The other day I was listening to a podcast of Phyllis Tickle - she made a comment about how a prologue reveals most of what the story is going to include. It made me think of the prologue to Revelation - what does it tell us about the story/vision we are about to encounter? Here are some bullet points from the prologue, greetings and doxology to give us some direction.
* show his servants what must soon take place
* blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy
* blessed are those who hear it and take it to heart
* the time is near
* to the seven churches of Asia
* grace and peace to you
* from Him Who Is, and Who Was, and Who is to come
* from the Seven Spirit before his throne
* from Jesus Christ - Faithful Witness, Firstborn form the Dead, Ruler of the Kings of the Earth
* to Him who loves us
* and has freed us from our sins by his blood
* and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father
* to Him be glory and power for ever and ever.
Some things to take from these accounts: the apocalyptic prophecy has to do with current situations/events - and the purpose of the vision/writings is to bless, to increase grace and peace. This means that those who read/heard/envisioned this document would be encouraged, their faith bolstered, their hearts comforted. What was going on that this was important to them?
Note the Trinitarian descriptions - they are clues to what we are about to experience in this letter. The titles for God, Spirit and Jesus will be fleshed out, stories and visions will unpack what John means behind these words.
God is coming - no matter how difficult or dark are the days, do not forget that God has been and is at work such that all things will come to a culmination when heaven and earth join, when God himself dwells with Humanity.
Seven Spirits that are before the Throne are also the Ones infused within us to lead us into all truth and conviction of sin; the Holy Spirits are our link from the Holy Glory of God's Presence in the Heavens to the holes in our hearts.
Jesus Christ is a reliable revealer of God's character and work; he is the embodiment of God's promise to resurrect the dead, and despite our cynicism - Jesus Christ is the ultimate ruler to whom all kings and queens will have to give an account.
These are the main themes of the letter - whatever fantastic, weird, baffling visions/accounts you read - it all points to these ideas/actions of God, Spirit and Jesus. The book is less about details for the end of the world, and much more about the kind of God, Spirit, Jesus that will complete the work they began at Creation.
What kind of work? An unending work of love that results in our freedom from enslavement to darkness, sin, evil, rebellion; by the blood of Christ we are forgiven and made righteous such that we can form a new Way of Living, join a New Kingdom where grace and peace prevail. Where now we only see glimpses of God's Glory and Power - there is a day coming when it will be the only light by which we see everything for what it really is.