As I’ve been reading through Richard B. Hays The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to the New Testament Ethics (see my “books I’m reading” sidebar), I just finished the chapter in which he surveys the implied ethics in the book of Revelation. Here is a couple observations he makes that I thought I would share.
On the calling of the church:
The church follows Jesus by bearing prophetic witness against the violence, immorality, and injustice of an earthly empire that claims the authority that belongs rightly to God. This means that Jesus’ followers worship God, not the empire; they refuse to receive the mark of Beast, thereby excluding themselves from the normal activities of the economic system (13:16-17; 14:6-11). They imitate Jesus’ example of powerless suffering and refuse to succumb to the illusion that power equals truth. (p. 176)
Of course, if that observation seems strange, extreme, or even absurd in light of what you always though the book of Revelation taught the try this observation on:
…Revelation can be read rightly only by those who are actively struggling against injustice. If Revelation is a resistance document, its significance will become clear only to those who are engaged in resistance… Something very strange happens when this text is appropriated by reader in a comfortable, powerful, majority community: it becomes a gold mine for paranoid fantasies and for those who want to preach revenge and destruction. (p. 183, italics mine)
So what are your thoughts? Is Hays’ description of the church’s calling coherent with what you have understood to be the message of Revelation? Why or why not? What do you think about his observation of those who interpret Revelation from the seat of comfort and power?