Menno Media: Jeremy, your book Upside-Down Apocalypse is being referred to as a peacemaker’s guide to the Book of Revelation. What prompted you to write about Revelation?
Jeremy Duncan: I have always been drawn to the nonviolence of Jesus. The way that he is able to address complex and volatile situations without capitulating to the status quo or to the pull of violent imitation has been formative in my journey. That’s a model I want to follow.
However, too often, there is a disconnect between the Jesus of the gospels and the popular Christian imagination of Jesus in the future. Sure, Jesus was peaceful and nonviolent when he came the first time, but next time, look out, no more “Mr. Nice Guy.” That’s, unfortunately, a sermon I’ve actually heard before.
And that’s a problem, because, if the Jesus of our future hope bears little resemblance to the Jesus we meet in the gospels, we have to ask who it is we really worship. For many, Revelation is the chance to remake Jesus in the model of John Wick.
But if Jesus really is the revelation of God, then there should be a way to read Revelation through Jesus. That conviction led me into my graduate research and a thesis on nonviolent interpretations of apocalyptic literature, and I came out of that work even more convinced that the canon of Scripture backs up what is revealed in the life of Jesus.
MM: Why write this book right now?
JD: There have always been unhelpful interpretations of Revelation. But recently, the rise of populist and nationalist political movements coinciding with the emergence of the worldwide COVID pandemic has created a new marketplace for conspiracy theories. Sadly, a lot of those conspiracies have been rooted in a mishandling of the Christian Bible, particularly Revelation. The thing is, Revelation is so inscrutable that it can be hard to counter some of the claims that are out there.
With my background in researching nonviolent interpretations of Revelation and my work as a local pastor, I felt like I could help bridge the divide between good scholarly biblical studies and an accessible way to think about, and approach, the text of Revelation. This book is a Jesus-first reading of Revelation grounded in the gospels’ presentation of Jesus. A book that works to return us to the peaceful way of the Jesus we first fell in love with.
Jeremy Duncan is the author of Upside-Down Apocalypse: Grounding Revelation in the Gospel of Peace, available from Herald Press in July 2022. Pre-order at commonword.ca. This article appears in the April 18, 2022 print issue, with the headline “Upside-Down Apocalypse.”