Revelation for preachers (or ordinary readers)

He referred to this image (the first to come up when he searched for “apocalyptic”) which ironically couldn’t be more wrong :)

One of my ex-bosses (Paul Windsor) has a superb post on preaching from revelation. Understandably he overlaps a lot with Laurie’s book. But for a really short guide to making sense of Revelation (surely one of the most “difficult”, and most abused, books in the Bible) this post is great stuff.

For my attempts at making sense of Revelation try these podcasts.

8 comments on “Revelation for preachers (or ordinary readers)

  1. Lucas Dawn

    I think the image above of the fallen city does capture the judgment of “Babylon” described in Rev. 17-18. Of course the main image of the great city before its final fall is that of a rich harlot, beautiful to behold. The image of its final judgment serves to warn churches that are too comfortable seeking the wealth of the city; five of the seven churches are warned to repent because they are starstruck with the enticements of the great city.

    1. tim

      Yes, Lucas, I agree. It “gets” well the message of part of the book. Paul’s point, as I understood it was that it does not reflect the message of the book as a whole, but that it captures what people seem to assume the book is all about. Images of destruction, plague and war are so frequent (indeed) in Revelation that people assume that is what the book is “saying”, rather it’s about hope :)

  2. Lucas Dawn

    Certainly hope is important in Revelation–for those who “conquer.” Yet what Jesus is “saying” to most of the churches is that they need to repent or they have no hope; only those who conquer the idolatry and immorality of their tempting world receive the promises. So the image of the fallen city in the end includes the message to “come out of her,” so they don’t share her fate. Thus the main message is one of warning for churches.

  3. tim

    I’d certainly be nearer your reading than Paul’s, more aware of the warnings in the “letters to the seven churches” that you give as example. I also suspect that this may be the more appropriate focus in reading from the West. For my friends though who read from places more like John’s audience did I think hope is the core… and we all read from such places in some ways…

  4. Ralf Wachinger

    I’m writing from Germany. This image arouses in me associations with war, destruction, death, revelation, church, rebuilding, and resurrection.

    Why? The church in the parish, where I live, was destroyed in 1945 in a horrible air-raid; apart from remains of the nave, only the steeple remained. In the commemorative publication on the occasion of the rebuilding of the church in 1957 was written (I translate): “The steeple of the Christuskirche shall us always remind of the old Christuskirche, and of the dreadful time, which weighed upon our city Nürnberg.” — the steeple stands nowadays separately beside the new church, and it is a landmark of our quarter of the city.

    Within the church, instead of a cross, a brass sculpture of the risen Christ (framed by 7 golden lampstands and 7 golden stars) is fixed to the front wall above. The sculpture is designed after the Book of Revelation 1:12 ff. In the time after World War II under the lasting impression of the destruction, often motifs from the Apocalypse, the Revelation, were chosen for the artistic design of churches.

    The altar, too, is designed artistically: It’s a steel plate, which is suspended from the high ceiling by 4 cables, and which hovers in the air, so to speak. It symbolizes the connection to heaven.

    Considering World War I and II, the Nazi era, the entire period between 1914 and 1945, I come to the conclusion that heaven and hell is on earth, and mankind is choosing light or darkness, truth or error.

  5. Lucas Dawn

    Other “places” than the West are the poorer, less comfortable places? Such a place was where John himself was, on Patmos, but on account of the word of God and witness of Jesus. And two of the seven churches have “tribulation,” including poverty and powerlessness, but especially because they share their witness where a “synagogue of Satan” is, and thus suffer persecution for their witness. As for the other five churches, their place is closer to “the West”: they are more well-off and comfortable, flourishing in their cities and wandering after “appealing” prophets and powerful messiahs, and suffering no tribulation because of their “witness.” So John’s main audience is more “Western.”

    1. tim

      Lucas, I entirely agree that warning is a message within the book, and one that is particularly important for comfortable Christians, I don’t think it is the overall message. Just think of the ending of the book – for endings are usually important for understanding ;)

      Ralf, such times and the reminders of them (for me it was visiting the new Coventry cathedral as a teenager, where the fine an powerful art of the new building did not quite match the stark message of the burnt cross in the ruin) certainly echo Revelation. We do here and now either align ourselves with the powers or anticipate/make somehow present/realise (i.e. make “real” = tangible) the promise. If, however you were suggesting that the here and now is “all you get” I am not as convinced, I think John offers his readers a hope beyond the here and now also.

  6. Ralf Wachinger


    I don’t suggest, that the here and now is “all you get”. I see it similar to the statements in the Gospel of Thomas (GTh), see my comment at — in other words: it’s not merely an issue of space and time, but also an issue of consciousness of “The All”, i.e. the network of God, the universe, and oneself (or collectively: humanity). It’s a matter, how ‘beyond’ is defined, and the GTh-logia reflect the different views in Christianity, from ancient times even up to now. I think, the Beyond is an active process of development like the mustard seed in GTh 20, which is sown, is still growing, and covers eventually the whole world.

    I call myself not a believer, not a knower, but a searcher in the sense of GTh 1 and 2. For me, the Book of Revelation is not the last book of the bible, which is an open book, in the way the Gospel of John says at the end. The Gospel of Thomas, the Odes of Solomon, the Gospel of Truth, and even the Dao-De-Jing, I have added in my thoughts — in other words: beyond the ‘four solas’.

    I’m asking myself, what the addressees in the Book of Revelation had thought and felt? Moreover: Can we really imagine this in the view of their different ‘Sitz im Leben’ compared to ours?

    This year, as I visited the region, where I grew up, I was sitting in the church, which I had last attended as a young person more than 30 years ago. I remember that I had felt uncomfortable at that time, seeing the big wooden cross with Jesus nailed to it. This year, the church looked old inside — actually and metaphorically. The cross is still the same, and the conventional stone altar, too. What a difference to the other church, I thought. The second part of GTh-logion 77 came into my mind: “Split the wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.” — comparing my impressions of the works of art here and there. The first part of GTh-logion 77 says: “I am the light that is above them all. I am the all: from me the all came forth, and to me the all attained.” — that’s the difference.

    In wars and pogroms, humans are able to destroy buildings — churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples around the world. But never they are able to destroy heaven. We need the art of making its light visible, when people are not able to see it because of all the dark clouds, which are hanging over their heads.