It seems as though just about every book of the Bible is at the center of raging controversy. What genre is the first part of Genesis? What are Christians to think of the conquering of the Canaanites in Joshua? Why are our four Gospels canonical, and not the gospels of Thomas or Judas? What on earth are we to do with Revelation?
To be sure, in recent years Revelation has been given much attention because of the Left Behind books and others of that ilk. However, this has been very superficial attention, focused on denouncing or supporting the specific interpretation of Revelation put forward in the series. I can’t remember the last time that I heard a sermon on Revelation, or participated in a Bible study on it. This is unfortunate, because it is a part of Scripture, and cannot just be ignored, no matter how confusing it is.
So, this summer, two friends and I are going to read Revelation and discuss it, not with an eye to solving all the difficulties, but in order to start thinking about this difficult book. Cecelia Raker ’11, Jennifer Delurey ’12, and I will trade e-mails from our different parts of the globe. Please do come and think with us!
Revelation 1-3: The Letters to the Churches
Anne: Recently I was talking with someone about Bible study in general, and he suggested a new question to ask of the text to go alongside application (what can we learn about how to live our own lives?): what can we learn about Christ? If the book we are studying were the only book of the Bible we had, what could we know about Him?
I kept this question in mind while reading the first three chapters of Revelation and was struck by what a triumphant picture of Christ is given. Each of the seven letters to the churches begins with a description of Christ: “These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands (2:1), who is the First and Last, who died and came to life again (2:8), who has the sharp, double-edged sword (2:12), the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze (2:18), who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars (3:1), who is holy and true, who holds the key of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open (3:7), the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation (3:14).” Then, in each of the letters, He says that He knows the state of each church. This is Christ as He is now, victorious, full of power and glory.
Often I feel as though this picture of Christ is missing in much of contemporary Christian culture. Right and good emphasis is put on Christ’s suffering and crucifixion, his gentleness in being a friend to sinners. However, too often it seems that his resurrection is forgotten, his final victory over death, and even more his ascension and kingship. I’m put in mind of the great altarpieces from the Renaissance that show Christ at the last day, judging the living and the dead. Has his kingship sunk into our collective psyche enough that today’s art could show the same thing? I’m trying to think of contemporary hymns, but I can’t think of too many that point past the present’s repentance and assurance of forgiveness and into the glorious future.
Well, those were my first impressions. There was so much in just those three chapters! What do you all think?