A New Revelation

YouTube: A New Revelation

Allow me to share with you a little secret. The only reason I have ever been interested in the book of Revelation is to help people understand that it has nothing to do with the events of today. Though there are a few passages that, when taken out of context, invoke inspiration, most of it is confusing to those who lack understanding of the historical context in which it originally appeared.

Revelation is a New Testament example of the classical apocalyptic genre. The 13th chapter of Mark, known as the little apocalypse, is another. The book of Daniel is an Old Testament equivalent. Apocalyptic writing usually appears when the authors producing it are part of a persecuted community. In the case of Daniel, the Jews were under Persian persecution. Revelation appeared during the Roman persecution of Christians.

Apocalyptic language depicts a great battle between the forces of good and evil. The apocalyptic community of the Essenes envisioned a battle between the sons of darkness and the sons of light. In their eyes, the sons of darkness included the Romans and Jewish leadership they believed had hijacked pure Judaism. The envisioned battle, which takes place on a cosmic scale, culminates under a variety of names such as the end of days, the end times, judgment day, or the day of the Lord. We must understand that these authors do not see the end times as the end of history but as the end of the present evil age, when the oppressor is overthrown and the oppressed emerge victorious.

Revelation was a promise to the Christians that Jesus would soon return and the overthrow of the great beast that was Rome would commence. The book appeared somewhere around AD 95-100. Christianity was not actually sanctioned by the Roman empire until the reign of Constantine the Great (AD 306-337). The intended message of Revelation to the early Christian community was simple: Hold fast, the days of persecution are numbered. Jesus is returning soon. “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done” (Rev. 22:12). “Surely I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:20).

Because Jesus did not return as promised, Revelation fell into obscurity. When it emerged many years later, it did so disconnected from its historical context and theologians routinely began treating it as prophecy. To our present day, religious professionals have attempted to decipher the symbols in ways that inspire hope that the evil forces at work in our current affairs are about to be overthrown. A book so rich in symbolism has, through the centuries, proven to be fertile ground for the active imagination. Not a single one of their predictions have come to fruition.

One beautiful takeaway that is true of anyone under the oppression of that great beast of fear is found in these passages:

“Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4).

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