My generation’s fathers by and large read the Book of Revelation through the lens of premillennial tribulation-and-rapture debates, who was the antichrist, and if 1948’s rebirth of Israel was not the herald of the last generation before the return of Christ.
I read it that way, too, all the way into my seminary days when I about gave up on this stuff and thought it was a big ball of smelly baloney.
Then I read the Jewish apocalyptic literature, then I read some major books on apocalyptic, most notably Christopher Rowland’s The Open Heaven, which led me to think of Revelation in different categories. I did not lecture much on Revelation so everything lay dormant and for me something to explored “when I get the chance.”
Why is it that we can get lost in so many intricate squabbles about the Book of Revelation and miss the big picture about good and evil? How can we confuse metaphor and image so easily with graphic, concrete realities? (Do we really think blood can fill the valley of Armageddon? Answer: no, there are too many streams flowing out!)Is it not the case, perhaps, that the “your fathers’ readings” were every bit as political of a reading as the more political-empire readings are?
Then I read more about Rome and empire and thought about how to read Revelation and Rome as alternative voices, the former as the suppressed and oppressed voice. Revelation is straight-up political theology, not in a constructive but in a critical, prophetic sense.
So, join me as I work on a series on Revelation. I will be using two books:
Craig Koester, Revelation and the End of All Things, 2d edition.
Ian Paul, Revelation (Tyndale NT Commentaries)