"Depart from me, ye doer of iniquity, I never knew you!"
In the beginning ...
Back in the early 70's, there was a "Chick-Tract" (very popular cartoon-style tracts used in proselytizing among the evangelical fundamentalist cults by a man named Jack T. Chick) called "The Gay Blade" which was originally printed in 1971. As a young teen captive in a Independent Fundamental Baptist cult, while the message scared the Hell out of me, with a little help from Anita Bryant, it actually gave me my gay identifier. I came out to my family at 14 in 1977, and was also kicked out of the house and shunned by my faith community. However, the publicity Anita Bryant brought to the issue, and anti-LGBTQ publications such as "The Gay Blade" also assured me I was not alone.
The journey to Divine Community and OSHSF Divine solemn profession ...
Truth, Knowledge, and Wisdom are what set me free. It was Philosophy, and seeking Truth and factual information which let God out of my little box.
Our hungry and oppressed brothers and sisters go to religion, but are sent away with a smug, "go in peace, be warmed and filled". How can the "church" with its greed and mega-ministry coffers call itself the church when it has no pity or compassion? How can someone say they love a god whom they have not seen when they hate their brothers/sisters whom they have seen? The radicalized cult leaders have led the flock astray.
Bible? Read it. Sure, it was inspirational in my younger, more innocent of days. I came from Fundamentalism and good ol' "sola scriptura".
I used to confuse the legalistic elitism found in verbal plenarism with "blessed assurance". Actually, I still have probably most of what those pastors’ libraries contain - from a full set of Interpreters' to Matthew Henry to Strongs' and Vine's and back to simple folks like J. Vernon McGee. Have Flavius Josephus, too. I have both Hebrew and Greek Lexicons. I even have the Latin Vulgate paralleled with Douay-Rheims and KJV. All were well used. I have a collection of the ancient Greek through modern philosophers, Gnostic texts, and a variety of texts from other faiths.
You see, in my library is a wealth of reference, from pastoral counseling, prayer life, church life, church building, and inspirational. I’ve stood on Mt. Carmel, walked the shore of Galilee, cast the net from a “Jesus Boat™”, I've even felt the pressing crowd on the limestone streets as the Good Friday procession made its way through the ancient city down the 'Via Dolorosa'. I’ve celebrated both Seder and Holy Week through Easter Sunday in Jerusalem (actually, it was two Palm Sundays since the Orthodox believe they possess the correct Liturgical calendar).
From one understanding, the fundamentalists are wasting precious time scouring over Revelations looking for signs of an event yet to come. They've already missed it. Pay attention to just the author’s words:
(1)“The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, (2) who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (3) Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”
Revelations, while the source/authorship is debatable, one thing was very clear – this John was a religious observant Jew, who had just witnessed the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and most recent Masada. Now Revelations was pretty controversial. So controversial that Revelations didn't make it into the canon until late 4th century (360, or so).
Holding the key to such a cryptic enigma was illuminating. It solved all mysteries and puzzles, and suddenly it just made sense. My understanding is, Revelations was not about the end of the world, but was about the very events which were actually happening at the time of the author (note verses 1 and 3, “what must soon take place” and “the time is near”). It sounds very cryptic, but relevant to the issues of the day. Archaeological finds help us understand the context - Domitian was emperor, self-proclaimed "God" ("pontifex maximus"), son of Vespian and brother of Titus - the conquerors of Jerusalem. John even describes the deified image Domitian minted on his coins 81 - 84 CE, "with robes down to his feet with seven stars in his hand" on the front. On the reverse, none other than his mother with an infant, "divi ceasaris mater".
Jesus observed ritualistic Judaism. He studied Torah, and there were no "Christians", and there was no "Bible". The Jesus sect of Judaism (aka, "Christianity") was being taken over by gentiles because of impostors like Paul, the Apostate of the Torah, and other political Christians in Rome, and John is warning God was ready to take revenge on those who destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. Revelations was an anti-Roman and anti-Gentile plea to other Christian followers.