Lectionary Commentaries for November 22, 2009
Christ the King (Year B)

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on John 18:33-37

Paul S. Berge

Jesus’ kingship begins with the opening verse of the gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1).

The evangelist continues the theme of Jesus’ kingship incarnate in human flesh: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (1:14; RSV).

In the verse immediately following our assigned text for Christ the King Sunday, Pilate responds to Jesus’ witness to his kingship, “What is truth?” (18:38).

These verses (1:1, 14; 18:38) provide the framework of the text for Christ the King Sunday. What events in the gospel have led us to hear Jesus’ witness of his kingship to Pilate? “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world” (18:36; RSV).

Christ’s kingship is both hidden and revealed throughout the gospel of John. At Jesus’ baptism, John expresses a vision of his kingship revealed in the cross: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29), and proclaims, “And I have seen and have borne witness, ‘This is the Son of God'” (1:34; my translation).

As the story continues to unfold all within the opening verses of the gospel of John, Jesus responds to two followers of John with an invitation and promise, “Come and you will see” (1:39; my translation). One of the followers is Andrew who in turn invites his brother Simon with the confession, “We have found the Messiah” (1:41).

Jesus again takes the initiative and calls Philip who in turn invites Nathanael, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth” (1:45). Nathanael in turn confesses of Jesus, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”(1:49).

Jesus’ vision of the Son of Man concludes the confessions of chapter one: “And he (Jesus) said to him (Nathanael), ‘Very truly, I tell you, you (both pronouns are plural and thus promise to all who read the gospel) will see the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man'” (1:51).

Confessions of Jesus’ kingship are present throughout the opening chapter of the gospel of John. This is a uniqueness of the gospel of John in relationship to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And yet the identity of Jesus’ kingship will remain veiled to the world throughout the gospel of John.

The first public act of Jesus’ ministry in this gospel takes place at the wedding in Cana. As the supply of wine is diminished, Jesus’ mother calls this to his attention. Jesus’ words appear to be a rebuff but in reality point to the cross: “Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come” (2:4). This is the first time Jesus refers to the hour of crucifixion as “the hour” when his kingship will be most clearly seen and most certainly veiled. How is crucifixion regal and kingly?

To Nicodemus, Jesus discloses the truth of his crucifixion in being lifted up or exalted. The sign of salvation for the Israelites from the fiery serpents in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9) is the ensign of Jesus’ cross: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so it is necessary (Greek: dei “it is necessary”) for the Son of Man to be lifted up/exalted, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (3:14-15; my translation).

Throughout the gospel, the evangelist is bringing us to the hearing of Jesus before Pilate. His own people have brought Jesus in deceit. They perjure themselves before Pilate by saying, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death” (18:31). It was lawful in the Torah to stone someone on the charge of blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16). Several times Jesus identifies himself with the name of God: “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I, I AM” (8:58; my emphasis). The identity of Jesus with the “I, I AM” name of YHWH (Exodus 3:13-15) is present in all the “I, I AM” (Greek: ego eimi) sayings throughout the gospel of John.

The deception of the religious leaders before Pilate “signifies the sign” of Jesus’ death by Roman crucifixion: “This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he signified the kind of death he was to die” (18:32; my translation). Jesus will be physically lifted up on the cross of crucifixion; Jesus will be exalted or enthroned on the cross. (This is a double entendre verb in Greek meaning “to lift up” and “to exalt.”)

The trial before Pilate begins with either a question or statement: “Are you the King of the Jews?” or “You are the King of the Jews.” (18:33; the Greek text allows for both translations). Jesus’ response to Pilate indicates that it is a statement: “Do you say (Greek verb is “say” as RSV and not “ask” as NRSV) this on your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” (18:34, RSV). Since Jesus’ own nation and chief priests have handed him over, Pilate needs to know the charges: “What have you done?”(18:35).

Jesus’ response to Pilate says that he has made no pretense of an earthly kingship with his own people and thus provides no threat to Pilate’s rule since his kingship is not from this world (18:36). Pilate says to Jesus’ response, “So then you are a king.” In the Greek text, this can be a statement of affirmation (as my translation) or a question (as in the RSV and NRSV). Once again it would appear that Jesus accepts Pilate’s words as a statement and not a question as Jesus affirms to Pilate “You say that I am a king” (18:37).

Jesus’ witness brings the text to a crescendo witness: “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice” (18:37). The scene between Jesus and Pilate is the height of the gospel’s irony as Pilate does not question Jesus’ kingship or guilt of the charges brought before him. Pilate rather affirms Jesus’ kingship as his title on the cross witnesses and his resolve against the chief priests not to change the title in Hebrew (Aramaic), Latin and Greek: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (19:19-22).

Truth is embodied in Jesus Christ. Truth is not an axiom that can be proven. Truth is the one who stands on trial before Pilate. Following the assigned text is Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” (18:38). We have heard the true witness of the text. Truth is standing before us in Jesus Christ. Truth is “the Word became flesh” (1:14). This indeed is Christ the King and the true witness and proclamation on Christ the King Sunday.

First Reading

Commentary on Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Juliana Claassens

It would be easy to preach our lectionary text for today as referring to Jesus coming on a cloud.

After all the image of Jesus as the Son of Man who will come with the clouds of heaven to save the people from all that threatens them has been dominant in Christian imagination — the reference to someone like a son of man in verse 13 in particular anticipates the use of this self-designation by Jesus in the gospels. Moreover, the fact that this Sunday is the day in the church year on which we celebrate Christ as the King seems to further delimitate our interpretative options. However, if one takes a step back and considers the function of this text in its original literary and socio-historical context one may just end up with a richer understanding of Daniel 7, as well as its journey becoming part of the lectionary’s selection celebrating Christ the King.

For instance, a close reading of Daniel 7 (keep in mind that Daniel 2:4-7:28 was written in the lingua franca of the day, Aramaic) reveals that the familiar translation of “the Son of Man” as in the KJV and NIV probably is not the best way to translate the Aramaic phrase bar enosh. Rather, as the NRSV translation would attest, someone “like a human being” appears on the cloud to deliver the people from the deeply threatening circumstances.

The identity of this proposed savior has been open to speculation — from the coming messiah, the angel Michael, the angel Gabriel, the High priest Onias III, Judas Maccabeus, the collective Jewish people, and of course for Christian believers, Jesus the Christ, as is evident in Mark 13:26 where the gospel writer portrays Jesus in terms of Daniel’s vision. However, to simply read this text through a Christological lens would not do justice to the powerful significance this imagery would have had for an audience who was severely threatened by empires.

The two sections of the lectionary text for today build upon a long tradition of the liberator God intervening to save the faithful. Demonstrating parallels with Ugaritic imagery, God is depicted in the Old Testament tradition in terms of El on throne (e.g. Psalm 29:10; 47:8; 99:1) and like the storm god Baal riding on the clouds whose appearance on a cloud signals deliverance (Psalm 18:10; 68:4, 33; Isaiah 19:1). However, in verse 13 instead of a deity, the deliverer proves to be a mortal — one like a human being. To this unexpected savior is given “dominion, glory, kingship” and his rule is said to be forever, which shall not pass away, nor be destroyed.

In this regard, it is quite important to read this week’s lectionary text within the larger context of Daniel 7’s vision of the terrifying monsters arising out of the chaos water of the sea. By leaving verses 11 and 12 out, the lectionary text sanitizes the text and takes the vision of the divine throne room and the savior on the cloud out of context. These powerful visions very much emerge out of the feeling of being subsumed by the empires that quite fittingly are likened to monstrous beasts. Typically taken to denote the quick succession of the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek empires, the fierce animals that are likened to a lion and a bear are used to depict the various empires’ enormous capacity of wreaking havoc and destroying people’s lives. Circumstances became even more urgent in light of the actions of the little horn speaking arrogantly (Daniel 7:8) that has been connected with the Selekeud ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanus whose actions of abolishing the Sabbath and sacrificing a pig in the temple have been viewed as exceedingly threatening, giving rise to the fear of being wiped out as a people.

In the midst of this living nightmare, the two interrelated images of God on the throne and God’s saving agent entering into the chaos-filled world fulfill a pivotal function for the believers who are experiencing extreme duress. Faced with the possibility of being subsumed or even annihilated by the powers-to-be, the image of God on the throne, the Ancient One (or as the NIV translates it “the Ancient of Days”) is a compelling way to convey the unwavering belief in the sovereignty of God. Daniel 7:9-10 proclaims that God is firmly on the throne even if the terrible monsters (empires) are around for a season and a time (7:12).

This reference propounds that even though God is present and reigning from on high, the threat of the chaos is not entirely eliminated, but God’s presence contains and limits the empires, no matter how inhumane, in the interim. Moreover, the image of a valiant savior who appears on a cloud and represents God’s intervention contributes to the powerful theological development that God is mobile, moving with the people in the most desperate of circumstances (cf. also Ezekiel’s vision of the divine throne with wheels in Ezekiel 1).

Finally, in an important step in the development of a Trinitarian understanding of God, the two interrelated images in Daniel 7 assert that God is not just a far-away removed deity, but that God is present in the chaos of this world: moving, acting, and intervening in the real life struggles of the believers who are yearning for a Liberator God.

Sometimes when we switch on the morning news and read the newspapers over a cup of coffee, we may feel a bit like Daniel, frightened by devouring monsters in his night visions, when we seek to wrap our minds around everything that is happening in our country and around the world. However, the belief and hope in a Savior that enters exactly where the forces of chaos seem to be most rampant is what allows one to get up and face the day. Particularly as we are entering this season of Advent we take heart in the image of Christ our King who was born in the shadow of the empire; who was threatened and eventually persecuted and killed by the empire; but who has risen from the dead, reigning on high. It is this advent hope in the already and the not yet of our salvation that gives us the strength to endure.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on 2 Samuel 23:1-7

Ted A. Smith

Whether these “last words” of David were spoken by the king himself or composed by a later supporter of the monarchy (as most scholars believe), their purpose is clear:

they promise divine legitimacy for David’s rule for the line that descends from him and for the monarchy as an institution. They have clear political purposes. But speech about God has a funny way of outrunning even our intentions. And this short poem ends up saying both more and less than its author might have meant to say.

Verse 1 identifies the speaker as David. It then identifies David through an increasingly grand sequence of appellations. In the first line, he is merely “David.” In the second line, he is distinguished by his family ties as “son of Jesse.” In the third line, the poetry begins to take flight: David is “the man whom God exalted / the anointed one of the God of Jacob / the favorite of the Strong One of Israel” (verse 1c-e). Before the oracle even begins, the poem has given its verdict on David. He is the favorite — the “darling,” or “beloved” — of the Strong One of Israel.1

Verses 2-3a add another title to David, for those who read between the lines. He is a prophet. The metaphor at the heart of the poem is introduced with an indication of its divine origin: “The God of Israel has spoken,” David says in verse 3a, “the Rock of Israel has said to me…”

David is the beloved of the God of Israel, and God speaks to David. God also speaks through David. “The spirit of the Lord speaks through me, / his word is upon my tongue,” the speaker identified as David says in verse 2. God speaks to David, as God’s beloved, and through David, as God’s prophet.

This identification of David as a prophet has powerful political implications. If “prophet” was not a formal political office, it became a clearly defined role, especially as the monarchy wore on. Prophets had the authority to challenge kings, as Nathan challenged David after his taking of Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah (2 Samuel 11:27b — 12:15a). But if David is both king and prophet, if he holds these two roles together in his own person, then it becomes much more difficult to offer legitimate opposition to his rule. Thus the poem in 2 Samuel 23 offers not only a hymn to David’s virtue, but also — even before the oracle begins — a consolidation of his power.

The oracle of the priest-king takes the form of an extended metaphor. The just ruler is “like the sun rising on a cloudless morning” (verse 4b). The sun gives life and light to those who bask in its warmth. It calls forth growth and fruitfulness. But the power of the sun can also be a terror. It bakes “the godless” until they are like brittle thorns that can only be thrown away. Such thorns should not be touched with the hands, but should be handled with an “iron bar” or with “the shaft of a spear.” The same sun that gives life to the grasslands scorches the godless thorns. It drains life from them until they burst into a consuming fire (verses 6-7). Such is the power of the just ruler.

The poem wraps this metaphor around a meditation on the house of David. After a description of the power of the sun for life, and before a description of its power to consume, the poem speaks of David’s house. David’s house is at the center of the metaphor, identified with the sun. The New Revised Standard version translates this identification as a question: “Is not my house like this with God?” Other translations have read the line as an intensified form of David’s claim: “Surely my house is like this with God.”2 

Neither translation captures the full complexity of this verse by itself. The best interpretations hold the question and the affirmation together, without resolution. For if the verse is a question, it is a rhetorical question, an indirect way of making the stronger affirmation. The introduction of David in verse 1 has already answered the question. David’s house is like this with God. When we read the verse as a question, it answers itself. But if the verse is translated as a sure, certain claim, the entirety of the books of Samuel calls it into question.

Is David’s house really like this? David’s house, built on the bodies of Saul and Jonathan? David’s house, where Amnon raped Tamar (with no small assistance from David himself)? David’s house, where Absalom killed Amnon and raised an army against his father? David’s house, where the royal line will proceed through the child of Bathsheba, a woman whom David “took” both before and after killing her husband? David’s house, under which the people have suffered civil war already and under which they will come to suffer conquest? David may be the beloved of God, but is his house really like the sun? However it was intended, the identification of David’s house with the righteous sun in verse 5 includes both an affirmation and a question.

As both affirmation and question, the verse holds together God’s love for David and God’s judgment on his rule. David may be anointed by God, even beloved of God, but his rule can still be called into question. Exactly the divine favor that legitimates David also serves to judge him.

If the poem aims to establish the house of David, it ends up falling short of that goal. There are still questions that must be asked. In raising those questions the poem points beyond the house of David to the reign of God. Its full significance outruns its immediate intentions.

Preachers might explain this dynamic by comparison to the founding documents of the United States. The Declaration of Independence argues for the right to establish a new nation — over against the rule of law — by appeal to a series of “self-evident” truths. Among these is the truth that “all men are created equal.” The limits of the founding generation’s intentions in this clause can be seen in the Constitution’s definition of an enslaved person as three-fifths of a human being. The Declaration legitimates the nation established by the Constitution, but also judges it. It waits for a prophet like Martin Luther King to come along, seize upon the check it writes without full knowledge, and present that check with a fresh demand for payment. David’s oracle about the just ruler offers similar resources to prophets who will come later. Like the founders of the United States, David is saying more than he knows.

It can be tempting for preachers to cast ourselves as prophets who call up all those old, bold claims and turn them into demands for righteousness. That work is necessary, and preachers must take it up. But we should also remember ourselves as people like David.

When we try to proclaim the Gospel, when we dare to say that the spirit of the LORD speaks through us, we will find ourselves saying more than we know. We will find ourselves speaking words whose full significance runs beyond all that we can imagine. We will speak words that judge us even as they declare anew God’s redeeming love for us, and for all the world.

Thanks be to God.3

1On translation of this verse see P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. II Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes and Commentary, The Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1984), 480.
2Ibid., 482.
3Thanks to Donna Giver Johnston for research assistance and valuable conversations in preparation for this essay.


Commentary on Psalm 93

Mark Throntveit

Yahweh malak.

After almost thirty years of ministering to the dead-language-impaired, I still marvel at the problems associated with the first two words of Psalm 93, two of the very first words one learns in the study of Hebrew.

Virtually every translation simply and elegantly renders these words, as does the NRSV, “The LORD (“Yahweh”) is king.” Yet, the reading “Yahweh has become king” is frequently encountered in the commentaries and scholarly literature. The discussion centers on important theological implications.

1. “Yahweh is king” is unusual in that if the subject precedes the verb, that the verb would normally be an imperfect (Proverbs 8:15), an active participle (Psalm 22:28, but with mashal not malak), or, usually, simply a noun, (melek). Its overwhelming support in Bible translations probably betrays an exegetical unease with God becoming king. Was there a time when God was not king? Scholars favoring this line of approach tend to see similar psalms proclaiming God’s rule (47; 93; 95-99) as “kingship psalms” that emphasize God’s ongoing rule.
2. Others favor seeing these psalms as “enthronement psalms” that commemorate Yahweh’s ascent to the throne. Mowinckel’s suggestion, that Israel celebrated this enthronement in an annual festival in the fall where Yahweh became king once again, provides a solution to the translation problem at the cost of adopting yet one more hypothetical liturgical setting for the psalms. It is better to recognize that both translations seek to announce the enduring kingship of God rather than the time of its inception.
3. The interpretation of this short, five verse psalm is also hampered by the debate over the place of the ancient near eastern mythological background that may or may not dominate the central verses. Some see this imagery as an indication that Israel has transformed an ancient Canaanite myth in which Baal becomes king following his defeat of Yam, the rebellious sea-god. Others deny such a connection and explain the psalm in terms of God’s creative activity, as in Genesis one, with regard to the natural oceans. If such Canaanite mythology actually lies behind this psalm, the translation “Yahweh has become king” would seem to make the most sense, at least here, where the mythological imagery may be present.

A minor indication of liturgical usage may be seen in the unusual shift in address displayed in the psalm. God is addressed directly in verses 2, 3, and 5, but is spoken about in verses 1 and 4. One chuckles at the thought of old school pastoral presence in the days when altars were fastened to the East wall of the sanctuary and the minister was required to face the altar when representing the people, but turning to face the people when representing God. Such liturgical representation would require four turns in the space of five verses. In the psalm, however, such changes in addressee suggest a distribution of speaking roles among the liturgical officiants.

The interpretation of Psalm 93, apart from the vexing problems of setting and context above, is straightforward. Declarations of the eternal nature of Yahweh’s reign (“from everlasting” verse 2; “forevermore,” literally “for length of days” verse 5), as well as its stability (“established” verse 1 and “never be moved” verse 2 are the same word in Hebrew; “very sure” verse 5) frame two verses employing watery imagery, whether of a mythological or natural quality (3), to reassert the supreme majesty of Yahweh (4). Thus, Psalm 93 serves as a hymn that praises Yahweh’s kingship. That kingly power is illustrated in three ways:

1. Verses 1-2 announce the stability the world enjoys as a direct result of God’s rule.
2. Verses 3-4 attest God’s defeat of the chaos represented by the watery abyss. Their power is indicated through the device of “staircase” parallelism in which the scheme is ABC, ABD, ABE where A is the “flood,” B is the verb “lift up,” and C, D, and E move to a climax after the repeated initial subject and verb. Nevertheless, Yahweh is “more majestic” than even this most powerful and unpredictably chaotic force.
3. Verse 5 subtly shifts from creation to governance. Yahweh’s “decrees” match his reign in stability as they are “very sure.”

Regardless of what one thinks about such matters, there are two moments in the history of the universe when one can literally say Yahweh malak: at the creation of the universe and at the end of history. The Sunday of Christ the King liturgically celebrates the latter of these as the church year comes to an end. Daniel 7:14 announces “to him was given dominion and glory and kingship.” Does our psalm, emphasizing the former, say anything less?

Second Reading

Commentary on Revelation 1:4b-8

Susan Eastman

The book of Revelation, called in Greek the Apocalypse, exercises a peculiar fascination for many folks, and repels others with its violent imagery and coded language.

Thus attending to its original context is essential for interpreting it properly; if we do that, however, we find a revolutionary message that speaks directly to our own “apocalyptic” times.

So today’s lesson must be read in its context (1:4a, 9-11), which focuses on the book’s author and addressees. This is not a timeless, abstract vision that floats six feet above the ground; this is a word rooted in the experience of a specific person, John, who has been exiled for his faith to the island of Patmos, off the coast of present-day Turkey (1:4a, 9).

This historical person speaks as Christ’s messenger; when his letter was read aloud in the churches, people understood that Jesus Christ was testifying to the glory of God (verse 2). And he speaks to real churches, which are tempted, struggling, experiencing intense hostility from their neighbors, and he personally shares their suffering (1:9-11).

Furthermore, John takes conflict and suffering as the norm for Christian life and expects these churches to do the same. This expectation threads through the entire New Testament witness: to own Jesus as one’s Lord is to come into conflict with all other “lords” that would claim our allegiance, whether they be the idols of economic success, social status, or simply apathy and personal safety. Revelation is a word of encouragement for those who are suffering, and a word of exhortation for Christians who acquiesce to the status quo in order to avoid any unpleasantness.

Thus today we hear that Jesus is “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (verse 5), and that Christians are “a kingdom” (verse 6). That is, we are members of the king’s household. We are such, however, only because we are Christ’s slaves (“servants” in the NRSV), just as John is a slave of Christ (verse 1). John’s own auditors may well have been slaves in large households; his words remind them that they have a different, greater master than their earthly masters.

This simple observation should undercut all boasting and power mongering on the part of the church. Humility, not “lording it over others,” is the order of the day. Again, Revelation is speech by and for the oppressed, those suffering under the sword of Rome, not for a successful, affluent or powerful church.

Verses 4-8 comprise the second of three introductions to the letter (1:1-3; 1:4-8; 1:9-11). The first tells the readers how to understand what follows, as God’s direct message to them. The third gives the historical setting for the revelation. The second, today’s lesson, is a tri-partite salutation that focuses on Christ’s saving work.1 

God is the one who was, who is and who is to come. Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn, and the rule of earthly kings. His action on our behalf is also set forth in a triad: he loves us, has freed us from our sins and made us a kingdom and priests to God, and will come with the clouds. At his coming, everyone, all who pierced him, all the tribes of the earth, will see and acknowledge him. All of this is under the rule of God, who is, who was, and who is to come.

Notice how this tri-partite scheme encompasses past, present and future. In the present, the overwhelming fact is that God loves us. There is no more profound truth than the simple truth of the old children’s song, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” The knowledge of God’s love in the present moment will sustain us through conflict and suffering. That knowledge is grounded in Christ’s past liberation through his own suffering on the cross (verse 5b), and the certainty that ultimately God will rule over all that now opposes God’s reign of peace: “he will wipe every tear from their eyes” (21:4).

The flow of the passage is interrupted by abrupt changes, in part due to a shift in speakers. This is typical of prophetic speech, in which the voices alternate between those of God, the prophet and the people. In public worship, Revelation may have been read aloud responsively. In any case, the passage invites us into a conversation with John and with God in Christ; sermons on the passage also should invite our parishioners into such a conversation.

The main subject of this conversation is Jesus Christ, who therefore is the main subject of our sermons as well. As such, Jesus is the “faithful witness” whose loyalty to the death testifies to God’s faithfulness (verse 2), and is the basis for his position as the “firstborn of the dead.” In 3:14, Jesus is again called “the Amen, the faithful and true witness.” Here the emphasis falls on the certainty and reliability of Christ’s revelation of God’s character.

Furthermore, the words translated as “testimony” and “testify” in 1:2 are forms of martyr, the Greek word translated as “witness” in 1:5; in his own witness to God’s faithfulness, Christ himself suffered martyrdom, and John’s understanding of witnessing to Christ also involves potential martyrdom.

In 2:13, a Christian in Pergamum named Antipas, who was killed for his faith, is called “my witness, my faithful one.” This pattern repeats throughout Revelation (11:3, 7; 17:6, 14), so that faithfulness to Jesus is understood as “the ultimate wager” of loyalty to the point of death.2

In some contemporary global settings, such a wager obviously accompanies Christian faith, but not usually in ours. Yet the violence and greed of our culture in fact do test our faith, sometimes in shocking and unexpected ways. So preaching this text requires us to search out particular, local points of conflict and opposition to the reign of Christ in the immediate realities of our congregations.

1For a user-friendly guide to Revelation, see Paul Minear, I Saw a New Earth (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2003).
2Minear, I Saw a New Earth, 12.