Revelation 1 : 9-13, 17-19 ( NRSV )

I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos 1 because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.(9) I was in the spirit on the Lord's day,2 and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet(10)3 saying, "Write in a book4 what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."(11) 5Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,(12) and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man,6 clothed with a long robe7 and with a golden sash8 across his chest.(13) . . ,
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,(17) and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.9(18) Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this.10(19)

Comment

     It is the Spirit of Jesus that deepens our understanding of the "signs" so that the amazing interventions of the God of life, can be communicated to others in the written form of letters. The letter writer here provides a similar function to that of the ancient Hebrew prophets.
     The first listeners/readers would have been struck by the difference the Seer notes between the hearing a loud voice "like the sound of a trumpet - from behind," and experiencing a revelation "face-to-face from Jeusus Christ!" This parallels and contrasts "hearing the voice;" of John the Baptist and experiencing the direct presence of Jesus, described in the gospel accounts. The contrast illustrates two different prophetic moments which the Seer addresses in what follows in the letter.
     The Seer is the human instrument who receives a revelation. At first, the voice is heard "from behind" but now it is a "face-to-face" encounter with Jesus Christ (the Human one / Son of man)! This is a reference to a revelation of Jesus Christ in a superior and final way. This vision is repeated in the final scenes in the book which speak there of Jesus' permanent presence among the believers (cf Rv.21:22-27 & 22:1-5) and His direct communication with them (cf Rv.22:16-17).
     The two phases of revelation could refer to the two moments in the revelation of Jesus. The indirect revelation - of the Hebrew scriptures. And the direct revelation of the person and practice of Jesus Himself. There's a continuity in which one leads to the other. But there is still a distinction. The turing towards Jesus could refer to the need for faith in Him possible only through a conversion or turning around towards Him.
     In the context of this discussion, the Seer's letters are really a reading of the ancient scriptures done by Jesus Himself. They explain their own significance in the light of His coming. The "loud voice from behind" calls for all the intermediaries of the old economy - the super-human intervention (loud voice); their human instrument (the Seer/John); the prophetic mission (write a book); and those for whom it is intended (the Seven Churches). The vision of the Human one is a direct communication. The communication is the same command. Jesus has to write what He sees. The passage is patterned on Dn.10, enriched with symbolic language from Daniel 7, Exodus and Ezekiel.
     The "Human one"(v.13) evokes Dn.7:13 and many passages in the gospel traditions. In Daniel, the term refers to the end of time. Here it refers to Jesus. That means He is the Messiah announced by Daniel in his vision. The Seer is clear that Jesus Christ, the Human one, is of divine status. Jesus is a God-equal of YHWH. The salvific action of the Human one is stressed. The phrase "one like a Human one" is used to indicate a divine presence among humankind in history. Jesus is the continuation and the perfection of the old economy. Above all, He has passed through death and this gives Him power over death (v.18).
     The salvific action of the Human one is repeated here in another way - at the sight of the Human one, John "fell at His feet as though dead." Jesus places His hand upon him and raises him (Rv.1:17). This is taken from Dn.10:9-12. But for Daniel, the restoration is after fear. Here it is after "as though dead," which is the situation of humankind before the presence of the divine life and the transformation made possible by Jesus!
footnotes:
Revelation 1:9-20 ] In this first vision, the seer is commanded to write what he sees to the seven churches (vv.9-11). He sees Christ in glory, whom he depicts in stock apocalyptic imagery (vv.12-16), and hears him describe himself in terms meant to encourage Christians by emphasizing his victory over death (vv.17-20).
1. [ v.9 ] The island called Patmos: One of the Sporades islands in the Aegean Sea, some fifty miles south of Ephesus, used by the Romans as a penal colony. 2. [ v.10a ] The Lord's day: Sunday.
3. [ v.10b ] A loud voice like a trumpet: The imagery is derived from the theophany at Sinai (Ex.19:16, 19; cf Hb.12:19 and the trumpet in other eschatological settings in Is.27:13; Jl.2:1; Mt.24:31; 1 Co.15:52; 1 Th.4:16).
4. [ v.11 ] Book: A papyrus scroll.
5. [ v.12-16 ] A symbolic description of Christ in glory. The metaphorical language is not to be understood literally.
6. [ v.13 ] Son of Man: An enigmatic title. It is used in Dn.7:13-14 has a symbol of "the saints of the Most High," the faithful Israelites who receive the everlasting kingdom from the Ancient One (God). They are represented by a human figure that contrasts with the various beasts who represent the previous kingdoms of the earth. In the Jewish apocryphal books of 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra the "Son of Man" is not, as in Daniel, a group, but a unique figure of extraordinary spiritual endowments, who will be revealed as the one through whom the everlasting kingdom decreed by God will be established. Of itself, this expression means simply a human being, or, indefinitely, someone, and there are evidences of this use in pre-Christian times. Its use in the New Testament is probably due to Jesus' speaking of Himself in that way, 'a human being', and the later church's taking this in the sense of the Jewish apocrypha and applying it to him with that meaning.
7. [ v.13b ] Long robe: An ankle-length robe ie. Christ is priest; cf Ex.28:4; 29:5; Ws.18:24; Zc.3:4. 8. [ v.13c ] Golden sash: Christ is king; cf Ex.28:4; 1 M.10:89; 11:58; Dn.10:5.
9. [ v.18 ] Hades: Greek for the netherworld; Hebrew=Sheol; the abode of the dead; cf Rv.20:13-14; Nm.16:33.
10. [ v.19 ] What you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this: The three parts of the Book of Revelation, the vision (Rv.1:10-20), the situation in the seven churches (Rv.2-3), and the events of Rv.6-22.
 

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional