People sometimes look at me a little funny when I tell them my favorite book of the Bible was when I was growing up was Revelation.
Yes, that Revelation. The one with the beasts and fire and blood and war.
Here’s the thing. In the Plymouth Brethren tradition in which I was raised, the worship time includes a lot of dead space – stretches of silence while everyone waits for a man, believing he is led by the Spirit, to rise and offer a scripture or a hymn for us all to sing or a prayer.
And when you’re only allowed a Bible with you to fill those interminable spaces, you go to the most action-packed book of the canon, the one that is literally apocalyptic.
Unfortunately, when Revelation is your favorite book and you grow up in the religious tradition begun by the man who literally invented the rapture-tribulation interpretation that forms the basis for much of the way people view Revelation today, your view of the book – and consequently your view of God – can get a little dark.
So when the opportunity arose to teach a class on Revelation at my church – well, OK, I’m a member of the adult education committee, so maybe I carved out an opportunity for myself – I jumped at it. What better way to understand a misunderstood book than by having to explain it to others?
I expected the class to be fun. I expected to learn something. I didn’t expect to finish it with the feeling that Revelation is once again my favorite book.
So how did that happen? How can a 10-week class so thoroughly redeem a book that scares so many people?
Well, since Revelation is filled with sevens – seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls – here are seven, um, revelations that came from the class, mostly courtesy of the excellent “textbook” we used: Revelation and the End of All Things by Craig Koester.
- We all know Revelation, whether we realize it or not.
- Revelation never intended its message to be hidden from its audience.
- Revelation constantly subverts readers’ expectations.
- Rather than a linear story, Revelation is cyclical.
- The judgments are real, but so are the promises bookending them.
- We all fight the Beast.
- God’s grace is beyond what you can imagine.