Last spring, I participated in a study of Revelation. Increasingly, I find it hard to believe that we are to take the writings literally. In particular, I am not convinced that somehow all “true” Christians are going to be taken away from the earth so God can rain His wrath on all of creation, punishing the unbelievers.
As the conservative, evangelical church teaches it, all of the people who are genuine Christians (usually defined by a pretty narrow standard) will escape the fire and brimstone by virtue of our faith. There will be no believers left on earth. Somehow, though, a new wave of Christians will rise up. Now, here’s the thing. If I had just witnessed the disappearance of my loved ones, I might at first think there was something to this whole rapture thing. I just might start reading my Bible. But when people, plants, and animals started dying, disease became rampant, the water turned foul, and the earth was plagued by war, famine, and insects, I’m not sure I’d want to associate myself with God anymore.
Not only that, I find it somewhat difficult to align what we know of God through the Jesus of the Gospels (see John 14:9) with the vengeful God of popular interpretation of Revelation. Where is the deep, passionate love; the gentle compassion; the mercy and grace? Why would such a God command eternal, conscious torment for the simple crime of unbelief? Does anyone seriously believe that all non-Christians are just black holes of moral decrepitude, deserving of punishment ONLY because they never said the magic words asking Jesus into their hearts? I find that not only hard to swallow but distasteful as well.
So instead of trying to find ways to make Revelation fit a rather narrow interpretation, why not read it with fresh eyes and see where it leads us. Why not take it metaphorically, perhaps as a vision of the eternal struggle between good and evil, or a picture of the spiritual battle raging as Jesus gave his life on the cross?