Last week I put together a series of posts at www.inamirrordimly.com on the book of Revelation that really connected with readers. While I think the popular "Left Behind" view on Revelation has a few points correct, I think the overall narrative that it fosters creates some problems for both our theology and our practice.
There is a consistent theme in the Old and New Testaments that God is moving us toward a future where all shall be set right: justice will win and everyone in the world will know there is only one true God. Jesus signaled the coming of God's Kingdom with his miracles and signs, a spreading of God's blessings that demonstrate God is beginning to recreate the world.
All will give an account of their deeds when the Kingdom is fully realized. Salvation will come to the followers of Jesus. He will judge the living and the dead.
These are vague pictures for us to grapple with-however, we can at least take a few of these scraps and determine that God is recreating our world and setting things right. This "setting right" doesn't require destruction and fire. Remember creation was declared "good" from the get-go. It's certainly a mess right now, but thankfully God is redemptive with his creation.
There will be some decisive moment when God intervenes in our world to send justice rolling like streams, to beat swords into plowshares, and to teach everyone about fearing the Lord-all are promised in the prophets and hinted at in Revelation. Our creator God who recreates lives has some plans in place to recreate our world and to rule it one day, and that changes everything.
The Biblical narrative is taking us in this direction. Jesus started it, and he's left us around to keep it going until God returns. The end of the story matters because it tells us what is most significant: what will last and how we will be measured.
So now we have some different images in mind about God. Instead of God primarily destroying things at the end, we have a God of justice, peace, and re-creation stepping in to no doubt bring justice to those in the wrong, but to ultimately bring about the kind of world promised in the prophets with purity of worship and justice for everyone. God is showing us where the narrative of creation is going: re-creation and transformation. If that is the end we're moving toward, then we can tap into this goal for our day to day lives.
Getting the end of time-called eschatology-right matters a great deal, as it helps us make sense of the rest of scripture and its implications for us. William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas write on page 90 of Resident Aliens: "Without eschatology, we are left with only a baffling residue of strange commands, which seem utterly impractical and ominous... The ethic of Jesus thus appears to be either utterly impractical or utterly burdensome unless it is set within its proper context-an eschatological, messianic community, which knows something the world does not and structures its life accordingly."
We are made in God's image and are joining in God's work to manifest his Kingdom rule on earth. This means we are fellow-creators, joined with God in the act of redemption for the sake of the spiritual and physical world.
Is it possible that the book of Revelation has a redemptive message for us and our world? I believe this is not only possible, but the most likely reading of Revelation.
Ed Cyzewski is the author of Coffeehouse Theology and A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book. He blogs on theology at www.inamirrordimly.com and on writing at www.edcyz.com.