According to the majority of Christian fundamentalists, the Book of Revelation is about the future (perhaps distant, perhaps near and already begun). Our future, that is, and not merely the future from the perspective of the time in which it was written.
Yet they appear not to have thought through the implications of treating the book in this way, or have ignored substantial parts of the Book of Revelation itself.
If the fundamentalist approach (typically what is in technical terms known as “premillenialism” and often “premillenial dispensationalism”) is correct, then we’d have to imagine the following as a plausible exchange between the book’s author and its original readers:
Reader: “Hey John, remember that book you sent us a while back?”
John: “The Book of Revelation? What about it?”
Reader: “Well, you said that if we are wise (and of course, we all seek to be) we should calculate the number of the beast, because it is a human being’s number.”
John (apprehensively): “Yeah, I know. I wrote that in chapter 13 verse 18” (wink).
Reader: “Well I’m a bit confused. One manuscript I read has 666 which I figured out is Caesar Nero. But a friend of mine said he knows someone who read a version that has 616, and that could fit emperor Gaius “Caligula” as well as Nero. Which is it?”
John: “You’re both wrong. It refers to Barack Obama.”
John: “He’s going to be a presidential candidate in almost 2,000 years’ time in a country that doesn’t exist yet, on a continent no one on this continent knows exists at the moment”.
Reader: “What?! How did you expect us to figure that out?”
John (rolling on the floor laughing): “Just because I told you wisdom was to figure it out, you thought I meant you actually could? Ha! Suckers!”
What is most irritating is that fundamentalists are happy to make God, the authors of Scripture, and anyone else be mean, immoral and dishonest in order for the Bible (or more accurately their interpretation of it) somehow in spite of this be perfectly inerrant.
Am I the only one who sees a problem here? Is it plausible to view the Book of Revelation as a mean practical joke played by a genuine prophet on his unsuspecting Christian victims?