In The Spirit of God – Revelation Bible Guide Day 2
February 20, 2018
Previously in Revelation
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
9I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11saying, “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
12Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. 14His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, 15his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.
17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades. 19Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this. 20As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
Points of Interest
- “Patmos” – a Mediterranean island, off the Western coast of Asia (modern-day Turkey). John reports being exiled there for his faith leadership. Persecution of Christians by Rome was less common in the first century, but many scholars think there may have been persecution in the 90s under the emperor Domitian. Revelation likely was written then.
- “in the spirit” – In writing Revelation, John reports both auditory and visionary hallucinations – the Spirit of God communicating to him vividly through his imagination. Yet the whole book is also an impressive work of literary genius. John makes exhaustive and creative reference to Hebrew scripture and other apocalyptic literature outside the Bible. However much of Revelation came into John’s imagination in prayer, he also worked out the details of his writing carefully with a small library of scrolls on hand.
- “the seven churches” – The order of these seven churches represents the order a messenger would have travelled to them all after taking a boat from Patmos to the mainland. The number seven, one of John’s favorites, represents completion, and so these seven churches can poetically stand for all churches in the region or maybe even all churches in the world.
- “seven golden lampstands” – These represent a neat poetic image for churches, as places for God’s light to shine. John’s good news is that Jesus (called by Jesus’ own favorite nickname for himself, also a reference to Daniel 7) is with the churches, not absent, whether they see him or not.
- I find the vision in this paragraph arresting and utterly beautiful. To do so yourself, you have to embrace Revelation as poetry and symbol. Try to draw a literal picture, and it will be odd or creepy. Let this book’s images work on your right brain creativity and emotion more than your left brain linear logic. In that spirit, the vision of Jesus:
- “head and hair were white as wool” – like God in Daniel 7, who is called the Ancient of Days – wise and old. Also, with the bronze, indomitable, stable, not going anywhere.
- “sound of many waters” – evocative of the richness and power of God’s voice (Ezekiel 43:2) Jesus’ weapon is also his voice, his words
- “eyes … like a flame a fire… face like the sun” – piercing and penetrating in beauty and life and insight
- “seven stars” – The lampstands of the churches won’t just be lit by torches but by stars, here stars that are angels. As we mentioned yesterday, this may be a poetic, early Christian way of speaking of the Holy Spirit as the presence and light of Jesus.
- “I am the first and the last” – Just like the Almighty God, Jesus is alive forever.
What might the Spirit of God be saying to you through today’s passage? Has anything struck your mind or heart? Looking back over the last 24 hours – yours highs and lows, times of joy or sorrow, presence or distraction, anxiety or peace, has the Spirit of God spoken to you through your life or though any other person? Pay attention for a moment, listen, and ask God how you can respond to whatever comes to mind.
A Direction for Prayer
Pray for your six, that however much or little they know about Jesus, they would come to understand God to be as beautiful and living and good and alive as today’s vision paints God to be. If you don’t have six non-churchgoing friends in mind to pray for yet, during this season, take a moment to choose six people you’ll pray for in this season.
The Bible Guide
This blog post is part of a Lenten journey through the book of Revelation. Every year during the season of Lent, we take a focused look at a portion of Scripture as part of our communal spiritual practice. This year, we are exploring what it means to be Children of God in a Fractured World, with Revelation as our lens. The series starts here.