November 15, 2020; St. Stephen’s Maple Zoom Eucharist
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
To you I lift up my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens!
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
This parable. Its interpretation has become more obscure as our cultural context has changed. I can think of two readings that, on the surface, seem diametrically opposed to each other.
“Little Apocalypse”: Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-37
In all three Synoptic Gospels, Jesus launches into the “Little Apocalypse” immediately upon predicting the destruction of the Temple. This suggests that the passage was written or included as a response to this very event in 70 CE. This is closer to the “post-facto prediction” that we see in Daniel and Enoch than in Revelation. However, all three occurrences place it at the beginning of Holy Week, shortly after Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple and with the Crucifixion and Resurrection in view: we should keep in mind Jesus’ prediction near the beginning of John’s Gospel, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)
St. John immediately departs from the Apocalyptic tradition of pseudonymous centuries-old prediction: the very first verse indicates that Revelation describes “what must soon take place.” While the book does do some future-predicting, this “must soon take place” combined with past-tense narration (in English at least) suggests a preoccupation with present first-century realities in a way that is related to but distinct from what we’ve encountered in this course so far. This focus on the present leads him to explore more universal claims that are as relevant to the twenty-first century as they were to the first.
Four genres? Isn’t the Revelation to St. John the Divine a part of the Apocalyptic tradition? Well yes, it is indeed an Apocalypse-proper. It uses many of the images and conventions that we’ve encountered so far in this course: the Heavenly throne room, an angelic guide, the use of animals and even stranger beasts to talk about politics, a heavy dose of the numbers three, six and seven to name a few examples. And it is ultimately about God’s intervention into the created order to bring about the end of history and the birth of a “new heavens and a new earth.” (21:1) But as the pre-eminent and canonical Christian apocalypse, it also consciously recapitulates much of the Christian biblical canon. And it does so by appealing to three other genres (see note 1) that are prominent in Scripture: Epistle, Prophecy and Gospel