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.
Gorman also finds seven major theological themes in the Revelation —
- The Throne: The Reign of God and the Lamb. God the creator reigns! Jesus the redeemer, the slaughtered Lamb, is Lord! The reign of the eternal God, the beginning and the end, is not merely future or past but present, and it is manifested in—of all things—the slaughtered Lamb. God is inseparable from the Lamb, and vice versa. Each can be called the Alpha and Omega, and they rule together on one throne. This is a cruciform (cross-centered and cross-shaped) understanding of divine power.
- The Reality of Evil and of Empire. Evil is real. Empire is now—not merely future or past but present. Empire, by nature, makes seductive blasphemous and immoral claims and engages in corollary practices that bring disorder to both vertical (people-God) and horizontal (people-people) human relations, promising life but delivering death—both physical and spiritual.
- The Temptation to Idolatry and Immorality. The Christian church is easily seduced by empire’s idolatry and immorality because these claims and practices are often invested with religious meaning and authority; they become a civil religion. For that reason, immorality is ultimately idolatry: the idolatry of violence, oppression, greed, lust, and the like. Humanity’s ultimate inhumanity—treating fellow humans as disposable commodities—is therefore at root an attack on God as creator and redeemer.
- The Call to Covenant Faithfulness and Resistance. In the midst of empire and civil religion, whatever its forms, the church is called to resistance as the inevitable corollary of covenant faithfulness to God, a call that requires prophetic spiritual discernment and may result in various kinds of suffering.
- Worship and an Alternative Vision. The spiritual discernment required of the church, in turn, requires an alternative vision of God and of reality that unveils and challenges empire, a vision in need of the Spirit’s wisdom to see and apply. Revelation provides this vision of “uncivil” worship and vision, centered on the throne of the eternal holy God and the faithful slaughtered Lamb, and on the coming new creation.
- Faithful Witness: The Pattern of Christ. Christian resistance to empire and idolatry conforms to the pattern of Jesus Christ and of his apostles, saints, prophets (like John), and martyrs: faithful, true, courageous, just, and nonviolent. It is not passive but active, consisting of the formation of communities and individuals who pledge allegiance to God alone, who live in nonviolent love toward friends and enemies alike, who leave vengeance to God, and who, by God’s Spirit, create mini-cultures of life as alternatives to empire’s culture of death. This is a Lamb-shaped or cross-shaped (cruciform) understanding of discipleship and mission.
- The Imminent Judgment and Salvation/New Creation of God. God the creator and Christ the redeemer take evil and injustice seriously and are about to come both to judge humanity and to save the faithful and renew the cosmos. The will of God is for all to follow the Lamb and participate in the saving life of God-with-us forever.
(Kindle Locations 1892-1919).
Spend some time pondering each one of these. And notice how far removed Gorman’s thought is from the typical commentary or Bible class on the Apocalypse. I mean, in many churches, you’d get in trouble for just pointing these out as possibilities. (I speak from experience.)
Then again, I once taught a class pointing out the dangers of blind obedience to any civil authority — and noted that not all wars are just wars merely because the US decides to declare war. I’m no pacifist, but neither do I believe that the US is incapable of error. After the class, I was told that a visitor had just returned from fighting in Iraq — and I figured I’d really put my foot in my mouth (a very familiar flavor). But the soldier came up to me and thanked me for having the courage to speak the truth.
I am very grateful for our soldiers’ courage and sacrifices, but I’m also angry that both political parties keep sending our children into foolish, pointless wars that don’t come near being “just.”