May we read Revelation as conveying a message of peace? One that can inspire and guide us even today? I believe we may–and should. In the months to come, I will undertake a close reading of Revelation testing my thesis that Revelation is a pro-peace text.
Included here are some rough notes from my reading of chapter one.
The Book of Revelation is not a common resource for Christian pacifists. However, it should be. This essay, “Revealing a New World: Power According to Biblical Apocalyptic.”, from my book-in-progress, Pacifism with Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case, argues that the view of authentic power portrayed in Revelation has to do with persevering love, not coercive force. The “revelation” conveyed in the Bible’s final book provides an angle for understanding power throughout the Bible.
Christian pacifists generally focus much of our explanatory energy on Jesus’ life and teaching, as we should. However, we should also be attentive to the relevance of New Testament portrayals of Jesus’ death for our pacifist convictions. This essay, “Christian Pacifism and New Testament Understandings of Jesus’ Death,” which is from my book-in-process, Pacifism with Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case, suggests that one key lesson from the New Testament is that Jesus’ death exposes the tendencies of three central human structures (religious institutions [the temple], cultural ordering systems [the law], and political structures [the empire]) to fuel the spiral of violence–hence, rendering themselves unworthy of our trust. These structures proved themselves to be God’s rivals, not God’s servants. Recognizing this should help human beings give their ultimate trust to God’s peaceable way, not to the violent ways of these Powers.
For Christian pacifism, as I understand it, Jesus provides our basis with his life, teaching, and identity as God’s Son. A core chapter, then, in my book-in-process, Pacifism With Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case, focuses on Jesus. This chapter, “Pacifism and the Story of Jesus,” essentially summarizes the argument of the great Mennonite theologian, John Howard Yoder, in his classic book The Politics of Jesus.