I was reading Koester’s brief commentary on Revelation this morning and, again, I came across a passage that accurately describes the nation and culture in which I, as an American Christian, live:
“John sought to startle his readers into a greater awareness of the situation by depicting the counterpart to the community of faith as the harlot, who uses both the seduction of wealth and the threat of violence to extend her control over the peoples of the world (17:1-18:24).
What better description of the USA than as a harlot who uses the seduction of wealth and the threat of violence to extend her control over the peoples of the world?
One of the things I like about Koester’s commentary on Revelation is that it presents the book as a message of hope, encouragement, and warning to those who first read it and to those of us who read it today.
I’ve really enjoyed reading Koester’s book. It’s given me a much better understanding of Revelation. I highly recommend it.
The passage quoted above is presented in context below:
Holy City — Holy People
“Revelation addresses readers who are pulled in two directions, toward faithfulness and unfaithfulness. Accordingly, John wrote what might be called “A Tale of Two Cities,” because he identifies faithfulness with the holy city and unfaithfulness with the harlot city. Recall that in an earlier vision, ‘the holy city’ and its temple represented the people of God, who were oppressed by the nations, and yet preserved so that God’s witnesses could testify before the peoples of the world (11:1-3). Also recall that the people of God were pictured as a woman, who was pursued by the dragon and yet preserved by God in the wilderness (12:1-6, 13-17). The vision of the holy city and the vision of the woman both depict the same thing: the situation of the people of God on earth, as they live among the powers that seek to overwhelm them and to end their existence as a community of faith.
“Not all of John’s earliest readers would have seen their situation in such stark terms. In the cities where they lived — Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Philadelphia, and Laodicea — conditions varied. In some cities, Christians were threatened with violence, but in other cities the danger was a more subtle pressure to enhance their position by assimilating to the wider culture, or to find security in prosperity. John sought to startle his readers into a greater awareness of the situation by depicting the counterpart to the community of faith as the harlot, who uses both the seduction of wealth and the threat of violence to extend her control over the peoples of the world (17:1-18:24). John is aware that wealth and power are alluring, and that many are willing to compromise their integrity for the sake of comfort and prestige. Therefore he seeks to bolster his readers‘ will to resist by portraying the seamy side of the worldly powers that find violence intoxicating and reduce human relationships to a commercial transaction. He also presses upon readers that the harlot may seem alluring now, but her future is bleak, for the way of harlotry leads to destruction…” (Craig R. Koester, Revelation and the End of All Things, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (2001) pp. 194-195)