I've just read Nelson Kraybill's "Apocalypse and Allegiance" and have become fascinated by the idea of Revelation as a political manifesto concealed as apocalyptic literature in the style of Daniel.

Kryabill, however, has mostly made his case by connecting passages to historical events. Are there any supports within the book of Revelation itself that support this reading?

  • "By connecting passages to historical events," do you mean that he believes it all happened in the first century or that he believes Revelation has been being fulfilled over the course of history since?
    – Frank Luke
    Mar 7 '12 at 21:28
  • I haven't read his stuff. But if I understand your question... I read Revelation as the Rosetta Stone for the metaphoric prophecies of the Old Testament. In other words... not futuristic, but recapitulatory of the same story told in the sensus plenior of the Old Testament of Christ. If that is what you are looking for I have tons of evidence that it speaks of the current events surrounding the cross. Is it politicized? Not at all. The kingdom is not of this world.
    – Bob Jones
    May 28 '12 at 1:28
  • Well.. Revelation does address the circumstances surrounding the cross, written first for the contemporary ones. It describes a kingdom not of this world which is at war with this world, and a behavior to be adopted while its members are in the world. Their behavior is subversive, always recruiting others into the kingdom of God. I will need a couple chapters to document that. Is there a way to split it up if perhaps something like this is what you're looking for?
    – Bob Jones
    Jun 7 '12 at 21:52
  • @J.T. - just ordered the book on amazon. After I read it I may make a second attempt on an answer, Cheers.
    – Mike
    Jun 16 '12 at 3:17
  • I do not know if you are still around but I finally posted an answer. Thanks for leading me to this book it was very good.
    – Mike
    Jul 19 '12 at 3:24

I finally read this book to better understand the question. The political view that this book takes seems to be straight-forward, honest and difficult to deny. The basic idea that Nelson Kraybill presents is that John wrote the revelation during a period where there was relative peace between Christianity and the Roman Empire. However at this time in history Emperor worship had made it difficult to grow an economy (‘buy’ or ‘sell’) without committing fornication with Rome (‘going along with some kind of sacrificial meal in honor of the Emperor, or whatnot, in local professional guilds’). On the other hand the synagogue of Satan, refers to the growing hostility between the two camps (Jewish and Christian) both claiming to be the real Israel. In this political hotbed of undercurrent and the looming apocalyptic persecution of Christians, destruction of Jerusalem and then eventual destruction of Rome itself, is what the book traces.

The book does not try to explain each symbol in Revelation it just takes a broad stroke on the major elements, fitting them into this historical context and explains how the reader at the time would have ‘naturally’ perceived the icons and how that would lead to worship and allegiance to Christ, resisting the seeming infinite power of Rome.

First I would say, by the end of the book, I thought it was far better than any other I have read. I have not read a lot of history, but those portions which I have read, as well as the history in the Bible itself, made me sense a strong confidence in what the author was arguing. In addition he presents many pictures of coins with interesting images and icons and artifacts that seem to speak the truth themselves he is sketching.

With respect to the question, "Are there any intra-textual supports for this interpretation?", I would say a big YES. If we think of Revelation as a pure mystery that had no immediate meaning to its readers, we break away from the tradition of apocalyptic history in the Bible. As a whole many of what Christians consider as Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, on one hand predicted a local political event and then only by unrealistic exaggeration indicated a higher fulfillment to come.

I think we can take this book as a very good starting point for the first wave of fulfillment of the themes in Revelation and in many ways as history repeats itself, especially prophetic history, we can use that basis to have a better current application and future expectation.

  • Thanks Mike! A bounty is coming your way. On your recommendation, I've added Kraybill's work to my Amazon wishlist.
    – Jon Ericson
    Jul 19 '12 at 16:16
  • @JonEricson - Don't know if you got around to reading this but if you have thought you might like to know a large expanded and very well argued version in four volumes is here. I am reading this and am dumbfounded on how good some of the arguments are. But you have to start atnthe beggining and let him hook you in first, then he overwhelmes with unexpected additional proofs that just get plain incredible. I wish somebody tipped me on to this a long time ago: archive.org/details/horaeapocalypt01elli
    – Mike
    May 10 '13 at 15:43
  • @JonEricson (and anyone else watching) - I ran across this older Q&A, and have to add my favourite article on the theme of politics in the Apocalypse: Oliver O'Donovan, "The Political Thought of the Book of Revelation", Tyndale Bulletin 37 (1986): 61-94. It's in Kraybill's bibliography, but very much worth a read. (IMO) ;)
    – Dɑvïd
    Nov 17 '14 at 16:48

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