New: No more tears

by | Mar 17, 2024

A blogger was stealing content from author Vanessa Van Edwards and posting her work on their own blog. “I wanted to rain farts upon his brand,” she writes, “I wanted retribution.”

Regardless of whether the offense is stealing our ideas or scratching the door of our truck in the parking lot, most of us have empathy for Vanessa. Most of us know the taste and satisfaction of wanting retribution.

In Venessa’s case, she chose not to act on her desire for revenge. Instead, she researched what was behind the powerful emotions she felt and published an article titled “The Psychology of Revenge: Why It’s Secretly Rewarding.” And then thanked the thief for motivating her.

The desire for revenge by inflicting hurt on the perpetrator of an offense is about as human as it gets. Marvel makes millions on helping us do so through fantasy rather than taking up arms. Instead of choosing violence, we can read about a superhero that takes care of the bad guys for us.

Revelation has a lot in common with this popular storytelling genre.

In this week’s reading assignment from our companion book, Pastor Jeremy Duncan takes us through the second cycle of prophecy. And introduces us to three critical methods of interpreting sacred text. For Revelation, the goal of all approaches is interpreting metaphors, unless you really believe that God’s plan includes actual monsters. More likely, each monster is a stand-in for something more subtle and deadly.

One of the more often used techniques looks at history. In this approach, the reader assigns localized and time bound meaning to the imagery of Revelation. In the historical approach, as each trumpet sounds, a past reality is unveiled. And the enemies of Israel are undone by divine retribution.

In his best-selling book, Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, shares the Roman Empire collected taxes from up to 100 million subjects. The taxes were used to finance a standing army boasting from 250 to 500 Thousand soldiers. Unfortunately, since Christians were unwilling to yield to a dictator’s need for affirmation, they were often targets for retribution.

More popular for unraveling Revelation, however, interpreters look to the future, equating Revelation’s imagery with current events leading up to a future outcome. Instead of Rome and Babylon, futurists imagine nations yielding deadly force against their homeland and ideals.

In both cases, the action described as each of the seven trumpets’ sound satisfy a basic human desire for retribution. We’re able to read Revelation like a Marvel Comic Book while imagining revenge against our enemies.

But notice that after the sixth trumpet sounds, the action stops. Also, whether tying the imagery to either historical or future events, the final trumpet must await the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple for a third time. This may take a while since the current site is occupied by the Dome of the Rock, an Islam holy place.

Duncan suggests using a literary approach to understanding Revelation. After all, Revelation is a beautifully written literary composition. And treating it as such doesn’t diminish its importance. Instead, connecting the imagery with God’s revelation through Jesus Christ opens our imagination to the truth about violent retribution.

There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared.
Revelation 21:1-5

The trumpets appear after opening the seventh seal. One by one, the sound of the trumpets brings mayhem, chaos and violent destruction. But after the sixth trumpet, we’re told of an intermission.

John is told to eat a scroll with a sweet taste but sour afterwards. Now what tastes sweet but creates regret afterwards?

Research into how harm and retribution affect us discovered that revenge has the opposite effect from what we expect. Instead of punishing the offender and leaving us satisfied, revenge prolongs our pain and delays recovery.

Wait! Is this where Revelation takes us? We cheer God’s punishment for those we believe deserve divine wrath. We equate the butt-whipping to our enemies and applaud John’s affirmation of what we want to believe.

And then, the tables turn. “Once again,” John is told, “You must proclaim God’s message about many nations, races, languages, and kings.”

Our text for this week’s message comes near the end of Revelation. “There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain,” God says. “The old things have disappeared.” Gone is violence. Revenge vanishes! But the earth continues with God living among us.

Just as God said!

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Pastor Tommy


Parts of our series was inspired by Jeremy Duncan. Upside-Down Apocalypse:grounding revelation in the gospel of peace. Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2022.

Vanessa Van Edwards. “The Psychology of Revenge: Why It’s Secretly Rewarding.” © Vanessa Van Edwards, 2024. Retrieved from: link

Yuval Noah Harari. Sapiens (A Brief History). New York: HarperCollins, 2015.

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