Friday, December 23, 2011

Revelation 1: Seven

Not to sound too much like a tiresome numerologist, but the magic number of Revelation Chapter 1 seems to be “7”. The prologue (vs. 1-3) opens with no less than seven distinct characters involved:

Truth Revealers:

1.      God gives the revelation to
2.      Jesus Christ who sends
3.      His angel to
4.      His servant John to show…..

Truth Receivers:

5.       his servants what must soon take place. Blessed is
6        The one who reads the words of this prophecy and blessed are
7.      Those who hear it and take to heart.

Our brother Tim Steiner once urged Diane and I to receive the blessing of reading Revelation aloud. And so one Sunday about 15 years ago our adult Sunday school class took turns reading Revelation to each other. It took pretty much the whole hour, but we read it every word, alpha to omega.
What comfort for exiled John and persecuted readers then and now to think of Jesus as the “faithful witness” (5). In a world where the faithful witness rejection, social, financial and physical harm, and even death, Jesus leads the way. I hope my brothers and sisters in the ‘stan countries of today take heart that Jesus has led from the front, enduring all things for the glory of God. For that matter, I hope that faithful witnesses like Bill Ryan of Jericho, laboring today as missionaries to the Moskito Indians of Honduras, take similar encouragement. Today I heard that they are feeling ill and oppressed  as they reach into a new area of Honduras. Lord Jesus, encourage and go before your children Bill and Beth, give them physical and spiritual strength to do their work in victory.
Of the seven characters, the central one of Revelation is Jesus, who is (aptly) described in seven ways in vs. 5-8:
1.      Loves us
2.      Has freed us from our sins by his blood
3.      Has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his Father
4.      Will come on the clouds, where every eye will see him and all peoples will mourn
5.      Is the Alpha and Omega
6.      Who is, and was, and who is to come
7.      The Almighty

Awesome, but even more so is the description of the appearance to John of the Son of Man himself:

 12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,[d] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
And then the Son of Man delivers a prophetic word for each of the seven lampstands (churches in Asia Minor), which he delivers while holding in his hand seven stars (angels for the specific churches).

The seven churches to be discussed in chapters two and three are:

1.      Ephesus
2.      Smyrna
3.      Pergamum
4.      Thyatira
5.      Sardis
6.      Philadelphia
7.      Laodicea

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