March 24, 2014

The Blessings of the Age to Come
(1) The divided kingdom will be united again. The house of Judah will walk again with the house of Israel (Jeremiah 3:18; Isaiah 11:13; Hosea 1:11). The old divisions will be healed, and the people of God will be one.
(2) There will be in the world an amazing fertility. The wilderness will become a field (Isaiah 32:15); it will become like the garden of Eden (Isaiah 51:3); the desert will rejoice and blossom like the crocus (Isaiah 35:1). The earth will yield its fruit ten thousandfold; on each vine will be 1,000 branches, on each branch 1,000 clusters, in each cluster 1,000 grapes, and each grape will give a cor (120 gallons) of wine (2 Baruch 29:5—8). There will be a situation of plenty, such as the world has never known, and the hungry will rejoice.
(3) A consistent part of the dream of the new age was that in it all wars would cease. The swords will be beaten into ploughshares and the spears into pruning-hooks (Isaiah 2:4). There will be no sword or noise of battle. There
will be a common law for everyone and a great peace throughout the earth, and king will be friendly with king (Sibylline Oracles 3:751— 60).
(4) One of the loveliest ideas concerning the new age was that in it there would be no more conflict between wild animals or between human beings and the animal world. The leopard and the kid, the cow and the bear, the lion and the calf will play and lie down together (Isaiah 11:6—9, 65:25). There will be a new covenant between human beings and all living creatures (Hosea 2:18). Even a child will be able to play where the poisonous reptiles have their holes and their dens (Isaiah 11:6—9; 2 Baruch 73:6). In all nature, there will be a universal reign of friendship in which none will wish to do another any harm.
(5) The coming age will bring the end of weariness, of sorrow and of pain. The people will not faint or pine any more (Jeremiah 31:12); everlasting joy will be upon their heads (Isaiah 35:10). There will be no such thing as an untimely death (Isaiah 65:20—2); no one
will say: ‘I am sick’ (Isaiah 33:24); death will be swallowed up, and God will wipe tears from all faces (Isaiah 25:8). Disease will withdraw; anxiety, anguish and lamentation will pass away; childbirth will have no pain; the reaper will not grow weary and the builder will not be toilworn (2 Baruch 73:2—74:4). The age to come will be one when what the Roman poet Virgil called ‘the tears of things’ will be no more.
(6) The age to come will be an age of righteousness. There will be perfect holiness among human beings. This generation will be a good generation, living in the fear of the Lord in the days of mercy (Psalms of Solomon 17:28—29, 18:9—10).
The Book of Revelation is the New Testament representative of all these apocalyptic works which tell of the terrors before the end of time and of the blessings of the age to come; and it uses all the familiar imagery. It may often be difficult and even unintelligible to us; but, for the most part, it was using pictures and ideas which those who
read it would have known and understood.
The Author of Revelation
(1) Revelation was written by a man called John. He begins by saying that God sent the visions he is going to relate to his servant John (1:1). The main body of the book begins with the statement that it is from John to the seven churches in Asia (1:4). ‘I, John,’ he says, ‘am the one who heard and saw these things’ (22:8).
(2) This John was a Christian who lived in Asia in the same sphere as the Christians of the seven churches. He calls himself the brother of those to whom he writes; and he says that he too shares in the tribulations through which they are passing (1:9).
(3) He was most probably a Jew of Palestine who had come to Asia Minor late in life. We can deduce this from the kind of Greek that he writes. It is vivid, powerful and pictorial, but from the point of view of grammar it is easily the worst Greek in the New Testament. He makes mistakes which even those with only a
basic knowledge of Greek would never make. Greek is certainly not his native language; and it is often clear that he is writing in Greek and thinking in Hebrew. He has a detailed knowledge of the Old Testament. He quotes it or alludes to it 245 times. These quotations come from about twenty Old Testament books; his favourites are Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Psalms, Exodus, Jeremiah and Zechariah. Not only does he know the Old Testament intimately; he is also familiar with the apocalyptic books written between the Testaments.
(4) His claim for himself is that he is a prophet, and it is on that fact that he bases his right to speak. The command of the risen Christ to him is that he must prophesy (10:11). It is through the spirit of prophecy that Jesus gives his witness to the Church (19:10). God is the God of the holy prophets and sends his angel to show his servants what is going to happen in the world (22:6). The angel speaks to him of his brothers the prophets (22:9). His book is characteristically prophecy or the
words of prophecy (22:7, 22:10, 22:18—19).
It is here that John’s authority lies. He does
not call himself an apostle, as Paul does when he wants to underline his right to speak. He has no ‘official’ or administrative position in the Church; he is a prophet. He writes what he sees; and, since what he sees comes from God, his word is faithful and true (1:11, 1:19).
When John was writing, the prophets had a very special place in the Church. He was writing, as we shall see, in about AD 90. By that time, the Church had two kinds of ministry. There was the local ministry; those engaged in it were settled permanently in one congregation as the elders, the deacons and the teachers. There was also the travelling ministry of those whose sphere of work was not confined to any one congregation. In it were the apostles, whose authority ran throughout the whole Church; and there were the prophets, who were wandering preachers. The prophets were greatly respected; the Didache says (11:7) that to question the words of a true prophet was to sin against the Holy
Spirit. The accepted order of service for the celebration of the Eucharist is laid down in the Didache, but at the end comes the sentence: ‘But allow the prophets to hold the Eucharist as they will’ (10:7). The prophets were regarded as uniquely coming from God; and John was a prophet.
(5) It is unlikely that he was an apostle. Otherwise, he would hardly have put such emphasis on the fact that he was a prophet. Further, he speaks of the apostles as if he was looking back on them as the great foundations of the Church. He speaks of the twelve foundations of the wall of the holy city, and then says: ‘and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb’ (21:14). He would scarcely have spoken of the apostles like that if he himself had been one of them.
This conclusion is made even more likely by the title of the book. In the Authorized and Revised Versions, it is called the Revelation of St John the Divine. In the Revised Standard Version and in James Moffatt’s and in J. B. Phillips’ translations, the Divine is omitted,
because it is absent from the majority of the oldest Greek manuscripts; but it does go a long way back. The Greek is theologos, and the word is used here in the sense in which scholars speak of ‘the Puritan divines’. It means not John the saintly but John the theologian; and the very addition of that title seems to distinguish this John from the John who was the apostle.
As long ago as AD 250, Dionysius, the great scholar who was head of the Christian school at Alexandria, saw that it was well nigh impossible that the same man could have written both Revelation and the Fourth Gospel, if for no other reason than that the Greek is so different. The Greek of the Fourth Gospel is simple but correct; the Greek of Revelation is rugged and vivid, but notoriously incorrect. Further, the writer of the Fourth Gospel studiously avoids any mention of his own name; the John of Revelation repeatedly mentions his. Still further, the ideas of the two books are different. The great ideas of the Fourth Gospel–light, life, truth and grace–do
not dominate Revelation. At the same time, there are enough resemblances in thought and language to make it clear that both books come from the same centre and from the same world of thought.1
1 Barclay, W. (2004). The Revelation of John (3rd ed. fully rev. and updated., Vol. 1, pp. 11— 15). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.

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