In my previous post I started giving the lecture I gave recently to a group of professional biblical scholars about how my views of Revelation have changed. After thinking that the book predicted our future (I gave up on that one forty years ago!) I began to think that the book was a positive message for true followers. In this reading – which I held for many, many years — the point of the book is that God is sovereign, just, and loving toward his faithful, and in the end truth will prevail. Above all, Revelation is a book of hope.
I no longer see it that way and am a bit surprised I did for so many years. The book of Revelation is not principally about hope, let alone the love of God. Words for hope — ελπις / ελπιζω – occur some 80 times in the New Testament, but not once in this book. And God himself is never said to love his followers in this book and they are never referred to as the beloved: αγαπητόι – a word that otherwise occurs over 60x in the NT. Instead they are regularly called his slaves, δουλοι. It is also worth nothing that εἰρηνη, peace, appears just once in the book after John’s salutation, and that’s to indicate that it has been taken *away* from the earth (6:4)
The terms that dominate Revelation are not “hope,” and “love” or “peace,” but war (15x, almost twice as often as in the rest of the NT combined); blood αἱμα (19x), wrath θυμος (10x), and anger οργη (5x). What is this book ultimately about? It is about the “wrath of God” (6x altogether) and, more striking, the wrath of both God and his lamb” (6:16-17).
As we all know well, there have been, and still are, long and hard debates among New Testament scholars about whether the book of Revelation should be considered a violent book. Anyone who is not a New Testament scholar would surely find the debate astonishing. How could one say
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