According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Index to past articles on Kingdom Eschatology



King of Kings and Lord of Lords


KINGDOM ESCHATOLOGY
  

Kingdom as Reconciliation and Peace

Repost: Let Us Dance!

Let Us Dance!

Coming Home to Phillip Phillips "Home," Arcade's "Wild Thing's," & Guetta's "Titanium"


The Presence of the Kingdom of God

(mcknight) Church and Kingdom as Inaugurated Eschatology in Process of Finality

(res) The Presence of the Kingdom of God Now

(res) Kingdom as a Participatory Eschatology

(res, cook) What is Heaven? The Kingdom of God Come NOW to Earth...

(hauerwas) Interview & Vid Links: Stanley Hauerwas, "Cross-Shattered Christ"


Kingdom as a Social Ethic in Postmodern Theology

(res) Pluralism, Tolerance and Accommodation: In You, the Kingdom of God Has Come

(olson) Justice in the Kingdom of God

(ecological) Renewing God's World: The Redemptive Renewal of Creation

(pluralism) The Emergent Spectrum of Evangelicalism

(res, mcknight) The Ethical and Redemptive Aspects of the Kingdom of God

(mcknight) The Failure of Christianity is a Modern Myth


Kingdom Theology

(res, olson) Is God Always In Control?

(res) What Is Narrative Theology? It is the "Grander Story of God and Creation"

(wright) N.T. Wright - How God Became King

(res, mcknight) Book Review: "How God Became King," by N.T. Wright

(wright) N.T. Wright asks: Have we gotten heaven all wrong?

(jwh) How God Became King: Putting Creed and Canon Back Together Again

(olson) The Kingdom of God as Premillennial

(mcknight) Misunderstanding "Kingdom"

(evans re mcknight) The Gospel as the Story of Jesus

(mcknight) Review: Matt Chandler's "Explicit Gospel" misses on many fronts...


Radical Theology

Kevin Corcoran's Critique of Derrida and Caputo


Covenantal Kingdom Theology

(ap) Translating the Apocalyptic Literature of Revelation: The Defeat of the Pagan Empire of Babylon

(ap) Translating the Apocalyptic Literature of Revelation: The Woman and the Dragon and the People of God

(ap) From Old Creation to New Creation - The Story of Redemption and Mankind

(ap) How Paul Saw the Future: The "Day of the Lord" For Saints and Sinners


Historic Premillenialism v. Rapture Theologies

(olson, res) Leaving Behind "Left Behind"

(res) Of Blood Moons & Prophecy: "What Kind of God Leaves People Behind?"

(res) Kingdom Theology (Stay & Work) vs. Rapture Theology (Wait & Leave)

Is "Left Behind" Really A Christian Movie? (podcast)

Why the Rapture isn’t Biblical… And Why it Matters

Debunking "Left Behind" Theology - Resources for Shaping A "Raptureless" Theology




Thy Will be Done



The Last Judgment








The Eschatological Unfolding of the Kingdom of God

 

The Kingdom of Christ our Lord
Jesus as the Midpoint of Redemptive History
Kingdom of God as Promise
Past, Present, and Future
An Old Schema of Kingdom
(Old Dispensational Chart by Clarence Larkin)



An Old/New Schema of the Church
as an Eschatological Community




Translating the Apocalyptic Literature of Revelation: The Defeat of the Pagan Empire of Babylon

Revelation, the Book of, and the defeat of pagan empire
 
by Andrew Perriman
May 18, 2012
 
We had a very interesting session on the Book of Revelation in Harlesden last Tuesday evening. The big hermeneutical question it raised, in my view, is whether we live in the story it tells or after the story it tells. Barney suggested that we live in it and compared its complex allusive discourse cleverly and engagingly to the Meatrix. In many respects the analogy works well: it certainly helps us to understand the coded nature of the Book of Revelation better. But there is a critical point, I think, at which the analogy breaks down. Factory farming is a contemporary issue for us. Is that true of the issues addressed in the Book of Revelation? I don’t think so. We live in the Meatrix allegory. We do not live in the main story of that is being told in largely Revelation. We live after it, and have to learn from it, in rather different ways.
 
So what is the main story that is being told here? One way to make sense of the Book of Revelation is to see it as a rampant extemporization on the judgment scene in Daniel 7, in a heightened apocalyptic key. It has the same sort of meaning and frame of reference as Daniel 7, but Daniel’s motif has been gloriously elaborated upon, richly embroidered, with evocative, elusive snatches of melodies from other Old Testament compositions, and perhaps from more obscure Jewish pieces, woven into it. What follows is based on the two chapters on Revelation in my book The Coming of the Son of Man. It is no more than an outline. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered and a lot of answers unquestioned. That can’t be helped.
 
The defeat of pagan empire in Daniel 7
 
Daniel 7 is a critical Old Testament text for interpretation of the New Testament. It is not a difficult passage to understand—at least, not if we take its historical setting seriously. The four symbolic beasts which emerge from the sea of chaos are four successive empires. The fourth beast is especially vicious and destructive. For Daniel it represents the Hellenistic empire of Alexander the Great, and the little horn which appears among ten others on the beast’s head is the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes, whose violent campaign to suppress Jewish worship and identity in the second century BC led to the Maccabean revolt. This context can be readily demonstrated from later chapters of the book.
 
The little horn, shrieking its outrageous blasphemies, makes war against the saints of the Most High, but thrones are set up on the earth and judgment is passed. The fourth beast is destroyed, and the faithful saints of the Most High, represented in Daniel’s vision as a figure in human rather than beastly form—”one like a son of man”—are brought before the throne of God. They are given authority to rule over the nations. As Tom Wright says in How God Became King:
 
This is not… simply about the rescue, or salvation, of God’s people from their present plight. It is about their being rescued in order to be enthroned. (192)
 
This is what I have been saying all along. The Bible is not primarily about salvation. It is primarily about kingdom. But Israel could not get to kingdom other than by a narrow and difficult way of salvation.
 
Daniel’s story of faithfulness, suffering, judgment, eventual vindication, and the defeat of empire is retold in the New Testament. It is retold by Jesus with particular reference to God’s judgment against Jerusalem. In the later chapters of Daniel it becomes apparent that the crisis provoked by Antiochus Epiphanes caused a division in Israel between the apostate and the faithful. Jesus’ disciples were to be vindicated, therefore, by the catastrophe of AD 70. The same story is retold by Paul in order to encourage the churches in the Greek-Roman world as they encountered sometimes violent opposition from paganism. John tells both stories in Revelation: [of Israel's demise (Jesus) and of the church's persecution (Paul)].
 
Chapter 1: John’s vision of Jesus as “one like a son of man”
 
The importance of Daniel’s motif for the Book of Revelation is immediately apparent from the description of Jesus as “one like a son of man”, the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” in Revelation 1. Jesus suffered, died, overcame death and was vindicated first, and therefore holds the “keys of Death and Hades” (1:18). John identifies himself as one who shares with his readers “in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus” (1:9). He reassures them that Jesus is “coming with the clouds”, and that as a result both Jews and Gentiles will “see” that God has given “kingdom”—the right to judge and rule—to his Son Jesus Christ (1:7). That is, they are participating directly in the suffering and vindication of the Son of Man who represents them.
 
Chapters 2-3: Letters to struggling communities of the Son of Man
 
The letters to the seven churches (Rev. 2-3) are an exhortation to communities that are having in different ways to go through “tribulation” to remain faithful in the hope of finally conquering or overcoming death, just as Jesus overcame death. Those who do “conquer” will share in the vindication and rule of Jesus as Son of Man: they will eat of the tree of life, they will not be hurt by the second death, they will rule over the nations, and they will sit with Christ on his throne. So the relation between Jesus and the churches to which he dictates these letters corresponds to the relation between the symbolic “son of man” figure and the saints of the Most High against whom the little horn makes war in Daniel 7.
 
Chapters 4-5: Only Jesus is worthy to open the scroll of divine judgment
 
In chapters 4-5 we have, first, a vision of the worship of God in heaven. In the right hand of the God who “created all things” is a scroll, sealed with seven seals, and an angel proclaims loudly, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” At first no one is found who is worthy, and John weeps because his own fate at this time of tribulation is bound up with the opening of the scroll. But then we learn that Jesus is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll because by his death he “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”, who will come to “reign on the earth”.
 
Chapters 6-9: The opening of the seals sets the stage for the coming judgment against Israel
 
As the seals on the scroll are opened the conditions for judgment against Israel are set in place: the four horsemen of judgment are unleashed, the righteous Jewish dead are assured of eventual vindication, righteous Jews in Judea are sealed against the coming destruction, the multinational church that will emerge from this period of tribulation praises God for his salvation. The opening of the final seal introduces half an hour of calm before storm. The prayers of the persecuted saints for vindication are about to be answered. The seven trumpets in chapter 9 present in symbolic Old Testament language the coming of the armies of Rome as the means by which God will judge his unjust, immoral and idolatrous people.
 
Chapters 10-14: Jesus as “Son of Man” will judge the nations
 
The opened scroll is now given to John as the period of judgment against Jerusalem gets under way, and he is told that he “must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings” (10:11). What he will say, essentially, is that the pagan power which destroys the land of Israel will also be destroyed by God (11:18). The allegory of Revelation 12-13 narrates the beginning of the conflict between the Jewish-Christian community in Judea and churches of the Greek-Roman world and the destructive and blasphemous beasts that represented hostile pagan imperialism.
 
The narrative of judgment against Rome begins, however, with a vision of the faithful martyrs who have overcome the beast and who, therefore, stand alongside the Lamb as “firstfruits for God and the Lamb”. Three angels then proclaim the coming judgment against “Babylon the great”, the city which has corrupted the nations of the earth with the “wine of the passion of her sexual immorality” (14:8); and in view of the coming eschatological turmoil John calls for the “endurance of the saints” (14:12). We are then explicitly reminded again of the connection with Daniel 7:
 
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped. (14:14-16)
 
Chapters 15-19: Beastly Rome is destroyed and kingdom is given to the martyrs
 
Jesus has not only proved himself worthy to open the scrolls of judgment against Israel; he has also been given authority as the “one like a son of man” to judge the nations. The seven plagues then depict, again in fitting Old Testament language, the coming judgment against both the beast of aggressive Roman imperialism and the prostitute of Rome’s debased culture, culminating in the exultant declarations of God’s victory over the supreme enemy of his people in Revelation 18-19. At this point the satanic power behind Rome is confined to the abyss. The martyrs are raised to life and reign with Christ throughout the coming ages. The kingdom of God and of his Christ has finally come.
 
Chapters 20-22: And last but not least…
 
John is not greatly interested in what happens in the history of the world—in the thousand years—following the overthrow of pagan Rome. But it is important to him that the immediate historical crisis faced by the churches is set in the larger context of the renewal of all things. Israel’s God will have the last word. There will be a final judgment. All that is evil and immoral will be thrown into the lake of fire, which is an image of final destruction, not of eternal conscious torment; and God will dwell in the midst of his new creation.
 
 
 

Translating the Apocalyptic Literature of Revelation: The Woman and the Dragon and the People of God

The woman and the dragon
 
by Andrew Perriman
November 6, 2013
 
Preparing some lectures on Revelation, I came across Ian Paul’s very helpful introduction to the book in Exploring the New Testament: Letters and Revelation v. 2. With Revelation, probably more than with any other New Testament text, it is difficult to deal with its meaning apart from its form. How we understand its literary character—as some sort of apocalyptic text—inevitably determines how we make sense of what it has to say about the future of God’s people.
 
The point can be illustrated nicely from the visionary allegory of the woman and the dragon in Revelation 12. Ian highlights the significance of both the mythological and the Old Testament backgrounds for interpreting the passage. I want to explore this a bit further here, not least because it lends support to my general contention that the New Testament is fundamentally about how the God of Israel comes to judge and rule the nations, not in some abstract theological sense but [as it occurs] in history.
 
“The Great Gig in the Sky”
 
A woman appears in heaven. She is pregnant, crying out in the agony of giving birth. A red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems on its heads, stands before her, waiting to devour the child. A boy is born—“one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”—but is caught up to the throne of God. The woman flees into the wilderness. The dragon is cast down from heaven by Michael and his angels. The achievement of those who “have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” is celebrated—the “kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ”. But it means trouble for people on earth, “for the devil has come down to you in great wrath”.

Woodcut from Luther Bible 1534

On earth the dragon pursues the woman, but she is given the wings of a great eagle so that she can escape into the wilderness to be “nourished for a time, and times, and half a time”. The dragon attempts to sweep her away in a flood, but the earth swallows up the flood. This enrages the dragon, which goes off “to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus”. It stands on the sand of the sea, from which a beast “with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on it heads” is about to emerge.
 
The story prefigured in the Old Testament
 
Much of the substance of the story comes from the Old Testament, and we arrive at a good approximation of its meaning simply by stringing these texts together.
 
1. Jerusalem is pictured by the prophets as a woman in labour:
 
Before she was in labour she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she delivered a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labour she brought forth her children. (Is. 66:7–8)
 
Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour (Jerusalem in exile) has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. (Mic. 5:3)
 
2. The pagan empire that makes war against Israel is drawn as a devouring dragon or a destructive, blasphemous multi-headed beast:
 
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has devoured me (Jerusalem); he has apportioned me; he has seized me, a slim vessel; he has swallowed me like a dragon... (Jer. 28:34 LXX = 51:34)
 
Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast…, and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. (Dan. 7:19–22)
 
3. The king is YHWH’s son, who is given the nations as his heritage to rule with a rod of iron:
 
I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Ps. 2:7–9)
 
4. The angel Michael will fight on behalf of Israel at a time of extreme political-religious crisis:
 
At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. (Dan. 12:1)
 
5. God saves his people from the pagan oppressor by bearing them into the wilderness on eagles’ wings:
 
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. (Ex. 19:4)
 
The [Old Testament] already gives us an outline interpretation of Revelation 12. At a time of severe political-religious crisis a righteous Jewish community in Jerusalem painfully gives birth to a Son, who is immediately caught up to the throne of God. This “birth” is not the incarnation of Jesus but his resurrection. The king is “begotten” on the day that he is given the nations as his heritage, eventually to judge and rule over them (cf. Ps. 2:7-9). The community then comes under attack from the aggressive pagan empire but gains victory over it “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11). The realistic victory of the persecuted Jewish-Christian community over Rome is prefigured in heaven by the defeat of the dragon by Michael—the “great prince who has charge of your people”. Such a political-religious event - [some say, Constatine's Ottoman Empire; other's say all the ages of man where Jesus is worshipped as Savior and Lord, R.E. Slater] - not the final renewal of all things—is the coming of the kingdom of God (Rev. 12:10).
 
The [Greek] Python myth
 
The shape of the story, however, appears to reflect a type of “combat myth” that is evidenced widely in the ancient world. David Aune writes:
 
The legendary narrative pattern of a combat between a hero and his adversary or the mythic narrative pattern of a primordial cosmic struggle between two divine beings and their allies for sovereignty was widespread throughout the ancient world. In mythical combats the antagonist is often depicted as a monster, serpent, or dragon; the protagonist typically represents "order and fertility," while the antagonist represents "chaos and sterility".1

The serpent Python is killed by Apollo

Perhaps the closest parallel to Revelation 12 is the version of the Python myth found in the Fabulae of the 1st century AD Latin writer Hyginus. A dragon known for issuing oracles is threatened by the birth of a divine child. He pursues the woman in a remote region, but she is carried off by a god to an island, which disappears beneath the waves. The woman gives birth to Apollo, who quickly kills Python. It is commonly understood as a mythical account of how Apollo took control of the oracle at Delphi. This translation comes from Ian Paul’s very helpful chapter on Revelation in Exploring the New Testament: Letters and Revelation, v. 2:
 
Python, son of Terra, was a huge dragon. He was accustomed to giving oracles on Mount Parnassus before the time of Apollo. He was informed by an oracle that he would be destroyed by the offspring of Leto. At that time Zeus was living with Leto. When [Zeus’ wife] Hera learned of this, she decreed that Leto should give birth at a place where the sun does not reach. When Python perceived that Leto was pregnant by Zeus, he began to pursue (her) in order to kill her. But, by order of Zeus, the North Wind (Aquilo) lifted Leto up and carried her to Poseidon; Poseidon[(Zeus' brother)] protected her, but in order not to rescind Hera’s decree, he carried her to the island Ortygia and covered the island with waves.
 
When Python did not find Leto, he returned to Parnassus. But Poseidon returned the island Ortygia to the upper region, and it was later called the island of Delos. There, holding on to an olive tree, Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis, to whom Hephaestus gave arrows as a gift. Four days after they were born, Apollo avenged his mother. He went to Parnassus and killed Python with arrows.2
 
Refracted light
 
What we appear to have, then, in literary terms, is a reconstructed Old Testament narrative about Israel, empire, and the future rule of YHWH’s king, refracted through the prism of the Python myth [(or, around the general idea of an apocalyptic story, in its general construction, and socio-political implications at that time, rather than its more usual reconstruction as a "one-for-one corollary" with concrete historical events by modern evangelists - RE Slater)]. This is how John transposes the biblical argument into a form that more directly challenges, if not specifically the ideology of emperor worship, then certainly the power of Rome as a political-religious force violently opposed to the people of God. His brightly coloured dragon myth expresses the conviction of the persecuted churches that the God of Israel would sooner or later take control of the empire.
 
 
Footnotes
 
1. D.E. Aune, Revelation 6–16 (WBC 52B, 1998), 667.
2. Translation from M. Grant, The Myths of Hyginus (1960).