Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon! – Revelation 3:10-11 (NRSV)
If you’ve ever felt misunderstood, you know just how the book of Revelation has felt every day for two millennia. Revelation is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted book in the bible.
Few legit Bible scholars see Revelation as a roadmap for the future. (Also note that “antichrist” and “the rapture” are not mentioned). Instead, Revelation offered hope and encouragement to a specific group of first century, persecuted, fearful Christians. “Hang in there, Christ-followers!” it said. “Holy help is on the way!”
In our time, the book of Revelation is well-suited to preachers like the Rev. Allan Boesak from South Africa, who preached on Revelation during apartheid. Boesak’s parishioners knew what it was like to live each day as if it were their last. The Rev. William Barber II, founder of Moral Mondays and the Poor People’s Campaign, regularly invokes images from Revelation to decry the ills of capitalism and the legacy of slavery while announcing protection for the marginalized.
If the book of Revelation feels more harrowing than hopeful, it might have something to do with our social location. Revelation not only reveals an ancient people in peril, it reveals us now. As the saying goes, it comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.
God of Revelation, before I dismiss something that makes me uncomfortable, help me face what it reveals about me.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.