My book, From Fear To Love: Transforming Revelation (which I’ll abbreviate as FFTL ), explains the book of Revelation, according to my very unusual but eminently sensible understanding of it. This article tells how FFTL is different from all the other Revelation books. Here are some of the ways:
None of those expressions nor anything similar appears in Revelation. God is love, and the God of love is not plotting doomsday! Rather than a doomsday story of pain, destruction, and the wrath of God, Revelation is an uplifting story of humans’ spiritual progress in learning about God and about ourselves.
What Revelation does have that nobody notices or talks about are complete and dramatic transformations in what it says about the nature of God and of Satan, as the story progresses. For example, early in the story God sits anthropomorphically on a throne in the sky, isolated from and completely uninvolved with the very few people who are in His presence; by the end of the story, He is down here on earth, spirit shining everywhere, and deeply and lovingly involved with His multitudes of people. The transformation in the description of God doesn’t just happen suddenly at the end of the story; rather, it happens gradually throughout the story. You can read a little about this change in God in the article, “The Down Side of Heaven,” and more in the free excerpt. Since the transformation happens throughout the story, the full explanation is throughout FFTL . To see an introduction to Revelation’s theology of Satan, please read the part about Satan in the article, “Why are there so many beasts and antichrists in Revelation?”
Rather, it is a book about the whole human spiritual experience on earth, including the past, present, and future, just as Revelation itself says it is. When John of Patmos has his visions that become the book of Revelation, he is told to “write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (Rev. 1:10). “The things which thou hast seen” are things that happened in the past; “the things which are” are obviously John’s present, and “the things which shall be hereafter” are obviously the future. Furthermore, the time scale from past to future in Revelation is vast; it takes a much broader perspective on the human experience than most people think. For a little more information about this point, read the article, “Past, Present, and Future in Revelation.”
For example, why do the martyrs of God (Rev. 6:9-11) do such a seemingly unChristian thing as crying out for revenge? The answer is in FFTL chapter 4, “Pandora’s Horsemen.” Why do the series of plagues in Revelation--the seals, trumpets, and bowls--become more and more like the plagues on Egypt in the Exodus story? The answer is mostly in FFTL chapter 7, “Paradoxical Doom.” How can a mortal/fatal wound that heals (Rev. 13:3) make any sense at all? FFTL chapter 6, “A New Song,” explains. You can also read the answer for free in the article on this website, “Why are there so many beasts and antichrists in Revelation?” To see more of the questions that FFTL answers and the mysteries it solves, please read the article, “Questions About Revelation to Make You Think.”
Seven antichrists, you ask? Why, yes--the dragon, the beast from the sea, the beast from the land, “the” beast, Babylon, the false prophet, and, of course, Satan himself. It seems that many people simply think that the antichrist is whomever they hate or despise, with almost no regard to what Revelation actually says about them (such as that there are seven of them, not one). However, FFTL bases its identifications only on what Revelation says about them and on the Biblical allusions in Revelation; in doing that, it also is able to explain seeming oxymorons such as a fatal wound that heals or a beast that both is and is not. You might be surprised at how sensible and universally applicable they are. The article, “Why are there so many beasts and antichrists in Revelation?” tells their identities; much more explanation and detail are in the book, mostly in chapters 6 and 8, “A New Song” and “The Mother of Abominations.” Incidentally, that phrase, “the mother of abominations” from the identity of Babylon in Rev. 17:5, is crucial to understanding the meaning of Babylon and is also a generally unrecognized allusion to a very well-known Bible passage.
That explains why Revelation has so many conflicting theological ideas. In fact, each section of the Revelation story has a different theology than any other section. To take a simple example, in one part of Revelation, God is localized, sitting anthropomorphically on a throne in the sky, completely detached from people and uninvolved with people, not even acknowledging the people who worship Him unceasingly day and night. In another part of the Revelation story, God gets involved with people, inflicting all sorts of problems and for no apparent reason. Then He inflicts problems because of His wrath about sin. Then His wrath is finished and done. Later on, instead of anthropomorphic, localized, isolated, and uninvolved with people, He is spirit, everywhere, deeply and lovingly involved with His people, giving all sorts of wonderful, loving benefits to people. Which is the real God? FFTL explains Revelation’s answer. You can read an introduction to this subject in the article, “The Down Side of Heaven,” or in the free excerpt.
Revelation’s many conflicting theological ideas show an exploration of the biggest universal questions of spiritual life, as explained in the next point in this article.
It addresses questions such as these: What is God’s nature? (Is He an angry old man in the sky? Or is He a universal spirit of love?) What is the human situation and human nature? What is our proper relationship with God? What is our future and our destiny? The messages to the seven churches early in Revelation hint at these questions, as each message says something about God/Christ, about the people in each church and their situation, about what God expects and requires of them and what the consequences will be of doing or not doing what God expects, and about the future of those people. The messages all have different answers to those questions. The main body of Revelation also has different answers in each section of the story. The answers change in a very methodical manner as the story progresses from beginning to end. You can read more about this in the article, “Revelation and the Big Questions of Spiritual Life.”
It shows that the Revelation story is a very organized and sensible story. It makes it clear why every part of the story happens at the point in the story when it does, why it must be then and no other time in the story. It follows the development of various themes in Revelation and how Revelation’s theology changes methodically from the beginning of the story to the end. In the process, it makes clear the meaning and context of many of the Biblical allusions in Revelation, showing why they are where they are in the story and what they mean in their context. For example, the allusion to Ezekiel eating a scroll that is sweet in his mouth and various other allusions to the prophets of Israel in the interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet all make perfect sense in that place in the story, and they wouldn’t make sense anywhere else in the story. The explanation of the allusions to the prophets of Israel is in FFTL chapter 5, “Law, Prophets, Temple.”
In fact, the main theme of Revelation is the central Christian doctrine of love as expressed in the Great Commandments to love God and love neighbor as self, and it deals with some primary obstacles that we face in seeking to love God and love others. The God of love is not plotting doomsday. God is not cosmically enraged that you jotted a tittle or questioned a church doctrine.
In any conventional literary work, if the situation at the beginning of the story is completely different from the situation at the end of the story, you would expect that the main body of the story would explain the details of how and/or why the situation changes so drastically. The kind of religious belief that Revelation describes early in the story (chapter 4) is completely different from the religious belief described at the end in chapters 21-22, and the whole intervening story line tells how it changes gradually and methodically, over a long period of time.
Like any sophisticated literary work, Revelation demonstrates theme development through the story, foreshadowings of events that will occur later in the story, hints for the reader about the meaning and significance of events and characters. It poses problems and issues to be resolved later in the story, often posing several successively more sophisticated or more satisfactory solutions as the story progresses. As a finely crafted mystery story, Revelation gives clues and hints to the reader, sometimes quite blatantly pointing them out with suggestive phrases such as “Here is wisdom” and “Mystery.”
When the story tells a fractured parable, there’s a good reason: The fractured parable raises an issue and a problem which the story will later resolve.
To see what main themes Revelation develops, read the article “Revelation and the Big Questions of Spiritual Life” or read chapter 2 of FFTL , “The Big Questions of Spiritual Life.”
Download and read a free excerpt. (PDF - requires Adobe Reader)
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