People have told me that when they take this course, it totally reshapes the way they interpret scripture as a whole. Which is awesome and amazing... why? Because, to sum Revelation up, it's the Biblical story told over and over and over again. From Genesis and the fall to the fullness of God's reign. I think it was Barbara Rossing who talks about Revelation being the Exodus story - the story of God's great act of deliverance. Absolutely. It is the Exodus on a grander scale... and more.
I worked on painting several years ago of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In that painting I highlighted within the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge each of the Four Horsemen. Because the Horsemen represent timeless truths, threats that humanity has dealt with from the very beginning. They're what Adam and Eve unleashed on the world when they sank their teeth into that knowledge between good and evil,
Revelation takes us through this story of how God deals with the problem of a sinful humanity that wages war on itself, through the Exodus, the prophets, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the final culmination of God's reign on earth. Revelation doesn't just tell us this story once: it cycles through the story from different angles and perspectives over and over. It challenged the churches of the first century, it challenges us today.
I know over the past 25 years through my intense study of Revelation - a journey that has taken me through the fearful elements of the "Left Behind" rapture theology that jumps through all kinds of scriptural twists and turns to achieve an action/adventure script - to actually opening up the rest of scripture for me, strengthening my faith and understanding of how God has operated throughout history. It truly is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ," because it is a portrayal of how we understand Christ as being at the center of all time and history. It is an unfolding revelation of who and what God is through Jesus Christ. Not in a linear aspect where we put Him on a timeline, but more like as the center of a wheel where everything else revolves around Him. This was a concept we were taught in our Systematic Theology courses in Seminary. What finally clicked for me eventually is that this is how Revelation functions as well. It revolves in a circular fashion around Christ, spiraling its way across time and space, telling us timeless truths that were true in the past, are true in the present, and will be true in the future.
Revelation is our glimpse into this realm where God lives and resides that exists outside of time and space, and how it breaks into our world and delivers to us the overarching story of God's interaction with his creation, his story of salvation and redemption of the earth through Jesus Christ. We have spent thousands of years living through the cycles of Revelation. Over and over again we see and experience the Babylons, the demands for our allegiance to things other than God, our self-destructive nature against one another and the earth itself, the warnings, the promises. This is why generation after generation has thought surely THEY were living in the End Times. Because, well, they were. One day closer to it, anyway. They experienced the same fear, the same anxiety, the same belief that now is the time. Why? Because now IS the time all of this is actually happening. It was happening then, it is happening now. It will possibly continue to happen into the future.
Now... and not yet.
Revelation challenges us to live the way Jesus told us to live: like his return is imminent. That the Kingdom of God is nearer than we ever imagined. So near, it is already in our midst. "As you are going, preach and say, 'the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.'" (Matthew 10:7), "Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near." (Luke 21:31) “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20)