The Book of Revelation.  The last book of the canon of scripture.  Chapter 1, verse 1 begins “The revelation of Jesus Christ…“.  “Of” here carries a double meaning.  It is the revelation about Jesus Christ, and it is the revelation from Jesus Christ.   He is the content, the subject, of the revelation, and the agent of the revelation.  As Eugene Peterson puts it, “Jesus Christ is the way in which God reveals himself to us; Jesus Christ is also God himself being revealed to us.”

As such, we need to understand that revelation is not given to be information about the broken world we live in.  It is not a report about the persecution of the church in the first century, and it’s certainly, ABSOLUTELY, not chiming in about all the geopolitical events of the 21st century.  Anything regarding past and future evens in revelation are only given because they are useful in revealing Christ to us.  Because the Revelation is nothing if not focused on Jesus Christ.

Martin Luther disagreed with this statement.  In fact, brother Luther wanted to remove Revelation from the Bible altogether.  Martin considered revelation to be “neither apostolic or prophetic…I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it…they are supposed to be blessed who keep what is written in this book; and yet no one seems to know what that is, to say nothing of keeping it…Christ is neither taught nor known in it.”

All of which did not prevent him from using the revelation to prove the pope was the antichrist.  The same pope who, in turn, used revelation to prove that Martin Luther was the antichrist.  The same antichrist who, by the way, is not mentioned in the book of revelation.  Anywhere.

But I digress.  Like I said, Revelation is nothing if not focused on Jesus Christ (despite the objections of Martin Luther).  It may be hard to maintain this focus through all the symbolism and topics flashing at us (especially for our ADHD, instant gratification minds), but it is the only way to read the Revelation with any degree of sanity.  In fact, the only way to read any scripture rightly is in subjugation to Jesus Christ.  If Christ is not the center of it all, then our Holy Bible is little more than an encyclopedia of religion, with no more plot than a phone book.

Without Christ as the center, all the individual stories and words of the Bible are just out there.   So we have a talking snake, floating axe heads, a snake on a pole, strange rules strangely repeated like the law not to boil a kid in its mothers milk.  We have seemingly pointless genealogies at random points, which we need for what??   We have the thundering “Thus saith the Lord!” moments.  We have some of the favorite sayings of Christ himself –  “you are salt of the earth…and the light of the world“, “Enter by the narrow gate“, or “Do unto others..“.  We have Paul’s paradoxes  – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”   We have Paul’s stirring conclusions – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” or “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   AMEN!!

So, what does it all mean??  What do we make of the information, all the stories, this mass of material we call our bible??  By this time, we can be completely confused and bewildered.  This is where the revelation steps in.

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.    We turn the page and find the magnificent Christ described in such a way that everything is imaginatively subordinated to him.  He was suggested, anticipated, prayed for and promised in the ancient Hebrew scriptures.  He’s been presented in the Gospels, taught and preached in the epistles.  If we are careful and maintain our focus, we could have held true to our awareness throughout of Jesus the Christ.  But we don’t read carefully and maintain our focus.  Instead, we argue about predestination, we theorize about atonement.  We count miracles and worry about grammar and style.  Then we come to Revelation and we are startled out of all our tangential arguments and diversions.  Everything that was said before is brought back into proportion.  Christ himself is the last word.  He was and is the word made flesh, John brings us back on track, brings Him back into focus.  We’ve been climbing the mountain but we’ve lost our way.  We are climbing, seeking after Christ, but we’ve lost sight of the guideposts along the way.  John brings the path back into focus, and clears the brush for us.  A mountain peak determines all the preparations and the path climbers take to reach it, even when it’s still out of sight.  The peak is always the goal toward which everything was aimed.  The Revelation gives us the last word on Christ, and this word is that Christ is the center and at the center.  He is the mountaintop we are seeking throughout the mountain of scripture.

Keeping Christ at the center can be difficult.  We get lost along the way, and other things find their way to the front.  The golden rule, our doctrines of atonement, the Ten Commandments,  justification, diagrams and explanations of the trinity, denouncing the wicked.  We know all along that Christ is one to be reckoned with, but we forget that he at the center of all, filling all things with himself.

So what is Christ, who is he, and how will he be presented to hold onto this centrality?  John is commanded by the trumpet voice and describes him as one like a son of man.  This phrase originates in the vision of Daniel – I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.   Jesus, the Son of Man, is a commanding, all powerful, redeeming, glorious figure! We want to manage him, keep him in his box, but he will not be managed.  We go along with, we believe in, we teach Jesus as a piece of the puzzle for our own private lives, a private decision to be kept out of the public space.  We believe in a secularized, managed-for-our-own-purposes Jesus.  But he will not be managed.  He does not fit nice and tidy into our little shoebox.

In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.  The word from the word, coming forth like a sharp two edged sword, searching hearts, judging rebels, and slaying sinners.  BUT, the word tells us Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.   He is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega.  He is the word, slaying sinners with a spoken word like a two edged sword so they can then be resurrected into newness of life with Him.  He died, yet he is alive forevermore, and he holds the keys to death and Hades.   He is “...the firstborn of the dead…” Revelation 1:5 ESV.   Because he went ahead of us we can Fear noteven death, because He has conquered it forever.

He does not live in our acrostics.  He’s not a part of our self help plans, he’s not contained by our 12 step programs.  He migh meet you on a Roman road, but he does not live there.  We can’t keep sinners from his table, because no matter how hard we try he just keeps calling out and inviting them.  He is the one who sits, eats, and drinks with sinners.  He doesn’t care about atonement theories, He just forgives sins and sinners.  He doesn’t argue about justification, He justifies.

He is the Son of Man, to him is given dominion and glory and a kingdom.  He is the beginning and the end, the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn of the dead.  He is the first word of creation, and the last word of Revelation.  He made all things, all things were made through Him.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and no, the darkness has not overcome it.  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 ESV.

“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

Revelation 1:12-20 ESV

http://bible.com/59/rev.1.12-20.esv

“”I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

Daniel 7:13-14 ESV

http://bible.com/59/dan.7.13-14.esv

John Lewis

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