Skeets suggested I write an introduction to this Resource that will link it to the overall theme of Revelation. I think that’s a great idea. After all, we’ve worked our way through the Seven Seals, the Seven Trumpets, the Seven Visions and now we face the Seven Bowls including the final battle. The imagery, battles, beasts, visions are over the top. It’s like an apocalyptic movie, like the last chapters of the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. All of the sensory “noise” is over the top and exhausting. It’s so overwhelming that the “noise” is all we hear.
So what’s the point of all this “noise”?!
There are two main points:
- Empires and their idolatries are incredibly dangerous. They are dangerous to vulnerable people. Empires can be diametrically opposed to God’s intent for Creation.
- When the church is blind to the dangers of empire, it will collude with empire and endorse it as God’s will as described, for example, in Psalm 72 or the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). As we see in Revelation 2-3, Christ calls the church to be a witness to empires about power in weakness and commitment to justice, compassion, community and shalom.
Over a year ago, in July 2018, I introduced the congregation to a study of The Book of Revelation. Here is what I wrote:
The Book of Revelation is built on the foundation of the many Jewish apocalypses written primarily in the three centuries before Revelation was written. Anathea E. Portier-Young has written a remarkable book exploring the purpose of these writings. In her book, Apocalypse Against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism she writes that these Jewish apocalyptic texts “unthink the logic of empire and assert in its place an alternative vision of reality. . . . They counter imperial hegemony by exposing it, making visible the hidden logic and structures of domination in order to enable full-fledged resistance in mind, spirit, and body.” 
That’s what the Book of Revelation sets out to do: to empower us to see through and stand against the propaganda and violence of empire. What could be more important for our world?
But there’s more. Portier-Young writes, “These (Jewish apocalyptic) texts also reveal the hidden power and providence of God, relocating ultimate power from earth to heaven and asserting the conditional, finite, and partial nature of temporal rule. This revealed knowledge provides the necessary basis for the resistant action they advocate.”
The entire Bible is written against the backdrop of empire. We are now living in arguably the most powerful empire the world has seen. Yet the church, by in large, has either misread Revelation as an apocalyptic calendar predicting the exact date of the return of Christ, or has washed its hands of Revelation because it’s, “weird stuff about the end of the world.”
So how will the church be empowered to see the dangers of empire and then give witness to the kingdom of God?
Understanding Revelation is hard work! Thank you for doing this work! The church needs the understanding and call to witness that comes from this complex and brilliant book.
Anathea E. Portier-Young, Apocalypse Against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism, Eerdmans, 2011, 44.