The Revelation of Jesus Christ does not intend to be simple. It is a continuous oracle: no breaks, no pauses, only benchmarks that make you aware you’ve been carried deeper into the spiral. It is best read through at a steady pace – at least when doing so for the first time – without riding individual details to their potential conclusions. There is a story here with a beginning and an end; its distinct elements are a part of that story, and derive their meaning from it.
The revelation, or apocalypse, is given “to show to [the Lord’s] servants the things that must soon take place.” Its conduit is John, in exile “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” on the Island of Patmos, where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean. You’ll notice his style, but you’ll also (unsurprisingly) hear echoes of Ezekiel, Daniel, and other Jewish prophets.
The seven churches to whom this is addressed are located in Western Asia Minor, and distinct messages to each of them are ordered in the second and third chapters. Most receive some form of commendation; most also hear a challenge, even rebuke. You’ll notice the cadence: “To the angel of the church… the words of the Son of God, the Holy One, the Amen… He who has an ear, let him hear.”
I’ll let you dive into these chapters with no more than this single observation. In John’s Gospel the “I am” statements of Jesus flow off the pages: “I am the bread of life… the living bread that comes down from heaven… the light of the world… the One who bears witness about myself… I am from above… before Abraham was… the light of the world… the door of the sheep… the good shepherd… the Son of God… the resurrection and the life… the way, the truth, and the life… the vine… I am going to Him who sent Me… I am not of the world…”
Today hear the Lord append: "I am the Alpha and the Omega… who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
Our verse for this week is Deuteronomy 15:11: For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Revelation 1 and 2. Now let’s read it!
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’