Theology of Revelation: A Proposal

I’d like to start off with the declaration that today is my birthday. Yes, happy birthday to me. Anyways, let’s get to work.

Today I’d like to propose a theology of Revelation from the Book of the Revelation to St. John of Patmos.

I’d like to say that what John says about the Lamb opening the scroll is not just a Christology, but a theology of revelation. That if we want to begin to understand the New Testament’s vision of what unveiling looks like, we have to begin with apocalyptic literature. It is this literature that is itself a Revelation, an unveiling, and this book’s theology has a lot to teach us about the nature of Revelation and can shape a biblical theology of Revelation.

I have a few proposals to make. I’ll keep it brief since it is my birthday afterall.

1. A biblical theology of revelation begins with the lamb who was slain who was found worthy to open the scroll. The whole of NT apocalyptic is shaped in and through the event of the lamb of God and his power to unveil God to us.

What we say of God we receive from Him who was found worthy to open the scroll. If it does not come to us from Him, it is not from God. What the Son reveals to us is the Father, and a theology of revelation not founded in the Son will miss the point. What is unveiled to us is fully unveiled by the love of the Son for the Father, a love that loves unto the point of death and beyond it.

2. Theology of Revelation need not justify itself completely to natural reason or even attempt such a project even though it must be intelligible.

There is no appeal to “natural” reason in von Balthasar’s work. While he uses logic, he does not appeal to the intellect, even his most rational arguments appeal to humanity’s recognition of and desire for Love. For Von Balthasar, the preaching and embodiment of a particular form of love, that is, the love of the Son for the Father, appears to be more fundamental and persuasive than any form of natural reason. I’d have to agree with him.

3. When it comes to apologetics, the defense that the moral vision of the NT seems to provide is a living apologetic, being a  people characterized by a certain common life of virtue is far more revealing than appeals to natural reason, though those appeals may be made.

This is what Von Balthasar calls the Christ-form, taking shape among us. The Church provides its own apologetic through her existence as a communtiy formed by the shape of Christ, so that Christ’s taking form among them is an icon of the love of the Son for the Father.

4. The appeals to natural reason that we make are to show the world apocalyptically that the powers that be are not actually the governors of things. Our appeals to apologia should be prophetic, apocalyptically unveiling that things are not as they have seemed.

I think a theology of Revelation is political, in that it deals with the world at large and the theme of kingship of the world. It’s not just about having logical proofs or propositional truth, but about unveiling the corruption of the powers, and deligitimizing their power structures through our witness. When we appeal to natural reason it cannot be so that reason still stands outside the arena of faith, but should be an appeal to see the corruption of the created order and the way in which that order is being set to rights by the life and career of this man Jesus.

What I mean here is, when we embody the love Von Balthasar urges us towards it will be subversive of ordinary power structures, it will incite a revolution of sight, it will be an unveiling that love is possible. This apologetic is naturally not just for the life of the church as She relates to individuals seeking Truth, but is her public life, and a challenge to the powers that be. The right worship, a life lived as worship cannot help but be political, cannot help but challenge the powers. The liturgy is a threat to the empire, pagan Rome realized this. If only we would do the same.

Well, that’s all I have to say for today, I’m gonna enjoy the rest of my birthday.

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