I’m not going to attempt a verse-by-verse exposition of the introduction or seven letters that begin the Revelation. The territory is familiar, and there are many helpful resources, including Tim Archer’s and Steve Ridgell’s Letters from the Lamb.
(Tim often comments here, and I have a copy of his book right here. I’m a fan.)
Gorman makes some keen observations regarding the introduction and the letters in general.
Regarding the introductory section of chapter 1, he observes and offers details for how similarly Jesus and God are described. Similar language is used of both here and throughout Revelation, clearly intending to show the God-ness of Jesus. Continue reading
So what is the over-arching theme of the Revelation? According to Gorman,
In other words, the purpose of the book of Revelation is to persuade its hearers and readers, both ancient and contemporary, to remain faithful to God in spite of past, present, or possible future suffering—whatever form that suffering might take, and whatever source it may have—simply for being faithful. In spite of memory, experience, or fear, Revelation tells us, covenant faithfulness is possible because of Jesus and worthwhile because of the glorious future God has in store for us and for the entire created order.
Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation (Kindle Locations 1879-1883). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. Continue reading
Gorman suggests that we read the Revelation through a combination of three schools of thought.
This pastoral-prophetic approach is bound to be closely related to the [poetic and political]. If we read Revelation poetically, concluding that Babylon is not merely Rome, as the preterists might, and is definitely not some future reconfiguration of the Roman Empire in modern Europe, as some futurists would say, then its seductive and oppressive power can be felt—and must be both named and resisted—in the political realities of our own day. These … three approaches are similar to one another in that they both go beyond mere correspondence to more timeless concerns about God, evil, empire, civil religion, and the like, responding to new situations.
Without ignoring the past or the future (in a general sense), the focus of this book is on Revelation as a word to the church in the present. We will therefore combine the (theo-)poetic, the (theo-)political, and the pastoral-prophetic approaches. We will do so by grounding our contemporary interpretation of Revelation in its message for the first-century church, looking for contemporary analogies to first-century realities … , while always keeping an eye on the promises for the future of God’s creation contained especially in Revelation 21–22. Unlike many traditional commentaries on Revelation, the focus of this book is on the big picture, not the details.
Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation (Kindle Locations 1783-1792). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. Continue reading
[From February 2009, with some editing]
We have members of my congregation who are firmly persuaded that contemporary Christian music is a sign of the Apocalypse — rather like sword, famine, plague, and wild beasts. It’s just one more way for people to suffer.
And so, I thought I’d take a look at the actual Apocalypse and see what it actually says about contemporary Christian music. I mean, people think the Revelation predicts World War II, Obama’s election, and global warming. Surely it speaks to contemporary Christian music!
Actually, the Revelation says quite a lot about worship. After all, it treats us to several scenes of worship as it takes place in heaven — which surely is worship done right! (I considered the instrumental music argument from Revelation a while back). And so I figure we can learn quite a lot about worship from the Apocalypse. Continue reading
As a prophetic summons to first-commandment faithfulness, Revelation is both a call to worship the true God and a call to forsake all false deities. These two aspects are connected, and both appear in sharp relief at the beginning and the end of Revelation, as well as throughout the book. “Worship is so important in the book of Revelation,” writes Mitchell Reddish, “because John rightly understood that worship is a political act. Through worship one declares one’s allegiance, one’s loyalty. . . . [Public worship] is a statement to the world that the church will bow to no other gods.”
(Kindle Locations 954-958).
Gorman cites three prominent elements of the Roman empire/religion from Warren Carter —
The gods have chosen Rome.
Rome and its emperor are agents of the gods’ rule, will, salvation, and presence among human beings.
Rome manifests the gods’ blessings—security, peace, justice, faithfulness, fertility—among those who submit to Rome’s rule.
(Kindle Locations 1085-1088).
Gorman adds the following:
The rule of the gods through Rome was accomplished by and manifested in violence, domination, and “pacification” that was hardly peaceful. The famous pax Romana was a sovereignty dependent on military conquest, enslavement, and other forms of violence.
The emperor himself was worthy of praise, devotion, and allegiance. He was also worthy of having divine and quasi-divine titles such as Lord, Lord of All, God, Son of God, and Savior. …
The imperial age is the long-awaited golden age, indeed the eschatological age, in which humanity’s hopes have been fulfilled and will continue forever.
(Kindle Locations 1098-1108). Continue reading
Gorman explains the ethical background that is likely behind much of the
As Christian individuals and communities in Asia Minor interacted with family members, friends, business associates, and public officials who did not share their conviction that “Jesus is Lord,” the basic early Christian confession (Rom 10:9), these believers were faced with hard questions and decisions.
Should they continue to participate in social activities that have a pagan (non-Jewish, non-Christian) religious character? This would include most activities: watching or participating in athletic and rhetorical contests; buying and eating meat in the precincts of pagan temples; and frequenting trade guilds, clubs, and events in private homes, each with their meetings, drinking parties, and banquets. They would even have wondered, “Should we or can we go to pagan temples to do our banking or purchase meat? Should we acknowledge the sovereignty of the emperor when asked to do so at a public event in the precincts of his temple, or at another of the many events in his honor?”
Some believers continued to participate in such activities, while others did not. It was the latter group that created serious social conflict. Their confession of Jesus’ lordship and their separation from normal Greco-Roman religious, social, and political activity was seen by pagan non-believers—that is, by most people in their cities—as unpatriotic and atheistic.
Some of them were harassed unofficially, but some were likely excluded from guilds and others investigated by government officials. At least one of them (John) was exiled as punishment for his behavior. He says that his experience was not isolated, but part of a larger event of testimony and persecution. At least one of the faithful was actually killed, either by mob or by official action: Antipas of Pergamum (2:13). There may have been others.
Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation. (Kindle Locations 904-916). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. Continue reading
Gorman explains that the Revelation is a form of resistance literature, that is, an encouragement to resist the efforts of Rome to defeat Christianity, either through persecution or by corrupting the gospel with pagan teachings. That is, you cannot be a Christian and also participate in Emperor worship or other demands of the Roman pagan religions.
Calling Revelation “resistance literature” is appropriate because one of the primary prophetic purposes of Revelation is to remind the church, both then and now, not to give in to the demands or practices of a system that is already judged by God and is about to come to its demise. But Revelation is not just a document that stands against something. Like all biblical prophecy, it promotes true worship of the one true God, expressed not merely in formal liturgy but also in faithful living, the practice of having no gods besides God. Put more positively, then, Revelation is a summons to first-commandment faithfulness, a call to faithful witness and worship in word and deed. In other words, its character as resistance literature is actually secondary to, and derivative of, its more fundamental character as worship literature, as a liturgical text.
Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation. (Kindle Locations 716-723). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
It’s easy to see the Revelation as resistance literature. Once that idea is voiced, it becomes obvious. Continue reading
The Revelation repeatedly refers to itself as “prophecy.”
Many people assume that Revelation is a prophetic book in the sense of predicting, in rather explicit detail, “the way the world will end.” The most popular approach to Revelation, dispensationalism, both creates and reinforces this assumption.
A theological movement that began in the 19th century, dispensationalism holds that history is divided into various ages, or dispensations, each characterized by different ways in which God deals with humanity. With respect to eschatology, it includes the doctrine of the rapture, or the removal of true believers to heaven before the return of Christ, an idea unknown in Christian teaching before the 19th century.
Popular dispensationalism, disseminated by such best-selling sources as the Scofield Reference Bible, Hal Lindsey’s writings (e.g., The Late, Great Planet Earth), and most recently the “Left Behind” series of books and movies by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, interprets Revelation as portraying, in literal and linear fashion, the course of historical events.
Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation (Kindle Locations 666-675). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. Continue reading
Gorman suggests that the correct, over-arching perspective on the Revelation is
… Revelation is (primarily) good news about Christ, the Lamb of God—who shares God’s throne and who is the key to the past, present, and future—and therefore also about uncompromising faithfulness leading to undying hope, even in the midst of unrelenting evil and oppressive empire.
Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation (Kindle Locations 456-457). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Rather than treating the book as though we are reading tea leaves or animal entrails, we should take it as serious theology, with lessons about how the work of Jesus affects the lives of his followers — how we should live and also how we should understand God’s movement in the world and his purposes. Continue reading