‘God told Jesus, who told an angel, who told John… yeah, right….
‘And John bore witness to the Word, to Jesus, to what he saw… yeah, right…
Here is the thin brown wrapper of the dusty old onion. The writer names what is to follow, as a divine message mediated through an angel to John, then through John to us. We are being made self-conscious of the transmission.
‘Blessed those who read and who hear’
Yes, this is intended as performance art – an ancient bit of theatre, visualization, aural or oral repetition of ‘ear-worms’. If they treasure the content (and don’t add or take away to suit themselves).
Time is of the essence –
This is not something to a ‘read later’ file, let alone the ‘circular file’ for trash. This is imminent (not just immanent) – urgent and emergent. Does that necessarily demand a chronological deadline for a sequence of events?
John is writing to 7 churches in Asia in Turkey – Asia Minor – 100CE – but like Paul’s ‘open letter’ to Romans last season, the document was also always meant for more – including us, in our church, in our time
The message comes from ‘the one’ (God? Jesus) who is, and was, and who is to come – and from 7 spirits before the throne – and from Jesus Christ. This is from the “I am”, a term of art in the fourth gospel and ‘Johannine epistles’ – don’t just elide the ego (Greek for ‘I am’) and focus on the predicate! Alpha and omega – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet – the ‘A to Z’.
This is not a modest claim, starting the apocalypse of John. Who’s got a message, for whom? John writes to ‘seven churches in Asia’. Compare the closing verses of chapter 22, the matching outer layer of the onion, the brown papery skin. These are the presenting face of the concentric circles, a hint of what’s to be found inside. For now, there is this mediated message for us – ultimately, all tribes and nations will wail.
How many words or phrases ring a bell? Some of these codes will be unpacked later, and some are shared with the fourth gospel and the letters attributed to John. This ‘John’ does not claim to have written the gospel, or the letters, or to have been a disciple - but there are shared ways to thinking and talking.
We are begun…
1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
2who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,
5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood,
6and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.
8 ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.