Finally, here are my answers to subjective questions asked on our assignments and test. Please share yours!
Why is the Book of Revelation so popular with fiction writers and religious groups? People want to be able to control God, creation, and their fate, especially in a complex and threatening world. They want to decode the numbers and symbols of Revelation so they can guarantee themselves a spot in heaven.
What’s the most important theme of Revelation? The world is the arena in which God’s plan for salvation unfolds. Human life is not a series of random events but a theater of divine activity.
What’s the most significant thing you learned? Revelation definitely gave me the sense of another dimension to life. As we carry out our lives, we are part of the cosmic struggle between good and evil. Angels and demons are fighting over us. God is active in today’s world, just as he was through the suffering history of Israel and the persecution of the early Christian Church. And I better understand as evil the seductiveness not just of power, prestige, and affluence, but of complacency.
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A new year has begun … and yet there is more I wish to say about Year 2, so bear with me a bit more. I posted nothing in May on the Book of Revelation. I was in a great rush, as I was leaving shortly after our last class for a pilgrimage in central Europe (more about that later). But the subject is so important and I learned so much that I want to record my thoughts and impressions.
First, a few words about our text, Revelation and the End of All Things by Lutheran Old Testament scholar Craig R. Koester (William B. Eerdmans, 2001). I love his cultural approach to the subject—and I took to heart his suggestion to read Revelation while playing Handel’s Messiah (on iTunes, in my case.) It was exhilarating to discover the source of so much Christian symbolism and imagery: Alpha and Omega. King of Kings/Lord of Lords. The pearly gates of heaven and streets paved with gold (The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.)
Very helpful were the illustrations, selections from Albrecht Dürer’s 1498 woodcut series The Revelation of St. John. Dürer brings to life the phantasmagoric images from the visions. I now know, after studying Dürer’s seven-headed beast, what inspired Dr. Seuss!
Even better, Koester decoded Revelation’s literary structure and style. The Book of Revelation begins with warning messages to seven churches, then comprises a series of alternately threatening and reassuring visions. It is carefully structured, not in a linear way but in a spiraling loop, and was meant to be read aloud. Each cycle descends into darkness and evil but ends with a vision celebrating the triumph of God, so that listeners would continue to trust in God and remain faithful.
Revelation is still very difficult for the modern reader. But I now understand the emphasis is on God’s ultimate victory—a positive and glorious outcome, rather than death and destruction.