Enough Already: Our Next President and the Book of Revelation

I thought that perhaps after the election, the number of visitors to my blog who arrive here via search engines, searching for keywords like “Obama” and “Revelation 13″ and “antichrist” would decrease and eventually stop. At the moment, it seems that there is, if anything, an increase.

If you’re interested in the Book of Revelation, you need to understand that it is first and foremost a critique of the Roman Empire in the author’s time. It uses Gematria to indicate the emperor Nero (and perhaps allude simultaneously to Gaius, also known as Caligula). Nero, as is well know, was the first emperor to actually become an “official sponsor” of the persecution of Christians. The book is unambiguous about that, and the only reason many American Christians cannot accept it is because of our sense of self-importance – that book has to be about us.

I’m not against applying the book to our time. But the greatest resemblance is between our nation’s wealth and arrogance and the depiction of the Roman Empire in Revelation 18. And we’ve just elected as our next president a Christian who gets something that is a blind spot for at least some American Christians: democracy and freedom are good for Christianity, and issues of poverty and social justice are key concerns in the Biblical literature.

Is Barack Obama the antichrist? I am willing to say with complete confidence that the answer is no. What Christians should be doing now, whether they voted for Obama or not, is to support him in making our nation seem less like the empire criticized in the Book of Revelation, and more like the place of freedom, liberty and justice that we claim to want to be as a nation.

If you need more information, you are welcome to do a keyword search on “Obama” on this blog. I’ve posted a lot more on this subject.

One last point. A lot of people are searching the web for information about Barack Obama, Revelations, Muslim, Islam and the like. Muhammad lived in the 600s. Revelation was written sometime before the year 100. There are (perhaps not unsurprisingly) no obvious references to or even predictions of the rise of Islam or anything to do with Islam.

Why not take this opportunity to read an actual book by a Biblical scholar (which is not the category into which Tim LaHaye is to be placed) about the Book of Revelation, and see what you’ve been missing by allowing idle speculation on the web be your guide, rather than the well-informed research of Biblical scholars from whatever denomination or stream of Christianity you may be connected with. And in the mean time, please join in the celebration of something historic and positive that has occurred in this country.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16771037323124064875 Matthew D. Montonini

    James,I wholeheartedly agree. This post cuts to the core of end-time speculation, more specifically, the wrongheadeness of the entire enterprise. I am so sick of people procuring their eschatological viewpoints from the (in)famous “Left Behind” series.Revelation has been more decontextualized probably than any other piece of literature, both ancient and current.Although Obama was not my choice, what we need now is some perspective on just what a unique event this is in American history. Lincoln has and always will be my favorite president, and it makes me grateful that his Emancipation Proclamation was the start of something that fast-forward 135+ years has allowed an African American become the 44th President of the United States.President-elect Barack Obama deserves our encouragement and prayers as he will lead this nation for at least the next 4 years. And James, you are right when the Bible is very interested in the many social issues that Obama’s campaign espouses (e.g. Amos; Acts 4.32; etc.).So I, too, with James, urge people to not only read Revelation as a first-century document that critiques the Roman Empire, but to quit reading in to the selfish notion that somehow therein contained one will find Barack Obama as the antichrist! What a colossal waste of time, when we instead should be praying for a nation and soon to be its next president, Barack Obama.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17899049404620738944 scripto

    Don’t spoil the ending for me. I just started A History of the End of the World by Kirsch. Is this one worthwhile?

  • http://notes-from-offcenter.com Drew Tatusko

    That, and there is no anti-Christ in Revelation. Nor is there a man of perdition. I love the conflation of 1 John, 2 Thess and Revelation to means the same exact thing when all were written by different authors/communities. The assumptions are amazing – yet still passed off as a literal, scripture interpreting scripture, reading. Amazing.And for Revelation commentaries, I love the one by Sweet from a few years back.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03734930079710820207 Luke

    Jesus talked about how following his path could cause turmoil in current relationship.. you know the whole “”If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” in Luke 14:26. the path of Christ is hard and lonely at times… but Jesus never said it would be easy, just that it would be worth it. I feel Obama in his speech offered us the same message… healing the country will take time and there will be mistakes, false starts and such… but we’re in it together. and we’re GOING to disagree, no way around that… but it’s in HOW we disagree that matters. are we doing it peacefully and out of love or out of racism, sore-loser-ness and partisan divide?Can’t get much more of a Christian message than Obama’s speech last night IMO.RAWK!

  • Curious Presbyterian

    James, please recommend some books on Revelation and apocalytic in the Bible. I’m thinking of books apart from verse by verse commentaries.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I’d recommend different books depending on where one is coming from and what one’s background is. For Evangelical readers, a book like Four Views on the Book of Revelation might be helpful, since it offers interaction between different Evangelical authors who have different views on how the book is to be interpreted.Jean-Pierre Prevost’s book How To Read the Apocalypse provides a nice overview to the symbolism, numbers, historical context and other matters relevant to interpretation. Richard Bauckham has a short volume on the theology of the Book of Revelation, and D. S. Russell has several books on apocalyptic in general.Does any of that help? Do let me know!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14247799389009268470 James Pate

    I like Revelation: Four Views, edited by Steve Gregg, because it shows how different perspectives interact with specific passages.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09013106824300727755 Tito Tinajero

    Actually I found you site through a link on Theologyandfaith.blogspot.com. I have started to think lately that the cold war conditioned us to be Manichean in our life and faith. It is surprising the amount good guy/bad guy (good god/bad god) and how Satan has been elevated almost to another God in many popular Christian thought today. It follows from such a worldview that we look at our leaders as messiahs or anti-christs. President Obama may or may not be a good president (I wouldn’t want the job with what is going on in the world), but I agree with you; he is not the antichrist.


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