Dale Appleby

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Weekly Reflections

Encouraging those in trouble 19 Jan 14

Encouraging those in trouble

This week the Monday Bible Study group had a look at the first chapter of Revelation. They are a keen group, champing at the bit to get their teeth into this apparently complex book. Maybe later in the year we will do some studies in it.

The book certainly starts in a dramatic way. A very loud voice, sounding like a trumpet, tells John to write down what he sees and to send it to seven churches nearby. The voice is behind John, and he turns to see it. What he sees makes him fall down and pass out. At first he sees seven golden lamp holders. Probably tall ones. But in the middle of them he sees a human-like figure who is brilliantly and splendidly glorious. Frighteningly so. Dressed like some of the important people in the Old Testament and resembling some of the descriptions of God himself.

It turns out it is Jesus. Jesus unlike anyone had ever seen him. Maybe they got a hint of it on the mountain when he was transfigured and became blindingly white. But that was only a hint of this. This was truly splendid and scary. One of the things John saw was Jesus holding seven stars in his right hand.

We are told what the stars and the lamp-stands mean. The lamp-stands represent the seven churches that John is going to send his book to. The stars represent the angels of the seven churches. It is not entirely clear what these angels are. Maybe they are the leaders of the churches. Or perhaps angels that have responsibility for each church.

The important thing that John sees is that Jesus is in the midst of these churches and holds their leaders in his hand. This is important because John was in exile because of his Christian testimony. The churches were having difficult times (read chapters 2 and 3). What might encourage christians who were being attacked and oppressed and maligned?

At the start a picture of the risen and glorious Jesus, standing with his churches, is a picture of great encouragement. There is more to come in the book of course. Much more to give hope and to encourage faithful persistence. But this is a good beginning.

It's a good picture for us to have in our minds too when we feel as though the church and our testimony is being swamped with ridicule and opposed with hatred. It is a good picture to encourage our prayers for brothers and sisters who are in real danger.

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