One Foot on Land and One Foot at Sea

The Seventh Plague by John Martin

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.” Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’” I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” – Revelation 10:1‭-‬11

The last few passages have focused on the seven angels of the apocalypse.  This passage sees the arrival of the seventh angel from heaven.  In trying to describe this angel the author is once again trying to describe the indescribable. The angel is robed in a cloud, has a rainbow above his head, a face like the sun, legs like pillars of fire, and roaring like a lion.  This angel “lands” with one foot on land and one foot in the sea.  This description, like others so far in revelation, is oddly reminiscent of Ezekiel’s visions.

I don’t want to sound blasphemous or discount the miraculous and metaphysical, but this description sounds like the arrival of an extraterrestrial entity from outer space. On one level angels are extraterrestrial entities from “outer space”, or at least another space, the spiritual realm that is separated in some way from direct contact with secular world in which we live. The earth is also separated from space by what we refer to as the atmosphere which is a frontier of sorts between the earth and space.

It seems to me there are a few reasons why these descriptions seem so reminiscent of future technology and space travelers: 1) I have watched too many science fiction movies; 2) I am completely misunderstanding or misinterpreting what is being said here; 3) the author is describing something that is outside of his native realm or experience; or 4) there is some connection between what we think of as “extraterrestrials” and at least some of the biblical accounts of angels and celestial beings. Let’s take these one at a time.

I am a big science fiction genre fan. I think the reason I like these kind of movies is that they provide a glimpse of what could be an interesting and incredible future of space travel and exploration. I am convinced that if I had been born in the 1800’s I would have signed up for an expedition to explore parts of the earth that were at that time unexplored like the antarctic. I am not sure where this interest and drive comes from, but it is perhaps derived from a mixture of curiosity, love of nature and adventure, a passion for paths less taken. In some ways this blog, and my multi-year exploration of water references in the bible, is an expedition to explore the “water park” that is the bible.

As an untrained theologian the possibility that I am simply lost in a side channel here cannot be discounted. Although I prayerfully consider each of these passages I may not be listening carefully enough to the Holy Spirit. I am confident that at some point God will clarify this for me if I am in fact earnestly seeking the truth. I am sure there will be many examples as I go back and review some of the earlier parts of the journey where my knowledge and spiritual maturity might lead to different conclusions and interpretations. I am sure the same holds with this passage.

Although the first two contribute it is the third possibility I think is really interesting – the author is describing something that is outside of his native realm or experience. The analogy that comes to mind for me is that of aquatic organism like a fish that spends their whole lives in a different realm and medium than us land dwellers. If a fish were to look toward events on land they would undoubtedly have a difficult time interpreting, understanding, and describing them. Even something as simple and straightforward as walking on two legs would undoubtedly seem confusing, fantastic, and “other worldly”. The fish might struggle to find the words to describe this action of moving across the land. Where are their fins? Why is their movement so jerky and chaotic? What are those long appendages sticking out of their bodies? How do they breath? The spiritual realm in which these angel reside is equally foreign to us earthbound cave dwellers, some amount of confusion and difficulty describing it should be expected.

The fourth possibility is the really heretical one. Is there a chance that some of the celestial beings described here, and at other points in the bible, are in fact what have been described by others and elsewhere as “extraterrestrial aliens” and the spacecrafts that they travel in to reach earth. This idea is not new and has been invoked to explain everything from the statues on Easter Island to the pyramids at Giza, Egypt. Let me be clear here – God is at the center of my understanding of our existence and it is through God that truth and understanding will come. I am not saying that the bible is a work of fiction and these difficult descriptions are science fiction stories. I am merely wondering if there is some connection between our societal stories, biblical accounts of confusing celestial beings, and the way we perceive and understand the spiritual realm. This is deep water to be sure and I humbly submit this idea to God for correction.

The remainder of the passage describes a scroll and a revelation given by “the seven thunders” that the author is given that is not to be shared in writing, “in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” Apparently, there will be a revealing of at least some of the mysteries here. The passage then ends with this odd command to eat the scroll. It is sweet in the author’s mouth but turns sour in his stomach. I am not sure what to make of this. Perhaps it is an allusion to the “digestibility” of the spiritual realm while we are inhabiting our earthly bodies. I do not know.

The angel in this passage has one foot on land and one in the sea. He has one foot in the spiritual and one foot in the secular. It is this spanning of the two realms that allow the author to see something that is both awesome and confusing.

Prayer: God give us eyes to see and understanding of things that are part of the spiritual realm.

Posted in Angels, Christianity, Death and Dying, Following God, Miracles, Prophecy, Revelation, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm | Tagged | Leave a comment

War of the Worlds

Illustration by Grahame Baker-Smith from The Folio Society edition of The World of The Worlds by H.G. Wells

The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer). The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come. The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.
Revelation 9:1-‬16

Angels killing mankind? Class V rapids warning – grab the gunnel and ready the paddles we are headed for some wild water.  The fourth and fifth angels have unleashed their wrath and now we come to the sixth.  The fourth angel was really connected to the arrival of Wormwood and the cascading catastrophes associated with that extraterrestrial arrival.

Apparently the next three angel trumpet blasts will be even worse than the first four “As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” (Revelation 8:13).  The calamities up to this point have been horrible but external.  It is about to get individual and personal for those not possessing God’s seal.

The fifth angel’s trumpet blast heralds the arrival of what is described as “a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. This part seems oddly reminiscent of the other worldly description wheels and rushing waters in the visions of Ezekiel along the Kebar River. The creatures unleashed on the the earth and those unsealed were both interesting and terrifying “On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.”

Wow Hollywood could not devise a more terrifying invasion. It reminds me a little bit of the invasion in the movie “War of the Worlds”. Although I think in most versions of that movie the aliens dispatch their victims rather quickly rather than with a five month torment. This description in consistent with how a person of the authors time might view technology that we have today drones, especially the details like a breastplate of iron, wings sounding like rushing chariots, crowns of gold on their heads, and tails of torment like scorpion tails. This may totally be mythical creatures but it sure sounds like there is a mechanistic component here. On to the sixth angel…

The sixth angel blows his horn and the “four horns” around the altar instruct the sixth angel to “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” I am not sure why there are four angels except perhaps to symbolize the cardinal directions E, W, N, and S. There is a sense that although they are being unleashed from a specific geographic location, the Euphrates River, this will spread in every direction and touch the lives of all those that are not sealed by God. I find it interesting that the ending of mankind is near the beginning of mankind, the garden of Eden, as described in Genesis.

Apparently these four angels will command armies to do their killing work “And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.” Doing the math that sounds like 200,000,000 million mounted troops. That would be a truly awesome army. I am left wondering if these troops are really something mechanistic that was released and the closest thing that the author could relate to was a “mounted soldier”. I could be totally wrong here, but I do find the language interesting and curious.

So what can we take from this terrifying account of scorpion tales and metaphysical mayhem? The events being described here could be an attempt to describe the indescribable spiritual world that our souls will experience someday. The “war of the worlds” in that case would be between the secular and the spiritual realms. The collision between these two worlds would, from our earthly perspective, undoubtedly seem fantastic and terrifying. The take home for me is that we should keep our focus on the window between these worlds, Jesus. We should have hungry and thirsty souls seeking to know and be known by God, and washed clean by the lamb of God before this collision of worlds happens.

Prayer: God help us to focus on preparing our souls and hearts to be with You so that when the time comes we will not have to endure the anguish of Armageddon without You.

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Wormwood and Bitter Waters

Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them. The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter. – Revelation 8:6‭-‬11.

Armageddon, the end of the world, hail and blood, meteors as big as mountains raining from the sky. This is calamity and disaster on a scale never witnessed by humans.

The dinosaurs apparently met their demise at the hands of a mountain-sized meteor that struck near the Yucatan Peninsula about 65-66 million years ago ending the Mesozoic Period and the future of most large dinosaurs. The collision and subsequent ecosystem collapse is quite similar to some of the events described in this passage.

The calamities begin with the first trumpet being sounded and “a rain of hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth”. Hail I get. It has shown up before as a divine judgement. Large chunks of ice falling from the sky would get one’s attention.

The fire mixed with blood is less clear. Perhaps it is metaphorical rather than meteorological. I do not know. From a scientific perspective this sounds like meteorites or numerous meteor or comet fragments raining down on earth. The “blood” could have been red dust (oxidized iron) that was part of a metallic meteor that broke apart and scattered itself around the globe causing fires and “burning” trees and grass.

The second trumpet sounds and a blazing mountain is thrown into the sea. This sounds very much like the source of the previous fire and blood. A mountain of a meteor blazing as it enters Earth’s atmosphere and crashes into the ocean. The result of such an impact would be immediate vaporization of large amounts of water, a potentially massive tsunami, and widespread chemistry changes in the oceans. These would certainly give rise to the sea turning into “blood” (perhaps toxic algal blooms), creatures in the sea dying, and ships destroyed. Even a modest sized meteor or comet (>100 meters) would create this type of calamity if it impacted in the ocean. As of September 24, 2021 there were 2,212 potentially hazardous asteroids being tracked greater than 100 meters in diameter.

The third trumpet heralds the arrival of “a great star, blazing like a torch”. This “star” even has a name, Wormwood. The description here sounds like an even larger meteor or comet that will be visible for some time as it approaches earth. The “torch” would be either gasses melting off a comet as it approaches the sun or the blaze of friction as a rocky or metallic meteor enters Earth’s atmosphere.

This impact sounds like it will happen on land rather than in the ocean. It will fall on “rivers and on the springs of water”, both of which only occur on land. The water will turn bitter, meaning there will be widespread contamination of water making it undrinkable. This contamination could be a result of acid rain created by sulfur or other elements vaporized during an impact. Many will die as a result of this bitter water.

All of the events described here are completely consistent with a future encounter with several extraterrestrial objects. We know that such collisions have happened before and we know they will happen again, we just don’t know when or where the impacts will occur. We may have warning of their arrival or we may not depending on their approach direction and speed.

It strikes me that the calamitous events described here are a rapid and irreversible change to the physical world we know through the arrival of external objects. Perhaps a similar spiritual calamity occurs when our physical bodies cease to function, when we die and our souls enter the spiritual realm.

The changes our souls encounter may be even greater than the earth shattering events described here. The spiritual shattering will happen as our souls see, perhaps for the first time, the “real” world we have been living in here on earth. Our ability to cope with this transition may be impacted by the attention we have given, during our earthly existence, to the eternal so that when the end to our earthly life arrives we are spiritually prepared.

Prayer: God help us to attend to the eternal in our lives so that when the end to our earthly life arrives we are spiritually prepared.

Posted in Christianity, Conflict, Death and Dying, eternal life, Following God, Heaven, Prophecy, Revelation, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Hungry and Thirsty Souls

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” – Revelation 7:13‭-‬17

It is interesting that the elders asked the author about the people in white robes. Perhaps it was a rhetorical question intended to provoke reflection in the author. The author answers in a way that suggests he is thinking what I am thinking, “sir you know…These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” So basically they are the ones who have forded the great river and are now on the other side with “the lamb” who has helped them cross over and made them clean with his own blood. This “robe washing” is unlike any earthly endeavor and includes a spiritual spin cycle for the soul.

These ones who have been washed clean by the lamb are 1) before the throne of God, 2) they serve Him day and night in his temple; and 3) they are sheltered by God’s presence. The first item on the list is pretty straightforward although for a Jewish listener potentially blasphemous that we could site in God’s presence. That is what the arrival of Jesus was all about; sitting in God’s presence, whether it was along the lake or beside a cross He was there – Emmanuel – God with us.

The second part, about serving Him day and night, riled the rebellious sheep in me a bit. I have always been a bit of a doer and it is hard for me to imagine focusing 100% of me on God and His needs. Perhaps that is the point. In reality His needs include loving us so it should not be so much to ask to love and serve Him in return. I don’t think this means a zombie-like devotion with no heart or soul. I am thinking this is more like the way we would lovingly serve and care for an aging parent who needs our help. Not that God needs that sort of help from us, but He needs us to be willing to provide it for Him nonetheless. Most of us would do this without question. The payoff for our devotion and service is protection.

The last item on the list is shelter from all those things that tend to separate and distract us from being able to be in God’s presence here on earth like hunger, thirst, the sun beating down on our shoulders, and scorching heat. All of these are part of our toil here on earth and things that can distract us from the larger spiritual world around us where God dwells. We will be cared for my the Lamb who is also a Shepherd. He will “lead them to springs of living water….and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Wow what a beautiful picture of the care that we can look forward to if we allow our robes to be washed clean by Jesus. The Spring of Living Water is Jesus and it is at this spring we can have true refreshment and get truly clean. So not only will be be made clean and new but the tears will be wiped from our eyes. I take this to mean that all the messiness that we worked through here on earth will be washing away with the Living Water and the tears. We will be new creations free of this spiritual baggage. We will be ready to be the sheep that are content to rest beside quiet waters and allow God to feed and restore our hungry and thirsty souls.

Prayer: God help us to prepare our souls and hearts to be with you with the knowledge that you will make all things new and cleanse all the messiness from our souls.

Posted in Ceremonial Cleansing, Christianity, Death and Dying, Following God, Forgiveness, God's Love for Us, Healing, Heaven, Jesus, living water, Revelation | Tagged | 1 Comment

Seals and Seas

Revelation by Ronnie Landfield

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. – Revelation 7:1‭-‬4

Well we floated right by the opening of the seven seals without any water-related passages. Lots of interesting imagery, just no water. So this passage follows the scroll opening by the Lamb and the events that followed involving horses and pale riders bringing all sort of chaos and calamity upon humanity. This period of time is referred to as the “great day of wrath” (Revelations 6:17).

After all this calamity and chaos come four angels standing at the four corners of the earth. These angels were “holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree”. This is an interesting word picture. These angelic beings are preventing air from moving around the earth, i.e. wind. As I understand it wind is the result of differences in atmospheric pressure. Wind actually is an important part of a properly functioning earth. It moves gasses and water vapor around to keep the whole earth system running smoothly. The angels holding it back would result in a collapse of the earth’s normal functioning.

A fifth angel joins the scene. This angel has the seal of the living God. I am not sure what this means but this angel, instead of acting on the earth and its air movement, acted as an advocate for the servants of God. This angel asked that the wrath of the first four angels be stayed until “we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” So many seals and scrolls here in revelations. I am not sure what to make of this protection of the “chosen” of God, but apparently there were, or will be, “144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.” This would seem to be at odds with the message of Jesus that there is place in Heaven for all those who confess that Jesus is Lord.

The seal of the Living God would be what Jesus had it would seem to me. He was certainly the Living Water for His disciples and served as their, and our, advocate before God. I am not sure how this “angel” relates to Jesus and His role as our advocate.

This is one of those passages where I feel like I am missing something. Why would the inclusive message of Jesus be transformed into this exclusive sealing of a limited number, 144,000, people? I do not know. Perhaps there is a difference between those still toiling the land of oblivion and those who have already crossed over into the afterlife? I am not sure. Maybe this particular message was meant mainly for wayward Jewish people still clinging to the old treasures while the new ones were slipping through their fingers?

This passage is some of the turbulent water that I anticipated I would find here in revelations. I am not sure what to make of it and I pray that as I continue down the river passages like this will make more sense.

Prayer: God help me to understand the meaning and importance of passages like this one in light of the love and Grave articulated by Jesus.

Posted in Angels, Christianity, Discipleship, Following God, God's Love for Us, Heaven, Jesus, Revelation | Tagged | 1 Comment

Worthy is the Lamb

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.  – Revelation 5:11‭-‬14

Thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand – that’s a whole lot of angels.  The ‘heavenly host” was encircling the throne where the mysterious “man” and scroll also reside.

This celestial crowd of angels was articulating the message of the Messiah – the Lamb of God “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

The heavenly host is then joined by an earthly host, “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them”.  Pretty much all of creation is Chiming in here to say “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

It is unclear whether the earthly host is implicitly saying that the “man” on the throne and the Lamb are different and distinct or they are one in the same.  Either way God’s presence is there and those present respond by saying “amen” and falling down to worship.

The last part of this passage strikes me as the nugget of wisdom here.  We rarely experience God’s presence in a tangible way while we toil about in this land of oblivion.  There are times when I feel drenched by the presence of God like an ice bucket challenge, but there are also times when I feel thirsty and parched yearning for God’s presence like deer pant for water.

This passage is a reminder that when we do find ourselves in God’s presence our response should be a bold “amen” and a pause to praise and worship the Lamb who was slain and takes away the sins of the world.

Prayer: God help us to pause when we find ourselves in your presence so that we can give you praise and worship.

Posted in Angels, atonement, Christianity, eternal life, Following God, God's Love for Us, Heaven, Jesus, Revelation, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Scroll Opener

Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet by Ford Madox Brown

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” – Revelation 5:1‭-‬5

Today’s passage continues the raucous rapids that are Revelations. We find the mysterious “Man” on the throne. In his hand is “a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.” The detail that the scroll had writing on both sides caught my attention. Mainly because my impression of scrolls at this time in history is that writing on both sides would have been difficult and uncommon, but I could be totally wrong about this.

It seems to me that this two-sided scroll represents the many mysteries of the Kingdom of God including all of the big ones like salvation, redemption, and the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. The scroll is a window between the undiscovered country that is the spiritual “side” of the world and the physical “side” world that dominates our perception and understanding. We see the spiritual side only very fleetingly and imperfectly. Perhaps that is the reason that Revelations is so full of metaphor and mystery.

A mighty angel speaks up and asks an important question “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”. I certainly feel unworthy and inadequate attempting to understand a passage like this one. It is reassuring that the angel admits that “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.” This to me means that much of what follows will be an attempt to describe the indescribable. We should not feel too badly when we feel confused or confounded by it. It is a bit like watching a film in a language not your own with no subtitles. We can get the gist and general story, but we are bound to miss a lot.

The author is weeping and weeping at this lack of a seer for the scroll. His soul realizes there are mysteries and important truths within the scroll, but he cannot open it on his own. He needs someone to help. Fortunately help has come ““Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Jesus is the answer. He is the great “scroll opener” for our lives and the means by which we can hope to understand the profound mysteries of the spiritual realm. We can try and try to rip open the spiritual scroll of our lives, but the only way we can be stripped down to the soul is with the help of the One who allowed Himself to be sacrificed for our souls, Jesus.

As I write this a song just came up on Spotify, “Who am I” by Casting Crowns. It really captures how I am feeling at the moment:

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am,
But because of what You’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done,
But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading:
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?

Not because of who I am,
But because of what You’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done,
But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading:
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours.

Not because of who I am,
But because of what You’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done,
But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading:
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours, I am Yours.

Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
‘Cause I am Yours, I am Yours.

Prayer: God thank You for revealing the secrets of the spiritual world so that our souls can find You.

Posted in Angels, Christianity, eternal life, Following God, Forgiveness, God's Love for Us, Heaven, Jesus, Redemption, Revelation, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm | Tagged | 1 Comment

Describing the Indescribable

The Angel of Revelation
William Blake

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. – Revelation 1:12‭-‬16

This passage begins our journey into the sometimes confusing imagery and symbolic meaning in Revelations. The first murky metaphor is the seven golden lampstands. Certainly the number seven seems to have special meaning in both the old and new testaments. This numerology is still alive and well in the idea of “lucky 7” and Vegas slots. Standing among these seven lampstands is someone important, “someone like a son of man”. This sounds like a reference to Jesus, although other details make me wonder if this is some sort of composite description.

The details provided about what this “man” was wearing are interesting. He is dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet and He has a gold sash around His chest. It is almost as if the author is going out of his way to describe this person in His presence as not so different than any other king a person we might encounter here on earth.

The description then takes on a more mystical and metaphysical tone. The hair on his head is described as being white like wool, “as white as snow” and his eyes were like blazing fire. I do not remember any descriptions of Jesus including white hair or blazing eyes, but I could be wrong. It is almost as if this description is a composite of Moses, Jesus, and perhaps other angelic beings. I do not know.

His feet were like glowing bronze and his voice was like “rushing waters”. This reminds me of the language used in Ezekiel to describe heavenly beings that spoke to Ezekiel through wheels and rushing waters. Ezekiel 1:15-28 contains this description “high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.” These descriptions are so similar that it seems to me that they were either describing the same thing or the author of revelations was referencing the earlier description in Ezekiel.

The reference to a voice like “rushing waters” deserves a second look as it is such powerful imagery about the voice of God. In a post back in December of 2018 I wondered whether imagery like this was an attempt to describe the indescribable, “to do something that is perhaps not really possible – describe God in human terms.” Maybe something similar is happening here. The author is seeing something that it is really not possible to see with our earthly eyes and trying his best to describe something that does not fit into our physical paradigm.

This spiritual being also “held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” This sounds like the way angelic beings are often described in most of the new testament – a combination of awe inspiring brilliance and scary judgement. This is consistent with my earlier pondering that this description is some sort of composite describing several spiritual beings at the same time. Maybe our sense of individuality does not apply to the spiritual realm in the same sense that we inhabit our bodies as individual spirits. This passage is deep water to be sure.

I am not sure if there is a take home message here but it seems that there is a spiritual realm that we can gain glimpses of while we are here on earth, but our ability to see and understand that realm may be limited by our earthly understanding and senses. Perhaps this provides some grace in our attempts to understand a book like revelations. It may be attempting to describe the indescribable.

Prayer: God these water passages in revelations are confusing and complex. Please grant us the understanding and grace to make sense of them.

Posted in Christianity, eternal life, Jesus, Prophecy, Revelation, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm | Tagged | 4 Comments

Revelation, Unveiling, or Apocalypse?

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The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. John,To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the 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! Amen. “Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:1‭-‬8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega”. So begins the book of Revelation and the final “reach” of my float through the bible exploring water passages. The author, John, was apparently a Jewish christian exiled on the island of patmos. It looks like this was an island in the Aegean Sea that was very remote and isolated. The Roman empire was still the dominant force in the region when this letter was written and many of the events described probably had connections to the specific Roman rule and rulers but there are layers of meaning and timeless qualities that argue for a certain amount of time-bending.

The word translated as “revelation” was apokalypsis in the original Greek, meaning “unveiling” or “revelation”. In English we derive the word apocalypse from this Greek word. In modern usage, and in my experience, the words “unveiling” and “apocalypse” do not have very similar meanings. Unveiling sounds decidedly more positive than an apocalypse. I associate apocalypse with the end of the world as a result of anything from asteroids to zombies and everything in between.

As I have pondered this duality in meaning it occurs to me that it may have been used for a deeper reason. Whether one views an event or series of events as an apocalypse or an unveiling is somewhat dependent on your spiritual vantage point and perspective. If you are invested in the physical world here on earth then events that bring your earthly life to an end would seem apocalyptic, but if your real home was in the spiritual realm which is largely hidden here on earth then the “end” would actually be the beginning. The “real world” would be unveiled or revealed to you. Jesus was the window between these worlds when he walked the earth and He is also a window here in this letter.

The author uses imagery and language reminiscent of the gospels when he says “Look, he is coming with the clouds”. Back in Matthew 24:26‭-‬31 this very same language was used to describe the return of Jesus in the midst of apocalyptic times. The Gospel of Mark 13:24-27 also uses very similar language in describing Jesus returning at the end of all things. Clouds represent a confluence of sorts between the spiritual and the secular realms which was personified in Jesus coming to earth. He described Himself as the Alpha and the Omega and it is clear that He is at the beginning and the end of all stories.

This passage was a gentle float into the book of Revelation. I am thankful for this somewhat tame transition into what I anticipate will be a raucous romp through rapids and whitewater. I feel a bit like the rafter who congratulates himself after running a class II rapid only to look downstream and see an approaching class IV rapid. No turning back when floating a river, one simply has to choose a line and push on through.

Jesus’ arrival on earth was the beginning of something new and the ending of something we have known. Whether we view His return as an unveiling or an apocalypse, a sunrise or a sunset, is really up to us.

Prayer: God help me to navigate this book of unveiling, revelation, and apocalypse with humility, wisdom, and grace.

Posted in Christianity, Death and Dying, Following God, Free Will, God's Love for Us, Gospel, Heaven, Jesus, reconciliation, Revelation, The Earthly Realm, The Spiritual Realm | Tagged | Leave a comment

Eddying Out before Revelations

Well it is hard to believe it but I have come to the final book in the bible, Revelations.  Before I take on this final set of rapids on my journey through the bible I thought it would be good to Eddy out and prepare myself for the turbulence ahead.  I have scouted ahead in revelations and not only are there numerous water-related passages, but many are tricky and confusing.  It reminds me little bit if the passages and prophecies in Ezekiel.

By my count there are about 30 references to water in revelations, one of the most “water-filled” books so far.  Perhaps this is because it is full of imagery and prophecy.  Both of these modes of communication tend to have more water-related passages.  I have read Revelations before and I remember being perpetually confused so hopefully God will help me plumb the depths.

If I am even somewhat consistent I should reach the end of my journey before the end of 2021.  This has taken me longer than I anticipated when I began this journey back in June of 2014.  725 posts, and just over seven years later, I find myself at this final rapids. A lot has happened in those 7 years.  I have travelled to places far and near, gained a son-in-law, reached full professor status, and perhaps most importantly I have learned a ton about God, myself, and the bible.  The bible is truly a braided stream, and not all parts of the bible are like a water park.

As I return to parts of the river I have floated before it is often a different river – not because the bible changed, but because I have changed. God has, and continues to, sculpt my soul.  I am continually amazed by the interconnections in the bible, just like a great river system with many tributaries and branches. A watershed of wisdom that all leads to the One River that is both the Headwaters and Mouth, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

I confess I am a little apprehensive about the last leg of this journey. Perhaps because part of me does not want to reach the end of the river. I have not decided yet what I will do once the water references in Revelations, and this particular walk across the water, is complete. Maybe I will portage back upstream and see how the same passages look now that I have seen the entire river. I am content to take my lead from God and let him determine my next adventure.

Prayer: God give me wisdom, patience, and grace to choose a line through the watery rapids I will encounter in Revelations.

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