The last book of the Bible is most intriguing. And most easily misunderstood. So how should we read it?
A man named John, now old and in exile on the island of Patmos, is given a series of visions. And what visions they were! Beasts and bowls, scrolls and seals, trumpets and angels, heavenly song and earthly war. While certainly thrilling, this is not easy reading. A certain kind of literary dexterity is needed. Perhaps most important is a deep acquaintance with the whole long story of God which precedes this book.
The reality is that most of the Revelation is a retelling of what has already been said in Scripture. The future is a projection of the past, but only if we can see truly what has already happened. Memory matters, and so does imagination.
This, we come to find out, is history told in another form. And history, in God’s hands, is the whole long story from past to present to future: this is God’s story, and God will bring it to a proper conclusion.
Guidelines for Reading the Apocalypse
The Revelation of Christ can seem disorienting. Often the problem is we don't understand the rules of the genre or the cultural images that are being used. The first step in understanding this book is recognizing that the text is meant to reveal God to us, not hide him from us.
The Throne and the Lamb
One of the keys to Revelation's potency is way it plays with our expectations. It sets us up with images that seem to confirm our assumptions about God, only to pull the rug out by giving us an even better imagination.
Few literary images have inspired as much creativity and speculation as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Who are these figures and are they meant to drive us to look for imposing figures in our world or is there a deeper more timeless meaning behind these characters.
"Wars and rumours of war." That's a line from Jesus, but seems at home here in this section of the Revelation. Sometimes we assume that God will eventually go to war himself, but would it mean for God to go to war against evil.
A Great Red Dragon
Sometimes what seems terrifying is little more than a toothless roar. If war isn't the antidote and evil has already been overcome, what is the part that we play in celebrating, trusting and participating in Christ's victory.
The Beasts and Harlot
Clearly Revelation is calling us to be awake and aware in our world, but when it comes to these characters wrapped in riddles what does it mean to be watchful? Are we fearfully waiting for the right/wrong person to emerge or should be aware of the cycles of empire that dominate human history?
Armageddon and New Jerusalem
We've all heard about the battle of Armageddon and yet in the Revelation it's almost over before it begins. War is a false climax. It is grace and peace that win the day just as God has always promised.