bible and he wasn’t even one of the original twelve! I know the canned response fundamentalists have for this question and we agree to disagree, but I’m looking for something more compelling. Perhaps I’m just a doubting Thomas.
Getting back to Revelation, John’s vision of Jesus on the Lord’s Day (probably a Sunday) is rich with symbolism. We are told that the seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches meant to receive the prophecy and the seven golden stars represent the angels of those churches. This is pretty straightforward.
John described his vision with the language available to him. Someone like a son of man (a description from the book of Daniel) with white hair (also from Daniel depicting purity, wisdom, holiness, etc) and dressed in a full length robe with a golden sash (symbolizing royalty or someone with a lot of power) around his chest spoke to him (John). He had eyes blazing like fire. The notes say this means Jesus pierces through all deception and impurity. My read is that it means he was full of the light of spirit or source energy. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace. The notes say bronze was the metal of weapons and His bronze feet were about judgment. I think it may be more about a connectedness to the magnetic energy of the earth’s core; imagery of Jesus grounded in humanity.
His voice was like the sound of rushing waters; I think this is John’s attempt to describe how the Divine message washed over him. Coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. This image has its origins in another New Testament book, Hebrews, and represents the word of God.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
I believe that when spirit communicates, it takes a form that is recognizable. This is to aid our ten percent of active brainpower in understanding the message. John’s vision took on a form that he was familiar with from scripture and contained clues to help him decipher that the prophesy was coming from Jesus. This first chapter of Revelation now makes a lot more sense to me.
I’ll keep you posted with my revelations.