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Reading Revelation Responsibly:


Uncivil Worship and Witness
Following the Lamb into the New Creation

Michael Gorman proposes an interpretative framework of Revelation that is marked by


three features: Christ, worship, discipleship, and final hope (12). These elements shape the
narrative and the theological themes that are central to the book of Revelation, as well as serve to
correct the misguided interpretations of the book. Additionally, a responsible reading of
Revelation must consider elements such as genre, historical context, and the original purpose
without intending to explain every single detail in the book since its artistic images are not meant
to be interpreted in detail. Rather, the purpose of the book is to cause astonishment and
repentance. In this sense, Revelation is also a wake up call.
Gorman indicates that Revelation presents a combination of genres. The taxonomy that
Gorman uses to buttress his assertions are as follows. Revelation is a hybrid document, which
combines three literary genres: apocalypse, prophecy, and letter (13). This mixture presents a
liturgical/theopoetic, and a political/theopolitical character (13). Revelation is also liturgical
since a significant theme of the book is the worship of God and the Lamb, and theopolitical since
Revelation presents a critic and condemnation of the Roman Empire.
For Gorman the substance of Revelation is a theological reaction against the Imperial
Religion and civil practices. Christians confronted different kinds of local persecution since they
stop participating them. In this context, Revelation is a call for resistance and for faithful
discipleship. Since worship was essentially a political act where people demonstrated their
loyalty, Revelation encouraged Christians to see beyond their immediate reality and to realize

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that the only ruler of the universe is their God. This reality is depicted with the heavenly throne
and the several worship scenes presented in the book, for example chapters 4, 5, 7, etc.
In addition, reading Revelation requires identifying several themes that are combined in
the book: Creation and re-creation, redemption, judgment, witness, and victory. Another
important motif for Revelation is the blessing, especially of the faithful disciples. So, worship
and discipleship are portrayed as two inseparable realities.
Revelation is also a critique and parody of the Roman Empire and of the cult of the
emperor (40). In particular, the Roman Empire is contrasted with the empire of God and the
Roman peace is parodied in Revelation as the Babylon the shedder of blood. Revelation also
criticizes the church and its accommodation to the idolatry of the imperial religion.
Gorman proposes that the interpreter must read Revelation as a word to the church in the
present without forgetting the past or future elements in the book (68). Moreover, a combination
of theopolitical, and the pastoral-prophetic approaches helps to find contemporary analogies to
first-century realities (68). Interpreting Revelation requires a Cruciform Interpretative
Strategy, (77) which consists in recognizing that the centering image of Revelation is the lamb
that was slaughtered (78).
Regarding the structure of Revelation, Gorman indicates that the book is opened and
concluded with bookends (1:18; 22:621) that present the themes and genres of the book
indicating the mixture of genres and the liturgical and theopolitical emphases. The narrative of
the main section (Chaps. 620) is not a linear description of events; so, the structure is better
described as a spiral. The main sections of Revelation:
1. Revelation 13. The opening vision of the Risen Lord and the seven
pastoral/prophetic message to the churches. The opening vision presents Jesus as

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partaking Gods divinity and power. The messages to the churches are a wake up
call to follow the lamb in faithful discipleship. The main structure of these
messages is: affirmation, correction, and motivating promise (87).
2. Revelation 45. Central and centering vision of God and the Lamb. The image of
worship and the throne, which is shared by God and the Lam, constitutes the heart
of Revelation and is the interpretative key of the entire book (103). The purpose
of this section is to portray the real power behind the universe using a symphony
of Old Testament theophanies (106). Moreover, the Christophany of chapter 5 is
a unique image of power since the one sitting on the throne is a slaughtered Lamb.
3. Revelation 620. Vision of the Judgment of God and interludes. The main
characters in this section are the unholy trinity and the church. These beasts
represent the Roman imperial order where Satan is on the move against the people
of God. The powerful images of judgment are a wake up call to the church that
can be tempted to abandon the way of the Lamb. Additionally, these divine acts of
judgment are part of the divine process of bringing the new creation; so they are
means to bring the restoration of the universe. These visions of Judgments are
combined with a few interludes, such as chapters 7 and 14, in order to encourage
the faithful disciples. For example the image of 7:14 describing the people with
white robes. The images of this judgment come from the Old Testament
narratives, such as the plagues of Exodus. These depict the final judgment of the
empire, which is punished because of its multiple forms of injustice and idolatry.
The end of this section is marked by the celebration in chapter 19 with the
hallelujah song.
4. Revelation 2122. Final Vision of the New Creation. The conclusion of revelation
mirrors the opening of the book presenting a conclusion to the work. The final

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coming of God and the New Jerusalem ushers forth the new creation, which is the
replacement of the culture of the beast by the culture of the Lamb (164). This action
that was preceded by the judgment is not the destruction but the transformation of the
world. This new creation is marked by the absence of death, suffering, and other
consequences of the previous reign of the beast. Gorman points out that the end of
Revelation serves as a closing chapter for the entire Scripture: the beginning of
creation concludes with the new creation. The prophetic image of the New Jerusalem
is a contra-image of the Empire since the size of the holy city resembles the size of
the Roman Empire. The New Jerusalem is marked by the presence of the Glory of
God, which for Gorman, is the rapture in reverse, the descent of God to us! (170).
Finally, Revelation ends by summarizing several themes of the book, such as blessing
and hope.

Conclusion
For Gorman, discipleship and worship are two elements that are fused together to form
the heart of the book of Revelation. This approach contrasts the misguided interpretations and
focuses on the real purpose of Johns book: a call to worship and to follow the Lamb in the midst
of our culture of idolatry. This reading is relevant in any age. Additionally, what is the most
remarkable aspect of Revelation is its Christological reconfiguration of God (167). In
Revelation, God does not look like a Roman emperor who rules with violence and fear. On the
contrary, the one sitting on the throne is the Lamb that was slaughtered. This new
understanding of God encourages us today to follow the Lamb in faithful discipleship.
Additionally, the book enables the faithful disciple to resist empires then and now. The book

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amplifies the fact that the one who rules the universe was faithful until his dead, as well as
crystalizes the hope that some day he will come back and restore his creation to its original
splendor where life, peace, and the glory of God will reign forever.