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Feb 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapter 5 – 02/25/2024

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good Morning RefleXion Community!             Grace and Peace to you!

This week I enjoyed a wine tasting event, which included Cabernet Sauvignons from France and California.  One comment that the Sommelier made caught my attention.  He said, because California wineries don’t have the same restrictions that French wineries do, there’s a distinctive in the philosophies of each. French wine is made under the regulations and required processes that are the French wine laws. Additives aren’t allowed; even irrigation was once forbidden–now allowed but is strictly regulated.  French vintners feel that the grapes should experience and express the natural soil, whether it be gravel or specific minerals.  The climate will also form the grapes.  That is expected and preferred. 

California wine doesn’t have those restrictions.  Here’s a quote from a Wine Spectator article June 2013:   “Today, winemakers can coax out their vision of a site and grape using a near-infinite permutation of fermentation styles, yeast regimens, rack-and-return cycles, chemical preservatives, acid enhancements, bleeding off, spinning out, reverse osmosis… artificial coloring, and the addition of sugar…”

My point: the wine expression is about the grape’s experience.  The wine can be made to taste  in various ways by tricks of the trade or simply to allow its grounded experience. 

That got me thinking about our own formation:  is it coaxed by manipulation and artificial means, or is it grounded in God, in the ground of all being?  If it’s left to the mysteries of deeply grounding, we won’t be able to know what it will overflow or express exactly; it won’t be curated, but is that preferred?  If the climate changes, and our soul absorbs suffering and joy—the rain and the sun—is that preferred to a more controlled formation?

A couple of scripture verses come to mind, because I think to experience and express the life of Christ is what we’re made for and what we really long for. John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing,” and 2 Cor 9: 8, “And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work.”

What does life on the vine  and a grounded experience look like for me?  What does it look like for you?

Join me to pray will you:

Father, you have made us to be dependent on you, on grace.  May we learn to let go of everything that hinders the purity of our life in you.  You are ready to nourish us in good soil, for our own well-being and for the good of the world.  Help us to establish deep connections of oneness.  May our roots grow deeply into the source of life in you, the ground of all being, Creator-God. In Jesus,  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals Revelation 5:1

Intro: Among Jeremiah’s prophecies, we find one that is different from the rest

The difference is that this one brings a positive message regarding Israel’s future
– after receiving the prophecy, Jeremiah says,
At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me (Jer. 31:26)
• when I wake up from a pleasant dream, I want to go back to sleep and continue it
• that’s because some issue was resolved, finally “worked,” or I just got a lucky break
◦ dreams help our brains work through stresses, upsets, some puzzle is solved
– explaining the unconscious, some psychologists use an iceberg illustration
• our waking conscious is the small tip of the iceberg that is visible above water
◦ the great mountain of the iceberg is submerged beneath the surface
• there’s this huge repository of stored memories in our unconscious
◦ things that we never think about, yet they shape our perception of self and others, and of our behavior
◦ our brains access these hidden files and bring them into our dreams, usually by way of symbols

If there is value in paying attention to our dreams,
– it has to do with discovering our underlying “belief system”
• bringing it to light and looking at it objectively
• it’s very helpful if I discover things in my belief system that are not true
◦ negative and self-destructive beliefs about myself and engrained prejudices
– sometimes people try to rewrite their belief system with positive affirmations
• but the old beliefs have been rooted for a long time and have lots more momentum
modifying our belief system usually takes harder work at a deeper level to make a difference
◦ we don’t heal deep cuts with topical ointments
• perhaps we just need to be with the symbols–let them work
Simone Weil, “Method for understanding images, symbols, etc. Not to try to interpret them, but to look at them till the light suddenly dawns.”

If we dreamed Revelation 5, what could it mean for us?

So far, the only picture we’ve been given of God, consists of
– colors, sounds, and the qualities of holiness and timeless being
• now we see that he is holding something in his right hand
• the scroll is secured with seven seals
◦ this introduces the first in a series of seven sevens (more on this later)
– for now, I’m going to explain my thoughts regarding the scroll
• but please understand, you are free to disagree with me
• I’ll give you my “theory” – that’s all it is

I think what we are shown here is a “magic scroll”
– normally, this would not be a biblical concept
• but Revelation is not a normal book
◦ it incorporates dream images and universal symbols
• the writing on the scroll takes up both sides–front and back
◦ but we’re never told what is written in the scroll,
◦ even thought the writing is what gives the scroll is magical power
– at the end of Revelation there’s a warning to the reader regarding the entire prophetic scroll (Rev. 22:18-19)
• if anyone messes with its contents, they will suffer accordingly
• the text as it stands has a built-in safety-system
◦ the scroll in this chapter has a similar power

What will happen, is that as each seal is broken a significant event occurs
– breaking one seal doesn’t open the scroll; it isn’t a book with page s
• the scroll can’t be read until after all the seals are broken, and it is unrolled,
• so it is not the writing in the scroll, but the scroll itself
◦ (later on John will be given a scroll, not to read but to eat)
◦ and though, like I said, a magical scroll is not a normal biblical concept, it is not alone
Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll! And he said to me, “What do you see?” and I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width is ten cubits.” Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. . . . I will send it out, declares the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. And it shall remain in his house and consume it, both timber and stones” (Zech. 5:1-4)
– the scroll in Revelation 5 is powerful because it comes from the hand of God

Vv. 2-4, The drama of the scroll is suddenly sabotaged

To proceed, someone must be found who is worthy enough to open it
– I am reminded of the story when Jesus was pressured to say what should be done to woman caught committing adultery — he finally answered them,
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” . . . when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones (Jn. 8:7-8)
• the call in Revelation for any worthy person to open the scroll elicits a self-examination (and immediate exclusion)
• worthiness is a theme that runs through chapters 4 and 5 (Rev. 4:11; 5:2-4, 9, & 12)
◦ this moment produces a radical realization; namely, the universal unworthiness of all self-conscious beings–in heaven or on earth or the underworld
◦ (unworthy is not the same as “worthless”!)
– John is shattered by this realization
• I imagine three reasons for his intense reaction:
first: utter disappointment that no one hit the mark
second: that we would never discover the significance or power of the scroll
third: his own sense of failure, that he had not been able to become that one worthy person

Now if I put myself in John’s place, and if I were dreaming this experience,
– I would consider it to be a window into myself
• beneath any illusion of innocence, any justification or rationalizations, I would see down into the truth
• and not just myself, but the tragic failure of humankind, written in the history of our wars and atrocities
– I would be overwhelmed with hopelessness
• for a instant, that is exactly how John felt
• however, no sooner does John feel the full weight of this human tragedy, than he is shown the remedy

Vv. 5-6, The heavenly drama is quickly put back on track

One of the elders approaches John to comfort and inform him – this is what elders do: they help others
– he informs John that there is a hero, one who was destined for this moment
• his title, “Lion of the tribe of Judah”
• he is the worthy one, because he has “conquered” (the same word is also translated “overcome” or “prevail”
◦ he succeeded where we failed (I think of his temptations)
– suddenly, Jesus takes center stage, between the throne and the four living creatures
– only, when John looks, he does not see the Lion of Judah, but a Lamb
• two animals on opposite ends of the food chain
◦ and not just a Lamb, but one as though it had been slain
• we could drive ourselves crazy trying to picture description
◦ e.g., how would seven eyes be located around the face?
◦ for now: eyes represent all seeing and all insight and the horns (generally in scripture) are a symbol of exaltation and power

So the Lion conquered and the Lamb was slain

C. S. Lewis understood this scene as well as anyone
Walter Hooper tells us about a time when, “Lewis, Tolkien, and another friend . . . were up all night discussing ‘myth’ and its relation to the revelation of God in Christ. . . .” Lewis was deeply moved by the conversation and later shared his experience with another friend, writing, the “story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.’”
– in his own mythical story of the Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan the Lion is a Christ-type
• when Lucy hears about Aslan for the first time, she asks where he is safe
She is told, “Safe? . . . Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
• in a later adventure, Lucy and another child, Edmund, meet a Lamb on an island
◦ the scene is a replay of Jesus on the shore of Galilee, inviting his disciples to have breakfast (Jn. 21:9-12)
The Lamb tells Lucy and Edmund, “‘There is a way into my country from all the worlds,’ said the Lamb; but as he spoke his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane.”
◦ one moment he was a Lamb and the next he was a Lion
(Exactly what John saw, except the order was reversed)

In the interest of time, I will print the remainder of the chapter here without comment. Read it slowly and allow the whole thing to enter you without trying to make sense of every detail. We are witnessing worship in heaven.

The Lamb went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who sits on the throne. As he did so, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. They sang a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to break open its seals.
For you were killed, and by your sacrificial death you bought for God
people from every tribe, language, nation, and race.
You have made them a kingdom of priests to serve our God,
and they shall rule on earth.”

Again I looked, and I heard angels, thousands and millions of them! They stood around the throne, the four living creatures, and the elders, and sang in a loud voice:
“The Lamb who was killed is worthy
to receive power, wealth, wisdom, and strength,
honor, glory, and praise!”

And I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, in the world below, and in the sea—all living beings in the universe—and they were singing:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb,
be praise and honor, glory and might,
forever and ever!”

The four living creatures answered, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Revelation 5:7-14 (The Good News Bible)

Conclusion: Years ago I spent time seeing a Psychiatrist

After a few months, I said,
“Now that I understand a great deal about what has been programmed into me, how it has led to my insecurities and fear of trying, and all the other screwy things about my mood disorders, when are we going start working on all of this. What is the plan for change?”
I remember that he pointed upward and with a gentle smile, said, “Enlightenment is the first stage!”

In this chapter, John has led us to that first stage
We’ve been exposed to a unavoidable truth about ourselves
But we’ve also met our one true hope;
“the myth that really happened”

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