Revelation as Resistance Literature

Michael Gorman’s wonderful book on Revelation, Reading Revelation Responsibly, is a challenging and prophetic word to the American church, situated in the heart of a global empire and subject to the temptations of civil religion.

He regards Revelation as “anti-assimilationist, or anti-accommodationist, literature” (p. 24).  The Apocalypse of John calls the church to an ethic of resistance to the idolatrous corruptions of the prevailing culture.

Calling Revelation “resistance literature” is appropriate because one of the primary prophetic purposes of Revelation is to remind the church, both then and now, not to give in to the demands or practices of a system that is already judged by God and is about to come to its demise. But Revelation is not just a document that stands against something. Like all biblical prophecy, it promotes true worship of the one true God, expressed not merely in formal liturgy but also in faithful living, the practice of having no gods besides God. Put more positively, then, Revelation is a summons to first-commandment faithfulness, a call to faithful witness and worship in word and deed. In other words, its character as resistance literature is actually secondary to, and derivative of, its more fundamental character as worship literature, as a liturgical text (p. 25).

8 thoughts on “Revelation as Resistance Literature

  1. Peter

    Reading this book was so liberating for me,Tim. I had been brainwashed with Pentecostal end-time interpretation for decades. The book was a “revelation” to me, a real eye-opener.

    1. timgombis

      Glad to hear that, Peter. I loved his opening line, about the book being written for those confused by or afraid of Revelation. Very enlightening, indeed! Richard Bauckham’s smaller volume is also brilliant.

      1. Peter

        Ha! I think I was both of those. Ben Witherington’s little book on the end time is another gem.

  2. Betsy

    Thanks for this post! I actually am teaching Revelation as Scripture type (introducing the book of Revelation) tonight in Bible Study….I have pulled out my hermeneutics notes! I was going to recommend Gorman’s book to my students (adults)….do you think that’s a good recommendation for the introductory student? Would you recommend it for the average church member or would you recommend another? You had also recommended a book by Bauckham in Hermeneutics….Thanks again for any help!

    1. timgombis

      I highly recommend Gorman’s book. It’s thorough and very clearly written. He’s engaged the best works on Revelation, is in touch with the history of interpretation, works with the text, and is obviously an excellent teacher. Bauckham would be great to use for teaching prep, and Gorman would work wonderfully for students. Though if they worked through both, they’d have an excellent start in their study.

  3. Dean


    With you recent political leanings, have you ventured much into the political activist writing of Christians in the last century or so? This post really reminds me of some work done by Daniel Berrigan–Baker published his book No Gods But One not too long ago. His scholarship with regard to the Bible may go in some different directions from yours, but I think his insights are valuable, especially having been the subject of real, on the ground field research, so to speak. Your post on cruciformity also reminds me of Dorothy Day’s postures toward systems and ideas alike.

    Keep up the good work, brother! See you Sunday.

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