‘Apocalyptic’ is a literary genre to itself. Its distinctive characteristics, motifs and perspective must be interpreted AS apocalyptic. Daniel has apocalyptic passages. Sun and moon darkened, earth shaking, creation unmade etc. are also apocalyptic themes [Is 13:10; Ezek 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; Amos 8:9; Mic 3:6; Mt 24:29; Ac 2:20; Re 8:12, 9:2, etc.].
RB notes that Revelation is an apocalyptic work in many respects. But he focuses on two main points.
John wrote seven churches Asiatic churches in concrete, historical situations, and gave them a transcendent perspective on the world.
John enables churches to see God’s purpose for their specific situations, and bring a kingdom-appropriate response. That’s the point of Re 4-5.
God transported John by this vision into his throne room. There, he saw God’s take on the world. He saw behind-the-scenes glimpses which give him understanding/meaning to world events in every time and place.
One immediate result is to break the boundaries of Roman power and ideology. Believers in the seven churches could then see the transcendent greater purposes of God at work in the world. And so can we!
John’s intent is NOT to give esoteric knowledge the future, but to let us see the here-and-now very differently, as through God’s eyes.
Revelation ISN’T about seeing a DIFFERENT world; it is about seeing our OWN world very differently IN WHATEVER TIME OR PLACE we live.
John intends for the churches to see and respond very differently to the dominant, Roman imperial view of the world and all that said view entailed. RB writes: ‘Revelation counters that false view of reality…’
[I think that once this is grasped, it has explosive potential to revolutionize the church and its role in the world. Ex: rather than bemoaning social conditions as ‘signs of the times,’ preachers can say that current social distress are judgment on the world: because whenever nations war, poverty reigns, social calamity befalls us and death tolls rise, it means that the four horsemen bestride us. And we can point to our political parties and say together, they have four policies — War, Famine, Pestilence and Death. So why should we follow any of them?].
[Ironically, this actually makes the Revelation FAR more accessible to and relevant to believers than what we’ve been told.].
Who Is Lord
As soon as you touch on the boundaries of power, the question arises, ‘who is Lord over all the world.’
RB notes that Jewish apocalypses [books of Enoch, Abraham, etc.] were concerned with unfulfilled promises, judgment on evil, the salvation of the righteous, and God’s rule over the world. Other apocalyptic themes include the suffering righteous, flourishing righteous, and the rule of the world — not by God, but by evil.
He continues saying that apocalyptist bolster the faith of the righteous against the oppression of evil, political power. But it is characteristic also for the apocalyptic worldview to insist that ‘despite appearances, it is God who rules his creation,’ and that ‘the time is coming soon when he will overthrow the evil empires and establish his kingdom.’
RB’s take on Revelation is that God’s rule over the world is contradicted by the rule of Caesar, whose rule [in any time or place, and by any name] hijacks the rule of God to itself. So apocalyptic seeks to demonstrate that God, not Caesar [under any administration, by any name, in any time or place] is in fact, ‘Lord.’
While irrelevant to the study of Revelation [or Bauckham’s book], it may help those grappling with a Fundie past to think of Fundamentalism as an apocalyptic sect. It certainly evidences very similar traits.
But more, this reading of Revelation gives Christians very serious reason to consider who/what they call ‘Lord.’ Certainly, the correct answer in the theological sense is to say, ‘Jesus is Lord.’ The problem is, John is intent on challenging our relations with the world. Many of us may stand in need of repentance. Your IFB pastor/university/ministry included.