MEET THE AUTHOR
Gracious God, the deepest longings of my heart are for you. Accept my worship and praise as I come before you now.
Read REVELATION 1:1–8
1 The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 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.
Greetings and Doxology
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits[a] before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Ask for blessing promised to those who read ‘the words of this prophecy’ and ‘take to heart what is written in it’ (v 3).
John states from the beginning that the revelation he received is not the product of his own imagination; it was given to him through angelic agency. Later he describes his experience on the island of Patmos as one in which he was ‘in the Spirit’ (v 10). The spiritual dimension of reality pervades the book; in its visions we encounter angelic hosts in heaven as well as the church triumphant, the ‘great multitude’ drawn from every tribe and nation.1 The blessing pronounced on those who ‘take to heart’ (v 3) the message of this prophecy presents many Western Christians with serious challenges. Their culture and education excludes the dimension of the spirit, so that human beings end up alone in a disenchanted, empty, and cold cosmos. The question we have to ask at the beginning of this study is whether we are willing to have our grasp of reality expanded and enriched by this book. Richard Bauckham says that a main function of Revelation is ‘to purge and refurbish the Christian imagination’, gifting us with ‘a different way of perceiving the world’.2
Notice the blessing on ‘the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy’ (v 3). This is not referring to private readers of a printed text, but to the individuals whose task it was to read Revelation publicly during the meetings of the early Christian communities. Theirs was an oral culture in which only a small number of people were literate, so the role of the reader was crucial to the communication of John’s message. We might ask what we may have lost in the transition from oral to literate cultures – and whether greater importance should be given to the public reading of Holy Scripture.
Take a moment to reflect on the question we have asked above: in what ways might you need your grasp of reality expanded by John’s visions?
Lord Jesus, how blessed I am. You love me, you have loosed me from my sins by your shed blood, and have lifted me to be a part of your kingdom. All praise to you!
1 Rev 7:9 2 Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, Cambridge University Press, 1993, p159
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