I have been thinking a lot this week about why it matters that we stop thinking about Revelation as a book about the end of the world. I think the biggest reason to think differently about Revelation is the message that it sends about who God is. The god of the “Left Behind,” Premillenialist, doomsday predictors is a pretty nasty god. If this truly is who god is, than it is a god who looks more like the worst parts of humanity, rather than the best. This is a god who is more interested in power and wealth than the values that Jesus Christ represented in his time on earth, and simply does not jive with the Good News we have from the Gospels.
On the other hand, if we understand that Revelation is not so much about the end of the world as it is about the metaphorical and symbolic depiction of all of the trials and tribulations and beasts that we face within our own journeys, then God looks a lot different. The God of that reading of Revelation, and the God that we come to understand from that kind of theology is a God that is interested in walking the trials and tribulations with us, rather than exacting vengeance and gaining power. Frankly, that sounds a whole lot more like the person that we see in Jesus Christ.
I suppose the other part of the question, is why does this matter if we can go on like most mainline denomination Christians quietly pretending that Revelation and all that premillennialist theology isn’t our concern? If we continue to let the gospel message be high-jacked by fear mongering opportunists, we let them define what Christianity is all about. Instead of being about the Good News of Jesus Christ for all humanity that God is the embodiment of mercy and grace and will walk our journey with us, Christianity is defined as a threatening message of believe or god will unleash all manner of nightmare like demons upon you until you do believe or until you are thrown into the pit with the beast marked 666.
I, frankly, don’t think that we should allow such nonsense to continue in the name of Christ. That is why I think this is so important that we own the book of Revelation and the hope that is contained therein. It is our responsibility as the children of God, not to continue to let such hateful understandings of scripture and of God be perpetuated. Instead, we can help others find a message of hope amidst their trials and tribulations. Instead we can help others know that they never face their beasts alone. Instead we can help others know that Christianity is not about threats of being left behind, but about the promise that Christ will never leave any of us behind.
Next week, April 17th, we will look at some of the nasty stuff, alongside some of the hopeful stuff, and I think you will come to find, the messages of fear that have been perpetuated about Revelation don’t hold much water. I hope that you will find the voices speaking for hope are louder than the voices speaking for fear. I hope that you will find that it is your calling to pass on that message of hope too.