There is a pattern in the earlier chapters of the book of Revelation that is about ‘hearing’ being clarified by ‘sight’. The latter chapters are sight, sight, sight… and not a few strange sights at that: apocalyptic literature in its fullness!
Here are some examples in the early chapters:
- 1:10 I heard voice like a trumpet…
1:12 I turned to see (saw lampstands) then came clear one standing in the midst of the lampstands
- 4:1 heard a voice…
4:1 come up here and I will show you… then description of sight 5:1 saw, 5:5 saw, 5:11 Looked, 6:1 saw
- 6:1 heard leads to 6:2 looked, followed by that pattern being repeated
- 7:4 I heard… leads to 7:9 After this I looked
And in the midst of the Rev. 5 passage, John hears a well known Scriptural image – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah… he turns and he sees a Lamb slain.
The last example is very key. Scriptural imagery that we can recite, but greatly re-interpreted. Without that re-interpretation it is not possible to ‘see’ the book of Revelation, those chapters and that sight re-shaping what was understood being so central.
At a wider level, we hear so much, we can repeat so much that we have heard, we rely on what we have heard / been taught. The hearing interprets what we see. But Revelation has a significant pattern of what we see interpreting what we have heard. This can be at a transcendent level. We receive revelation that challenges the past; or at an imminent level and what we see does not fit what we have heard.
Sight might come in an instant, or it might come in stages (John – lampstands –> one walking in the midst of the lampstands)… or it might come as we persist and refuse to let go of the dissonance between what we have heard and what we see.
Fresh sight is to break. That was one of the emphases that John Robinson had about our understanding of Scriture. (Robinson was the ‘pastor’ to the pilgrims who travelled to the Americas).
I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word.
I wrote to someone this morning after he sent me an article on Artificial Intelligence. OH my are we challenged, and what will the future hold, and what about my book Humanising the Divine?! We have also had some correspondence regarding those who are holding to the same line as the Reformers on virtually every approach (cross, predestination, election, hell etc.). They might be right (did I write that? Surely not!) but an insistence on that momentous era of the Reformation being the, more or less, end of our understanding is troublesome. We are so clearly at the end of an era… The biggest financial crisis is on us, food crises, fossil fuels, climate etc. Could we simply be at an end, or could we be at the beginning?
I don’t know how we respond to the AI direction. All accept a chip and become super-human? Resist it and find that we repeat the errors of how progress has been resisted in the past? Yes there is Babylon / Babel in there, but wonderfully we know that Babylon is never a finished work.
In it all, I have no idea how we respond… but surely there are aspects in this new time that we as believers can press into. Jesus at the centre, but maybe what he is bringing will have a surprise or three. I am thankful (yes, even for so much of the Reformation, and for the early church writers) for the past… but there is a new era here.