Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On interpreting Revelation non-violently

I saw this link come through my Twitter feed today. The piece is from 2010, so it’s been around a while but I hadn’t seen it until today.

Revelation and the Violent “Prize Fighting” Jesus

In an interview several years ago for Relevant Magazine, Mark Driscoll (well known pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle) said,

“In Revelation, Jesus is a prize-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up…”

I frankly have trouble understanding how a follower of Jesus could find himself unable to worship a guy he could “beat up” when he already crucified him. I also fail to see what is so worshipful about someone carrying a sword with “a commitment make someone bleed.”  But this aside, I’m not at all surprised Driscoll believes the book of Revelation portrays Jesus as a “prize fighter.”  This violent picture of Jesus, rooted in a literalistic interpretation of Revelation, is very common among conservative Christians, made especially popular by the remarkably violent Left Behind series…

Read the rest of the article at the original site.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reblog: I Used to be a Futurist

I came across a start of a new blog series written by Gary Wallin at The Cosmic Cathedral. Today’s entry is Apocalypse Then Pt 1: Saying Farewell to Futurism.

He ends this post by writing,

“So I hope you join me in the coming weeks as we attempt to read Revelation through the eyes of John the Seer and endeavor to uncover the meaning of the “Apocalypse Then.””

As you can see, this fits well with where the studies recorded in this blog have been. I look forward to seeing where Mr. Wallin’s journey takes him.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Another Look at Revelation

I found a blog that is looking at some of the symbolism in Revelation and what it might mean in today’s world. Take a look and see how it compares with other interpretations of the book.

As with blogs, earlier entries are at the bottom. The series is still in progress.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Reblog: He Threw the Dragon Down

I came across the following Lenten sermon on Revelation 12:7-12.

He Threw the Dragon Down

“Revelation is filled with bizarre, crazy images: dragons and horsemen named Death, lions that look like lambs, robes dipped in blood, pregnant women and numbers pregnant with meaning and above it all this image of a boot-stomping, butt-kicking Jesus Christ.

“And my assumption is that, like those evangelists on Washington and King, you assume Revelation is about the future. That it’s like a visual Morse code, warning us of what’s to come.

“But when we treat the Book of Revelation like a Ouija Board that predicts the future, we miss the fact that St John writes down this vision God gives him, sneaks it out of the prison Rome has locked him in, and he sends it out to his churches not not to warn them of what’s to come one day but to remind them of what has already come to pass, once and for all, in Jesus Christ.

“The Book of Revelation is not primarily about the future.

“It is instead in scene after scene, in image after image, in symbol after symbol, about the cross. It’s about the cross.”

Monday, February 18, 2013


Here is a list of the main sources and reference materials used during our study of Revelation.

Epilogue–The End

Outline: Epilogue
Passage: Revelation 22:6b-21
Discussion audio (1h12m)

With the 40th session we arrive at the end of Revelation. John wraps up and reiterates his main themes in this Epilogue section. He does this by echoing words and phrases from the Prologue at the very beginning. What we learn is that everything between the Prologue and Epilogue is explanations and descriptions of themes that were first introduced in the Prologue.

In summary here are the main themes that we discovered during our journey through Revelation.

  1. Jesus is God
  2. Israel is the Church (not ethnic or national)
  3. The Church is the New Jerusalem
  4. The description of the New Jerusalem is not heaven, but the Church
  5. The New Jerusalem is the Holy of Holies, where God dwells, and where his people now dwell
  6. Blessings are given to those who keep the words of Revelation (i.e., keep the commandments) and hold on (remain faithful) to the testimony given by Jesus in the book (the two phrases, “keep the commandments” and “hold to the testimony” are really the same thing)
  7. Revelation compares and contrasts two opposing systems – one based on coercion and force, the other based on love and liberty
  8. Revelation warns Christians against accommodating and approving the use of coercion and force, even for ends that may be good
  9. Babylon and New Jerusalem are two counterpart cities that respectively embody the principles of their masters
  10. Babylon will be destroyed; New Jerusalem will last forever
  11. Jesus’ coming is already here, in part; the rest of the story is just as certain
  12. Revelation is not so much about the future as it is about how Christians are to engage the world while awaiting the full arrival of God’s kingdom

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The New Jerusalem

Outline: The New Jerusalem
Passage: Revelation 21:9-22:6a
Discussion audio (39m)

The Bride of the Lamb is finally revealed! It turns out to be the New Jerusalem. This passage is often read as a description of “heaven” but that turns out to be the least likely application. The New Jerusalem is a description of the Church, of which aspects already exist today and have since Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples after his resurrection.

The descriptive texts of New Jerusalem are highly suffused with symbolic metaphors from the Old Testament writings as well as other Jewish writings known during the era of Revelation’s writing. The New Jerusalem is the culmination of all that Judaism was looking towards as the climax of history, but is now described in terms of Jesus Christ and the Church.

The New Jerusalem represents the Holy of Holies in Judaism, the place where God himself is said to have dwelt. In Revelation John describes the saints in the Holy of Holies with God himself. It will remain forever, and the saints will dwell in the safety and security of God’s presence. There will be nothing to fear, ever again.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A New Creation

Outline: A New Creation
Passage: Revelation 21:1-8
Discussion audio (1h11m)

Revelation is quickly drawing to a close. The last enemies Рthe dragon, Death, and Hades Рhave been destroyed. The audience must be allowed to experience catharsis during the last Act, the d̩nouement, of this drama. John describes how the historical longing for shalom will finally be fulfilled when both heaven and earth experience a re-creation. The promise to the conquerors is that evil, oppression, and chaos will never rise again to destroy the world.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reblog: Fear, Flight, Fight, and Fancy--A Revelation

I saw this blog piece today. It echoes the method of study I’ve been using here, and unsurprisingly, the truths that are listed in the piece overlap quite a bit with what we’ve found in our study.

Fear, Flight, Fight, and Fancy--A Revelation

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Millennium

Outline: The Millennium
Passage: Revelation 20
Discussion audio (1h11m)

The Millennium, found only in Revelation, is another one of those concepts where multiple, mutually exclusive interpretations have been given. I was surprised (because the version of premillennialism I learned was supposed to be the only right one) at the conclusion I drew, amillennialism, after examining the historical, literary, and religious contexts that John probably would have had in utilizing this symbolic reference in Revelation.

There is really no point in arguing whether or not any of the three major schools of millennial interpretation are right or wrong as each claims biblical basis and are considered orthodox positions. Each person will need to (re-)examine their own assumptions in light of what is written about the millennium (very little, in fact).

Assumptions that each person brings to their reading of Revelation provides the basic framework in which it is interpreted. We have been reading the book as a literary drama of the apocalyptic genre, common to the period, whose sole intended audience was the Christians of the seven churches to which the book is addressed. We read it in a way that we think made sense to them. We assume that the entire book made sense to them.

On the other hand if we come to Revelation with the a priori that it is primarily futuristic prophecy, how we interpret and understand the reading will necessarily be vastly different. If, on top of that, we bring to it the assumption that it is intended to be a companion book to the Old Testament book of Daniel, the interpretations will have further influences that likely was not intended.

There is more than one way for 21st century Christians to read and interpret Revelation. There are probably multiple “right ways”. Some may be better than others. I believe the Holy Spirit can bring out vital messages for us through each of the readings. God’s Word is not the text of the Bible, but how its reading together with individual experiences, brings Christ alive in the reader.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Outline: Marriage Supper of the Lamb
Passage: Revelation 19:6-21
Discussion audio (1h49m)

The demise of oppressive forces, systems, and entities continues as Revelation moves towards its conclusion. John employs much imagery from earlier in the book to emphasize a singular process and event that is being described throughout the book.

Chapter 19 is mostly narrative and description. There is little to nothing in the way of warnings, exhortations, or commands that are given. As such there is nothing explicit that is given for Christians to follow. It is mostly about assurance that evil and oppression will fall and be destroyed.

There are a couple of parenthetical commentaries that John inserts that indirectly addresses concerns he may have in regards to Christians and the Church. One has to do with the explanation of “fine linen” as “righteous deeds”. The other has to do with “testimony” as the “spirit of prophecy”. Our discussion touches on these items.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fall of Babylon, Part 3

Outline: Fall of Babylon, Part 3
Passage: Revelation 18:20-19:5
Discussion audio (1h44m)

Babylon is no more and the saints rejoice. Do they rejoice because evil people finally receive what they deserve? No. Revelation’s concern isn’t with peoples but with systems of power and authority. The saints rejoice because God’s power is shown to be good and just and eternal, and that the power structures on which the world’s systems are based have been shown to have no foundation. The saints rejoice because the deception that maintained the world’s power structures for so long are finally destroyed, never to return again.

I personally found this study to be the most difficult thus far. It goes against so much of what I (apparently, wrongly) value, but which is the norm for life in the world I inhabit. The ways of the world are so deeply ingrained that I can’t even see how Jesus’ ways of conducting life are possible. A life of faith shouldn’t be based on presumption, yet is it possible to live a life where conventional pragmatism, particularly in the economic arena, is thrown out?

The message I’m seeing in Revelation is that the Church, and consequently her members, must get rid of the idolatries of safety, security, stability, and comfort that we so often dearly seek. That sounds completely absurd and impractical. It sounds so risky. It appears to foolish, dumb, stupid.

“I’ve got to plan for the future.”

“I’ve got to take care of my family.”

Very sensible objections. But they sound an awful lot like what some of the individuals seeking to follow Jesus said; the ones he turned away. Not that they’re not of value, but if they are merely excuses…

I don’t think there is a single, universal answer that God expects out of everyone. I do think he wants us to stretch out of our comfort zones and trust his ability to meet our needs.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fall of Babylon, Part 2

Outline: Fall of Babylon, Part 2
Passage: Revelation 18:9-19
Discussion audio (1h28m)

What do the funeral dirges found in Revelation 18 reveal about the sins of Babylon? John borrows heavily from the language of the oracle against Tyre found in Ezekiel 26-28. By examining this judgment oracle, we are able to better understand John’s purpose and message in including the dirges triggered by the fall of Babylon. Each dirge follows a literary pattern that can also help us determine John’s intent of today’s passage.

These dirges emphasize the socioeconomic system that temps the Church to accommodate and adopt it. It is a system based on power and acquisition of wealth, both as a means to establish and maintain security and stability. It is a system that works all too well, but at the expense of turning people into resources to be used, controlled, and abused. Thus the Church must be warned to not succumb to that temptation.