VISION OF CHRIST (Ch. 1:9-20)/ Crystal

Before I comment on the reading – 1:9-20 – I thought I’d mention some intro material. I haven’t read Revelation before and haven’t yet read any commentary, so my first step was to look at the introduction to it in the New American Bible. I found the info basic, and most of you will already know this stuff, but it was helpful to me 🙂 …

…. symbolic descriptions are not to be taken as literal descriptions, nor is the symbolism meant to be pictured realistically. One would find it difficult and repulsive to visualize a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes; yet Jesus Christ is described in precisely such words (⇒ Rev 5:6). The author used these images to suggest Christ’s universal (seven) power (horns) and knowledge (eyes). A significant feature of apocalyptic writing is the use of symbolic colors, metals, garments (⇒ Rev 1:13-16; ⇒ 3:18; ⇒ 4:4; ⇒ 6:1-8; ⇒ 17:4; ⇒ 19:8), and numbers (four signifies the world, six imperfection, seven totality or perfection, twelve Israel’s tribes or the apostles, one thousand immensity) ….

The Book of Revelation cannot be adequately understood except against the historical background that occasioned its writing. Like Daniel and other apocalypses, it was composed as resistance literature to meet a crisis. The book itself suggests that the crisis was ruthless persecution of the early church by the Roman authorities; the harlot Babylon symbolizes pagan Rome, the city on seven hills (17, 9). The book is, then, an exhortation and admonition to Christians of the first century to stand firm in the faith and to avoid compromise with paganism, despite the threat of adversity and martyrdom; they are to await patiently the fulfillment of God’s mighty promises …

So, on to the reading …

As mentioned, the description of Jesus is, I guess, meant to be symbolic of his power and glory … the long robe (priestly), the gold sash (kingly), etc. About the symbolism of the two-edged sword, the NAB says … A sharp two-edged sword: this refers to the word of God (cf ⇒ Eph 6:17; ⇒ Hebrews 4:12) that will destroy unrepentant sinners … exmple … Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12.

Interesting stuff.


– St John at Patmos – 1452-60, Illumination, Musée Condé, Chantilly


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3 responses

  1. As we are not under rigorous persecution, the fact that we can continue to find interest in this book suggests that there’s more to it than “resistence literature.” Of course it has that tone, here and there, but aside from the vulgar wish for a little excitement around here, I think the basic source of interest is our ongoing sense that the times are out of joint, that we’re still in that long discord before the chord resolves, that the powers that be haven’t yet caught on that a greater Power is watching and waiting. It serves not only as encouragement against persecution, but as a caution against seduction (which is at work all around and within us.)I haven’t found either reference to the “sword of the spirit” saying that it “will destroy unrepentant sinners.” (Maybe a peculiarity of my Bible?) Isn’t the point of that sword to save us, destroying whatever keeps us from repentance? I mean, what make it the Word of God is not merely the fact that it can confound and overawe me, but that I can recognize justice and mercy in it.

  2. Hi Forrest,I haven’t found either reference to the “sword of the spirit” saying that it “will destroy unrepentant sinners.” (Maybe a peculiarity of my Bible?) Isn’t the point of that sword to save us, destroying whatever keeps us from repentance? I mean, what make it the Word of God is not merely the fact that it can confound and overawe me, but that I can recognize justice and mercy in it.Yes, I agree, the references given of the double edged sword don’t seem to be about the destruction of sinners … maybe the writer of the NAB introduction was using those references to show the sword seen as the Word in the OT, and then pointing out that the purpose of the sword/Word symbol in Revelation seems to be for the “destruction of sinners”? That’s the only way I can make sense of it.I’m uncomfortable with vindictive and violent symbolism and would rather look for the positive and unitive stuff, myself 🙂

  3. Crystal, first a comment on your comment to my Aug. 23 post. You wrote: “The idea of the trinity allows for a distinction between, and relationship between, the father, Jesus, and the holy spirit, yet sees all as one, I think.”.The idea of the trinity is fine, Crystal, although I personally prefer the quaternity.But when it becomes the dogma of the Trinity to the point where thousands of people have been killed for not believing it, then it becomes deadly.I’m speaking especially of the war between the Trinitarians (who called themselves orthodox) and the Arians. At one point Augustine participated in a pogram again the Arians, who would not accept the Trinity and were otherwise more or less indistinguisable from the others.Well forgive that outburst. I’m glad that you read the Introduction in a modern Bible. Everyone needs to be set free from the supersitious idea that the writer is talking about eminent material events in our historical epoch. The truth is misguided people in just about every century have leaped to that conclusion. It’s like a self conscious person hears something said about someone else, and immediately believes that it’s about him. As Forrest said it is not just “resistance literature”, and as David expressed it this poetic images can best be considered in the light of one’s personal psyche, not his material fate.

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