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Pulling Back the Veil – An Overview of the Book of Revelation

November 18, 2018 14 Comments

In daily Mass we are currently reading selections from the Book of Revelation—not a bad choice as the end of the liturgical year swiftly approaches.

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 Jesus has already won. Don’t get lost in lots of exotic theories; Revelation is a prophetic book of glory.

Its title in Greek is ποκάλυψις ησο Χριστο (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 nations of the world can reach rapprochement—but the battle is far higher and deeper than our tiny slice of time. It is far deadlier and concerns 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 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, this 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 referred to in Revelations 1. 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 Satan’s deep secrets; we must not be in any agreement with his ways. We must resist sloth and not fall back. We must resist lukewarmness as well as every sort of pride and self-satisfaction. The Church, clergy and laity, must fight the good fight, must persevere. We must endure hardship, keeping in mind the reward that awaits the courageous and the eternal disgrace that is coming to cowards and to all those who 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 survived 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 world can credibly be compared to a lunatic asylum. Even within the Church, voices that should speak out prophetically remain silenced by fear. 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—to all times past, present, and future: be strong, be prepared, and be willing to suffer, realizing that no matter how powerful evil may seem, Jesus is the victor. We are swept up into a cosmic battle that is much larger than our current situation but that reaches us nonetheless. Don’t think that you can sit on the fence; you must choose a side. Satan owns the fence and he is coming for you; he 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 to 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 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). In a rage, he continues to pursue us. For the time being, the cosmic battle continues; Satan rages because he knows his time his short.

Satan is a big loser, but even losers have an uncanny ability to impress and dupe foolish, gullible people. Satan still makes empty promises and dangles passing pleasures before us. Sadly, many of the worldly and unspiritual fall prey to his lies. Mysteriously, God permits this until the full number of the elect is gathered in.

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. In it, the Lord is telling us what is really going on and what the outcome will 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 run its course, we will still be here preaching the Gospel, even if we have become a small remnant and are preaching from our prison cells!

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 the details of the Book of Revelation and miss its message: 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, courageous, and 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 Cristo Rey!

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Comments (14)

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  1. nl says:

    Oh, what an overview! This is brief but extensive in depth and breadth and perspective, visionary, prophetic, courageous. Thank you, Monsignor Pope!

  2. Lisa Dlia says:

    Great article detailing the Book of Revelation but Msgr, you almost sound like an evangelical preacher.
    Too bad most priests preach monotone, “dead” sermons. I’ve seen the Protestant preachers of the reformation on Christian TV these days that preach so boldly, it makes one want to leave the Catholic church. Can you kindly provide the reason why the catholic church is not the apostate church and how to reconcile, the on fir evangelical denominations that preach biblical truth and conviction of sin way more than any priest I’ve heard in all my 60 years of being a catholic and why should I not find a good biblically preaching reformation church. Thank you if you feel you can answer my burning question.

    • John says:

      There is a lot of different theories in the Christian world concerning the “Book Of Revelation.” Many of these are fairly recent in their origin being no more than 200 or 300 years old. Also, several do not comport with what the Catholic Churches teaches about the end times. Paul Thigpen’s “The Rapture Trap” takes a look at these contrary views and spells out the correct Catholic approach to this complicated text. It is a bit on academic side, but if read carefully is understandable for the layperson.

    • Robert DeLuca says:

      Protestant preachers of the reformation on TV may well be dynamic, entertaining preachers. But they are false teachers and prophets . Beware of the Gospel of Prosperity they teach and preach. Enjoy listening to them? How can they teach Biblical truth in fullness ? They’ve eliminated books of the Bible and lack any teaching authority a.k.a. Magisterium. Why are there nearly 40,000 denominations of Christianity in existence today? Because without a Magisterium there is no teaching authority, Every man for himself. If it’s entertainment you want … you might find it outside of the Church. But they lack the Eucharist I.e. real presence of Jesus. Who could live even one day without this precious gift.

    • Morrie says:

      I could not disagree more. Watch a TV evangelist for 5 minutes and I can guarantee you will be exposed to many false teachings. Perfect for itching ears. My pastor and parochial vicar give excellent homilies. They break open the scriptures and penetrate them deeply.

    • Stephen says:

      Lisa, 60 years a Catholic, but you are still on the starting blocks. You have not put anything into practice. It takes humility; wisdom and understanding are gifts of the Holy Spirit. You don’t get them by sucking on the teat of a bold preacher. Try the Eucharist, Confession with repentance, and prayer including the Rosary.

      Stephen Garland

  3. Sue says:

    Yesterday at Mass, our priest’s homily was almost identical to your column today, Msgr. Pope! He’s been warning us for many months now that “Our Lady’s work HAS BEGUN!” We’re watching her cleaning house & trying to get people to return to Her Son.

    The thing that leaves me heartbroken is that people like me who suffer from Meniere’s Disease & other hearing ailments can’t be at daily Masses because of the screaming babies & toddlers, & high-pitched music even at daily Mass. Isn’t this a time when we should be completely focused on uniting ourselves completely with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass without distractions of any kind? Those of us who carry the heaviest crosses & offer up so much suffering for the Church are also the ones who are fortunate if we get crumbs that fall off the Church’s table.

  4. Emma Kaibni says:

    Many of the laity are ready to be white martys for Christ. We need our leadership to have the same courage.

  5. Hello Msgr. Pope,
    I see the Book of Revelation as Jesus Second Coming to unite Himself to His Bride, the Catholic Church, on earth, in a new and spectacular way. Also Jesus is Coming to Rule the world with and through His Church, the Catholic Church, for tens of thousands of years into the future. I do not see the Apocalypse as the end of time.

    What do you think of Jesus’ ‘Divine Mercy’, through St. Faustina? I think the angels of Revelation 7, placing ‘God’s seal’ on the forehead of the ‘Elect’, are Catholic Priests absolving the Elect of their sins, through Christ’s Sacraments of Reconciliation and Baptism, in Jesus’ ‘Divine Mercy’ gifts. We are currently in the Rev 7 stage of the Apocalypse. It is time to suit up, in Jesus gift of His Divine Mercy garment, to get married to Jesus!

    What do you think?

    Revelation 7
    ‘Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the Israelites:…
    …Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, ‘Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?’ I said to him, ‘My lord, you are the one who knows.’ He said to me, ‘These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’.

    JESUS, THE DIVINE MERCY by St.Faustina​
    Write down these words, My daughter. Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice.(Diary – Divine Mercy in My Soul, 848)

    If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity. Secretary of My mercy, write, tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near. (965)

    “I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy.
    Ask of my faithful servant [Father Sopocko] that, on this day, he tell the whole world of My great mercy; that whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment.” (299, 300)

    “I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.” (699)

    He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice… (1146) Today I heard a voice in my soul: Oh, if sinners knew My mercy, they would not perish in such great numbers. Tell sinful souls not to be afraid to approach Me; speak to them of My great mercy.

    Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late. (1448)

    Tell sinners that no one shall escape My Hand; if they run away from My Merciful Heart, they will fall into My Just Hands. (1728)

    The Blessed Virgin Mary :

    … you have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just Judge. Oh, how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for [granting] mercy. If you keep silent now, you will be answering for a great number of souls on that terrible day. … (635)

    Revelation 19:6
    Then I heard something like the sound of a great multitude or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder, as they said: “Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign, (our) God, the almighty. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment.”

    Matthew 22 The Wedding Banquet
    But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’

  6. Luis says:

    Wow… thank you Msgr. Pope… THANK YOU.

  7. Heidi Clancy says:

    Dear Sue — I am so sorry about your struggles with Meniere’s disease. I wonder if you are able to attend Eucharistic Adoration at your church or another nearby parish? It can be a beautiful addition to your life, esp. when daily Mass attendance is difficult. Also, perhaps if you look around at other Mass times and parishes, you may find a Mass without “challenging” music? And as distracting as having the babies around can be, it is a beautiful gift when so many parishes have far more funerals than baptisms. God bless you as you carry your cross and offer your suffering!

  8. Todd says:

    In any hard combat, leaders are called to go out among the troops in their fox holes and shore up morale. Morale is fighting spirit, esprit de corps, the ‘will,’ to risk – to cast out into the deep, as it were. This reminds me of that scripture in Luke 22: 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”

    Thanks father for cooperating with God’s grace, putting out to the deep, and doing the hard work to become an authentic leader in the battle that will make every other battle in history, pale into utter insignificance – the battle for souls.

    Keep charging! Keep strengthening your brethren.

  9. The book of Revelation states twice in the first chapter and twice in the last chapter that the events would happen soon.
    The key is the “Great City” which is identified as Jerusalem. Chapter 18 describes the fall of Jerusalem in 70 ad..
    The New Jerusalem is the Church. Chapter 22 depicts the fruit and leaves of the trees of the New Jerusalem are for the healing of the nations. This describes the ministry of the Church.
    We see the passing away of the Old Covenant to the New.
    Read the book. It never says Jesus will come back to reign on the earth. He reigns now.

  10. Peter Aiello says:

    The presence of God’s kingdom on earth today is the presence of the Spirit of His Son within us. We are ambassadors of Christ as a result of this.

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