It has often been said that The Revelation was meant to be heard and not read. Obviously someone was going to have to read it to each congregation, but the point remains that the vast majority of God’s people were destined to hear it read aloud rather than poring over it by themselves in a small room. Over and over and over again we see bits and pieces of worship and song scattered throughout John’s Revelation. It’s a public book. It’s a shared experience. It’s a musical. An opera. It’s a liturgy. A theatrical production full of images, lights, and sounds.
Perhaps one of the many things we’re supposed to understand as a result is that God desires our worship. By allowing us to hear the worship in heaven, we become acclimatized to the requirement of worship on earth. We’re meant to yearn for the heavenly experience of God’s praise. We’re called out of our silence and into song by the chorus of the angels.
But we don’t often feel like singing. Sometimes singing feels pointless, or stupid, or even inappropriate. It’s hard to sing about God’s goodness when life stinks. It feels forced to sing about God’s kingship when dictators and despots rule the earth. But that’s precisely the point! We’re meant to sing God’s praise in defiance of what we can see and taste and quantify. We’re meant to evoke heaven amid the pale reflection on earth. As Eugene Peterson says,
“worship provides the context for the paradoxical simultaneities of believing in justice while experiencing injustice.”
Our original plan on June 24 was to read the entire book of Revelation out loud, accompanied by music. We have scripted it out so that the Revelation takes about two hours to experience. For a variety of reasons, had to cancel the event. However, simply the process of writing that script and conceptualizing that experience has been deeply faith-affirming for me. I can hear it in my head. I can close my eyes and imagine what it would be like.
And I guess that’s the point.
We’re not supposed to read Revelation, but to live it. We’re supposed to long for deliverance like the oppressed, yearn for justice like the martyrs, and sing like the saints in heaven echoing Moses on the banks of the Red Sea: Just and True are your works, O King of the Nations.