It was in college I was freed from the fundamentalist timeline of “The Late Great Planet Earth” and the “Thief in the Night” movies of the 70s and 80s. One little book that freed me was by a pastor who described reading through Revelation together as a congregation on a series of Sunday nights. All they did was read it. No preaching. No commentary. Read the Book and see what came out of it.
The experience freed him from the apocalyptic timelines he had grown up with in his church life. It was an experience of worship for the church as they worked to read just the text and see what God was up to in the world and in the Church.
Over the years I have still battled the old charts and timelines that continue to stubbornly float around in my head, but overall I actually enjoy Revelation. I don’t battle scenes from “Left Behind” movies because I never watched them.
And still… WOW. This book is confusing! I dig in a little more every year when I come to the end of the year and this is in my daily office reading, but I still come back and, again, find magnificent points and a lot of confusing images.
NT Wright has a series of small commentaries for the New Testament I have found extremely helpful. He doesn’t get into long arguments about what different scholars say about the text. He gets to his conclusions fairly quickly and writes in a very pastoral way. His commentary on Revelation is helpful to me this time around.
Today was Revelation 11 and his commentary jogged my thinking once again. The measuring of the Temple, for Wright, isn’t about the measuring of a physical building. It is a metaphorical measuring of the PEOPLE of God. The prophetic witness of the two men isn’t just two people. It is the CHURCH standing up in prophetic witness against the corruption around them… and getting killed for it. (Spoiler alert: they get resurrected.)
But these words from Wright are so powerful, I wanted to land them somewhere for my own benefit:
What we are dealing with is several different angles of vision on the one single great reality: that through the awful turmoil and trouble of the world, God is establishing through Jesus a people who, following the lamb, are to bear witness to God’s kingdom through their own suffering, through which the world will be brought to repentance and faith, so that ultimately God will be king over all.
Wright, T. (2011). Revelation for Everyone (p. 103). SPCK; Westminster John Knox.
This is the summary of how I’ve learned to read Revelation. It has kept me sane and free from timelines and figuring out who “the Beast” really is and how we are waiting for the rapture… and all kinds of nonsense.
The Church is triumphant. It goes through wars and does not come out unscathed. Yet, overall, the witness of the Church is to point to the Kingdom. He WILL reign.
Come, Lord Jesus.