Ted Grimsrud—Purpose vol. 45, no. 6 (June 2012), p. 28.
If I had to pick one book from the Bible to have with me on a desert island, it would be the Revelation. Partly, because it is so fascinating and weird. But even more, because of its message.
While we need to pay attention to the at times overwhelming visions in Revelation, we must not let them distract us from the focus of the book: It’s “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1).
Revelation 1:5 describes Jesus: “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth,” who “freed us by” his self-sacrifice. Jesus won the victory, affirmed right at the start and throughout the book, by his “blood.” Jesus’ faithfulness to the ways of love even to the point of execution enables his triumph.
Two later visions of Jesus confirm that Revelation reveals him as a suffering servant, not a conquering avenger.
In chapter five, John weeps because he does not believe that anyone will be found who can bring history’s fulfillment. An angel tells him not to weep, someone has been found. This is the key moment of the entire book. Who may the scroll? John hears, mighty, conquering king. But what does he see? He sees a Lamb, standing (resurrected) as if slaughtered (crucified). This Lamb can open the scroll and therefore is praised by all creation.
Leading up to chapter 19, the book anticipates a great “battle of Armageddon.” The world’s armies gather. Then, the savior rides forth on a white horse to battle. But he is armed only with a sword coming out of his mouth—the word proclaiming the good news. He wears “a robe dipped in blood” (19:13)—that is, his blood has already been shed before the “battle.”
Jesus’ faithfulness to the point of execution has already happened. The powers of evil are gathered up and thrown into the lake of fire without a battle. And the kings of the earth (the human enemies of God) do not end up in the lake of fire but in the New Jerusalem (21:24). Jesus’ victory—won by his love—leads not to punishment of human enemies but their healing.
There are actually many fine books about Revelation that emphasis its peace message. These are two of the best: Michael Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly and Barbara Rossing, The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation.