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Let's start by looking at the wikipedia page. Looks like it is written by John, although it seems to be a different John from the books by that name. Also, it seems many believe it was written in 95AD, although some place it at 70AD instead. There is actually a ton of information there, but most of it seems to be about the content itself, which we will get to in the reading soon enough. Near the bottom though is a section Criticism which contains a quote from Ingersoll that Revelation is "the insanest of all books." Awesome!
Prologue (v. 1-3)
God sent an angel to John so that his followers would know what is about to take place. Blessed is anyone who reads or hears this prophecy, for the time is near.
First, I'd like to point out that it says the events which are going to be described in this book are right around the corner. It says it twice actually, in v1 it says "must soon take place" and in v3 is says "the time is near". Seems pretty clear to me that it is therefore going to be a failed prophecy. The only way out of it is to redefine what they mean by "soon". I suppose it is up to each individual person to determine whether they think it is reasonable to define soon to be "in about 2000 years.
Guzik has 2 answers for this point. The first is one that we have seen him use many times in the past, that we are not running toward a distant brink, but we are running along side it, always right near the edge. With this logic we can be on the verge of falling for thousands of years without ever falling. Honestly, I think he's pushing his "falling off a cliff" analogy pretty hard here. If that was what was meant by the book, you would think it would say something like "it could happen at any moment" or something. Would you describe his situation (running along side the edge) as "must soon take place" or "the time is near"? I think not.
His other defense here is a quote from someone named Walvoord, he says
Shortly is the ancient Greek phrase en tachei, which means “'quickly or suddenly coming to pass,' indicating rapidity of execution after the beginning takes place. The idea is not that the event may occur soon, but that when it does, it will be sudden.”which I decided to check out on the lexicon for this point, when it comes to verse 1, he is potentially right, the Greek is tachei which translates to speed. Perhaps his interpretation here is correct here and we are talking about speed once it starts but not speed in it getting started. But what about verse 3? Here 'near' is from the word engus which means 'near (in place or time)'. Given that the phrase is "the time is near", I don't think there is really a way around this.
Second, if God really is all powerful, why would he only send an angel to John? Why not send one to everybody?
Greeting to the Seven Churches (v. 4-8)
John greets the 7 churches in Asia. He wishes them peace from God and the 7 spirits before his throne.
Is there supposed to be one spirit for each church? I feel like I'm missing something here.
According to Guzik, this is a reference to Isaiah 11 which describes 7 aspects of the holy spirit. I don't know about that, because the text clearly says "seven spirits". I also looked at the commentary of Jamieson, Fausset & Brown for this and didn't find anything very satisfying. They talk about seven's a lot, it has a bit of a numerology feel to it. I still might just be missing something here.
Jesus freed us with his blood, he will come with the clouds and everyone will see and wail on account of him.
I'm guessing 'coming with the clouds' means he will be flying down from the sky. This makes some sense as they believed heaven was up in the clouds. Does the idea that everyone will see him indicate a flat earth? I suppose it would be argued that Jesus could fly around the earth and everyone would see him, they don't necessarily have to all see him at the same time.
Guzik says that "every eye will see" refers to the fact that when Jesus returns everyone will know about it, in contrast to his first coming which was "somewhat obscure", and "never made front-page news in Rome". I don't know about that, didn't Herod kill a bunch of children because of the birth of Jesus? Doesn't sound so obscure to me.
God is the alpha and the omega, "who is, who was, and who is to come"
This is said twice, in verse 4 and 8. I guess it is the way the bible says God is eternal.
Interesting point from Guzik here
The Greek construction of who is, who was and who is to come is intentionally awkward in the Greek. It seems that John searched for a phrase to communicate the Old Testament idea of Yahweh.Vision of the Son of Man (v. 9-20)
John tells us that God sent him to the island Patmos, and while he was 'in the spirit' a loud voice like a trumpet told him to write a book and send it to the 7 churches.
Apparently Patmos is a prison island. (Guzik)
I'm not really sure what it means to be 'in the spirit', was he praying?
Again from Guzik's commentary, Walvoord says he was "Carried beyond normal sense into a state where God could reveal supernaturally the contents of this book." Whatever that means.
When he turned to see the voice, he saw 7 golden lampstands. In the middle was Jesus in a long robe with a golden sash around his chest. His hair was white like wool or snow. His eyes were like fire, his feet were bronze, his voice was like the roar of many waters. He held 7 stars in his right hand, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like staring into the sun.
Uhh...so he's insane right? Or stoned out of his mind, or something. Seriously, how are we supposed to make sense out of this?
Looking at Guzik once again, the lamp stands are not lamps, they are a vessel to put a lamp where you display light, but they don't produce light themselves. This is an analogy for the church, which is more of a platform for Jesus. He also says that the garments are meant to show that Jesus is of high status. Long robes are worn by people who don't have to work much, and the sash is gold and therefore very valuable. The hair is about old age and wisdom. Eyes are about judgement. The feet are also about judgement, as well as stability and permanence. His voice is powerful. The sword is power and it is coming out of his mouth because it is supposed to be his words. His face is shining because of his glory.
Jesus says he is the first and last, and then says he has the keys of death.
A third time he is saying he is eternal, and that with Jesus you can't die.
Jesus explains that the 7 stars in his hand are the angels of the seven churches, and the 7 lamp stands are the churches themselves.
Okay, so does every church have a corresponding angel then, or are these 7 churches special? Why do the stars and lamp stands go together? What about all of the other crazy images here?
What we learned today:
Revelation 1:1,3 The end is near
"must soon take place", "the time is near"
--Properties of God--
Revelation 1:4,8,17 God is eternal
"who is and who was and who is to come" (twice)
"I am the first and the last"