Sight will clarify

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.

2 thoughts on “Sight will clarify

  1. Regarding your last couple of paragraphs (‘I have no idea how we respond’) what helped me was the idea that one interpretation of Babylon (as it’s spoken about symbolically in Revelation) is that it represents, in John’s visions, the unredeemed New Jerusalem…

    Or rather, that the New Jerusalem is ‘Babylon’ now Redeemed. I think I prefer that way round. That’s consistent with my idea of a redeemed Creation and my history of redemptive praying. In me, that creates a desire to be compassionate rather than judgmental to all caught in that system. Which again, led me to ponder how my own attitudes need to change. Does that make sense?

    Maybe you’ve heard that idea before – implied in your comment that ‘Babylon is never a finished work’? Not sure.

  2. And the new era can’t come soon enough – presuming it moves us in a good direction. I understand the desire to hold onto the past. But that demonstrates a lack of comprehension about the level of change we are in the midst of. There has been nothing like this in the whole of the history of us as a species. Ever.
    I am not being hysterical here. Merely true to what is happening with the life support systems of the planet. New research today shows that the acidity of the oceans is at a tipping point. Lose the life in the oceans and we lose us. Change is moving on and increasing in speed no matter what we long for. What we have put in motion will sweep us aside unless we act now.
    So yes, we are watching the old thrash around, destroying as much as possible before it finally breathes its last breath. Trying to hold on to it will simply speed up our own destruction. We must release our grip on what is past and reach out, at some level blindly and grasp the future. There is actually still time to make a future that is better than the past but we cannot delay or deny.
    I guess that is where faith comes in. Do we trust in our capacity and willingness to work with like-minded others to create something better? Can we believe that the future can actually be better for more people, more equitable, more life-giving, more caring for creation? Or are we stuck in nihilism that retreats into what has been, too fearful to look beyond what has given us identity and comfort?
    AI is not the thing we should fear right now. It is, at some level, a distraction. It can help and it can hinder but not much will be built with or without AI if we lose the capacity to feed and shelter masses of people. We need to settle the basics first – healthy soils, regenerated landscapes, agriculture and food production that is both sufficient and respects the earth, an utter rejection of that which is destroying us and the planet – fossil fuels, new ways to conserve water, better insulation in buildings, sanitation for all, shared spaces and caring spaces, rethought and renewed health systems, a commitment to equity and a rejection of corruption and greed. I could go on but you all know what is needed. Those who have faith should be leading the way with projects and real examples of what needs to come.
    Is something new being birthed right now. Yes, with much travail. But God help us if it is a stillbirth. We cannot let that happen. We all need the courage to meet and then shape a future beneficial to all.

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