Yesterday, I read Revelation 1:4-5, in my daily devotions: “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
I’d stubbed my toe against the trinity.
I just started reading Revelation, and it’s obvious that a I hadn’t gotten very far before the imagery got the better of me. I had to go scurrying to my bible reference tools to figure out what in the world John was talking about. It turns out, he’s talking about God here, in three persons, what we like to call the trinity.
“Him who is, and who was, and who is to come”
Well, according to my reference source, that’s God the Father. If you ask me, you could also use these criteria to apply to Jesus. We know he was around before time began, since John, the guy who also wrote Revelation, told us this at the beginning of his gospel (“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” etc.).
“The seven spirits before his throne”
This is where I got really confused. Who in the world are these spirits. Angels? Only seven of the apostles, with five of them off playing the harp somewhere? It turns out to be a symbolic thing, since seven is the number of perfection. It’s the Holy Spirit, another member of the trinity.
“Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth”
Now we have the final member of the trinity listed. John has been officially greeted by God in his fullness, in the three ways that he demonstrates himself to us.
I’d planned on reading further in Revelation yesterday, but after those verses, I had to put the book aside for awhile (At this rate, I can tell that Revelation is going to take a very long time.). I spent awhile praying about this age old issue, this God who manifests himself in three ways but remains one God. I asked God to help me understand the trinity, to know him better because of it.
I’m not the first to get mind boggled by the nature of the trinity, and I don’t think I’ll be the last. I’ve listened to all the Sunday school analogies that attempt to explain the trinity, but somehow, they just fall short for me. For example, the egg analogy. If God is like an egg, it’s way too easy to separate the yolk, and the whites. I do that all the time in the kitchen. God the Father and Jesus are like “this” *holding my hand up with my fingers crossed*. You can’t just split them up. In all honesty, I don’t expect to truly understand it until I stand before God in heaven and have him explain it to me. As a matter of fact, I’m making that my first question.
In my prayers, God didn’t reveal to me the mysteries of the trinity. Unlike a medieval mystic, I didn’t enter a trancelike state and emerge knowing how all this works. I just prayed that he would help me understand, and I left it at that.
Later that day, I was baking bread for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, when God answered my prayer. Daniel is a Messianic Jew, a Jewish believer in Jesus, so we celebrate many of the Jewish holidays with a Christian spin on them. We bake a special form of challah bread for this holiday, one that’s extra sweet, with raisins. Traditionally, a challah is a braided egg bread that Jews eat on the Sabbath, Friday at sundown. On Rosh Hashanah, we look forward to a sweet New Year, and we celebrate by eating the fruits of the New Year, the freshest harvest of grapes and apples, since that’s what’s in season. That’s why we put raisins (dried grapes) in the challah bread, and we also put extra honey in it to make it sweeter.
To make challah, you knead the dough and let it rise for an hour. After an hour, you divide the large ball into three parts and roll each part into long strips. As I pinched the three strips together at the top and began braiding it, I realized that before me, a symbol of the trinity was taking shape.
When I pinched the dough together to hold the three strands in place, I realized that I could no longer separate them, even if I wanted to. They became one ball of dough, once more. Their ends remained free, and as I twisted them together, I could distinguish where one rope started and another ended. At the end of the braiding, once again, I pinched the ends together to keep the loaf from unraveling. Just as before, the end of the loaf became a solid mass, where three ends had once existed. Although I could see the shape of three separate ropes, there was no way to pull them apart. They were one, as God is one.
I know this isn’t a perfect analogy for the trinity. Nothing on this earth can compare with the complexity and the beauty that is our God. However, I felt that yesterday, God blessed me with one more way of understanding him, whom I will only fully understand in heaven.