Moderate Christians sometimes argue that Jesus changed the violent message of the Old Testament God. But this argument ignores the New Testament portrayal of Jesus as the raging ruler of Revelation.
A prophet called John believed that Jesus appeared to him on the Greek island of Patmos, to show him what the end of the world would be like. Jesus had white hair and eyes like flames, a sharp two-edged sword came out of his mouth, he wore a golden sash over a full-length garment, his feet were like brass, he carried seven stars in his hand to represent seven angels, and he stood between seven golden candlesticks that represented seven churches in Turkey. Jesus dictated letters to the angels of each of these churches. These included some strong rebukes. He told the angel of one church that a woman called Jezebel had seduced his servants to fornicate, so he was going to kill her children with death.
After dictating these letters, Jesus brought John to Heaven through a door in the sky. God was sitting on a throne being worshipped by twenty four elders with gold crowns, and four beasts with six wings each. God had a book sealed with seven seals, and nobody was worthy enough to open it except Jesus, who now appeared as a lamb. Jesus took the book from God, and opened the first six seals. Four horsemen brought disasters to the earth, but 144,000 Israelites were saved. Jesus then opened the seventh seal, and seven angels brought more disasters to earth, with various beasts killing some people and torturing others but not letting them die.
The angels in Heaven then cast the Devil down to earth in the form of a dragon with seven heads and ten horns. The dragon attacked a pregnant woman, but the earth protected her. Then a beast arose from the sea, and the dragon gave the beast his power and authority. The number of the beast was 666. Seven more angels then poured seven golden vials of God’s wrath onto the earth, bringing seven more plagues. The seas and rivers turned to blood, people were scorched with fire, and giant hailstones fell from the sky. A woman, the whore of Babylon, was sitting on the back of the beast, and an angel destroyed the city of Babylon.
Jesus himself then went to war with the beast. Jesus was on a white horse, and his robe was soaked in blood. Jesus cast the beast and his false prophet into a lake of fire burning with brimstone, and killed the beast’s army using the sword that came out of his mouth. An angel then jailed the Devil in a bottomless pit for a thousand years, after which the Devil returned and deceived various nations. God cast those nations, the Devil, Hell and Death itself into the lake of burning brimstone for eternity. God then sent a new Jerusalem, made out of gold, from Heaven to earth, and the righteous lived there in peace for eternity. Finally, Jesus assured John that the time for all of these prophecies to happen was soon coming.
Jesus as the raging ruler of Revelation is inconvenient to moderate Christians, because he is just as vengeful and violent as was the Jewish Jehovah of the Old Testament. Even before he brought John to Heaven, Jesus was threatening to kill the innocent children of the prophetess Jezebel because of the sins of their mother, which is straight out of Old Testament morality.
Of course, this Jesus may have been just a vision that appeared to John on the island of Patmos, but he was either as real, or else as imaginary, as the Jesus that appeared in a vision to Paul on the road to Damascus. There is no valid reason to give either of these hallucinations any more or less credibility than the other.
And this Jesus was adamant that his message was not to be revised: before he left, he told John that God would curse anyone who either added to or removed any of his words. So there’s not much room there for cherry-picking the bits that sound nice.
5 thoughts on “Jesus the raging ruler of Revelation”
"…kill her children with death".
er, what else do you kill somebody with?
Revelations was obviously a bad trip by somebody 😉
Textual criticism reveals that much of the content of Revelation is likely derivative of earlier Jewish apocalyptic literature such as what was discovered among the DSS and from the book of Daniel. Study of artifacts from the Babylonians and Sumerians suggests that the former could claim its antecedents from much earlier works of earth-changing apocalyptic visions.
There is little evidence of an historical John at the island of Patmos. But even if he is historical, quite plausibly he was simply a redactor of earlier texts by juxtaposing the new archetype of a revised universal covenant, Jesus, to Christianize an old dualistic superstition.
So where's the issue? Jesus came the first time as "The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world" via His 'meek and mild' obedience to death on the cross for the sins of His Sheep! Next time He comes as "The Lion of Judah"; the "Messiah of Israel", and is to the world, "The King of kings and Lord of lords". All that He had shown John, while John was a prisoner of Rome on the Isle of Patmos in his last days of life, was what Jesus' 2nd Coming would be Like! He is nor coming again as a lowly 'sheep to be sacrificed' but as the Creator of Heaven & Earth!
Michael, you should try reading Geza Vermes: he's a very competent scholar, and has an interesting perspective: a former Catholic priest who returned to his Jewish roots. I am just reading "The Changing Faces of Jesus". He is very readable, enormously knowledgeable, and with his background he has fascinating insights into the Jewish background of early Christianity. Another good writer (who tends to produce big books) is Larry Hurtado (Lord Jesus Christ, One God One Lord). E P Sanders 'The Historical Figure of Jesus" and Paula Fredriksen's "From Jesus to Christ" are also good.