Is it juvenile for me to want the Revelation made into a movie? I know that any film in which these images were depicted as they appear on the page would spectacularly miss the point, but when I read passages about demon-horses cloaked in flame and slathering brimstone while their serpent-tails lash and their enemies stagger…I crave popcorn.
Sadly, even if we had such a film I probably still wouldn’t find it sufficient. I’d want a film that showed the images, but gave the meaning also. That’s a tall order. John’s Revelation ignites my imagination, but it also fixes my thoughts. Films can’t do both—they’re boring and true, or excitedly false.
Yet John’s exciting images are designed to teach us a fundamental truth: life’s tragedies ought to lead us to repentance, but they don’t. Having suffered greatly at the hands of the demonic horsemen, the inhabitants of the earth still choose to worship demons. Demons are loosed from the abyss in 9.1-12, and demons kill 1/3 of the population in 9.15, and the people refuse to abandon their demons in 9.20-21. The instrument of suffering becomes the vehicle for idolatry.
For some people, the only way to cope with evil is to accommodate it. Some lives are ruined by bitterness, and yet bitterness has become dear. Some lives are ruined by wanton sexuality, and yet sexual conquest conquers every rational consideration for a better life with better relationships. I have a friend who complains about everything. I’ve got a love/hate relationship with him. I love him, but I can’t stand to be around him because he never stops complaining. As a result, he’s alone most of the time, can’t keep a job, and can’t hold onto a girlfriend. He complains about all of this, which perpetuates the cycle. His malcontent has ruined everything, but he refuses to acknowledge his own complicity in his isolation. He complains that I ask him to stop complaining! My friend falls into the same category as the demon-worshippers: neither he or they seem capable of understanding that they are killing themselves, to one degree or another, by the very thing they love.
When will we learn that judgment is purposed for repentance? That misery ought to lead us to our knees?
That we ought to change?
How bad do things have to get before we realize we made them this way?