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March 30, 2008

#3: For the next few weeks I'll be posting on Revelation 2:1-3:22


(Notice- Copyright Dr. Gregory J. Laughery - 2008)
 

In all seven letters there is a clear indication that the speaker is Christ, and a careful look shows us that each letter echoes back to chapter 1 (2:1 corresponds to 1:12-15, 2:8 and 1:17-18, 2:12 and 1:16, 2:18 and 1:14-15, 3:1 and 1:4, 16, 3:7 and 1:18, 3:14 and 1:2).
 
There is then a remarkably close relationship between the letters and chapter 1. We also should keep in mind, however, that the relationship of the letters to other parts of the book is pertinent as well. The heavenly city of Jerusalem in chapters 21 and 22  is contrasted to the seven earthly cities in that it is God’s city, the city to which all the promises made to the earthly cities looks forward. In chapters 4-20 there are also parallels of expression or symbol, suggesting John may have had the circumstances of the churches in mind, calling for patient endurance and faithfulness, giving warnings against idolatry, and Satan’s powerful and attractive deceptions. The point we need to continue to focus on is that there is an internal coherence to the book as different parts relate to each other. Going further, we could also say there is an overall coherence between the Apocalypse and the rest of Scripture. Systematic and precise divisions fail to do justice to the text.
 
These letters, as the rest of the Apocalypse, are as pertinent today as they ever were. Think of the churches as symbolic for churches throughout the centuries. Consider the impoverished state of the church in our times. Consumerism, idolatry, confused and superficial theology and spirituality, empty minds and blinded hearts, characterize far too many Christians and churches, showing that we have much to learn from each letter. Read together they will provide critique, wisdom and insight for our lives. As we face the powerful threat of cultural, religious and political manifestations that set themselves up as authoritative and endanger faith and allegiance to the crucified and risen One, we want to be informed about and aware of whom we follow and obey.

Reflection of the Week- March 30th 2008

We who are Christians need not look to the consummation of God’s rule in fear and trepidation. We too can shout, “Hallelujah!” for our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him the glory.

Dr. Gregory J. Laughery

 

 

March 25, 2008

#2: For the next few weeks I'll be posting on Revelation 2:1-3:22

For the next few weeks I'll be posting on Revelation 2:1-3:22 - the Seven Letters to the Churches - out of my new book Living Apocalypse: A Revelation Reader and A Guide for the Perplexed.
 
(Notice- Copyright Dr. Gregory J. Laughery - 2008)

Please join us and share your comments and insights.
 
Who are these angels? (see previous post)
Many today put forward the latter suggestion, however, it may not be the most accurate. While it is true that the word ‘angel’ almost always means messenger and is found over sixty times in the Apocalypse, not including these letters, it is noteworthy that each of these times it refers to a heavenly being. Consequently, it seems unlikely that the address to ‘angel’ in the letters is a reference to a human messenger or leader.
What about the possibility that these angels are guardian angels? While uncommon, this view is not completely without merit. There is a reference to this in the book of Daniel ( 10:13 , 20, 21), where nations seem to have something like a guardian angel. In our context however, this is difficult to support as it does not quite make sense to see John as commissioned to write these letters to guardian angels with instructions for them to perform their guardianship more effectively. Another problem with this interpretation, as well as the previous one, lies within the letters themselves. Each of them has the particular congregations and specific location in mind, and is practically concerned with their daily lives.
Another interpretation considers the angels as heavenly counterparts of earthly congregations. This should not be taken literally, as if John sees the congregations seated in the heavens above, answering to their equivalents below. It is better to think of them as existentially in heaven though living on earth. In other words, we can imagine this as symbolically conveying the truth that there is an aspect of heavenly existence related to their earthly lives in Christ.
John writes to earthly communities characterized by their failures and weaknesses, successes and strengths. However, these communities have one feature which distinguishes them from any other earthly communities. They are said to be ‘in Jesus’ and are therefore made priests and a kingdom with him (1:6, 9). It is because of this fact that John addresses his letters to the ‘angel’. He is aiming to show these Christians that they have a heavenly orientation as their existence is also ‘in Jesus’ who is in heaven. Their earthly conduct and actions should reflect this heavenly existence and it is this existence that John wants to stress. Of course, we must remember that Christ is also in the midst of the lampstands. These two realities, Christ present with the church on earth and they with him in heaven are cause for great reassurance, especially in the midst of terrible persecution.
It may be helpful here to think of the two images used in 1:20 . We have stars (angels) and lampstands, both of which seem to point to the churches and both of which symbolize light. One is an earthly light, the other heavenly. Is it possible that this reflects the dual character of the church? If so, perhaps the two-sided nature of the church works out something like this: First, the church must act to preserve faith in Christ in the face of persecution and hardship. The church is to keep its lampstand lit as the turbulent winds of deceit seek to extinguish the light of the gospel. The assurance that this can be carried out and the protection it offers comes from the fact that Christ is among the lampstands (1:13).
    Second, the churches were, as the church is today, an eschatological reality. They and we already belong, in some sense, to the new world. Each individual who has believed on Christ is made a new creation. That new creation is in reality a sign of the rule of God breaking into the world (first through the coming of Christ, then through the very existence of the church as we who are part of it await the redemption of our bodies and the universe itself upon Christ’s return), and transferring us from one rule to the other. In other words, the future has broken into the present. Therefore, those in Christ already share and participate in the reality of being present with God in heaven just as the stars and angels. The assurance of this reality and the protection it offers is found in the fact that Christ holds the seven stars (angels) in his right hand. This indicates his power to sustain the churches through any and every persecution or difficulty (see Eph. 2:6-10; Phil. 3:15 -21; and Col. 3:1 for Paul’s view of this interpretive option where he clearly emphasizes the ‘already but not yet’ feature of salvation).

March 23, 2008

Reflection of the Week- March 23rd 2008

The crucified and risen One is alive. Christ is raised. Celebrate the victory of life over death. Joyous Easter!

 

Dr. Gregory J. Laughery

March 16, 2008

#1: For the next few weeks I'll be posting on Revelation 2:1-3:22

For the next few weeks I'll be posting on Revelation 2:1-3:22 - the Seven Letters to the Churches - out of my new book Living Apocalypse: A Revelation Reader and A Guide for the Perplexed.
 
(Notice- Copyright Dr. Gregory J. Laughery - 2008)

General Introduction to the Letters

 
In the previous chapter we studied 1:1-20. The opening of the Apocalypse has provided us with a magnificient proclamation of blessing to those who read and obey what is testified to and written. John ’s prophetic addresses is to the seven churches in Asia , but symbolically to all churches. Grace and peace from God, who was, is, and is to come and Jesus Christ, who has provided redemption and made his followers into a subversive kingdom serving God.
 
We developed, more extensively, verse 10 and the phrase ‘on the Lord’s Day’. I suggested, against both the traditional and reformation views that we meet together not because of tradition, nor because of social convenience, nor for the practical ordering of the life of the church. The real reason we meet for worship is because of the resurrection of Christ. This is ‘the Lord’s Day’.
 
Attention was also given to the notion of John ’s being ‘in the Spirit’ and the reception of the command to write to the seven churches (see 1:9-20 first vision). In verse 12 John turns to ‘see’, implying here the visionary aspect of what he is now about to describe. We concluded that this majestic vision was of the crucified, risen, and glorified Christ. Many of the Old Testament metaphors that describe God, especially from the book of Daniel, are now used by John in his description of ‘one like a son of man’.
 
In verses 17-18 the prophet fell at the feet of Christ as though dead, but is told not to fear. The one he sees is the First and the Last—the Living One—the one who was dead, but who now lives forever and ever. Verse 19 includes the command to write what was seen, what is now, and what will take place later. These are not to be taken as statements of time that provide a neat division of the book as often past, present, and future concerns are woven in and through all parts of the Apocalypse. In verse 20 we were given the explanation of the mystery of the seven stars in Christ’s right hand and of the seven golden lampstands among which he is seen (see 1:13, 16). The seven stars are the angels of the churches and the seven lampstands are the churches.
 
This brief review of chapter 1 leads us into some preliminary considerations on the seven letters—proclamations in chapters 2-3 that are addressed “to ‘the angel’ of the church in ...” We may quickly find ourselves unsatisfied with the previous explanation of the seven stars being the angels of the seven churches. What does this mean? Why are all the letters addressed to an ‘angel’? Are we to think that the churches had some sort of guardian angel? Were these letters addressed to human messengers or leaders, perhaps something like bishops in the churches?
 
I hope to provide some answers to these important questions in the next post.

Reflection of the Week- March 14th 2008

Throne theophanies in Scripture are visions of God enthroned. God is holy, almighty, and who was, is, and is to come. He lives forever and ever. He is worthy for he has created all things. Revelation 5 captures one of these awesome scenes. In this majestic scene there is assurance that those facing dire circumstances and life-threatening persecution can trust God. In a world that may seem to be out of control, in a world of suffering and death, God is there, moving history to its cataclysmic consummation.

Dr. Gregory J. Laughery

March 09, 2008

Reflection of the Week- March 9th 2008

In Revelation 3:14-22 Christ wishes that the Christians in Laodicea were either hot or cold. It is often assumed that hot means ‘on fire for the Lord’ or a full commitment, while cold means, ‘no fire for the Lord’ or no commitment. If this is the case, the question we’re faced with is why Christ would approve of no commitment at all? This doesn’t make sense. Hot and cold are not to be taken as positive and negative descriptions, but both are positive in regard to what the church’s actions should be. Problem is being lukewarm, which seems identify all too many churches. We, as the Laodiceans, proclaim we’re rich, but Christ says we’re impoverished. True riches are spiritual, not found in material possessions, but in Christ himself.

  Dr. Gregory J. Laughery

March 03, 2008

Reflection for the Week- March 2nd, 2008

Christ stands at the door and calls, awaiting a response from anyone who hears his voice. The crucified and risen One standing at the door is not a threat, but a promise. There he is calling out. No doubt this imagery should jolt and challenge us. Whenever we hear his voice, it is time to open the door. He assures us that our hospitality will not be deceptively abused.

  Dr. Gregory J. Laughery