Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr Connect on YouTube

The Book of Revelation Is a Sure Guide to What Is Really Going On

April 4, 2016

easter4.4In the Office of Readings this Easter season, we are reading from the Book of Revelation. This choice might seem surprising, but there are good reasons for it.

While many suppose that the Book of Revelation is merely about the end of the world, it is about far more; it is also about what is happening right now. It was not written only for the end of the ages but for all ages. It is a book of glory that discloses the victory that Jesus has already won. Don’t get lost in lots of exotic theories; Revelation is a book of glory that prophetically declares what is really going on.

Its title in Greek is Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Apokalupsis Jesou Christou), which literally means “The Unveiling of Jesus Christ.” It is as if Jesus is pulling back the veil to show us what is really going on. He shows us the great drama of history and tells us that He has already won the victory. He declares that we should not to lose heart while the dust settles, while the wheat is separated from the chaff and the harvest is brought in.

We are too easily mesmerized or terrified by our limited view of history. We think that life depends on which political party wins, or whether a cure is found for some disease, or whether world leaders can reach rapprochement. But the battle is far higher and deeper than our little sliver of the early 21st century. It is far deadlier and is about more dramatic issues than what will happen to the GNP of the U.S. or which of the latest political theories will prevail.

This is a great drama between good and evil. It concerns the far more fundamental issue of where you will spend eternity. Yes, there is a great and cosmic battle in which we are all caught up; it is happening all around us. St. Paul says,

For we do not contend against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the high places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Eph 6:11-13).

The Book of Revelation is speaking to the same reality. It unveils the true and cosmic battle. In so doing, it declares without ambiguity who the victor is: Jesus Christ our King, who has already won. There are only two kingdoms, two armies, two sides. You must decide whom you will serve: the prince of this world or the King and Lord of all creation.

Revelation opens with a vision of the glory of Jesus the Great Lord and Son of Man:

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead (Rev 1: 10-17).

Yes, here is our Lord Jesus in His resurrected and conquering glory! At the name of Jesus every knee shall bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil 2:10-11).

Yes, Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen (Rev 1:5-7).

The second part of the Book of Revelation calls the Church and us as individuals to repentance and perseverance. The cosmic battle reaches the Church and individual disciples. The battle is in the Church and in the heart of every person. Thus, the letters to the seven churches. We are not to lose the love we had at first. We must be willing to endure hardship and persecution. We are to reject the fornicators and all those who propose any sort of sexual immorality. We are to resist syncretism and every form of false religion. We must resist all of the deep secrets of Satan; we must not be in any agreement with his ways. We must resist sloth and not fall back. We must resist lukewarmness and every sort of pride and self-satisfaction. The Church, clergy, and laity must fight the good fight, must persevere. We must endure hardship and always keep in mind the reward that awaits the courageous and the eternal disgrace that is coming to cowards and to all embrace the world, the flesh, and the devil.

John is then caught up into Heaven to see the glory of God and the heavenly liturgy. He has revealed to him what must take place soon. Historically, the Book of Revelation pointed to the destruction of Jerusalem and to the end of an era. Down through the ages, empires and nations have crumbled; eras and epochs have come and gone; only God’s Kingdom, as proclaimed and made sacramentally present by the Church, has or will survive.

Today we are arguably at the end of another era and epoch. The West is crumbling and decadence abounds. Confusion about basic reality is so widespread that our current cultural situation can credibly be described as a lunatic asylum. Even within the Church, voices that should speak out prophetically are silenced by fear and infected by worldliness. There is among Church leaders, clergy, and laity a widespread softness and a feeling that the risk of speaking out is too great.

The message of the Book of Revelation is a strong antidote to times like these as well as to times that have gone before and may well come after. The message is clear: be strong, be prepared, and be willing to suffer, realizing that no matter how powerful and glamorous evil may seem, Jesus is the victor. We must persevere and realize that we are swept up into a cosmic battle that is much larger than our current situation, but which reaches us nonetheless. We must choose sides. Don’t think that you can sit on the fence. Satan owns the fence and he is coming for you and will say, “You belong to me.”

The seals, the bowls, and the trumpets of Revelation are but a further description of the cosmic battle and the wretched defeats that ultimately come upon the defiant and disobedient. God will not leave unpunished those who despise His Kingdom and His holy ones. These seven ordeals times three are a call to repentance to those who survive. They are also a manifestation of God’s justice and ultimate authority over history.

A crucial battle comes in Revelation 12, when the red dragon with seven heads and ten horns besets Mother Mary, who is also an image of the Church. But note this: the devil cannot prevail in the war that breaks out in Heaven. He is hurled to the earth, where he unsuccessfully pursues the woman (who is Mary and the Church). He is a big loser, and in a rage he continues to pursue us.

For the time being, the cosmic battle continues. But Satan rages, for he knows his time is short. He is a big loser.

But even losers still have an odd ability to dupe and impress foolish, gullible people. And so Satan still flashes the cash, makes empty promises, and dangles passing pleasures before us. Sadly, many of the worldly and unspiritual foolishly fall prey to his pomp and lies. Mysteriously, God permits this until the full number of the elect are gathered in.

And then comes the end:

And fire came down from heaven and devoured Satan and his armies and followers. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new.” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev 20:9-21:5).

Yes, it is good that we read the Book of Revelation. It is a pulling back of the veil, wherein the Lord tells us what is really going on and what the outcome shall be. He is telling us not to lose heart. “In this world you shall have tribulation, but have courage, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Be not dismayed, fellow Christians. Do not be fearful of what is coming upon this world. Even if it is the end of the era or epoch, the Church has endured such sea changes before. Christ has already won the victory and has promised that the Church will remain indefectible. When the current foolishness has runs its course, we will still be here preaching the Gospel, even if we have become a small remnant and are preaching from jail!

Do not be fearful. Do not be a coward. Preach boldly and with love. Continue to shine the light of the Gospel in the darkness. The Gospel will win; it always wins.

Don’t get lost in all the details about the Book of Revelation and miss its message. The message is one of victory in the midst of persecution and trial. It is a call to persevere. It is a pulling back of the veil to show us what the end shall be! Be strong, be courageous, be certain. Jesus has already won the great victory in the cosmic battle. The dust is still settling. But know for certain that Jesus has won and if you choose Him, so will you!

He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Rev 21:7-8).

Regardless of what you think is going on, this is what is really going on. Choose sides. I urge you to choose Christ with courage. Don’t look back. Come what may, Viva Christo Rey!

Filed in: Easter

Comments (11)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. teo says:

    Thanks for this excellent piece Monsignor. We are having a speaker in for our Mens Night with the topic: Revelation. This will be helpful.

  2. edraCRUZ says:

    Amen, amen and amen!!! It is a time of tribulation, and the LORD and the Angels and the Saints pray for each of us that our faith may not fail for the enemy asked for us to be sifted like wheat. And JESUS in us, through the Eucharist we receive, will indeed give us the strength to persevere to the end. It is well with my soul, for in HIM do I rely my past, my present and my future. HE has revealed HIMSELF to us in the Scriptures, in the Traditions and in the Teaching Authority of the Magisterium. The book of Revelations tells us what is going on indeed and all we need to do is to ask for our minds’ enlightenment, our hearts’ opening for Grace and it will be alright. YHWH SHEKINAH!

  3. Eric says:

    “And he said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega; the beginning and the end. To him that thirsteth, I will give of the fountain of the water of life, freely.
    He that shall overcome shall possess all these things, and I will be his God; and he shall be my son (Apoc. 21: 6-7).'”

  4. Patrick Tate says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    You constantly encourage me with your writings! I hope to someday visit your church when you are celebrating Mass.

    A few years back my wife and I took a Jeff Cavins Bible Study on the Book of Revelation and what you describe here is also the feeling I came away with in studying this wonderful book. I have tried to share this understanding with my friends but not so articulately as what you have written here, so I will definitely be forwarding this link on to them.

    No matter what is happening on Earth, Christ and the faithful remnant in the Church are and will be victorious in the end! The Kingdom of God is greater than all the Kingdoms of Earth, including our sadly currently declining America.

    Thank you for this reminder! It is easy to forget and get discouraged. I also look forward to reading your post on the body which I see you have recently posted.

    May God continue to bless you and use your voice to encourage us all!

    -Patrick

  5. Bee Bee says:

    Serious sin seems to be accepted everywhere these days. People do outrageous things without a thought. When sin rears it’s head in those close to us, without remorse or guilt, it is Satan right in our faces. Hard to withstand the onslaught.

    To know, to really know without a doubt, that in spite of this, fighting for the Kingdom of Heaven and the Word of Jesus Christ is the right side of this war helps enormously. One has to believe in the righteousness of his cause in order to keep fighting when the enemy seems to be triumphing. Thank you Msgr. for helping us step back and see the big picture, the whole drama at once, so we might realize how meaningful our tiny part is in this cosmic battle of good vs. evil.

  6. wait what ? says:

    wait, the catholic study bible I have says that revelation was, not the past tense, WAS, about some long lost events and was written in coded language that people at that time understood.

    it specifically says revelation is NOT about predicting the future

    these study bibles have both imprimiturs and nihil obstats

    and yet you are openly disagreeing with these widely accepted study bibles

    so which is it ?

    • Msgr. Charles Pope says:

      Well, the footnotes in the RNAB are notoriously poor and do not enjoy any official status despite the nihil obstat

      • Mark Mallett says:

        …furthermore—and this is no small thing—the early Church Fathers most definitely understood the Book of Revelation and other prophetic texts in the Old Testament to have a future interpretation, as well as the allegorical, which you have beautifully expounded upon here.

        As always, Msgr., you remain a brilliant light in the darkness.

  7. That is a very encouraging summation of the Revelation.

  8. Thank you, Msgr. Pope for this timely exegesis. For a more in-depth look at Revelation, I highly recommend Michael Barber’s “Coming Soon.” Jesus is really in control no matter what we think we see.

  9. Joe Crozier says:

    Dear Sirs
    It was a Baptist friend of mine who first gave me a different perspective on Revelations and shared her bible study group considerations with me. The emphasis placed by this group was on the identity of Jesus. To them this was a book about who Jesus is. To them this books reveals the person of Jesus in every chapter. It lets us know Jesus better from his awesome magnificence as the one who holds seven stars in his hand to the one who will complete all things according to the will of His Father. Until then I had considered this book only in terms of what the future held in apocalyptic terms. Jesus of course is the embodiment of the Apocalypse, the Alpha and the Omega, the Truth and the One who sets us free. In the book of Revelations Jesus is revealed. A revelation of Jesus Christ.