Watershed Formation Studies

Frequently Asked Questions

Why the name “Rescuing Revelation?” Why does it need rescuing?
With their permission, we have borrowed the title “Rescuing Revelation” from a series from Woodlands Hills Church in Minneapolis, pastored by Greg Boyd. We thought it was a perfect title because Revelation is the most misinterpreted, misread and misused book of the Bible. Read properly however, it is one of the most profound and practical studies our group has done over the years.

Reading Revelation the way it was intended means being freed of the obsessive need to use it as a crystal ball. It’s not about the future, but the present. It’s not about violence, but about profound anti-violence. It’s all about rescuing it from this literal, crystal ball way of reading it; rescuing it from being puzzling and irrelevant. As you take a deeper look with us, we hope that any misconceptions will begin to dispel for you as well.
Any guidelines as to how to read it?
Because the leaders knew Revelation was hard to understand back in 395 CE, they put restrictions on how you could use it. You could use the book of Revelation for worship, to glorify God, and as a call to faithfulness for people who are being persecuted by the empire or seduced by the empire...period.

What you don’t use Revelation for is for setting dates and timelines, or for deriving any doctrine. No dogma has ever come from Revelation.

This question will be answered more deeply in Blogpost #2 — A User’s Guide to Revelation, so stay tuned!
Who might be interested in a study on Revelation?
Revelation is a good book for anyone to read, with the important proviso that it is properly explained. It can help us discover the character of God, who is the Lord of everything. Often Christian communities take one of two paths in their approach to Revelation: Some Christian groups seem to be preoccupied with the book and what it might tell us about the future, and the rest don’t read Revelation at all (or read it very selectively). Our hope is that by joining our online study, this book will become an “Aha!” experience for you as well, deepening your walk of faith.
Who was it originally written for?
The writer of Revelation did not identify with the dominant culture of his day. Rather he identified with the minority culture, the subgroup, the Christian community, which had an alternative belief system. The creative power of God was different than the destructive power of empire. The redeeming quality of the lamb’s self-sacrifice was completely unlike the pretensions of the ruling culture.

Who were the early readers?
  • Some experienced persecution and open hostility.
  • Others experienced life in an inter-religious world. They were tempted by assimilation and their problems were more subtle.
  • Others were so wealthy and comfortable they saw no problem at all. They were complacent, comfortable.
If you can see yourself in any of these 3 situations, Rev’n is a book for you. For those who feel threatened, it is a book of encouragement to keep the faith amid open hostility. For those who are just trying to get along with their neighbors, the vision of Revelation may act as a challenge. For the comfortable, the message may be disturbing and challenging. Revelation calls them to open their eyes.

This topic will be covered more in Blogpost #3.
How do we read Revelation?
Apocalyptic is a genre, full of visions and dreams that are highly symbolic. It’s a vision of how things are, not just how they will be. It made sense to the first generation of Christians who read it and to almost no one since! It’s important to read Revelation with a good teacher or in a study group such as this.

For more on this topic, read Blogpost #2 — A User’s Guide to Revelation.
How do we break the code of Revelation? Is there one guiding image to keep in mind as we read it?
Early in the book, John is in the throne room and an elder or an angel comes to him and says, “Behold (Look), the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” John turned and saw a lamb looking as if it was slain. He’s expecting to see the conquering Lion, but instead he sees the slain Lamb.

It means that John was turning and expecting to see victory, but the means of victory was the cross. Later in the book, it’s not the wrath of the Lion but the wrath of the Lamb, the cruciform One, the kenotic (self-emptying) one who consents to our violence in the world .The wrath of the Lamb is that He will let us bottom out on our evil until we cry out to Him.

This lamb imagery becomes the cypher or code to understanding Revelation. In our community, we call it “Lamb power”; a code which means “victory lies in weakness”. The image of the Lamb of God in Revelation 5 is the hinge of the entire book. “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders." (Rev. 5:6) Lamb power exists when we live with sacrificial love for another, which doesn’t put our own ego or power first, but puts following God and God’s purposes first.
It’s such a weird book, why is it even in the Bible?
It almost didn’t get in! Even in the 4th century, key leaders directly said this book was too hard and said it shouldn’t get into the canon. However, in 395 CE, they decided it would be included. Our hope is that after studying it, you’ll be glad along with us that it did.
What’s Revelation all about? Is it too strange for me to venture into?
Is it too strange, or too much like life? When we see the powers of destruction in modern events like 9/11, the Paris bombings, or even the wars in our own neighborhoods such as drug abuse, vandalism or violence between people, we wonder how we can bring an end to the horror. Where are the powers that are trying to prevent destruction? With its violent imagery, is that the world Revelation is about?

The answer is both yes, and no. Yes, it talks candidly about the destructive forces at work in the world. No, it’s not finally what the book is about. The book is ultimately about the story of the God whose will for the world is ultimately life. The people of every tribe and tongue and folk and nation are brought into the circle of worshippers around God’s throne. (Taken from a sermon by Craig Koester)
What’s up with all the picture language?
Revelation uses vivid picture language to portray some of the realities of the world we live in. Nobody is assuming that the pictures will come true literally. The word pictures tell us about forces at work in the world.

A helpful image for the picture language is superhero comic books, where insane, deranged figures dominate the pages and crazy exaggeration is the name of the game. Revelation uses such word pictures because sometimes pictures open things up like nothing else can. They grab your attention like a great work of art does. John is trying to communicate about the realities of God, hope and evil, and it can’t be done in an abstract way.

We will explore this question more deeply in Blogpost #1 - Why Revelation?
Revelation seems to talk about a lot of destruction. Is this what God wants?
Popular hype says that Revelation is all about destruction, but that’s not what God ultimately wants. In Revelation and in life, death may be real but death is not final nor does it get the final word. God is about the business of sealing people, protecting people, gathering people and giving them a future. Revelation 7:9 says that God will save “a number,” but that number is numberless. You can’t count them. We are part of the numberless number. God has a future for us, by God’s grace. (Taken from a sermon by Craig Koester)
How can we believe that God is like Jesus in the broken world we live in? What kind of God are we talking about anyway? Who is the God of Revelation?
Because God does not tinker with natural law and human freedom, our world is broken. But God has not left us alone in the brokenness. We are invited to participate in mending the world. God pours out his love into the world as a prototype for us to follow. Bishop Desmond Tutu says, “God, for whatever reason, does nothing in this world without a willing human partner.” When he finds a super-willing partner, like Tutu, you can bring down apartheid.

Jesus picks through the rubble through us. He’s in the midst of it all through people who are willing to mediate His love. He doesn’t micro-manage things like tectonic plates. These things have natural law and free range. But when bad things happen, God acts through his people. It can have supernatural impact. Maybe love does something. In the same way that sin kills in the world, Love heals in the world. Jesus is betting on the long odds that Love is more powerful and that it will restore all things. (From an interview with author Brad Jersak)
Does Revelation have a basic message for us?
In the present we are not always going to win; our lives will not always be characterized by triumph. That is a lesson hard to accept — in fact, impossible — except that it is balanced on the opposite side with this hope: eventually we will win. These poles stand in a dialectical tension and cannot be brought together because of the intervening reality of satanic opposition… Meanwhile, we endure with patience our weakness. The hope of God’s ultimate reign sustains our long-suffering. (From Joy in Our Weakness: A Gift of Hope from the Book of Revelation by Marva Dawn)
What is the practical teaching found in Revelation for the present day church?
Don’t conform to the empire, don't conform to Babylon's way of power, follow the lamb wherever He goes. Rely on lamb-like self-sacrificial power, in all that you do. Be watchful, be ready. It's very hard for us to notice the water we swim in, because the ways of the empire are all around us, it's in the air that we breath. And the default will be to conform to it, so we have to be very intentional at not conforming, so that we can put on display the unique, lovely character of the lamb, who rules the world, and wins in the end, through His self sacrificial love, rather than domination. That's it in a nutshell. (Taken from a sermon by Greg Boyd)
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