Daily Archives: January 9, 2013

The Seven Churches of Revelation, part fifteen

If you’re new to this series, catch up @

https://polination.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-thirteen/

https://polination.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-fourteen/

Over this series, I’ve mentioned my belief that, in order for my interpretation of the Letters to be valid, it had to apply to all seven of them in the same way. And I’ve told y’all my puzzlements over the last three, which didn’t fit the format I’d established for the first four. Today, when I gathered my Bible, yellow pad, sharp pencils and the all-important cuppa joe, I gave extra attention to my pre-Scripture reading prayer for insight. I’m sure the Lord provided; the real question is … did I hear Him correctly?

At the end of the fourth Letter, there is a kind of entr’acte that suggests the first four Letters are one group, while the last three are another. This possibility is supported by the parallels we saw with the Seals. There are seven Seals, but only four Seraphim and four Horses. So perhaps it does not negate my interpretations thus far that the last three Letters do not fit the pattern for the first four.

Entr’acte: [AWN tract] A pause between two parts of a stage production, often a place where a piece of music is performed.

I said in Part Three that each of the seven letters follows the same pattern:

  • Address “To the angel of the church in ___;
  • Description of the exalted Christ, author of the letter;
  • Lessons for the church;
  • Exhortation “Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches”;
  • Promise to “victors” – i.e., all Christians who endure faithfully to the end.

I got that wrong. In the first three Letters, the Exhortation “Whoever has ears” precedes the Promise to the “victors”; in the last four Letters, those two bits are reversed. This might suggest the Letters group up 3-4, not 4-3, as I am proposing, except for the Seraphim, Horses and this Entr’acte that appears at the end of the Letter to Thyatira [Rev 2:26-29]:

To the victor, who keeps to my ways until the end,

I will give authority over the nations.

He will rule them with an iron rod.

Like clay vessels will they be smashed,

Just as I received authority from my Father.

And to him I will give the morning star.

Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Parts of this are straight out of Psalm 2. The majority of the Psalms were composed as songs for liturgical worship. We may speak these as poetry, but the early Christians sang them. And the Book of Revelation was clearly intended to be read aloud to the congregation. It says so right in the beginning:

Blessed is the one who reads aloud and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message and heed what is written in it. -Rev 1:3

I’m guessing that Psalm 2, being a Messianic Hymn, would have been a particular favorite of the early Christians, most of whom were raised Jewish. In fact, it breaks itself down very easily into a little bitty oratorio. (See below for definition of oratorio. If anyone knows a better term for a piece of music like this that is “little bitty”, please share it with the class. Thanks!)

Imagine, if you will, that your congregation often performed Psalm 2.

CHOIR:

Why do the nations protest and the peoples conspire in vain?

Kings on earth rise up and princes plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one:

CONGREGATION (PLOTTERS):

“Let us break their shackles and cast off their chains from us!”

CHOIR:

The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord derides them,

Then he speaks to them in his anger, in his wrath he terrifies them:

BASS SOLO (GOD):

“I myself have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”

BARITONE SOLO (JESUS)

I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, he said to me,

BASS SOLO (GOD):

“You are my son; today I have begotten you.

Ask it of me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,

and, as your possession, the ends of the earth.

With an iron rod you will shepherd them,

like a potter’s vessel you will shatter them.”

CHOIR:

And now, kings, give heed; take warning, judges on earth.

Serve the LORD with fear; exult with trembling,

Accept correction lest he become angry and you perish along the way when his anger suddenly blazes up.

CONGREGATION (FAITHFUL):

Blessed are all who take refuge in him!

Blessed are all who take refuge in him

Isn’t that beautiful?! And, if you’ve been following my blogs, you won’t have missed that the themes here are the same as those running through the first four Letters. My point here is that for first century readers and congregations, those lines at the end of the fourth Letter – while not identical or complete – would have been understood as parts of the liturgical song we call Psalm 2. It would be as if someone today were to plunk these lines into the middle of a sermon:

Amazing Grace! What a sweet sound.

I once was lost, but now am found.

Even if the reader didn’t actually sing the lines, it would be almost impossible for him not to speak them in the song’s cadence or for the congregation to not comprehend that the couplet referenced the entire song.

Consider the impact of the whole of Psalm 2, especially coming on top of the first four Letters. Then add this bit:

Just as I received authority from my Father.

And to him I will give the morning star.

That reference to the “morning star” is from 2 Peter 1:12-21 in which the Apostle Peter says, “I will always remind you [that] we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Then, he describes the Transfiguration of Jesus:

For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory,

“This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Transfiguration by Carl Bloch 1834-1890

Look again at the end of the Letter to Thyatira [Rev 2:26-29]. Do you see why I think it’s an entr’acte that sums up and emphasizes the major themes of the first four Letters? Can you imagine how potent it would be if the reader left off at the end of verse 25 and the church choir performed the last part like this:

BARITONE SOLO (JESUS)

To the victor, who keeps to my ways until the end,

I will give authority over the nations.

He will rule them with an iron rod.

Like clay vessels will they be smashed,

Just as I received authority from my Father.

BASS SOLO (GOD):

And to him I will give the morning star.

CHOIR:

Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches

Kinda gives me goosebumps, you know?

————

Sources:

New American Bible online @ http://www.usccb.org/bible/

Entr’acte @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entr%27acte

Introduction to the Psalms from the New American Bible (Catholic translation) – “The Hebrew Psalter numbers 150 songs. The corresponding number in the Septuagint differs because of a different division of certain Psalms. Hence the numbering in the Greek Psalter (which was followed by the Latin Vulgate) is usually one digit behind the Hebrew. In the New American Bible the numbering of the verses follows the Hebrew numbering; many of the traditional English translations are often a verse number behind the Hebrew because they do not count the superscriptions as a verse.” http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bk=Psalms&ch=

An oratorio is a large musical composition in which a choir, soloists and an ensemble play various distinguishable characters, usually with an orchestral accompaniment. Unlike an opera, an oratorio is performed as a concert piece, without props or costumes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oratorio

2 Comments

Filed under Bible Prophecy