Three times in today's reading we hear that all of this will be happening "soon." And ever since this "unveiling" became part of the canon of Scripture, readers have asked, "how soon?" Overly certain and literal ways of answering this question have too often pushed readers away. They've also proven wrong, time and again. It doesn't seem to keep people from trying again.
Early on in this series, I mentioned my grandfather and his love of Revelation, shaped by Hal Lindsay's The Late Great Planet Earth. Lindsay (and others) were convinced that 1948, the founding of Israel as a nation, was a critical date and that a generation in the Bible was forty years, so that "soon" meant not later than 1988.I'm not sure how his his approach changed in 1989...
I think "soon" means the same thing it means in other New Testament eschatological texts: it means these things are always happening. It means that time is not just linear; there is also a cyclical dimension to time, and a fullness of time quality as well. I think soon means Now, in each generation. It means keep awake. It means stay alert to what is happening in the world and learn how to "read" what is happening. In one sense, there is nothing new under the sun. It means now is the time to choose whom you will follow and for Christians there is only one choice: we follow Jesus, and we claim him as Lord.
It means that Now is the time to name, unmask, and engage the powers of this world that threaten to hurt and destroy the creatures of God. It means (as Stringfellow put it) that we need to be able to read the events of our own day as containing both apocalyptic danger, and reason for hope, and to see the ways that "Babylon" is taking shape in our own context - and pulling us away from the New Jerusalem that God intends.
It means that we gather in the Church to worship the Lamb that was slain and to join with the heavenly chorus, because we believe that the Lamb is the Shepherd and the Shepherd is the Lamb. It means that we who thirst dare to come and drink from the water of life and to claim that Jesus is the alpha and the omega, not just our "personal Savior" but as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. That's political. That's cosmic. And the time is Now.
I want to thank all who have come along with me on this journey through Revelation. But I also want to offer one more post (tomorrow) before leaving Patmos. Until then...