The #Bible’s New Testament: The Book of Revelations – The End is Near (The Bible’s Disaster Flick)

With the exception of perhaps the recent Sharknado, there isn’t a disaster movie Jared doesn’t love.  Maybe love is strong word, but when 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Dante’s Peak or Deep Impact airs, forget about it.  Instead of debating the merits of these “films,” I leave the room.  He can’t quite put his finger on what makes the utter destruction of New York City or the White House so appealing, but he will cop to the fact that there is something fun in the sheer campiness of these movies.

But of course he’s not alone, for these films make millions of dollars—perhaps there’s something cathartic in the world’s ability to simply hit reset?

I pass though—if I want to watch a disaster flick, I go for the unintentional ones, like Showgirls or Glitter—for to me there’s something exceedingly morbid about the annihilation of billions of people serving as entertainment, even if it’s in the service of some “message,” like: see how human beings rise to the challenge! See how an approaching tsunami the size of Texas brings out the hero in a chosen few!

Although I had a sense of what to expect—The Book of Revelations predicts the end of the world for all except a select few— I didn’t quite appreciate the Bible’s own disaster-flick book until I read it.  As such, this Bible book is a decidedly strange choice to end the New Testament, especially given its grim—and laughably implausible—content. In a book filled with hope (which tempers all the fire and brimstone), why end the Bible on such a dark note?

So what’s really included in this final book? John (no relation to the author of previous books), a prisoner in a hard-labor camp, has a series of visions.  Although the book has been analyzed for it supposedly having been written in code, it seems strange that there is no mention of someone questioning what brought on these crazy visions in the first place: perhaps a person emotionally and physically spent from enduring hard labor has a distorted perception of things? Where does one draw the line between crazy and “a vision”?

In any event, first, Jesus’ return is predicted, and when he arrives, he instructs the author to take some notes.  After sending out warnings to the churches in six areas, he breaks out the prophecies—and these are grim.

First there are the seven seals, which, when broken, welcome various destruction upon the earth, increasing in intensity. Then arrives the wonderfully-rounded number of 144,000, which speaks to the number of people who are to be guarded against this entire calamity. These people will apparently witness the breaking of the seventh seal, which will feature seven angels blowing seven trumpets, and at the sounding of each trumpet, more destruction involving (but not limited to) the sun, the moon, the stars, and a series of fractions: ½ the ships on the sea, 1/3 of the rivers turning bitter, 1/3 of the tress, etc. Then follows a woman and a dragon, a few beasts (one from the sea, one from the earth).  Next, seven angels with seven plagues are released from the Temple. Saving the best for last, God unleashes the seven bowls of his wrath.

With all of this destruction, you’d think the mood would be decidedly grim; however, the author wants everyone to rejoice! at God’s victory. Yet there’s some fuzzy math here.  Surely the number of God’s followers exceeds 144,000, so most of the believers will be killed. So why would they cheer?

But I guess if you have one of the 144,000 golden tickets, you’ll get to see the New Jerusalem descend from the sky, bringing with it a new way of life: no more death, no more pain (21:2). This utopia will even have no use for the sun, as there will be no more night, since God will illuminate the earth 24/7.  So basically this place sounds like a well-furnished and landscaped version of Alaska in June.

All of this joy seems a little odd. After all of their suffering for their faith, they should enjoy some pain-free existence; however, should people not feel some deep sadness over the utter destruction of everything they know, including family, friends, and neighbors who didn’t make the cut? I also found it hard to swallow that Jesus would be leading this charge—sure, one could argue that he’s merely keeping watch over the 144,000 saved people; however, given his love and compassion for people, I could not see him standing by to watch all of this go down.

My student version of the Bible mentions that a lot of readers reject this Bible book. But if it’s included, it’s part of it; and if you accept the Bible, you have to accept all of it, right? Although I see why people would turn away from this content, I don’t understand why it was canonized with the rest (because, as the Apocrypha demonstrates, a lot was cut). Perhaps the powers that be wanted something dark to lord over people’s heads. After all, if you can sell fear—look, only so many people will be saved—who wouldn’t want to do all they could to secure a spot.

Although a lot of people enjoy disaster flicks that show destruction on a grand scale, the enjoyable part is not just that you get to see how people rise to the occasion, but rather that you get to leave the theater, hoping something like what you saw will never happen. By ending the Bible with this book, there basically telling people that this is what they have and should look forward to. Where’s the hope in that?

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About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: http://goo.gl/yvT24K His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to 5Writer.com. On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: www.BibleProjectBlog.com Follow his work at: www.BradWindhauser.com VirgoWriter@gmail.com
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