The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all saints. Amen.”
— The final word in Revelation
The radio airwaves south of the U.S. border are full of that old-time, “turn-or-burn,” fire and brimstone preaching, much of it based, of course, on Revelation.
And of course, much of it comes from misguided or misleading American evangelicals forever preaching that “the end is near,” warning us to repent and turn to Jesus lest we get hurled by God–the God of love and grace incarnated in sweet, merciful Jesus himself–into some lake of fire to burn forever and ever and ever and ever and can I get an “Amen!”
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The other day as I was driving home I tuned in to one such American preacher with a booming voice and heavy Southern drawl on Belizean radio. He was asserting with fundamentalist-style certainty that “the end is near.”
“We’re down to the last grains in the hourglass,” he said.
I wondered how many times that cliche has been repeated by fundamentalist preachers over the centuries and especially just in the last century or two.
The preacher I heard on BZ radio knows for a fact, of course, that the end is near, because the signs are clearly (so he said) right there in the pages Revelation.
There, and in all the violence and chaos in the Mid-East.
This just in to News Central: Jesus was quite clear in informing his disciples that no one knows how or when the end will come.
But that doesn’t stop all those scores upon scores of fundamentalist preachers out there from knowing that a scary, fiery end is upon us, compliments of the loving God.
Lord in your mercy, when will all this Revelation nonsense end?
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The final book of the 66 books in the Bible–“The Revelation to John”–has got to be the most abused, misused, misinterpreted and exploited message ever writ.
Granted, it’s no doubt prone to abuse and misunderstanding because it is such a non-linear, confusing and mystifying book, wrought with bizarre language and images that appear to have been written by some latter-day hippie describing a bad acid trip.
But–once more for the record–Revelation is terribly misunderstood, misused, abused and exploited by the likes of the two true believers who wrote the god-awful Left Behind novels, which are based on a false “Rapture” theology nowhere to be found in the Bible.
It’s for all these reasons and more that I’ve decided to post thoughts and notes about Revelation, for your edification, every day in the 30 days of June.
In these 30 blog posts I’ll share with you readers what I believe you should know about John’s sublime images and messages in Revelation–thoughts about what I, and theologians a lot more knowledgeable than I’ll ever be, know to be true or false or to ring the truest.
The first thing I would want someone to understand is that Revelation–for all its fiery, mystifying apocalyptic language–was not so strange and baffling to Christians when John put his vision in writing.
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Revelation is in fact a pastoral letter written primarily as a message of Hope for persecuted Christians under Roman rule. And because it was written in Apocalyptic language–the common genre of biblical times they were familiar with from Daniel and other writings–they got it.
It’s more than a book of Hope, of course, as it’s not a simple book. Among other things, it contains John’s very straightforward report card about how good or bad seven churches are being (or not being) as the church people. So the book is largely about the importance of steadfast faith, about how the church is no place for “lukewarm” believers. Among so many other things, I’ll be unpacking that “report card” found in Revelation 2 in the days ahead.
For now, just know that as I see it, the bottom line on Revelation is the Hope thing. John is above all saying to the readers of his pastoral letter: Keep Hope Alive.
Which is quite a message considering that he wrote letter in confinement.
Revelation is not, as so many have been led to believe, a crystal ball of a book giving any “clear” picture of the future.
It’s not, as so many have been led to believe, full of bad news for those who will be “left behind” while the most thoroughly repented, truly Jesus-y Christians who go to church every Sunday get taken up for their piece of what a famous atheist described as “pie in the sky.”
Because it was, and is, a book of Hope, Revelation is in fact an extension of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
And that’s the first takeaway of the 30 takeaways I’ll leave you with this month:
1. Revelation is the Good News, too.