Revelation speaks to the reality that we are caught in the fray of cosmic conflict. We are guilty. We've already been contaminated. But it's not too late for us to exit empire and enter the kingdom. We are yet both victim and victimizer. We have healing work to do, and we must take responsibility for the ways in which we have benefited from and been complicit with the religion of empire.
This is the truth of Revelation. God wants to liberate us in body, heart, soul, and mind. We need rescue, and the way we read Revelation determines how we define ourselves and our communities in relation to empire and in resistance to it. Reading Revelation as Western Christians have over the past 150 years, as a book predicting the end of the world, leads us away from the book's original intention. Let's start over:
- Revelation reveals how scapegoating functions within empire to define its own boundaries and contours as being over and against wicked others.
- Revelation critiques wealth and shows that even in the first century there was prophetic critique against an economic system that was based on abundance for some, while exploiting the rest.
- Revelation demonstrates the importance of liturgy as something that forms people into the likeness of either empire or the lamb.
- Revelation reveals an alternative social order which becomes the center of resistance rooted in a vision of what the book describes as "the multitude."
May your hearts and imaginations be revived, made more resilient and ever more focused on the needs of the world that surrounds us. Let us stop at nothing to make space for others and amplify the voices of those who the powers and principalities wish to silence. And in the end, may you find that you have already, always, been on the inside of the multitude, surrounding the lamb of God.
About the Author
C. Wess Daniels earned a PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. His areas of interest are church renewal, missiology, participatory culture, contextual theology, and the Quaker tradition. He has been the released minister (pastor) at Camas Friends Church, a Quaker meeting in Camas, WA since 2009. Wess has travelled and taught widely among Friends, including courses at George Fox Seminary and Earlham School of Religion. He served as a co-editor for the publication Spirit Rising: Young Quaker Voices, a book that brought together Young Adult Friends from seventeen countries and the many branches of Friends. Other publications include: Convergent Friends: The Emergence of Postmodern Quakerism (2010) in Quaker Studies, A Faithful Betrayal: The New Quakers (2010) in Quaker Life, and I (Hope) I see Dead People (2012) in Friends Journal. He enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids.
The book of Revelation, according to C. Wess Daniels, is a resistance text for "Angelic Trouble-makers," who must learn how to remix, understand how scapegoating functions, recognize the shaping and forming powers of liturgy, and discover the composition of the multitude.... I pastor a people who have historically been pushed to the periphery of all existence, even ontologically declared as non-human or three-fifths human. Therefore, to read the "multitude is a beautiful tapestry woven together of all humanity, with those who were lynched, those who were oppressed and victimized, at the center with the lamb. This centering of the victims and marginalized is something that is too often missed within western, white, middle-class Christianity today," makes my soul happy. This prophetic claim of Daniels places Black people at the heart of God.
-Rev. Darryl Aaron
No other book has been as consistently and wildly misread as has John of Patmos's visionary narrative. And yet, at the same time, no biblical book carries as much passionate power and imagery aimed at inspiring Jesus-followers to "come out" of the place of imperial violence and domination and to dwell instead in the light- and love-filled realm of God. C. Wess Daniels masterfully and clearly lays out a series of reading strategies and perspectives culled from the best of recent scholarship to invite readers into engagement with John's vision. If you've been drawn to study Revelation but have been stymied as to where or how to start, you can trust Wess's step-by-step guidance to lead you into the depth and breadth of this unique narrative.