He who writes these things, is hard to understand.
I’ve tried three times to write up my thoughts on Revelation, similar to the other books of the New Testament. I can’t. I thought the Gospel of John was hard to express in words. John’s final book, the Revelation made to him, is nearly impossible.
At least four ancient narratives are picked up, each of which involves a great deal of background. But as Genesis was “fraught with background” that was unsaid, the background of the Revelation is both said and unsaid.
Four times John is in, or goes deeper, into the spirit. And each time is preceding by a revelation
I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.
Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.
Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.
Revelation 1:8, 4:1b, 17:1b. 21:9b
The Living Creatures
Four living creatures, each reflecting an aspect of God — An Eagle, a Lion, an Ox, a Man, — surround the throne of God
You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.
For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
And like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will tear them and go away;
I will take them away, and no one shall rescue
God who brings him out of Egypt,
is like the horns of a wild ox for him;
he shall devour the nations that are his foes
and break their bones.
He shall strike with his arrows.
When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”John 19:26
And beyond these symbols — these Spirits and states and manifestations — are the narratives.
In Revelations one of these ends
The Stories, Until Then
There is the pre-story of the Bible… Ba’al and his quest for a mansion. The Hebrew Bible repeatedly emphasizes that Ba’al should not be worshiped before God, and does not hear the prayers of Israel… but if anything the narrative assumes he exists. Indeed, the the Ba’al-worshipper Danel is included along with Job and Noah as a rigtheous gentile.
And we see in Revelation Ba’al — still there, still huge, still astride the clouds and still with his rainbow. And we see Ba’al’s words unrecorded. God’s plan for him continues, unmolested by man’s fall and salvation, as presumably God’s plans for the Andromeda galaxy continue regardless. And Ba’al’s oldest enemies are there too– the Sea Monster and Death — though of course God ends them more completely than Ba’al could on his own. The Canaanite. story of Ba’al ends with a feast, with God Himself drinking wine. And in Revelation before the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, we see old Ba’al, a fellow creature, not speaking to us, or for us, by also created by the Father, our brother in existence
I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire. He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”
There’s the story of the Bible – the woman and her children, who sail the seas and live in the cities. The woman’s care for the newborn child is the beginning of the family, and of society. But while Eve was anxious, inaccurately reporting the word of God to the serpent, and falling prey to his lies, in Revelation that dragon does not prevail. Instead the woman — not the Eve of creation but her daughter Mary — is crowned with the stars, God’s celestial army as her adornment. The story of Mary ends with her coronation, clothed with the sun, with the stars her crown.
And there’s that last story, the story the Bible is arguably about. Not Ba’al and his friends, whose adventures are the backdrop of much of biblical literature. Not the woman and her children, whose adventures must continue after the end of the Bible. But the Serpant, the Dragon, that murderer from the first.
For him no feast, and no crown.
For the Bible is the story of the defeat Serpent, the death of the Dragon.
He was once part of society — in the garden, a four-way conversation between the LORD, the Man, the Woman, and God.
Later he’s reduced to spying on Job, in a two way conversation between him and God.
And then in the Gospels, simply him and the Lord alone.
And finally, silence.
He stood on the shore of the sea.
At the end of the Serpent’s life…
The woman, who was once deceived is protected by the Earth
But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
And the Sea Monster and Death, who were imperfectly defeated by Ba’al, is now perfectly defeated as the Dragon himself is tossed into the second death
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown…
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death
After And Before, That Murderer from the First
And that serpent, who we once spoke to us to face-to-face, like a friend, is no more.
And he said to the woman, “Though God said, you shall not eat from any tree in the Garden…” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the garden’s trees we…”
Someone she once thought was a friend is lost. But, perhaps to the woman, a greater prize is won. That murder, from the first, might be undone
And the LORD said to Cain
Why are you incensed,
and why is your face fallen?
For whether you offer well
or whether you do not,
at the tent flap sin crouches
and for you it is longing
but you will rule over it
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
2 thoughts on “The Revelation to John”
I must read Revelations.
For whatever reason I’ve never tried to tackle it.
It is beyond words.
I’m currently reading a book on covenant theology. I mostly disagree with it, but the author wisely (I think) makes the point that Revelation is that the Beginning and the End form a unity.
The Revelation references a lot of material, but imho a concise background would be
* Alter’s translation and notes on Genesis from the creation to the death of Noah. In other words, from just before the Stars to just after the Rainbow.
* Mullen’s brief outline of Canaanite stories, especially the Stars, the Sea, the Sea Monster, Death, God (El) , and His creation of his children
* Alter’s translation and notes on Job, especially the speeches by Job and God (El). Job was a rough contemporary of Abraham, a Canaanite, and the Book of Job contain more references to Creation than any other Hebrew book except Genesis