When many of us think about Christmas, music dominates. Whether it is Bing Crosby, Eartha Kitt, Messiah, or Christmas Cantatas at church we always associate the Christmas holiday with beautiful music. The third week of Advent brings us to Revelation 6, which has some of the early church’s greatest worship songs and they serve as a preview for the songs of eternity. However, the music of heaven is not so much “Joy to the World” as it is “Hail to the King” as Jesus Christ is worshiped and adored. But before we get there, we wind our way through the awful and terrible Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
So here we go down the home stretch of Advent. The way the calendar falls this year, there is not much in there for week four. Christmas is on Wednesday, Tuesday is Christmas Eve and so that leaves Monday as the only day for week four. The lectionary would have us start a section in Titus which would be great if Christmas fell on Saturday or Friday. It doesn’t. Therefore I made the editorial decision of simply skipping Monday and posting Christmas Eve. Just a reminder that these are my translations from the Greek New Testament. If you don’t like them, read from a version you do or translate them yourself.
If you want to go back and read Week One click here or Week Two click here. This is the last of the Advent translations for this year. For a full introduction to my translating methodology read the Week One post.
Monday Revelation 3:7-13
7. To the angel of the churches in Philadelphia write these things,” says the holy one, the true one, the one having the key of David. What he opens no one closes and what he closes no one opens.
8. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you a door that once it is opened, no one is able to close it, because, even though you are powerless you kept my word and did not deny my name.
9. Behold, I may put those from the synagogue of Satan, those who liars who call themselves Jews but are not, I will put them before you; prostrating at your feet and knowing that I myself love you.
10. Because you patiently kept my word, I will keep you from the hour of trial which is about to come upon the whole world to test them who live upon the earth.
11. I come quickly. Hold onto the things you have so that no one might take your crown.
12. I will make the one who overcomes a pillar in my God’s temple, which he will never leave. I will write upon him my God’s name, the name of the city of my God which is the New Jerusalem coming down from the heavens of my God, and my new name.
13. Those with ears, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
I am fascinated by the repeated reference in Revelation of those who claim to be Jews but they really are not. I don’t think this is an ethnic refutation but a spiritual one and clearly references that no real child of Abraham’s spiritual legacy would ever persecute Christ-followers, therefore Jews who persecute are liars about their Jewishness. The same hold true in our context for Christ-followers. No true Christian would ever persecute (note, persecute in this context is not the same as point out the flaws in other belief systems) others for their beliefs, anyone who does so and claims to be a Christian is a liar.
Tuesday Revelation 3:14-22
14. To the angel of the church in Laodicea write these things,” says the amen, the faithful and true witness of the beginning of God’s creation.
15. “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot, oh that you would be either cold or hot.
16. But since you are tepid and neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth
17. Because you say, ‘I am rich,’ and ‘I have always been rich,’ and ‘I have no need for anything.’ You do not know that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
18. I advise you to buy from me gold that has been refined by fire so that you might become rich. Buy white clothes to wear so as not to reveal your shameful nakedness. Buy eye ointment to rub on your eyes so that you might see.
19. I reprove and discipline those I love, therefore be eager and repent.
20. Behold, I stand at the door and I knock. If anyone should hear my knock and open the door I will come to him and eat with him and he with me.
21. To the one overcoming I will give to him to sit with me on my throne just as I have conquered and I sat with my father on his throne.
22. Those with ears, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
I was taught in seminary that verse 20 was an evangelistic text, best used to tell people they needed to open the door of the heart to invite Jesus in. The problem is this text has as its setting a church, meeting in someone’s home, who has left Jesus outside. It is written to a group of people who already have followed Christ, but they are leaving him out of their lives. It’s most powerful meaning is for Christ-followers (as a group, but also individually) who have gotten so busy being ‘rich’ that they forgot how much they need Jesus.
Wednesday Revelation 4:1-8
1. After all that I saw a vision of a door having been opened in heaven. At first the sound I heard was like a trumpet speaking, but afterward it said to me, “Come up here and I will show you what will be after these things.”
2. Immediately I was in spirit, and behold a throne sat in the heaven and someone was sitting upon the throne.
3. The one sitting looked like stone, Jasper, and carnelian. Around the throne looked like an emerald rainbow.
4. Around the throne there were twenty-four thrones and upon the thrones sat twenty-four elders wearing white clothes and golden crowns upon their heads.
5. Flashes of lightening and sounds of thunder went out from the throne. Seven torches burned before the throne, which is the seven Spirits of God.
6. Before the throne was a sea of glass that looked like crystal. In the midst of the throne, and encircling the throne were four beasts filled with eyes front and back.
7. The first living beast was like a lion. The second beast was like a calf. The third beast had the face of a man. The fourth beast flew like an eagle.
8. Each of the four beasts had six wings all around and insides filled with eyes. They do not rest day and night, saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was, and who is, and who is to come.”
The sanctus, “Holy Holy Holy” is one of the oldest bits of worship liturgy/song/prayer.
Thursday Revelation 4:9-5:5
9. Whenever these beasts give glory, honor and thanksgiving to the one sitting on the throne, the one who lives forever,
10. the twenty-four elders will fall before the one sitting upon the throne and worship the one who lives forever. They throw their crowns before the throne saying,
11. “Our Lord and God, you are worthy to receive glory, honor, and power because you created all things and by your word they were created.”
Chapter 5 (But still Thursday’s reading)
1. And I saw on the right of the one sitting upon the throne a book with writing on the inside but the outside had been sealed with seven seals.
2. I saw a strong angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and break its seals?”
3. No one in heaven, on the earth, or under the earth was able to open the book or even look inside it.
4. I began to cry a lot for no one was found worthy to open the book or look inside it.
5. One of the elders says to me, “Do not cry—look—the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, he conquered to open the book and its seven seals.”
The verbs get tricky, at least for me in this passage because the entire passage feels present tense but the verbs move back and forth from present to past and then John throws in a lot of participles which complicate it even more. I tried to write these to reflect that ‘time-confusion’ because that is a big part of what John is going through. He is jumping around all over the place, in space and time. It’s kind of sci-fi if you think about it.
Friday Revelation 5:6-14
6. Then I saw a lamb, as if slaughtered, that stood in the midst of the throne, the four beasts, and the elders. It had seven horns and seven eyes, being the seven spirits of God which he sends into all the earth.
7. He went and took it from the right of the one sitting on the throne.
8. When he took the book, the four beasts and the twenty-four elders fell upon their faces before the lamb. Each one had a harp and a golden bowl filled with incense. These are the prayers of the saints.
9. They sing a new song saying, “You are worthy to receive the book and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and bought from God with your blood from all the tribes, languages, people and nations.
10. You make them kings and priests of our God and they will reign upon the earth.”
11. I saw and heard a sound of many angels around the throne, together with the beasts and the elders they numbered into the millions,
12. Saying in loud voices, “The lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and blessing.”
13. I heard every creature in heaven, on the earth, underneath the earth, and upon the seas all those everywhere saying, “To the one sitting upon the throne and to the lamb be blessing, honor, glory, and sovereignty forever.”
14. The four beasts said, “Amen” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Saturday Revelation 6:1-17
1. And I saw the lamb open one of the seven seals. Then one of the four beasts said spoke like thunder, “Come.”
2. Behold, then I saw a white horse. The one sitting on it had a bow and he gave him a crown. He went out victorious in order to conquer.
3. When he opened the second seal I heard the second beast say, “Come.”
4. Another horse, a red horse, went out and he gave to him sitting upon it the ability to take peace from the earth so that they will slaughter one another. He gave a large sword to him.
5. When he opened the third seal I heard the third beast say, “Come.” Behold, I saw a black horse. The one sitting upon it had a pair of scales in his hand.
6. I heard a voice from the midst of the four beasts saying, “One day’s ration of grain for a whole days pay, and three day’s ration of barley for one whole day’s pay, but do not harm the oil and wine.”
7. When he opened the fourth seal I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, “Come.”
8. Behold, I saw a yellow-green horse and the one sitting above it had the name Death, and Hades followed behind him. He gave him authority over a fourth of the earth to kill with the sword, famine, and death by the wild animals in the land.
9. When he opened the fifth seal I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who have been slaughtered because of the word of God and for holding on the witness.
10. And they shouted in a loud voice saying, “Will it not be much longer until the holy and true master judges and avenges our blood on those dwelling on the earth?”
11. He gave each of them a white robe and they were told to rest a short period of time, waiting for their partners in service, brothers and sisters, and all those about to be killed as they were.
12. When he opened the sixth seal I saw that a great earthquake happened. The sun became black as a sackcloth made from hair and the whole moon became as blood.
13. The stars in the heavens fell on the earth as a fig tree drops the unripe figs when a strong wind shakes it.
14. Heaven was opened up as a scroll that was rolled up and put away. Every mountain and island was moved from its place.
15. The kings of the earth and important people, generals, rich and powerful as well as every slave and freeman hid himself in the caves and the rocks of the mountains.
16. They said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hid us from the face of the one sitting upon the throne and from the wrath of the lamb.”
17. For the great day of their wrath came, and who is able to stand?
Christmas Eve Philippians 2:5-11
5. You should think about yourselves like Jesus did himself.
6. Who, because he was God in his form did not think being just like God was stealing.
7. But, he emptied himself by taking the form of a servant becoming in likeness of a man and being found in appearance as a man.
8. He humbled himself, being obedient to death, death on a cross.
9. Therefore God raised him and gave him the name above all names.
10. So that at the name of Jesus all knees in heaven, on earth, and underneath the earth
11. and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of Father God.
There is so much in this passage—entire theologies are found in there—but three quick notes. One, using the word ‘form’ is tough and it would be easier to translate it as “essence” in verse 6 and then as “shape” or “role” in verse 7. However, I chose to keep ‘form” because it is the exact same word in Greek and I can think of no English word that works in both places. The point is that Jesus by his nature is God but he chose to take the nature of humanity. Two, there is a connection in verse 6 to the adamic fall. Adam wanted to be like God so he stole God’s fruit in the garden on the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Jesus was different from Adam; being like God for him was not theft. Third, I am always troubled by the rendering of verse 5 in most English Bibles. The word is an imperative verb, second person plural and give to the Philippian church as a command as to how they should treat one another in community. This passage, for all its beauty is not about deep piety or inward search to have some kind of transformational ‘mind of Christ’ moment. It is all about how we act and behave in church—take the road of the servant, not the road of the one who thinks he is God’s favorite. This passage is often made far too mystical than the practical way Paul meant it.
Thanks for reading through Advent 2013 with me. I appreciate it, and I hope it was meaningful.