This will likely be my last post for a while on Revelation, but it is an important one, from my perspective. If we read Revelation as a theopoetic and theopolitical writing focused on the reign of God and of the slaughtered Lamb, rather than as a script about the end of history (see previous posts), what kind of spirituality emerges from that reading? I suggest the following:
3. Faithfulness and Prophetic Resistance
4. Discernment and Vision
5. Courageous Nonviolent Warfare
6. Embodied Communal Witness and Mission
A spirituality of worship. Revelation summons us to worship God the creator and redeemer, the Alpha and Omega, who reigns! It summons us to worship Jesus the redeemer, the slaughtered Lamb, the Alpha and Omega, who is Lord! The reign of God is not merely future or past but present. The summons to worship is therefore inseparable from allegiance. God in Christ both demands all and offers all
A spirituality of realism. Revelation summons us to live cognizant of the realities of evil and empire. Evil is real. Empire is now—not merely future or past but present. Empire, by nature, makes seductive blasphemous and immoral claims and engages in corollary practices that bring disorder to both vertical (people-God) and horizontal (people-people) human relations, promising life but delivering death—both physical and spiritual.
A spirituality of faithfulness and prophetic resistance. The Christian church is easily seduced by Empire’s idolatry and immorality because these claims and practices are often invested with religious meaning and authority. In the context of “civil religion,” the church is called to “come out.” In the midst of Empire, the church is called to resistance in word and deed as the inevitable corollary of faithfulness to God, a call that requires prophetic spiritual discernment provided by God’s Spirit, and a vocation that may result in various kinds of suffering.
A spirituality of discernment and vision. The spiritual discernment required of the church, in turn, requires an alternative vision of God and of reality that unveils and challenges Empire, a vision in need of the Spirit’s wisdom to see and apply. This takes us back to the need for worship.
A spirituality of courageous nonviolent warfare. The resistance required of Christians can be likened to warfare in search of victory. But because this victory is only the victory of the victorious slaughtered lamb, Christian resistance to Empire conforms to the pattern of Jesus Christ and of his apostles and saints: faithful, true, courageous, just, and nonviolent.
A spirituality of embodied communal witness and mission. Christian resistance, like warfare, is not passive but active. It consists of the formation of communities and individuals who pledge allegiance to God alone; live in nonviolent love toward friends and enemies alike; leave vengeance to God but bear witness to God’s coming judgment and salvation; create, by God’s Spirit, mini-cultures of life as alternatives to Empire’s culture of death; and invite all who desire life with God to repent and worship God and the Lamb. The will of God is for all to follow the Lamb and participate in the present and coming life of God-with-us forever.
A spirituality of hope. God the creator and Christ the redeemer take evil and injustice seriously and are about both to judge humanity and to renew the cosmos. We hope and long for the healing of the nations
The last word would simply be Follow. Follow the Lamb. Follow him out of empire but also, paradoxically, into empire: into the dark corners of empire, into those places where the vision of God and the Lamb is most needed, where death needs to be replaced with life, where we can bear witness in word and life to the coming new creation, where there will be life-giving water for all, healing for the nations, a new heavens and new earth liberated from the effects of our sin, and the perpetual presence of the living God, in whom we can be both lost and found in eternal wonder, awe, and praise. Giving flesh to such a vision is no small challenge.
Perhaps it would not be too bold to suggest that if we are to be a faithful church in the 21st century, the book of Revelation, and especially its vision of the slaughtered, victorious, and coming Lamb, needs to become more central to our worship, our spirituality, our practices. Perhaps, in a profound way, the last book of the Bible needs to become the church’s first book.