Sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE
The Middle East is one of the most misunderstood regions of the world.
Not that we all have to become Middle East experts, but there are things all good Christians can do that will lower the temperature of misunderstanding. One way to avoid misunderstanding is to stop thinking that what we read in the Book of Revelation will help us to understand the Middle East.
Though an important book of scripture in our accepted, authoritative canon, the Book of Revelation was not written to be a guide book for understanding the modern Middle East. The Book of Revelation was not written to provide political insight, social understanding, ethnic empathy, religious recognition, linguistic familiarity, or historical context to the modern Middle East. The Book of Revelation was primarily written to give comfort to Christians living 2000 years ago under Roman imperial power. Christians at that time were faced with tremendous persecution and were seeking relief as they expected the immediate return of Jesus who would overthrow the Roman Empire.
For nearly 2000 years people have been reading the Book of Revelation expecting that it would explain how to understand their times. Often the Book of Revelation has been read with apocalyptic interpretations, meaning that the reader believed that they were living at the very precipice of the end times and that the Book of Revelation provided an accurate perspective on the events swirling around them.
Reading the Book of Revelation in this way, especially in such a manner as to stir up fears about the present and the future, has been wrong, sometimes disastrously so. (See more in my article “Ancient Israelite Zion Theology, Judeo-Christian Apocalypticism, and Biblical (Mis)interpretation: Potential Implications for the Stability of the Modern Middle East“). Whole communities have uprooted themselves, selling all they had to wait out the end times only to discover they ended their own livelihoods and they devastated their pasts and their community’s future because they frenzied about their misperceived present and future.
Unfortunately, Christians reading the Book of Revelation today may misunderstand the realities of the Middle East as they seek to interpret the Middle East through the lens of the Book of Revelation. Instead of contributing to peace and stability of the Middle East, such mis-readings of the Book of Revelation contribute to misunderstanding about and misadventure in the Middle East. Such mis-readings can keep us from finding the very needful solutions to contribute to lasting peace in the Middle East.
What if instead we sought to improve the peace and of the world by putting in the time and effort to learn more about that region? The Middle East is a region of great diversity, exquisite beauty, unparalleled history, vast religious experience, with millions of God’s children seeking to find peace, security, and meaning in this life together with their families and communities.
What if we listened to these people on their own terms?
What if we walked a mile in their shoes, to use a well-worn phrase?
What if we sought to understand the Middle East without trying to filter our understanding through the lens of a book in the Bible that has been far more often misunderstood and misapplied, then readily understood?
Thankfully, we live in a day and age of tremendous learning opportunities. There are many avenues for learning more about the Middle East and for being far more informed about the Middle East instead of relying, as people in the past did, since they had so little access to other learning resources, solely on the Book of Revelation (or other end-times literature) to interpret and understand the present and the future. A few starting places are here and here and of course Wikipedia is always a great starting place for an overview introduction. Consider articles on the history of the Middle East. Learn about cultures and religions of the Middle East. Learn about geology and the critical role water plays in the region, including in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Or choose from a variety of articles on Middle Eastern governments and politics.
We are far more likely to experience the peace, stability, and tranquility promised in the scriptures if we repent, forgive, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ while making ourselves proactively informed global citizens, with optimism and perspective, not fear.