How to understand Revelation

And I saw the One seated upon the throne holding a scroll in the open palm of his right hand; it was written on both sides and sealed with seven signet stamps.

Rev 5:1

We remember that nobody in the heavens was found worthy to open the scroll. After John wept about this fact, there was the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God, who was found worthy. I have written about this in the past: either the story takes on the form of a hyperbole and that nobody was found was wildly exaggerated, or it was a lie, or Jesus was not in heaven at this time. Maybe he was just dying on the cross, earning the right to open the scroll. I tend towards the last interpretation.

But today, I would love to write about something else. I read this today:

To understand the Book of Revelation, it’s important to know that the scroll of Revelation chapter 5, as its seals are opened in Revelation chapter 6, unveils the long chronicle of world history, as God gave John the apostle to understand.

I truly want to challenge this. Is it truly necessary to see Revelation as the chronicle of world history? I think that this is just one perspective of many.

Obviously, the outworking of Revelation can be mapped to historical events in the first century, and that was both beneficial as well as encouraging for the people living in the midst of turmoil and persecution.

One can also, as I have done with parts of Revelation, see it as an inner outworking between the two natures we have, uprooting bitterness for example when the star called wormwood or vermouth hits earth, not thinking of a literal star and the literal earth, but light from the heavens being shown on earthly parts of our internal existence.

Of all possible interpretations, I personally find the least attractive and helpful to be the futuristic one, especially when used as a time clock for our time.

Over the centuries, many people have expected Revelation to play out externally, and so far, it has not, at least not in the way that futurists expect it. That does not mean that the view is wrong, it just means that most people with near expectancy have been wrong so far.

But let me ask: has this interpretation been helpful to all those people, or any of them? It has been helpful to church leaders, as people were more committed, mostly driven by fear. It has been helpful for authors, as they earned good money from books explaining how we come up with those external interpretations and why this time, they will be true.

For some, such a terrible outlook for the non-believers might have been a boost to evangelize. But other than that: why would it be helpful?

This futuristic view of Revelation turns God back into the old testament God full of wrath and anger. It tells us that Jesus, grace, forgiveness are temporal concepts. Love is not without preconditions.

There are reasons why Revelation barely made it into the canon of scripture, and almost fell out again during reformation.

I believe that it is has its rightful place in the bible. And furthermore, I believe that for a long time, we were not capable to interpret Revelation otherwise, as we centered the biblical message around right and wrong, moral and ethics.

And here we have the answer to our question: who is it helpful to. This interpretation is helpful for people that think that the bible is about being right. Because if that is the ultimate goal, those that are wrong have to carry the consequences. And since we have found that God is true to his principle of “letting the sun shine over the righteous and the unrighteous”, and Calvinism as well as very early concepts in the bible of good people being blessed and bad people being cursed have been shown wrong, just by looking around or reading either Psalms or Job, we need this future punishment.

We cannot force anybody to be aperspectival, that is, have multiple perspectives without favoring one, and profiting from all of them. People usually grow through periods of having certain perspectives, throwing out the old ones when they adopt new ones.

To throw out a perspective that tells you that you will suffer through tribulation and then be hell-bound if doing so is especially difficult, as you can imagine.

It does not become easier in times where what happens in the earth seems to align so perfectly with the apocalyptic images portrayed in Revelation.

I honor people that are in a place where they genuinely need to understand Revelation the way they do: as a big fight between good and evil, right and wrong. I would just love it if they had a more open mindset for other perspectives, which again is a very hard thing to do when you think in the terms of right and wrong.

Just think of God as being truly unconditional love and bringing life. Maybe that will change your perspective. Unless you change the meaning of unconditional love to fit your experience and beliefs, that is.

I love how God works with us in all our quirkiness and childishness. Always remember: we are the limited ones in all aspects. Even our ability to conceive.

Is it possible that I am wrong? I am absolutely sure of that. And you?