DID YOU EVER READ someone else’s mail?
When you did – not if – did you take it personal?
If the writer called the reader something nasty, let’s say: “Babylon, Mother of Whores,” (Revelation 17:5), would you figure he’s talking about you – even though you live in Des Moines?
No offense to readers in Des Moines, a wonderful city with nice shopping malls.
I’ve been working in the last book of the Bible for a few days, the Book of Revelation. There’s a line in the intro that I think a lot of readers skate past:
“I, John, am writing this letter. I am sending it to the seven churches in Asia Minor” (Revelation 1:4).
Asia Minor, by the way, was a territory in the Roman Empire: part of Turkey.
He wasn’t writing to us. If he was, he didn’t bother mentioning us.
There’s another line many miss:
“The time is near when all of this will happen” (Revelation 1:4).
In case readers missed that, John said it again at the end of the book:
“Do not seal up the words of the prophecy in this book. These things are about to happen” (Revelation 22:10)
That was someone else’s mail 2,000 years ago.
So, why do some people who read the Book of Revelation link John’s bizarre visions to CNN’s Breaking News?
Some of the ways we study the Bible and practice our faith hang on single words that we can translate any which way. This, perhaps, is one of those times.
Bible experts debate the word that gets translated as near, about to happen, soon. They say the Greek word can also mean suddenly. So whatever’s coming might not come soon, but when it comes you won’t have time to duck.
How comfortable are we with building our understanding of an entire book of the Bible on one flip-flopper of a word that flips one way for some smart scholars and flops another way for other smart scholars?
Does it seem smart?
That’s a question.
And if the letter is written to seven churches within a 100-mile (160 km) radius of Ephesus in what is now western Turkey, why are we linking it to news halfway around the world into our neck of the woods?
That’s another question.
This is not a test. But it is a query. If you have a minute to think, how about sharing your thoughts.
There are respectable push-back responses to these questions. I’m not recommending one style of interpreting Revelation over another. But I am asking you to think for a moment about the verses I’ve quoted because I believe they go in a direction that would surprise many Christians.
So what do you think?
I won’t critique you. I’ll thank you.