Believing Jesus to be someone who had a great deal of time for ordinary blokes and a good deal of contempt for overly religious people, esoteric beliefs have always been troubling. There seemed always a difficulty in trying to reconcile the down to earth teaching of the man from Galilee with the more outlandish passages of Scripture that are seized upon by some groups of people.
Talk of the final battle, Armageddon, in the book of Revelation always seemed at odds with the Jesus who preached the Sermon on the Mount. There are Christians who would point out that the place of the book of Revelation in the list of books that the early church regarded as having the status of holy scripture was a matter of contention even in the early church, but it’s there, and for a not insignificant number of people it is authoritative.
Sitting in an Austrian hotel room, where the only English language channel is CNN, the book of Revelation came to mind as reports of the political instability in Egypt filled every hour of broadcast time. A reporter spoke of there being the first manifestation he had seen in the current unrest of anti-American sentiment. The US Government is in a cleft stick: to defend istelf at home demands protecting Israel; protecting Israel includes ensuring there is no change in Egyptian foreign policy; defending the government responsible for that policy means courting unpopularity amongst diverse groups and nations.
But what about the book of Revelation? Where does it fit into the story? Revelation’s prophecy of Armageddon, the final battle in the valley of Megiddo in Israel, is believed by conservative Christians to be precipitated by an attack on Israel by its Arab neighbours, so, when they see the threat of a change in Egyptian policy, there will be many who believe the last day draws nigh. Ironically, US defence of Israel is preventing such an attack; those who believe the attack will bring end may be postponing the cataclysmic end to the affairs of the world.
Anyone wishing to understand one of the most powerful influences in the shaping of US foreign policy should read the twenty-two chapters of the book of Revelation. Powerful people read those pages seeing in them not something over which there is a theological question mark, but as a road map for the future of the world. Read Revelation and then tune into CNN – it’s a salutary experience.