What to do with the last "book" of the Bible? It lists as number 66 in the collection of sacred writings...no wonder so many people avoid it! Or could it be that Revelation is just too hard to understand? Or there is too much baggage from what you heard as a kid? Or you've got better things to do than read about dreams of beasts and dragons and harlots.
My friend Donnie challenged me a couple of months ago to rethink my view of heaven. More pointedly, that I would let the promise of heaven provide some hope and energy to the difficult times I face. Kind of like what Paul writes about in 1Corinthians 15 - the promise of Resurrection propels him to endure his bouts with beasts in the Ephesian coliseum. But what propels me? Certainly not any promise about future events. I took up my friends challenge and started reading/studying what the Bible says about heaven, the future promise, and salvation. Interesting stuff.
I don't think much about heaven, to be honest. Even though my brother Matt and Ben are dead and I believe they are in heaven, and I think about them often, I don't think about heaven. I believe I am going there when I die, but I don't think about dying or going to heaven very much. I'm not sure how mature or wise that is, I'm just being honest. So I've started reading/studying the Revelation of Jesus (otherwise known by it's very obscure title: the Apocalypse of Christ).
I grew up with a view of Revelation that obsessed with how we were living in the End Times and that modern people/events were fulfillments of prophecy. How many people told me that the Rapture was going to happen in our life time. First Gorbachev was the Anti-Christ of Revelation because of his rule in Russia and the red spot on his forehead (the mark of the beast!). Then Bill Clinton was the Anti-Christ! Now it might be Barak Obama! Ugh.
Is there another way to view Revelation? Fortunately there is. A lot of my reading is focusing on the historical context and literary genre of the book. What was going on in Ephesus that prompted the letter? What were characteristics of the Roman Empire that fueled the need for Revelation? What was the status of Christians in the Western provinces of Asia that necessitated this letter? The more that one digs, the more gems one finds.
An interesting theory is that Revelation is primarily a political letter; it is challenging the authority of Emperor Domitian and the propaganda of the Imperial Cult. John crafts a brilliant letter that pulls in the best of apocalyptic literature while drawing deep on the brilliance of Jewish Prophets. He draws it all together to inspire his fellow believers to Worship the One True God and live out his Way of Love. Resist the Empire! Resist the Corruption of Roman Deception. Go the Way of Christ, not Caesar.
This approach sidesteps the need to put a chronological order to the events of Revelation, it avoids the need to find modern day people/places to fit in with the characters/descriptions found in the book. It tells us a lot more about God and Jesus and the Spirit then it does about when the world will end or who is the AntiChrist.
Did you know that the word AntiChrist doesn't even appear in Revelation? Neither does the word Rapture.
What do you think about Revelation?