It is a good thing the New Testament canon was long ago recognised. I fear that in today’s PC and TC climate, the bulk of churches and leaders would argue that it must not be recognised as divinely inspired Scripture. After all, it breaks every rule in the book.
Just think about it for a moment. Here we have a book which is guilty of every thought crime imaginable today: it is sexist, chauvinistic, militaristic, judgemental, intolerant, bigoted, and exclusivist. It is totally politically incorrect, and in today’s wimpy spiritual climate, it is theologically incorrect as well.
Consider the many ways in which it offends our modern sensibilities. It is clearly a male-dominated book, with patriarchal and chauvinistic themes and images running throughout. Women don’t get much of a mention, and when they do, they are usually presented in a bad light.
Consider Jezebel the prophetess and seductress in ch. 2, or the woman riding on the beast full of abominations and adulteries in ch. 17. With a few exceptions, all we find are these negative and discriminatory stereotypes of women and female figures. Whoever wrote this book was obviously one big woman-hating creep.
And consider all the times repentance is mentioned in this book. If we just look at the seven churches we find Jesus calling them to repent time and time again. And what about verses like Rev. 9:20-21? “The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
But I thought Jesus wasn’t into repentance. All my Christianity-lite and emergent church buddies insist that Jesus hardly ever spoke about repentance. Jesus does not make any heavy demands – he welcomes us all with wide-open arms.
And they also told me that we can forget everything else and just concentrate on the love of God. This is the supreme attribute, as I have been told so often. All other attributes are really just secondary to his love. Hey, sounds good to me. So then what is the problem with the Book of Revelation? Why is it so out of step here?
The love of God is hardly mentioned in the book. Indeed, we have close up shots of what heaven is like and what the mega-worship services there are like, and what do we find? All we get is this harsh judgmental stuff. For example, in the heavenly throne room we read about the four living creatures in Rev. 4.
It says this about them: “Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come’.” OK, I will grant that the Bible does mention his holiness once and a while, but what about his love?
Surely they should be celebrating his love day and night, not going on and on about such secondary features and attributes, right? After all, the Christian life is all about balance isn’t it? We can’t get too carried away with this holiness stuff. It will make us look like extremists and weirdoes.
But wait, there’s more. Get this – this is the most incredible bit of all. It sure doesn’t sound like the Jesus I have been taught about, the tree-hugging, peace-loving Jesus who would never harm a fly or never be exclusive or intolerant. In ch. 19 we read about one of the biggest praise and worship sessions you will ever encounter. It makes the happenings at Hillsongs look like a convention of deaf and dumb people. This is a mega-worship session, with “a great multitude in heaven shouting” hallelujahs and all the rest.
But this is the really amazing bit. Just what are they celebrating and getting so excited about? The fact that everyone is going to be saved? The fact that God accepts into heaven followers of every non-Christian religion? The fact that God loves everyone and has a wonderful plan for their life?
No, they are celebrating what is recorded in Rev. 18: the judgment of Babylon. All the gory, bloody descriptions of the wrath of God being poured out on unrepentant Babylon are the subject of this praise meeting. All the woes and fearful judgments on those who reject God are in fact being celebrated.
And in case we missed this connection, this is what Rev 19:1-4 states about this massive praise gathering: “‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ And again they shouted: ‘Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.’ The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: ‘Amen, Hallelujah!’”
Oh come on now: rejoicing at the destruction of God’s enemies? That is not very loving. That is not something Jesus would do, is it? Oh yeah, it is Jesus doing the judging here. Oh well, it still isn’t very nice. In fact, this entire book reeks of wrath and judgment, pestilence and plagues, mischief and mayhem.
Look at all these angels of destruction and seals and bowls and vials and plagues and woes and earthquakes and trumpet judgments and horsemen! Give me a break already. This is not the sweet Jesus I have been taught about. This is not the inclusive, tolerant and non-judgmental Jesus everyone is talking about these days.
What’s even worse, Jesus is said to be actively behind all this. Look at Rev 6:15-17 for example. Here people are not running to the welcoming Jesus, but fleeing and hiding from the wrathful Jesus: “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?’”
Hey, that’s not what we hear in most churches today. We are basically taught that God is little more than a deistic figure, who is not at all actively involved in the affairs of men. He is more like a gentle grandfather, looking down on us and smiling a lot.
He certainly does not get angry with us. He certainly does not use the forces of nature to unleash his wrath upon unrepentant sinners. Oh no. And Rob Bell and the other experts keep telling me that God is too loving to allow anyone into a lost eternity, and he would never let his judgment get so carried away as this.
This is simply one big misogynist, hate-filled and belligerent book. I really don’t think it can be allowed in our Bibles. It is far too harsh and judgmental. It is far too unloving and ungracious. It is far too unlike the meek and mild Jesus I have been taught about all my life.
OK then, agreed: from now on the Book of Revelation will no longer be allowed in our Bibles. Right then, while we are at it, time to start looking at those especially nasty epistles of Paul…