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(This is the 8th installment of this blog’s month-long look at the much manipulated and misunderstood Book of Revelation–and the name of the book is in fact Revelation, by the way, with no “s” on the end!)

mountebank | noun

a person who deceives others, esp. in order to trick them out of their money; a charlatan.

— from the New Oxford American Dictionary

———————

“Revelation is about one thing: God wins and the powers of evil lose. And at the end of all things, God will make ‘all things new,’ not ‘all new things.’ ”

— Retired professor John C. Holbert

My favorite professor in seminary was my homiletics (preaching) professor, the now-retired SMU teacher John C. Holbert. Being the great teacher that he was, Holbert taught me an enormous amount about the Bible both in his classes and in discussions in the dining room where I was always picking his scholarly brain to help me understand stuff I didn’t understand.

Stuff like the Book of Revelation.

Professor Holbert: A vibrant mind and colorful sense of humor.

Professor Holbert: A vibrant mind and colorful sense of humor.

He was also a most-favored professor because he has an incredibly vibrant mind and colorful sense of humor, which, combined with his depth of biblical knowledge, always placed him in great demand as a guest preacher in pulpits worldwide.

He still writes a column for in the online theology journal “Patheos Progressive Christian” called “Opening the Old Testament.” In that forum he brings the Greek Testament to life and greater understanding for a lot of clergy and lay readers.

And so, today I’m sharing a most colorful but typically enlightening column he wrote about Revelation a couple of years ago on “All Saints Sunday.” As you’ll see, he doesn’t gladly suffer the fools and “the kooks and mountebanks” who misuse and abuse Revelation.

I know you’ll enjoy reading this (which I’ve slightlY edited by breaking up paragraphs) while you learn something about the true meaning of the Bible’s last book:

    Revelation 7:9-17

    November 2, 2014
    Since this column has for some four years now been called “Opening the Old Testament,” you are probably wondering, “Does not that fool Holbert know that the Revelation of John is most decidedly not in the Old Testament?”

    Well, yes, he does know that, but did you know (my clever and defensive rejoinder) that there are over 500 references to the Hebrew Bible in the last book of the Bible?

    Whoever the author was, he was clearly not the John who wrote the Gospel of John, or if he was his grasp of Greek grammar had certainly slipped in the interim between the two books. The Greek of the Revelation has been called “weak” by some and downright slipshod by others. Still, it is All Saints Day (you know, the religious thing after the spooky and candy-laden revelry of Halloween), and Revelation has a good bit to say about saints, so I, Hebrew Bible guy that I am, am going to spend a day on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, to give its full and richer sounding title.

    However, in doing so, I simply must attempt to dispel some of the myths that surround this book. There are far too many such foolish notions about the thing that one column will hardly suffice, but here goes.

    If you have heard the book called “Revelations,” or if you have called it that, you and they are wrong. The opening word of the book is the singular noun “revelation.” More literally, the word means “unveiling,” a revealing of something that has heretofore been hidden. The book purports to reveal something that all must know. What that something is is the reason for the writing.

    It was written by a man named John (a name as common then as it is now) who was spending some time on the lovely island of Patmos, a few miles off the coast of modern Turkey. But in that John’s day, it was not so lovely a place. It was in fact a Roman prison where the Romans sent persons, or certainly this person, to get him out of the way, to isolate him from the Roman populace.

    Why? John’s answer is that it is “because of the word of God and the testimony of (or to) Jesus” (Rev 1:9). In short, John was a Christian, and a preacher, and the Romans late in the first century were very leery of both. After all, in the sixth decade of the first century they had executed both Paul and Peter in Rome, and several Roman emperors had persecuted Christians throughout the empire, beginning with Nero up to Domitian at the end of the century (though thre remains debate about whether the latter was in fact a real persecutor at all).

    Rome saw people like the Christian preacher John as seditious and dangerous to proper order, so they sent him to Patmos.

    On the island John claims to have had a vision in a cave (when you go to Patmos, the cave is clearly marked as John’s cave of the revelation; that information has about as much factual truth as the latest article in Wikipedia). It is, he says, a revelation of Jesus Christ, who tells him, in a trumpet-like voice, with a snow-white head of hair, flaming eyes, bronze feet, and dressed in a long robe with a golden sash across his chest, “Write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this” (Rev 1:12-19).

    And because of those words, “what is to take place after this,” hundreds of kooks and mountebanks down the centuries have had a go at “what is to take place after this.” From Joachim of Fiore to John Hagee, anyone can have a go at what that “after this” might mean.

    Let me be as clear as I can be about all this nonsense: it is just that—nonsense.

    Revelation is most assuredly not about Russia and China, the European Common Market, the selling tags on Procter and Gamble soap products, the Rapture at the end of days, the saving of the few and the damnation of the many, the need for the state of Israel to exist in order to ensure that when Jesus returns to Jerusalem there will be some Jews who will either choose to become Christians or will join all unbelieving Christians and others (a short list includes Roman Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, Mormons, all Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc., etc, some three billion or so of the world’s people) in the lake of fire while the chosen few thousand will sing loud hymns of praise while they watch their fellow humans writhe in agony for all eternity. If you think this is caricatured, you have not listened to [TV evangelist and conservative political activist] John Hagee of San Antonio, and now his son, expound the meaning of the Revelation for you.

    Revelation is in fact about one thing: God wins and the powers of evil lose.

    And at the end of all things, God will make “all things new,” not “all new things.”

    Hence, all will live in a vast city together, Jews and Christians and Muslims, and all others. Even the once nasty kings of the earth will find their place there. Yes, even John Hagee and his son, who will be very surprised to see who their neighbors will be! There will be finally no sun or moon (those objects made on the fourth day of creation in Genesis), because God and the lamb will be all the light that everyone needs. Crying and pain and sorrow will be gone. In short, the world will eventually be what God had in mind for it at the very beginning, a place of order, structure, design, a place ruled by love.

    The key to the whole thing is found in the astonishing Revelation 5.

    John in his vision is wafted into heaven, and there looks in vain for someone who is worthy to open the scroll of the book of the meaning of life. “I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or (even) to look into it” (Rev 5:4). But one of the heavenly elders comforts him, urging him not to weep, because “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals” (Rev 5:5). But when John gazes around the throne room of God, instead of seeing a lion, a massive creature of power and fearful strength, he sees a lamb, “standing as if it had been slaughtered” (Rev 5:6). The lamb takes the scroll, and after suitable praise from the heavenly choir, he proceeds to open the scroll and its seals. And what, pray tell, does all that mean? The key to the purpose of God’s life for the world does not consist of power; conquering does not mean victory in any traditional sense. It means that the slain lamb is the key to life’s meaning.
    Hence, those who find in John’s Revelation scenes of blood and doom and destruction have not read the book for the metaphorical writing that it is. The key to life is service, a service that may lead to suffering and giving and dying. Little wonder that the Romans did not want John mouthing such things into a Roman world built on the pax romana, a “peace” insured by armies and fighting and glorious death. The Revelation of John contradicts the Roman view of the world at every turn, so John was sent to prison to shut him up.

    The 144,000 saints of today’s passage from Revelation 7 represent nothing less than “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb” (Rev 7:9). Here is no chosen few, but rather a vast, uncountable multitude, all praising the slain lamb, dressed in white robes, made white by the actions of the lamb, not by their own power and victories, by right belief or rejection of those who think differently.

    John’s Revelation is a great book of the promise of God to create a world where all have a place, where hierarchies disappear, where all live together in harmony and peace. Do not allow anyone to make this book into a thing of scary fear, of partisan choice, of believing rightly lest you end in fire. No! It is a book of hope, founded in love, and the gift of the lamb for all of the people of God. Happy All Saints Day!

———–

And so, dear reader, what can we take away on Day 8 or our Revelation observations?

8. As the good professor (check out his bio here) said so succinctly: “Revelation is about one thing: God wins and the powers of evil lose.”


Fear not. It's just a very good and powerful movie based on awfully bad theology.

Fear not. It’s just a very good and powerful movie based on awfully bad theology.

(This is the seventh our your favorite blogger’s series exploring the weirdness of the Bible’s weirdly fascinating Book of 666.)

Let’s take a break from the pastoral aspects of Revelation today and cut right to some sensational fun by breaking down the infamous “sign of the beast”–the number (Eeek!) 666, a number that for some reason seems to have a twisted, sexy appeal to a lot of American Bible readers.

And we can’t unpack that ominous number without considering Revelation’s famous
antiChrist, who I figure at this point is whatever demon is buzzing in Donald Trump’s brain.

Revelation 13:18 says:

    “Here is wisdom, let him that hath understanding, count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man and his number is 666.”

This is the scripture that inspired one of the best supernatural dramas–The Omen–ever put to film. I remember seeing it on the day of its release in 1976 and staying puckered up with the willies for about two hours.

For those who may not be familiar with it, the original Omen film was about a very creepy child named Damien. Damien was adopted at birth by an American Ambassador, Robert Thorn, unbeknownst to his wife, after their own son was stillborn.

The man (played by the great Gregory Peck) and his wife (the always mighty fine Lee Remick) are mystified and scared out of their wits by a series of mysterious and ominous deaths, unaware that their little Damien is the antiChrist on a tricycle.

Naturally, in fine Hollywood fashion, the cast includes three characters who are priests, trying to make sense of Damien’s brain.

(Three priests–was this some kind of subliminal sign Hollywood planted in our unsuspecting minds?)

* * *

Unfortunately, in spite of it being a million miles off the theological mark as far as being anything to be taken seriously, The Omen had as much power as the god-awful Left Behind books and movies to make people think a lot of stupid stuff about Revelation.

Look at the message in the film’s poster above:

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

IF SOMETHING FRIGHTENING HAPPENS TO YOU TODAY

THINK ABOUT IT

IT MAY BE

THE OMEN

Now, seriously, think about the words below–an excerpt from what my friend the Rev’d Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt had to say about 666 and the beast, and how we go wrong in interpreting Revelation with a “road map approach,” in a recent sermon (see here for more).

    When we read a book of the Bible we typically begin by asking, “What was happening at the time?” “What were the challenges the original readers were facing in being true to their faith?” And “What did the writer mean to communicate?” Once we figure that out, then we ask, “How does that apply to our day and time?”

    That’s not what happens when we use the roadmap approach.

    The roadmap approach tries to decode the Book of Revelation as if it were written in invisible ink or needed a secret decoder ring.

    Who is 666 or the beast? One of the Popes? A former President? Decoders have made all of those guesses and, when each one fails, they try another.

    The difficulty with that approach is that the number 666 isn’t a secret sign. 666 is meant to tell us something about Roman emperors when the book was written. They often took advantage of the cultural assumption that they were deities and, as such, they laid claim to Roman worship, as well as obedience.

    So, why refer to him as 666? Because the number 7 is a perfect number representing completion (as in the 7 days of creation) and applies in biblical literature to God alone. The emperor is a 6, meaning he pretends to be God, but he falls short, and he doesn’t just fall short: 6. He falls really, 66, really 666 short.

In her 202 book Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation, Princeton religious professor Elaine Pagels noted that 666 and the beast may refer to the famously evil, Christian hating Emperor Nero.

Nero was the sweetheart who executed his own mother. Nero’s madness was the kind of madness the early Christians feared.

All the American obsession with the numbers and supposedly “invisible ink” codes in Revelation miss the real sign that John the author of Revelation was holding up for his readers around the year 90.

That sign said to those persecuted Christians, in so many strange words: the forces of evil, the “antiChrists” who think they are divine, have already lost the game against the one true God, who, in the end, will re-create the world where the evil powers will have disappeared and all will dwell in the beauty and peace and order of the Creation as God originally created it.

So the takeaway from Day 7 is:

7. Let go of whatever notions or even fears you may have about Revelation and its meaning based on movies, “Rapture” novels and other fictions that have nothing to do with John’s vision of heaven on earth coming to fruition. You’re not going to be swept up to some distant heaven while your spouse or children get “left behind” to suffer a bloody hell of tribulation. If you have those books in your home or church trash them and get yourself focused on this fact:

God is too good for such bloody behavior.


(This is the sixth of 30 posts in which we’re exploring the weird and wonderful and misused and abused Book of Revelation.)

Just because Jesus has his sweet and gentle side doesn’t mean he’s cotton-candy Jesus.

Too many sweets will produce rot. Ask any dentist you happen to see.

True of Revelation: it's not to scare us but to prepare us for all the work that needs to be done in a world people in pain and suffering help and hope.

True of Revelation: it’s not to scare us but to prepare us for all the work that needs to be done in a world of people in pain and suffering who need help and hope.

The love of Jesus has always tasted of salt.

His message to the struggling Christians in seven developing churches was meant to give the congregations hope and encouragement, but not without sprinkling some salty truth on them. (“I reprove and discipline those whom I love,” he says in Rev.3:19.)

In chapters 2 and 3, Jesus doesn’t mince words in harshly grading the churches struggling to find their way in what was Asia during the Roman empire.

The church at Ephesus gets knocked for not doing the kind of good spiritual work it had done before, as we see in Rev. 2:3:

    Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”

In Rev. 3:2 he calls on the church at Sardis to wake up, stop the slacking, and seek nothing less than perfection in getting down to all the spiritual work that needs to be done:

    “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.”


And then there was the church at Laodicea, whose members–some of whom were wealthy–were smug and complacent.

Sort of like so many churches in today’s United Methodist Church, my beloved UMC, which some say stands for “Upper Middle Class.”

Don’t laugh, dear reader: your church is probably smug and complacent and wouldn’t get such a great grade from Jesus today, either.

Our Lord set the bar for church performance pretty high.

* * *

Jesus tells the church of Laodicea (the only church he has nothing good to say about) in Rev. 3:15-19 that it’s too lukewarm for him:

    “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

    “For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’

    “You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

    “I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.”

Back then, Laodicea was a thriving center of three of the major industries: banking, wool and ophthalmology. That explains the scripture’s language about gold, white robes and eyes that could see. Jesus’ words would have registered with the Laodiceans.

Jesus tells them to get their eyes focused on spiritual riches–on gold refined by fire. (This refers back to Malachi 3:3 in the Hebrew Testament, which describes Jesus as the refiner of the human soul, who purifies it as the refiner purifies gold.)

In 1 Peter 1:6-7, the Apostle Peter had said this:

“In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith–being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

And so, for the sixth takeaway in our look at Revelation, take this under consideration:

6. Rich or well-to-do churches in rich and powerful countries have a tendency to be “lukewarm” in their spirit, so how does your church rate: would Jesus “spit it out” and call it to repentance and fire? And what about your own discipleship. Would Jesus consider you hot, cold or so complacent as to be neither?

(This is the fifth in a 30-day series breaking down the Book of Revelation and looking at what it means and doesn’t mean.)

The irony of the Book of Revelation is that it’s seen as such a violent book, for obvious reasons. It employs enormous amounts of violent language and imagery to tell the story of the very non-violent Jesus–the Lamb of God.

J. Denny Weaver's influential book on the Atonement.

J. Denny Weaver’s influential book on the Atonement.

Most of us are scared of a rattlesnake, for good reason; not many of us are scared of a lamb, and it can’t be emphasized enough that Jesus as the Lamb of God (and “Lion of Judah” that we will examine eventually) is key to an understanding of how Revelation is connected to the Good News.

As I noted on the first day of this series, I’m of the belief that John’s Book of Revelation, in own its strange way, is an amplification of the Good News. For all the scary vibes it gives off, it was a pastoral letter that was shared with the seven churches of what was Asia Minor in the the era of Roman rule.

Theologian J. Denny Weaver,* a Mennonite theologian and author of such influential books as The Nonviolent Atonement, contends that “the Gospels present the same story as that told in Revelation, but from a different standpoint.”

And so, for today’s post on Revelation I want to share the following excerpt from an article Weaver wrote for “Cross Currents,” an online theological journal, years ago.* It’s an interesting take on Revelation and Jesus who was and is, after all, “the Prince of Peace.”

    The Gospels narrate that same story [in Revelation] from the earthly vantage point of the folks who got dust on their sandals as they walked along the roads of Palestine with Jesus. Both accounts locate the victory of the reign of God on earth and in history — narrative Christus Victor — and make quite clear that the triumph occurred not through the sword and military might but nonviolently, through death and resurrection. The intrinsically nonviolent character of the victory eliminates what is usually called triumphalism of the church. As intrinsically nonviolent, its stance to the other or toward those who differ and are different can only be nonviolent. To be otherwise is to cease to be a witness to the reign of God and to join the forces of evil who oppose the reign of God.

    At the same time, reading that story in the Gospels shows that Jesus was not a passive victim, whose purpose was to get himself killed in order to satisfy a big cosmic legal requirement. Rather, Jesus was an activist, whose mission was to make the rule of God visible. And his acts demonstrated what the reign of God looked like — defending poor people, raising the status of women, raising the status of Samaritans, performing healings and exorcisms, preaching the reign of God, and more. His mission was to make the reign of God present in the world in his person and in his teaching, and to invite people to experience the liberation it presented.

    And when Jesus made the reign of God visible and present in that way, it was so threatening that the assembled array of evil forces killed him. These forces include imperial Rome, which carried ultimate legal authority for his death, with some assistance from the religious authorities in Jerusalem, as well as Judas, Peter, and other disciples, who could not even watch with him, and the mob that howled for his death. Resurrection is the reign of God made victorious over all these forces of evil that killed Jesus.

    As sinners, in one way or another, we are all part of those sinful forces that killed Jesus. Jesus died making the reign of God present for us while we were still sinners. To acknowledge our human sinfulness is to become aware of our participation in the forces of evil that killed Jesus, including their present manifestations in such powers as militarism, nationalism, racism, sexism, heterosexism and poverty that still bind and oppress.

    And because God is a loving God, God invites us to join the rule of God in spite of the fact that we participated with and are captive to the powers that killed Jesus. God invites us to join the struggle of those seeking liberation from the forces that bind and oppress. This invitation envisions both those who are oppressed and their oppressors. When the oppressed accept God’s invitation, they cease collaborating with the powers that oppressed and join the forces who represent the reign of God in making a visible witness against oppression. And when the oppressors accept God’s invitation, they cease their collaboration with the powers of oppression, and join the forces who represent the reign of God in witnessing against oppression.

    Thus under the reign of God, former oppressed and former oppressors join together in witnessing to the reign of God.

5. The takeaway in this fifth installment is that the message of Revelation is not that believers can be passive and quiet because the time of God’s ultimate takeover is likely near. Revelation is, among other things, a part of God’s enduring invitation to witness to the God’s reign by joining in the struggle of those seeking liberation from “the forces that bind and oppress.”

* See here for more on Weaver and his books.

* Weaver’s entire article, titled “Violence in Christian Theology,” is here.

One thing we loved about Ali was his ability to charm the snakes out of the trees: the guy could be a hilarious ham.  United Methodist Bishop James K. Mathews is picture here throwing a left to Ali.  United Methodist theologian Ted Campbell explained on his Facebook page: "They were apparently sitting together on a flight, began talking, Bishop Mathews asked for a photo, and Ali said, "Sure. Throw me a punch!" (From the back cover of Mathews's autobiography, A Global Odyssey.)

One thing we loved about Ali was his ability to charm the snakes out of the trees: the guy could be a hilarious ham. United Methodist Bishop James K. Mathews is pictured here throwing a left to Ali.
United Methodist theologian Ted Campbell explained on his Facebook page: “They were apparently sitting together on a flight, began talking, Bishop Mathews asked for a photo, and Ali said, “Sure. Throw me a punch!” (From the back cover of Mathews’s autobiography, A Global Odyssey.)

How many us truly have the courage of our convictions?

How many of are willing to stand without wavering for even a moment on our principles?

Not many us, really, which is what made Ali such an original. He was every bit as courageous outside the boxing ring as he was in it.

It’s what made him so special, the fact that he was perfectly willing to give up everything he’d worked so hard for his entire life–and willing to go to prison to-boot–because of his principles.

It’s amazing to me that with all the anti-Muslim sentiment there is in America these days that on this particular day Americans of all political and religious persuasions are mourning the loss and celebrating the life of a peace-loving Muslim with a very Muslim name.

The man was a special kind of special–a beautiful butterfly and a killer of a stinging bee–simply “The Greatest.”


(This is the fourth installment of a 30-day series in which I’m sharing thoughts about the weird and baffling world of the Bible’s Book of Revelation, with today’s post being a string of thoughts about “Apocalypse.”)

Run for shelter! Run for shade! The Apocalypse is now!

The Apocalypse–coming soon to a theater near you complete with sensational fireballs (and starring the apocalyptic Donald Trump as the Four Horsemen)–is everywhere in popular culture. It’s in movies, books, TV, the news, and of course in the sensational but faulty preaching of the prophets of doom who would have us believe God for some reason is going to blow up God’s own creation, which he saw in Genesis as being so “good.”apocalypse

It’s what I call a biblical “pinch word.” The very sight or sound of the word “Apocalypse” makes me feel like I’ve been pinched in my very heart and soul. It’s a far cry from what I call biblical “grace words” like love, mercy, joy, kindness, compassion or the word “grace” itself.

Most of us turn to the Bible looking for comfort and hope and “Apocalypse” has a way of making us feel anything but comfortable or hopeful about a world that seems to always be on fire.

But it’s a word that’s always looming in the culture, so let’s break it down some.

And we can start by opening our Bibles and reviewing all the references to “Apocalypse” in scriptures.

This project won’t take up much of your Saturday leisure time, since the word “Apocalypse” is nowhere to be found in the Bible.

And yet Revelation and other books like Daniel and scattered scriptures are shot-through with apocalyptic language, signs and symbols. Even Jesus used a lot of apocalyptic language and word pictures.

* * * *

Let’s start at the start with Revelation 1:1-2 which says:

    “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.”

Revelation comes from the Greek word, apokálypsis, which means to “reveal” or “unveil” that which is hidden. We see from the first sentence of the book that Jesus “revealed” or unveiled a message to John through an angel, one of those “ministering spirits” that commonly delivered messages to biblical characters.

The revelation to John was a vision of heavenly secrets aimed at making sense of the oppressive and insufferable earthly realities Christians faced under Roman rule.

* * * *

So why did Jesus reveal this message?

Once more for the record: the message that John passed on to the churches and believers in Asia Minor was meant to be a message of encouragement, a reminder of the need to keep the faith and hang on to hope.

But … that’s not to say that the words of the message to the churches and Christians were fit for a high-school football pep rally. John’s vision begins with “a spiritual report card” of sorts, in which Jesus judges and grades Asia’s seven church communities on their faithfulness, patience, endurance, love and more.

And not every church got a good grade, as we’ll see in tomorrow’s post.

OUR OWN “SHOCK AND AWE” BOMBARDMENTS CAUSED DISASTER (APOCALYPSE) FOR A LOT OF INNOCENT PEOPLE

Apocalypse does have darker meanings, of course. Merriam-Webster defines the even the “revealing” aspect of it this way:

    “one of the Jewish and Christian writings of 200 b.c. to a.d. 150 marked by pseudonymity, symbolic imagery, and the expectation of an imminent cosmic cataclysm in which God destroys the ruling powers of evil and raises the righteous to life in a messianic kingdom”

It goes on to describe apocalypse as “a great disaster, a sudden and very bad event that “causes much fear, loss, or destruction.”

It’s that meaning from which so many sensationalized books, movies, TV shows and preachings and teachings are based–and often on faulty theology or disastrously bad interpretations of the Book of Revelation and other books of the Bible.

Sensational entertainment is stimulating and easy to take in.

What’s not so easy to do in the Christian walk is to be critically self aware–toth in our individual lives and our collective life as a nation that likes to think of itself as “Christian.”

Being self aware as followers of Christ demands that we think through the ways we’re complicit in creating disasters–apocalypses–for other people every day. Disasters such as war, poverty, injustice and inequality, pollution and so much more.

Remember our “shock and awe” bombing campaign that was aimed at blowing up Saddam Hussein?

Consider all the personal “apocalypses” our American bombs caused in the lives of so many innocent men, women and children in Baghdad. Watching the bombing on TV became a form of national entertainment.

For the innocents on the ground, it was a fiery, apocalyptic disaster.

And Saddam Hussein survived it without a scratch.

This probably won’t win me any popularity contest with a lot of readers, but I’m going to say it:

Sometimes our own beloved America looks a lot like the brutal Roman Empire of old.

We who purport to be Christian would do well to ask God’s forgiveness of our individual sins but also our powerful nation’s sins every day in our prayer and reflection time.

* * * *

Revelation in no way suggests that “the end the world is near.” Nor does it imply that we can escape into endlessly entertaining ourselves because we believe God is going to be in control and everything is going to turn out all right without our participation with God.

Revelation does say that we are being delivered by God into glory, but that doesn’t mean we are to go to church once a week and sit in our easy chairs watching in all our “down time” from our jobs and businesses watching the world blow up while we sip our wine and think to ourselves “ain’t it a shame there’s so much suffering.”

* * * *

To sum up:

In terms of the Christian Bible, what some call “Apocalypticism” is the belief that God has revealed the imminent end of the ongoing struggle between good and evil in history.

Remember that in Rev.1: it says that Jesus revealed knowledge to John in order for John to “show his servants” in seven Asian churches “what must take place.”

For Christians whose allegiance was to God and not the Emperor god, horrible things could, and did, take place. But John conveyed to his “servants” in the seven faith communities that God is acting in history, redeeming our suffering and remaining faithful to believers.

The servants John was writing to were to act accordingly, to remain faithful in the revealed knowledge that God still had the faith communities and the world in God’s hands.

So the fourth takeaway from Revelation is just that:

4. That as hard is it may be for us to believe with all the disastrous events occurring around the world–and with all the disastrous “apocalypses” of deaths or diseases or divorces or hardships that inevitably occur in our own private lives–we the faithful have the hopeful assurance that “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

More often than not, we see Donald Dump on TV in a rage, dumping all over somebody like the psychotic character assassin that he is.

This in between his words of self-adulation.trump-meme-racist-black-president

The G.O.P. candidate rarely has a happy face when he’s speaking, looking more like somebody about one angry shout away from having a stroke.

Not today.

Today the great racist spotted an African-American supporter in the crowd at a rally and got all happy and smiley and excited as he exclaimed:

“Look at my African American over here. Look at him,” Trump said pointing. “Are you the greatest? Do you know what I am talking about? OK.”

When America is re-made in greatness, every happy white American will have him an African American for a buddy as an indication that some of his best friends are black.

(“Hey, Archie–I want you to meet my African American over here.”)

Americans of Mexican descent, on the other hand, apparently won’t be included in America’s great new buddy system.

God bless and help America–she’s taken a dangerous turn.