The truth of the matter is that no one comes to the world from a neutral point of view. There is no objective account of reality. I remember listening to a sermon years ago at Annual Conference. Near the end of the message the preacher said to the congregation of delegates gathered, "Now, when you leave the church and go out into the real world..." Such a comment is a great theological misstep. It is the conviction of the Bible that the real world is not "out there." The world "out there" is a distortion of the true reality God has in mind for his creation. It is the church that is to glimpse that real world so the world will know what God expects of it. To be sure, the church so often falls short of reflecting that divine reality, but it is charged with doing so nonetheless. As Stanley Hauerwas states,
My claim, so offensive to some, that the first task of the church is to make the world the world, not to make the world more just, is a correlative of this theological metaphysics. The world simply cannot be narrated-- the world cannot have a story-- unless a people exist who make the world the world. That is an eschatological claim that presupposes we know there was a beginning only because we have seen the end ... [C]reation names God's continuing action, God's unrelenting desire for us to want to be loved by that love manifest in Christ's life, death, and resurrection (Hannah's Child, p. 158).Green reminds us that in his vision the author of Revelation is not located on an island in exile or in the middle of the Roman Empire, but, "[h]e stands in the heavens. He sees things from God's perspective, so he sees things as they really are" (p. 161)
As we read through the symbolism and the imagery, we are also transported into that realm that is beyond and yet interwoven with human reality that we might see all things earthly from a heavenly "point of view."--to see things as they really are. This is a most difficult thing, to be sure, but Revelation gives us a glimpse of the divine reality thus determining true reality because of our changed focus.
...through his [John's] narrative, he invites us to accompany him, so that we, too, see things as they really are. To do so, though, we need not only to travel with him to the throne room of God but also to allow our patterns of thinking, feeling, and believing to be dismantled and reassembled through binding ourselves to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who is worthy to receive honor, dominion, and power by means of his humiliating death" (p. 161).It must not be forgotten that in the Book of Revelation, John is not offering us a secret road map to discerning the signs of the end time, but rather he offers his vision from the perspective of a pastor who is encouraging his hearers to change the focus of their reality as churches under the thumb of an empire that pretends to offer security and salvation in exchange for complete and total allegiance. Their response to the world should not be focused on the empire's pretentious claims, but rather on the heavenly reality that is true on earth-- Jesus is Lord.
Reading Revelation as Wesleyans #1: Introduction