Monday, December 17, 2012

the end...or is it?

Since the world is ending on Friday and everything, I thought that I'd do a short post on Revelation. :)

Some of you might remember that I took a class on the book of Revelation this past semester. While I was dreading it at the beginning (because I REALLY didn't like the book of Revelation), I actually ended up learning a lot and enjoying the class. While there is SO much that I'd love to share with you guys, I really don't want to bore you to tears. I know, I know...not everyone loves learning new Greek words. I get it. :) But, I thought that if I could come up with a way to summarize the class in just a few words, a few paragraphs...maybe some of you might enjoy it?

I don't know about you, but typically when I hear a reference to the book of Revelation, my mind instantly shifts to thoughts of the end times, the apocalypse (in a “2012”or “Day After Tomorrow” kind of sense), the rapture, or other similar things. Over the course of the past semester, I’ve come to realize that my view on this book could not be more wrong. Apokalypsis, the Greek word from which we derive the word “apocalypse” from does not mean “end of the world” or “destruction” or anything like that. It simply means “revelation”. Oh wow. The word “revelation” doesn’t mean anything scary either. To reveal something, according to Merriam-Webster, is “allowing a look at or an understanding of something inner or hidden”, which is exactly what John does in the last book of the New Testament. Mind blowing, right?

When all of these thoughts began to come together inside of my brain and I really began thinking about what Revelation really meant, my whole view on this book shifted. Rather than being a book about “really bad things” that would happen to “really bad people” and about the antichrist and the rapture, I realized that it was a book about Christ. Michael Gorman says in his book Reading Revelation Responsibly that
Revelation is not about the antichrist, but about the living Christ. It is not about a rapture out of this world but faithful discipleship in this world.
 Revelation isn’t just a book for the people “long ago” or the people of the future. It’s a book that still matters today and that can guide us on what it means to be a follower of Christ. If you look at the little word cloud that I posted above, you can see this. This word cloud was created by pasting the ENTIRE text of Revelation into a website called Wordle (I even used the KJV version, because I always think of that version as being more wrathful). As you can see, the biggest word on the cloud is "God". If you keep looking, you will eventually find some not so nice things (like beast,), but how hard fdo you have to look to find "war" or "judgement"? Look real hard, and you still won't find "fiery pit of Hell" or "antichrist" or "Obama". What if we've been looking at this book the wrong way? As followers of the Way, we shouldn't have anything to fear in the book of Revelation. It really shouldn't seem scary to us, if we are confident in God. For us, this book isn't a message of "gloom and doom"- it's a message of HOPE!

Revelation seems to emphasize a specific theme that repeats frequently throughout the book- hope for a hopeless world. In the midst of "dark" times- times of Christian persecution and martyrdom- John asks people to look towards a more hopeful future. Being a Christ follower, according to John, is not supposed to be an easy thing. Fallen Babylon will not want to submit or conform to the ways of New Jerusalem. Christians are called to stand in opposition to the order of the world, which sometimes may lead to the giving of one's life for the sake of the gospel. But, there's hope found in the image of a coming conqueror! There is hope found in imagery relating to God handing power and authority to the followers of the Way.

So, I don't want to go on and on about the topic, but if you're interested, here's some places to further your knowledge:
  • Last week, I posted my term paper from this class on a blog that I use mostly to post various writing samples. It's called Paradise Restored and is a look at the New Creation found in Revelation 21-22. It's a message of hope for the future. A small warning, it is a term paper, so it's a little lengthy (about 10 pages).
  • One of my favorite books that we used as a textbook for the class is a book called "Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb Into the New Creation." It is written By Michael J. Gorman and is a pretty easy read (for a theology book). While I don't agree with everything written in the book, it opened my eyes to some things that I hadn't previously thought about. It explains some of the symbolism and historical facts in a way that is easy for readers to understand (even non-Seminary, non-theologian people).
  • If you are looking for something that goes more in depth on the symbolism and history behind Revelation, I would recommend "Tales of the End: A Narrative Commentary on the Book of Revelation" by David Barr. It's definitely not an easy read, but it has some great information. It is separated by the various sections in Revelation, so  I tended to use this as I went for things that confused me. For example, when I was trying to figure out the section in Revelation 17 with the harlot and the beast, I turned to this book to try and understand the symbolism. It's almost more of an encyclopedia/reference book...just not that long. 
  • A really great website for articles, books, websites, and simple explanations of Biblical topics is NT Gateway. Once again, I don't agree with everything on the site (and I haven't read everything), but it is a great resource for the entire New Testament (with some pretty awesome articles on Revelation!).
Hope that wasn't too overwhelming, but I figured that with the end of the world coming on Friday, we should probably start preparing! :) 

I think the biggest thing we can do (since we know that God is in control and he's got it covered) is remain hopeful. Remember the cross. Remember the love. Remember the conqueror- he's already conquered! We don't need to fear silly dates because of Mayan Calenders, because we have our trust and faith in a mighty God. While doomsday scenarios may get our adrenaline pumping, they aren't what we need to spend our time worrying about.

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