Reading Revelation with the Surrealists: Part 2- Perspective

Son of Man (Rene Magritte) At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”  Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song:  – Revelation 5:5-9

Perhaps Revelation confounds us because it gives us exactly what we want, but not what we expect. By its very nature, John’s vision presents both what is visible and present and what is visible and hidden. It seems intended to to resolve our internal conflict, to satisfy our curiosity. But from the moment we develop a sense of object permanence, we live in the tension Magritte depicts. We don’t know how to live outside of it; we, like John, are ill equipped to perceive within a state of full revelation, and so the results are true and enlightening, but also strange. John hears the one who is worthy called the lion of Judah, but sees a slain lamb. He hears 144000 of Isreal called, but sees an unending multinational gathering. Three times 7 terrors are unleashed on the earth and the result is profound and unending worship.

As we move through the middle chapters of Revelation it is easy to be distracted by images of terror and violence. It is easy to be distracted, to be afraid, to become lost in the form of John’s vision. But always visible, though sometimes hard to see, is the glory of God. The call of Revelation is not fear and judgement, its worship. We should always hold Chapter 4 and 5 before us, viewing all that follows from the foot of the throne. Only from the perspective of glorious, unending worship, can we endure what is to come; both in the book and in our lives.

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