Introduction to the book of revelation
The 9th Grade Confirmation students and I would like to share some info with you about the Book of Revelation, which is maybe a culturally prominent book of the Bible which we rarely address directly in church. But, for this Easter season (2019), we will be hearing a lot from this last book of the Bible on Sunday mornings. Each worship service will include a reading from this book, which gives us a perfect opportunity to learn a bit more about it.
The 9th Graders and I are excited to share with you what we have found in this book and to share in these readings on Sunday mornings this year during Easter. We learned together that the Book of Revelation belongs to a genre of scripture called "Apocalyptic Literature." This genre uses symbols and metaphors to communicate truth. Prophecy is often misunderstood as prediction or foretelling; but in the Bible, prophecy simply refers to speaking truth. So, apocalyptic literature is a sort of prophecy in the biblical sense: that is to say, the author uses imagery, symbols, and metaphors to talk about things affecting Christ-followers at the time of the writing. As we move through this Easter season, see if you can listen for some of the symbols present in the Revelation. In this blog post, we'll give you a head start and point out the symbols that stood out to us.
SUNDAY APRIL 28 (2019)
The symbols which stand out to us in this text are the "seven churches," the "clouds," and the "throne." The number 7 is a symbolic number throughout the Old and New Testaments. The most obvious reference to the number seven might be in Genesis 1 where God created the world in seven days. And, elsewhere in the early parts of Revelation, the author names these provinces and places where the churches operate. At one time, the author is joining the symbolic nature of apocalyptic literature with real-time worshipping communities, bridging the gap between abstract symbolism and actual Christ-followers.
The words "clouds" and "throne" really set the stage for the whole book. Through the author's imagery, we get to see things and people in the clouds, we get to see a lamb on the throne. The whole book is about seeing God at work. When prompted to reflect on this text, a couple 9th graders shared how they see God at work in their lives:
SUNDAY MAY 5 (2019)
The "throne" stands out again in this text, but we've also the Four Creatures and the Lamb. Here, we get a glimpse of the Book of Revelation's main message: God's power looks very different than how we understand power on earth. If we asked you to think of a powerful king or queen, you might imagine a leader clad in armor, sword in hand, quietly confident after a recent conquest. This is not what God's power looks like. Instead, sitting on this throne is a cute, cuddly lamb, affectionately dubbed "Lamby." This is the most vulnerable, cuddly, non-threatening creature you can imagine. Our students write, "God's power focuses
Just as the Israelite people had gone through an ordeal, so too does out contemporary world suffer. Our students listed "war, poverty, mental illness, cancer, and shootings" among some of the most prominent sufferings in our time. The Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the joy which comes with liberation from these ordeals, and we had to wonder ourselves what such a world would feel like. Here's what some of our students had to say: "Our world would be peaceful and better because there is no hate or sickness. The world would be a safer and happier place."
SUNDAY MAY 19 (2019)
We're skipping now to the latter part of the Revelation. Lamby and its throne have been victorious and we're getting a whole new set of symbols to play with: "a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" and "the old order of things has passed away." Everything is made new, here. The bride represents both Jerusalem the city and its people. Jerusalem and the Israelite people have both been beaten down, and both have deviated from God's path; but now, both have been reclaimed and reoriented. As our students say, this text "helps reassure us that God is always there for us and that he will protect us from the evil in the world." No matter how bad the world gets, or how justice might seem far away, God has envisioned a new world for us.
SUNDAY MAY 26 (2019)
Our symbols and metaphors are getting more exciting and more intricate. The ones that stand out to our students include "he carried me away in the spirit to a mountain" and "his name will be on their foreheads." The first one they take to mean that "God will lead you in the right path." God is indeed carrying us, pulling us into this new future. The mountain has long been a symbol for closeness with God. It was on the mountain that Moses spoke with God. God is carrying us forward into a Godly future.
The second metaphor about names and foreheads was taken to mean "God being with you, as literal, as his name being written on your forehead." In Baptism, we have been joined to God not only in name but also in life and death. As members of God's family, we are invited to know God as God already knows us.
SUNDAY JUNE 2 (2019)
Our final installment in the Book of Revelation paints a beautiful picture of God's new kingdom. In this text, we hear about God's power as the beginning and end, as Alpha and Omega; hear feel clean and proper with talk of robes; we look forward to eternal life as we gaze upon the Tree of Life. There are so many symbols and metaphors present in this passage, but they all illustrate the inclusiveness and wholeness of God's ordered world. Our world is full of demarkations, which tell us that some people are better than others, that some people are welcome when others are not--but, in this Book of Revelation, we know that ALL ARE WELCOME. And, this is our challenge today, to make Trinity welcoming to all of God's creation.
We already do great things in our attempt to be hospitable. These were highlighted by our 9th graders:
We also acknowledged that we've ways we could grow in welcoming people:
The Book of Revelation illustrates for us the beauty inherent in diversity and the joy that comes with radical inclusion. We are called to build this kingdom together and to be as welcoming and exciting a community as in this text.