Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reading an Apocalyptic Prophecy - Revelation

Revelation seems to be an apocalyptic prophecy in the form of a circular letter to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia. This is explicit in 1:11, what is revealed to John (what he 'sees') he is to write and send to the seven churches which are here named. This command applies to all the vision and revelations which follow in the rest of the book. The habit of referring to chapters 2-3 as the seven ‘letters’ to the churches is misleading. These are not as such letters but prophetic messages to each church. It is really the whole book of Revelation which is one circular letter to the seven churches. The seven messages addressed individually to each church are introductions to the rest of the book which is addressed to all seven churches. Thus we must try to do justice to the three categories of literature – apocalypse, prophecy and letter – into which Revelation seems to fall. [Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 2.]
The whole book of Revelation is a report of visionary revelation, but it also includes oracular prophecy within it. This occurs in the prologue (1:8) and the epilogue (22:12-13, 16, 20); the seven messages to the churches (2:1-3:22) are oracles written as Christ’s word to the churches; and also throughout the book (13:9-10; 14:13b; 16:15) there are prophetic oracles which interrupt the accounts of the visions. [Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 3.]

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