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Jan 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation 1:1-3



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion!           Grace and Peace to you!

I’m reading a passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and I quote.  “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

Do you remember perhaps when your kids were little and you tucked them in bed, and then turned off the lights to leave the room.  Did they say, “Oh, it’s too dark in here!”  and you might have said, “Just wait; your eyes will adjust.”  And they do, don’t they?  If we wait long enough in the dark, our eyes do adjust, and we are able to see more than we thought.  In our lives, we, too, experience the dark and cry out for more light.  And we might go about trying to find some book or some teacher or some way of escape that might give us light.  That’s fine, and then we may find that  we are asked just to wait in the dark.  Paul talks about the eyes of our hearts being part of our rich inheritance and having the eyes of our hearts enlightened so we may know hope.  That’s the kind of light we need.

King David knew the distress of darkness; many psalms reflect his crying out to the LORD.  In Ps. 18, David said that God heard his voice and, “He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. …  He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water.”  We trust that even the darkness is not dark to God and that what is concealed may be revealed.  And I love that God made darkness his covering, his canopy, his hiding place, like a cloak. 

I’ve never been a true photographer, but I know that the desired images are developed in a darkroom, and that it must be really dark.  Waiting in darkness is a contemplative practice, and contemplation doesn’t always imply quietness or withdrawal.  Instead, it is a willingness to fully enter life just as it is, to open our eyes to hope in the light of God’s Presence.  If you’ve ever been, or are now, in what feels like the darkroom, may God enlighten the eyes of your heart to his Hopeful Presence.

Let’s pray:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  Though darkness covers the earth, you will rise, God.  Let your light rise in our hearts, let the eyes of our hearts be enabled to see the contours of your shape, the hope of your presence.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near
Revelation 1:1-3

Intro: You may wonder, Why the book of Revelation?

I admit, it is the most confusing and frustrating book in the Bible
– it’s not an easy read – some images are very strange
• they seem fairytale or mythical, except but even weirder
◦ for instance, we find, not just a beast with ten horns,
◦ but it has seven heads (?) and ten crowns on its horns
• there’s not another book in Bible exactly like this
– but it is also one of the most fascinating books in the Bible
• Revelation can work in us in ways like no other book
• if it disturbs us, it also calms us; if it frightens also reassures; if it is structured, it is also free;
and if its meaning is hidden, its overall effect is Revelation

From the start I want to warn you,
– if you’ve heard teaching on Revelation or read a commentary,
• what you will hear from me will probably be very different
◦ among Evangelical teachers, we hear four different views
◦ I am not going follow any one of those four streams
• to me, it is not a crystal ball in which we can see the future or discern current events
◦ the message is more personal – and is addressed to churches and individual believers
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7)
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20)
– Revelation begins as a letter that quickly becomes seven letters
• after that, it turns into a different type of literature
◦ this other genre is known as “apocalyptic”
◦ this is derived from the Greek word for revelation: apokalypsis
• writings that use the same fantastical style as parts of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel
◦ but with one significant difference: in Daniel, every strange image is explained
the remainder of the book a history lesson that is told, mostly, in normal language
◦ that’s one reason why I do not see Revelation as depicting literal events like other apocalyptic books,
there is little clear explanation for the symbols in Revelation

If Revelation does not provide a clear map of the future, what is the value of reading it?
– after all, we’ve already seen there’s a promised blessing in it for those who read or hear it and keep what is written in it
• we will come to six more promised blessings in Revelation, for a total of seven
1.) in Revelation we will discover God’s work within us
• the system of education with which we are most familiar usually aims for our rational minds
• Revelation works at a deeper level – the heart, yes, but also at the unconscious level
2.) most books we read and think about, but the Revelation we experience
• to fully enter Revelation, is to allow it to change us
3.) Revelation prepares and equips us to live in the world as it is
• we are shown this troubled world, and in a way that affects us
• Revelation enables us to live through the worst times in human history
4.) Revelation encourages us with an ultimate destiny in God
• it brings heaven near us today and the eventual promise of a future fullness

The introduction provides a simple background statement

First, the central message is Jesus Christ, revealed
– God communicated this to John, sending it by way of an angel
• this is not merely information like what we get from a lecture
◦ this was shown to John (a visual extravaganza) so he could show it to others
◦ the words translated make known mean to give a sign or to signify
A. T. Robertson, this “suits admirably the symbolic character of the book.”
• the “things” shown occur in our immediate future, they will soon take place
◦ as soon as we here about these upheavals, we’ll be living them
◦ this will be clearer as we move through Revelation
– John gives us a brief bio of himself (more details in v. 9)
who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ
• “witness” and “testimony” translate different forms of the same Greek word
◦ and this brings us very close to the Gospel of John
◦ in some form the word and is cognate occur once in Matthew, three times in Mark, twice in Luke, and forty-five times in John
(in all of Paul’s letters ten times and in John’s three letters, fourteen times)
• the “testimony of Jesus” appears again in verse 9
◦ this refers to Jesus’ witness regarding God, his Father
Truly, truly, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things (Jn. 3:11-12)
Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the So does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. (Jn. 5:19-20)

Here is how I plan on walking us through Revelation

I am going to treat what’s in here the way we work with dreams
– I realize this is unusual
• most commentaries take a very rational approach
◦ their aim is to decipher the meaning of every sight and sound
◦ connect every vision to an event in the physical world
• people who are locked into rational, linear thinking have difficulty interpreting symbols
◦ they look for a perfect fit between the imaginary statement and solid fact
◦ they feel obligated to connect symbols to literal events
Merrill Tenney (wrestling with seven trumpets in ch. 8) “So strange are they that there has been a grave question as to whether they should be taken literally or not. If they are understood literally, it is hard to comprehend how any life on earth could survive their terrible onslaught. If they are to be regarded as figurative, the criteria of interpretation are not clear” [italics added]
– that is precisely the struggle of hyper-rational thinkers
• how do you make sense of bizarre or impossible symbols?
• that’s also why most people don’t pay any attention to their dreams

Dreams are our own personal and private universe
– that doesn’t mean we own this strange world, because it is not under our conscious control
• we don’t control:
the setting (could be a street, the ocean, the sky)
the plot (whatever action, problem, danger, or conflict)
the characters (who enters, who exits, their power)
could be family, friends from long ago, strangers
what is possible and impossible (you fly or be unable to lift your hand)
the sudden or abrupt scene changes or shift to a different dream
– to interpret dreams requires an approach that is both:
• rational and spiritual; science and art; structured and free
• but we must also be open to experiences our minds cannot comprehend

Why would I want to read Revelation’s visions as if its symbols were dream images?

The obvious answer is because the scenes are weird, like dreams
– but I could also say, for same reason Jesus taught in parables
• our awake minds are limited to what we perceive and analyze with our five senses, our reason, and our imaginations
• but the things of God’s Spirit are beyond our ordinary perception
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14)
◦ dreams are not bound to reason or laws of nature
◦ they can bring our attention to things we could not see any other way
– dreams are not produced by our conscious minds
• they rise from what stirs deep in the unconscious
◦ when awake, we’re unaware of these subterranean influences
• studying Revelation is like studying dreams
◦ both range from the everyday to the fantastical
the everyday: court proceedings, sealed document, messengers on horseback
the fantastical: odd creatures, catastrophic events, impossible phenomena–like a city descending from the sky

In scripture, God frequently spoke to people in their dreams
– he revealed himself, gave warnings and instructions, and guided them
– Revelation will give us insight into our deeper selves
• one benefit is therapeutic
• another is our spiritual enlightenment and development

Conclusion: I believe venturing into Revelation will be eye-opening

That it will help us deal with the current insanity of our world
We will get a better understanding of
• why it’s so difficult right now to keep our balance
• what is most important right now regarding our decisions and commitments
I am certain that we can be more useful “servants” of God,
and that through Revelation God’s Spirit will point the way

God wants to share with us his dream of a glorious future

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