Theological Themes In Revelation

Slightly edited from Michael Gorman’s excellent book, Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation, 75-76.

The Throne: The Reign of God and the Lamb. God the creator reigns! Jesus the Redeemer, the slaughtered Lamb, is Lord! The reign of the eternal God, the beginning, and the end is not merely future or past but present, and it is manifested in—of all things—the slaughtered Lamb.

The Reality of Evil and of Empire. Evil is real. Empire is now—not merely future or past but present. Empire, by nature, makes seductive blasphemous and immoral claims and engages in corollary practices that bring disorder to both vertical (people-God) and horizontal (people-people) human relations, promising life but delivering death—both physical and spiritual.

The Temptation to Idolatry and Immorality. The Christian church is easily seduced by empire’s idolatry and immorality because these claims and practices are often invested with religious meaning and authority; they become a civil religion. For that reason, immorality is ultimately idolatry: the idolatry of violence, oppression, greed, lust, and the like.

The Call to Covenant Faithfulness and Resistance. In the midst of empire and civil religion, whatever its forms, the church is called to resistance as the inevitable corollary of covenant faithfulness to God, a call that requires prophetic spiritual discernment and may result in various kinds of suffering.

Worship and an Alternative Vision. The spiritual discernment required of the church requires an alternative vision of God and of reality. Revelation provides this vision of “uncivil” worship and vision, centered on the throne of the eternal holy God and the faithful slaughtered Lamb, and on the coming new creation.

Faithful Witness: The Pattern of Christ. Christian resistance to empire and idolatry conforms to the pattern of Jesus Christ and of his apostles, saints, prophets (like John), and martyrs: faithful, true, courageous, just, and nonviolent. It is not passive but active, consisting of the formation of communities and individuals who pledge allegiance to God alone, who live in nonviolent love toward friends and enemies alike, who leave vengeance to God, and who, by God’s Spirit, create mini-cultures of life as alternatives to empire’s culture of death. The will of God is for all to follow the Lamb and participate in the saving life of God-with-us forever.

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