The seminar on “Exploring Themes of Suffering and Hope in the Book of Revelation” was held on the 12th of November 2019 at TRACI House led by Ms. Bindulata Barik, the author of the book, “Persecution and Hope.” While she was doing her MTh studies at SAIACS in 2008, the Kandhamal riots against Christians had erupted. Being a person from Odisha herself, she witnessed the pain of many of her relatives and friends whose family members had fallen victims of the communal violence. She struggled with the question as to when her people were being persecuted because of their faith, what was she doing in the Bible college? Through this mental struggle God led her to delve into the theology of persecution from one of the most difficult books of the Bible the book of Revelation as part of her M.Th. dissertation, which was later published as a book by SAIACS Press Bangalore in the year 2015.
Introducing the theme she shared that the book of Revelation is a product of persecution because the author and the original readers of the book had both shared suffering and persecution (Rev. 1:9). The seven churches of the book of Revelation present to us a scenario where the churches experienced persecution, social marginalisation, religious and political hostilities on account of practising and witnessing their faith on Jesus Christ. Those who remained faithful to their faith and didn’t compromise with the temptations of the world, suffered. Ms Barik described that witnessing for Christ entails the possibility of persecution. However, the book of Revelation assures hope in the midst of suffering to the witness bearer both in the present and in the future.
She further shared that from chapter four onwards, the author responds to the crisis faced by the seven churches. Against the might of the worldly power he we witness the sovereignty of God. In the polytheistic religious environment, the author presents God as the God of the whole Universe. Jesus Christ is presented as the Sovereign Lord and Judge of the whole world, who on account of his sacrificial death is worthy to receive glory and honour. The book of Revelation shows that when one believes on Jesus Christ, her/his life is sealed for the eternity. The three sets of seven judgements show the devastation over the universe through natural calamities. Natural calamities are also one of the ways where Bible records the manifestation of God. Natural calamities are beyond the control of human powers, but it is under the control of God. God is above all powers. Through the partial judgements God shows his patience and kindness towards the evil doers so that they can repent and acknowledge the Sovereignty of God. After the final judgement, Revelation narrates the reign of God; a new creation, where the gap between the heaven and earth is no more and there is no negativity in the new earth because of the presence of God. Therefore, Ms Barik concludes that the believers of Jesus are commissioned to live a witnessing life. While witnessing they may encounter persecution. But God has protected them since the day they have put their faith in Christ. So, let God take vengeance over the evil powers, God has crowned the faithful ones with eternal life.
The seminar was followed by a question and answer session. To a question asked about the time of great tribulation and ongoing persecution in the world Ms Barik referred to the narration of fallen dragon in Revelation and said that the dragon and its army are against the people of the God through all generations. Revelation shows it’s continuity till the time of dragon’s final destruction. So, in every generation the evil powers are in action. While the people of the world are driven to evil, God has chosen his people to be a witness for Him and show the right way to the people.. God has always protected his people and sealed their lives for eternity. So, the believers should be confident that it is the work of God and they are participants in God’s Mission.