Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Living Apocalypse - Part 3

For the next few weeks I'll be posting on Revelation 2:1-3:22 - the Seven Letters to the Churches - out of my new book Living Apocalypse: A Revelation Reader and A Guide for the Perplexed.

Please join us and share your comments and insights.

In all seven letters there is a clear indication that the speaker is Christ, and a careful look shows us that each letter echoes back to chapter 1 (2:1 corresponds to 1:12-15, 2:8 and 1:17-18, 2:12 and 1:16, 2:18 and 1:14-15, 3:1 and 1:4, 16, 3:7 and 1:18, 3:14 and 1:2).

There is then a remarkably close relationship between the letters and chapter 1. We also should keep in mind, however, that the relationship of the letters to other parts of the book is pertinent as well. The heavenly city of Jerusalem in chapters 21 and 22 is contrasted to the seven earthly cities in that it is God’s city, the city to which all the promises made to the earthly cities looks forward. In chapters 4-20 there are also parallels of expression or symbol, suggesting John may have had the circumstances of the churches in mind, calling for patient endurance and faithfulness, giving warnings against idolatry, and Satan’s powerful and attractive deceptions. The point we need to continue to focus on is that there is an internal coherence to the book as different parts relate to each other. Going further, we could also say there is an overall coherence between the Apocalypse and the rest of Scripture. Systematic and precise divisions fail to do justice to the text.

These letters, as the rest of the Apocalypse, are as pertinent today as they ever were. Think of the churches as symbolic for churches throughout the centuries. Consider the impoverished state of the church in our times. Consumerism, idolatry, confused and superficial theology and spirituality, empty minds and blinded hearts, characterize far too many Christians and churches, showing that we have much to learn from each letter. Read together they will provide critique, wisdom and insight for our lives. As we face the powerful threat of cultural, religious and political manifestations that set themselves up as authoritative and endanger faith and allegiance to the crucified and risen One, we want to be informed about and aware of whom we follow and obey.