Monday, April 18, 2011

Week Fifteen: Why does your professor think Revelation was written to instill Christians with a sense of hope? Do you think this makes sense?

            Revelation is a book of hope (Brenneman 4/15/11). This is a fascinating claim about a book that is often used for the purpose of fear, which is the exact opposite of hope. Growing up, my church typically avoided Revelation, and when I was introduced to it outside the context of my local church, it was introduced in a futuristic and fear-based manner (Van Voorst 539). Introduction to Biblical Worldview was my first introduction to the concept of Revelation as a positive vision of worship rather than a fearful vision of violence; however, studying it more this semester has helped me better understand and articulate its positive and hopeful message. Rooted in the historical context of Roman persecution around 95 CE (Van Voorst 529), Revelation exhorts Christians to hold fast and praise God in community, which is the “appropriate response of believers” and their ultimate source of strength (Brenneman 4/18/11).          
             In addition to encouraging Christians to praise God, Revelation also proclaims the message of hope that even if the world seems chaotic, God is trustworthy and in control (Brenneman 4/15/11). In Revelation 5, the Lamb who was slain (5.6) emerges as the primary metaphor of Revelation— this Lamb is Jesus, the one who was killed at the hands of the Roman Empire, yet lives and reigns (Brenneman 4/18/11). At a time when the Roman Empire claimed control of the world, Revelation proclaimed this message of hope to believers: “Rome may say they are in control, but Jesus, the slaughtered Lamb, is alive and rules over all the kings of the earth (1.5).” This is a message of hope for all people, but it is especially relevant for the seven churches to whom Revelation is written; these churches were facing persecution at the hands of the same empire that killed— and has been overcome by— Jesus, the slaughtered but living and reigning Lamb (Brenneman 4/15/11).            
           This interpretation not only makes sense, it is also a tremendous message of hope for readers of Revelation today. While many people have only encountered these words as the prediction of a coming day of violent judgment, the message of hope in Revelation subverts this rhetoric of fear. Violence is not coming, violence has been overcome— the empire of violence and fear has slaughtered the Lamb, but the Lamb has risen and lives and reigns over all the universe! We need not fear the empire, because we worship the Lamb who is the only victorious and all-powerful ruler! We live in the reality of the New Jerusalem, a reality shaped by true victory, freedom, and hope in Christ, the faithful martyr (1.5) who died but lives, who stood firm in the face of the empire and calls us to do the same (Brenneman 4/18/11).

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