What does the book of Revelation say? (part 11)

Ted Grimsrud

11. How to Read Revelation—Revelation 14:1-20

[This is the eleventh in a series of posts summarizing the message of the book of Revelation.  I have been writing on Revelation off and on for a long time. My intent with this project is to write a new book applying Revelation’s message to our modern world.]

Many of the commentaries on Revelation agree that the blood at the end of chapter 14 indicates God’s punishing judgment. The blood that flows “from the winepress as high as a horse’s bridle for a distance of about two hundred miles” shows just how widespread God’s retribution will be.

I’m impressed with how easy it is to assume the worst about this vision—as if this same book does not include the vision of the Lamb’s self-giving love in chapter five and the vision of the healing of the nations in chapters 21 and 22. Interpreters seem to find it obvious that “blood” symbolizes death and punishing judgment. Some cultured despisers of Revelation are horrified by this theology that they see in Revelation and reject it. They think Revelation is bad news. Others welcome this kind of bloody theology—they embrace the idea of God as punisher and see Revelation as a key source. However, I have discovered that Revelation actually teaches something quite different.

Revelation’s theology of “blood”

We can see that Revelation is not about violence if we focus on this most troubling of metaphors—the blood flowing from the wine press in chapter 14. This is not the first time blood is used in Revelation. Let’s look at some of the other places that speak of blood.

At the beginning of Revelation, we are introduced to Jesus, the faithful witness who followed a path of nonviolent love that led him to resist the powers to death. He is described as well as the firstborn of the dead—his life was vindicated when God raised him. Because of this witness and vindication, he is also described as the true ruler of the kings of the earth. Then we are told that he loves us and frees us from the power of sin by his blood—by his ministry as faithful witness.

This same point is made in chapter five. Jesus, the executed and resurrected Lamb is the true Lion of Judah (Messiah) who has the power to open the great scroll that tells of the ultimate victory of God. Jesus is worshiped here as God. The worship includes these words of praise: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Continue reading “What does the book of Revelation say? (part 11)”