“Seal Up What the Seven Thunders Have Said” – A Meditation on Sinful Curiosity

In the Office of Readings during these Easter weeks, we are reading from the Book of Revelation. In it is this passage reminding us that there are some things that are not for us to know:

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down” (Rev 10:1-4).

A similar passage occurs in the Book of Daniel. Having had certain things revealed to him, Daniel is told,

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end (Dan 12:4).

To the apostles, who pined for knowledge of the last things, Jesus said,

It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power (Acts 1:7).

In all of these texts we are reminded that there are some things—even many things (seven is a number indicating fullness)—that are not for us to know. This is a warning against sinful curiosity and a solemn reminder that not all of God’s purposes or plans are revealed to us.

A few reasons come to mind for this silence and for the command to seal up the revelation of the seven thunders:

    • It is an instruction against arrogance and sinful curiosity. Especially today, people seem to think that they have right to know just about everything. The press speaks of the people’s “right to know.” While this may be true about the affairs of government, it is not true about people’s private lives, and it is surely not true about all the mysteries of God. There are just some things that we have no right to know, that are none of our business. Much of our prying is a mere pretext for gossip and for the opportunity to see others’ failures and faults. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that more than half of what we talk about all day long is none of our business.
    • It is a rebuke of our misuse of knowledge. Sadly, especially in the “information age,” we speak of knowledge as power. We seek to know in order to control, rather than to repent and conform to the truth. We think that we should be able to do anything that we know how to do. Even more reason, then, that God should withhold from us the knowledge of many things; we’ve confused knowledge with wisdom and have used our knowledge as an excuse to abuse power, to kill with might, and to pervert the glory of human life with “reproductive technology.” Knowledge abused in this way is not wisdom; it is foolishness and is a path to grave evils.
    • It is to spare us from the effects of knowing things that we cannot handle. The very fact that the Revelation text above describes this knowledge as “seven thunders” indicates that these hidden utterances are of fearful weightiness. Seven is a number that refers to the fullness of something, so these are loud and devastating thunders. In His mercy to use, God does not reveal all the fearsome terrors that will come upon this sinful world, which cannot endure the glorious and fiery presence of His justice. Too much for this world are the arrows of His quiver, which are never exhausted. Aside from the terrors already foretold in Scripture, the seven thunders may well conceal others that are unutterable and too horrifying for the world to endure. Ours is a world that is incapable of enduring His holiness or of standing when He shall appear.

What, then, is to be our stance in light of the many things too great for us to know, which God mercifully conceals from us? We should have the humility of a child who knows what he does not know but is content that his father knows.

O Lord, my heart is not proud
nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
nor marvels beyond me.

Truly I have set my soul
in silence and peace.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
even so is my soul.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
both now and forever (Psalm 131).

Yes, like humble children we should seek to learn, realizing that there are many things that are beyond us, that are too great for us. We should seek to learn, but with a humility that is reverence for the truth, a humility that realizes that we are but little children, not lords and masters.

Scripture says, Beyond these created wonders many things lie hid. Only a few of God’s works have we seen (Sirach 43:34).

Thank you, Lord, for what you have taught us and revealed to us. Thank you, too, for what you have mercifully kept hidden because it is too much for us to know. Thank you, Lord. Help us to learn; keep us humble, like little children.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: “Seal Up What the Seven Thunders Have Said” – A Meditation on Sinful Curiosity

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

In 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 tells us that we should not lose heart while the dust settles, while the wheat is separated from the chaff and the harvest brought in.

We are too easily either 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. However, the battle is higher and deeper than our little sliver of the 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 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. Hence, 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 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 all 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. God 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. 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 lunacy. Even within the Church, voices that should speak out prophetically are infected by worldliness and 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, now, in the past, and in the future: 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 that reaches us nonetheless. We must choose sides. Don’t think that you can sit on the fence. Satan owns the fence; he will come for you and 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. However, 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 represents both Mary and the Church). In a rage he continues to pursue us.

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

Even losers still have an odd ability to dupe and impress foolish, gullible people. 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 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. 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 fear what is coming upon this world. Even if it is the end of the era, 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 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!

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: The Book of Revelation is a Sure Guide to What is Really Going On

Is the Modern Interpretation of the Book of Revelation Flawed? A Consideration of a Different View

Flemish Apocalypse manuscript (15th century)

In daily Mass we have recently been reading from the Book of Revelation. It is commonly read at this, the end of the liturgical year, because it speaks to the passing quality of the things of this world and to the end of the world itself.

It is also a book of glory, depicting the ultimate victory of our Lord Jesus Christ after a long conflict between the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of Christ. In this context the Book of Revelation is not a mere tour guide to the last days but a reminder that Christ has already sealed the victory.

Most modern scholars estimate that the Book of Revelation was composed sometime between 90 and 110 A.D., likely toward the end of the reign of Domitian (Roman emperor from 81-96 A.D.). They believe that the “harlot city” referred to in Revelation is Rome and that this oppressive city-date persecuting Christians at the time of its writing will one day, in God’s good time, come under His wrathful judgment and be destroyed. Many of them project that this fulfillment is still to come and see it as symbolic of the end of the world.

There are good reasons for this dating of the Book of Revelation, not the least of which is the testimony of several Fathers of the Church. Irenaeus places the work in about 96 A.D. Victorinus places the writing in the context of the persecution of Domitian, who banished John to the island of Patmos. Jerome and Eusebius say the same. This range of dates (90-110 A.D.) also fits in well with modern theories of biblical dating, which as a general rule tend to favor later dates.

There is a minority view, however, that the Book of Revelation was composed prior to 70 A.D., during the persecution of the Church by Nero (Roman emperor from 54-68 A.D.). (Nero’s persecution of the Church was, up to that point, the worst of the first century.) This view holds that the “harlot city” of Revelation is Jerusalem and that the Book of Revelation is prophesying that the destruction of Jerusalem will take place “soon.” This destruction did in fact occur in short order, in 70 A.D, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. In this view, Revelation is warning Christians of the signs that will precede the destruction so that they can flee before Jerusalem’s doom is sealed. The historical context of the Book of Revelation put forward in this minority view is the persecution of Christians by unbelieving Jews (in partnership with Roman officials) and the subsequent destruction of the city of Jerusalem by the Lord in judgment of this unbelief and the persecution of those who did believe. Some of the proponents of this interpretation also see in this historical event a symbol of the end of the world.

We might wonder whether the specification of such an early date offends against the testimony of the Church Fathers. The most significant Father attesting to a later date (96 A.D.) was Irenaeus, and most of the others based their conclusions on his. Irenaeus has proved to be a bit unreliable in terms of dating; for example, he argued that Jesus was 50 years old when He was crucified. Further, the translation of the Greek sentence in which Irenaeus puts forth the date of 96 A.D. is somewhat unclear. It can be translated in one of two ways:

John had this vision, near the end of his life, during the reign of Domitian, or

John had this vision and lived on to the reign of Domitian.

Thus, the minority opinion does not necessarily disregard the testimony of the Fathers as to the time frame, but rather interprets it as being somewhat vague.

In today’s post I would like to present this minority view of the Book of Revelation, which I think better articulates its original context and provides important interpretive keys to understanding its fundamental message. Although the view is not widely held, it is gaining adherents.

Although it is a minority view, it is growing in acceptance and, I would argue, is compelling for the following reasons:

1. It links the Book of Revelation to the “mini-Apocalypse” of the Mount Olivet discourse (see, for example, Mat 24:1-44).

The Mount Olivet discourse is widely interpreted as prophesying the coming destruction of the Temple, which would occur in 70 A.D., not the destruction of Rome or of the world.

There are many similarities between the Gospel passages of the Mount Olivet discourse and the prophecies of Revelation. The parallels are too numerous to detail in this post, but I have described them more fully here: The Fourth Apocalypse. Many argue that the Book of Revelation is John’s theological presentation of the Mount Olivet discourse, which is present in the other three Gospels, but missing from John’s. Therefore, they say that the content of Revelation corresponds to the Mount Olivet discourse, which prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.

2. It links the Book of Revelation to prophetic books of the Old Testament and maintains their historical meaning and focus.

Most of the Book of Revelation was drawn directly from Old Testament prophets such as Joel, Daniel, and Ezekiel. These prophets had as their historical context the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 587 B.C. If that was context of the texts from which John borrowed, then it seems likely that John is saying in Revelation that what happened then (in 587 B.C) will happen again unless there is Jewish repentance and faith. This is what the Old Testament passages meant and now John borrows them for the writing of the Book of Revelation just prior to 70 A.D., when the Temple and Jerusalem were prophesied to be destroyed again.

Thus, parallel events are being described in Revelation and in the books of the Old Testament prophets, and this points to the context in which John writes. The minority view fits nicely with this historical perspective.

3. It maintains the tradition of prophets in its interpretation of the word “harlot.”

In the Old Testament, Jerusalem and the people of Israel are called harlots because they have committed adultery, forsaken the Lord, and are sleeping with false gods. Nowhere in the Old Testament is Rome or any pagan city referred to as a harlot, yet Jerusalem repeatedly is.

It seems unlikely that Revelation would depart so suddenly and widely from biblical tradition and assign the title “harlot” to the pagan city, Rome, rather than to Jerusalem. Here are some examples of the use of the word from the prophets:

But if you refuse and rebel [O, Israel], you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. How the faithful city has become a harlot, she that was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers (Is 1:20-21).

Your wickedness will chasten you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the LORD your God; the fear of me is not in you, says the Lord GOD of hosts. For long ago you broke your yoke and burst your bonds; and you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yea, upon every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down as a harlot (Jer 2:19-20).

For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will deliver you into the hands of those whom you hate, into the hands of those from whom you turned in disgust; and they shall deal with you in hatred, and take away all the fruit of your labor, and leave you naked and bare, and the nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered. Your lewdness and your harlotry have brought this upon you, because you played the harlot with the nations, and polluted yourself with their idols (Ezek 23:28-30).

4. It agrees with the most direct references to the identity of the persecutors in the Book of Revelation.

In Revelation 2 and 3 there is reference to the persecutors as a “synagogue of Satan” and it is stated that they consider themselves Jews. Romans would surely not have considered themselves Jews. Hence, we ought to take the text at face value: the primary persecutors are Jews. However, Jews are not the only persecutors; Gentiles, responding to the complaints of Jews against the Christians, persecute as well. Here are a couple of texts that describe the persecutors of the Christians in very Jewish terms:

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write this: “The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life says this: ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan’” (Rev 2:8-9).

Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and learn that I have loved you (Rev 3:9).

5. It takes the clearest identification of the “harlot city” in Revelation at face value.

In Revelation 11, the harlot city is clearly identified as Jerusalem, not Rome:

and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified (Rev 11:8).

The city described as the place where their Lord was crucified can be no other place than Jerusalem.

Later in the Book of Revelation the double enemy against the Christians is described as a twofold threat: a beast and a harlot. The minority view holds that the harlot city is Jerusalem, where Jerusalem symbolizes Jews, especially the leadership centered in the Temple (Remember that many Jews became Christians; Jerusalem here is understood to refer to those Jews who emphatically rejected the Messiah.)

6. Its placement of the writing of Revelation to pre-70 A.D. aligns with Nero, not Domitian, which agrees with the reference in Revelation to the number 666.

There is a famous verse in Revelation identifying the “beast” as having a name that corresponds to the number 666:

This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666 (Rev 13:18).

There is little dispute today that 666 is a reference to Nero. Why would Nero (54-68 A.D) be referenced in a persecution taking place near 90 A.D. under the reign of Domitian (81-96 A.D.)? Thus, the minority view of Revelation as a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem (not Rome) in 70 A.D. seems more plausible.

7. The two beasts described in Revelation 13, one from “the land” and one from “the sea,” fit well into the historical context of the 70 A.D. time frame.

The Book of Revelation presents the primary antagonist as a horrible red dragon, which is clearly the devil. However, this red dragon gives birth to two beasts that persecute the Church, one from the land and one from the sea. The two beasts can be seen as the unbelieving Jews (the beast from the land (the Promised Land)) and Rome (the beast from the sea (a common symbol of the Gentiles)). This is the double threat experienced by the early Christians.

Both these beasts emerged from a “red dragon” with 7 heads (there were 7 Herods) and ten horns (there were ten Caesars who interacted with the 7 Herods). Thus, a complex, two-fold enemy seems to be described.

This lines up well with the the historical context of the time leading up to 70 A.D., when two enemies conspired against the early Church. Ultimately, as the Book of Revelation also describes, these two beasts turn on one another, and the harlot is destroyed.

In Revelation 17 the complex, two-fold enemy is described as a beast and a harlot. The harlot city rides upon the beast. The beast later turns and devours the harlot with fire and total destruction. This in fact happened when Rome (which had a partnership with Jerusalem through the Herodian dynasty) turned against Jerusalem.

The year 70 A.D. was a crucial one for the city of Jerusalem, for that marked the end of the war with the Romans. In this year, Jerusalem was sacked and burned, and the Temple was destroyed. Not one stone was left on another and the entire area (except for a few dwellings on Mt. Zion) was abandoned. Survivors were either carried into slavery or killed. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, 1.2 million Jews lost their lives.

Thus, the Book of Revelation seems to describe an enemy of the early Christians that is a complex combination of two enemies who conspire against the early Church and later turn on each other. This was historically the fact at the time of 70 A.D., when the Jews and Rome went to war against each other.

8. It flows well from the fuller context of the New Testament.

A central reason for leaning toward a date prior to 70 A.D. for the writing of Revelation is that such timing better fits into the context of the persecutions being endured by the Christians as described in other New Testament books. In those accounts, the persecution comes more from fellow Jews than it does from Romans alone.

This minority view seeks to integrate the Book of Revelation within the same conflict of other New Testament books such as the Epistles and the Acts of the Apostles—namely, a dispute between Christians and their Jewish opponents, who then engage the Roman officials for redress—rather than to set Revelation as a conflict merely between Christians and pagan Rome.

Jesus was put to death by the Romans (specifically, Pontius Pilate), but this was due in large part to their provocation by Jesus’ fellow Jews. Peter, John, and Paul all suffered as a result of similar behavior by their Jewish brethren, who incited the concern and hostility of Roman officials. The general context of the early New Testament period is that Jews who did not accept Christ stirred up trouble for the early Church and provoked the Roman authorities to arrest, punish, and even kill early Christians. The minority position sees this as the primary historical context of the persecutions described in the Book of Revelation.

Through the bulk of the New Testament the antagonists are fellow Jews who do not accept Christ as the Messiah. It is they who involve Roman authorities in exacting punishment on Christians. Although these Roman officials are often hesitant to become involved, they are not thereby absolved of responsibility any more than Pilate can be absolved for his actions. Notice the consistent biblical context of the double enemy face by Christians:

It was fellow Jews who handed Jesus over. In particular, it was Jews who had much invested in the Temple and its rituals who felt most threatened by Him who handed Him over. Pilate, though unjust in his final action, was reluctant and it was only when he perceived that the Jewish leaders would incite a riot that he relented and had Jesus put to death.

In the Acts of the Apostles, it is always fellow Jews who attack and pursue Paul. The Romans, far from being Paul’s enemy are in fact his protectors on more than a few occasions. Even when the Romans do arrest Paul, it is once again due to the insistence of Paul’s fellow Jews and the threat of civil unrest. The final arrest of Paul centered on a perceived defilement of the Temple that he supposedly committed. This was not in fact the case but was the pretext by which the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem handed him over.

In the Epistles of Paul, once again it is fellow Jews and Judaizers (so-called Christians who wanted to bring the whole of Jewish ceremonial law into the Church and make it binding on all Christians) who are the real enemies. Paul does not preach social unrest against Roman authority (nor did Jesus). In fact, Paul counsels respect for authority and prayers for all in authority. Likewise, Jesus strongly resists any attempts to be drawn into political zealotry and any conception of the Messiah that would understand Him as military savior.

None of this is to say that the New Testament is anti-Semitic. Remember, most of the early converts were Jews; Jewish Christians made up a sizable percentage of the early Church. This was not a matter of ethnic hatred but of a clear distinction between those who would accept Jesus as Lord and those who would not. The division was not a mere intellectual debate; it was a volatile clash between radically different answers to the basic questions, Who is God? Who is supreme? Who is to be worshiped?

It seems unlikely that the ongoing context of the New Testament would change radically in Revelation, its final book. All along, the context was of the passing away of the old order of the Law and the Temple and the passionate fear and hatred this caused. It seems much more probable that the final book of the Bible would prophesy the conclusion to this clash.

9. It takes the frequent use of the word “soon” in the Book of Revelation more literally.

Throughout the Book of Revelation, the events described are said to take place “soon.” For example,

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John (Rev 1:1).

Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near [i.e., soon] (Rev 1:3).

[To the church at Ephesus] Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent (Rev 2:5).

Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth (Rev 2:16).

I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. He who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (Rev 3:11).

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done (Rev 22:12).

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20)

“Soon” can certainly be understood from God’s perspective, one that sees a watch in the night (4 hours) as equivalent to “a thousand years,” but we ought not dismiss that the “soon” referred to in Revelation might also have had a more literal meaning. As Jesus said in the Mount Olivet discourse, There are some standing here today, who will not taste death until they see all these things take place. For the early Christians, “soon” may well have meant 70 A.D., rather than the 20 or more years later put forth in the more well-accepted view.

10. The presumption in the majority view that Rome is the harlot city is problematic because Rome was never destroyed.

Rome was sacked many centuries after biblical times (in the late 4th and early 5th centuries), but it was never burned or destroyed as depicted in Revelation. Jerusalem, however, was destroyed and burned in 70 A.D., corresponding to the prophecies of the Book of Revelation (e.g., Rev 18:18 inter al).

To summarize, the minority view holds that the Book of Revelation is describing the clash between Jews and Christians (which drew in the Romans) and caused the persecutions against the Church described therein. Revelation is not merely a book describing Roman persecutions.

The placement of the writing of Revelation at a time just prior to 70 A.D. under Nero seems more likely to me (than the context of circa 90 A.D. under Domitian). The warlike and apocryphal events described in Revelation agree well with the historical events that led up to the destruction of the Temple and the full establishment of the Church as the new locus of the worship of God. To me, this is the more likely and immediate context of the Book of Revelation.

For all these reasons, as well as others not set forth here, the minority view seems to me to be quite plausible.

This does not mean that there is no value in the majority opinion (namely, that the beast (harlot) is Rome and the context is a Roman persecution of the Church). It would be wrong to casually dismiss what is the majority view. What I have presented here is still described as a minority view.

I have come to appreciate that the minority view enables us to have a far richer understanding of the Book of Revelation, because it sees the Book of Revelation as an integral part of the whole Bible rather than as an apocalyptic work radically standing apart from the other biblical views.

Consider well the possibilities of the minority view of Revelation. Fundamentally, this view roots the Book of Revelation more solidly in the rest of biblical tradition and maintains the focus on the biblical city of Jerusalem and the context of faith, rather than on the pagan city of Rome to which the early Church looked with evangelical mission and a gleeful expectation of destruction.

Surely, as with any minority view, as you ponder it, you may be troubled by the fact that it unsettles what seems more familiar. I have come to believe that it is a more compelling interpretation than the more widely accepted one. What do you think?

By the way, David Chilton has written quite thoroughly on this theory of the Book of Revelation in his book Days of Vengeance. More information on the book is available here.

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

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!

A Call to Humility in the Mystery of the Seven Thunders

In the Office of Readings last week, we examined some of the more terrifying passages from the Book of Revelation, related to the seven trumpets, seals, and bowls of wrath. There is also a reference to the underreported “seven thunders,” reminding us that there are some things that are not for us to know.

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down” (Rev 10:1-4).

A similar passage occurs in the Book of Daniel. Having had certain things revealed to him, Daniel is told,

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end (Dan 12:4).

To the Apostles, who pined for knowledge of the last things, Jesus said,

It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power (Acts 1:7).

In all of these texts we are reminded that there are some things—even many things (seven is a number indicating fullness)—that are not for us to know. This is a warning against sinful curiosity and a solemn reminder that not all of God’s purposes or plans are revealed to us.

Several reasons come to mind for this silence and for the command to seal up the revelation of the seven thunders:

  1. It is an instruction against arrogance and sinful curiosity. Especially today, people seem to think that they have right to know just about anything. The press speaks of the people’s “right to know.” And while this may be true about the affairs of government, it is not true about people’s private lives, and it is surely not true about all the mysteries of God. There are just some things that we have no right to know, that are none of our business. Much of our prying is a mere pretext for gossip and for the opportunity to see others’ failures and faults. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that more than half of what we talk about all day long is none of our business.
  2. It is a rebuke of our misuse of knowledge. Sadly, especially in the “information age,” we speak of knowledge as power. We seek to know in order to control, rather than to repent and conform to the truth. We think that we should be able to do anything that we know how to do. Even more reason, then, that God should withhold from us the knowledge of many things; we’ve confused knowledge with wisdom and have used our knowledge as an excuse to abuse power, to kill with nuclear might, and to pervert the glory of human life with “reproductive technology.” Knowledge abused in this way is not wisdom; it is foolishness and is a path to grave evils.
  3. It is to spare us from the effects of knowing things that we cannot handle. The very fact that the Revelation text above describes this knowledge as “seven thunders” indicates that these hidden utterances are of fearful weightiness. Seven is a number that refers to the fullness of something, so these are loud and devastating thunders. God, in His mercy to us, does not reveal all the fearsome terrors that will come upon this sinful world, which cannot endure the glorious and fiery presence of His justice. Too much for this world are the arrows of His quiver, which are never exhausted. Besides the terrors already foretold in Scripture, the seven thunders may well conceal others that are unutterable and too horrifying for the world to endure. Ours is a world that is incapable of enduring His holiness or of standing when He shall appear.

What, then, is to be our stance in light of the many things too great for us to know and that God mercifully conceals from us? We should have the humility of a child, who knows what he does not know but is content that his father knows.

O Lord, my heart is not proud
nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
nor marvels beyond me.

Truly I have set my soul
in silence and peace.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
even so is my soul.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
both now and forever (Psalm 131).

Yes, like humble children we should seek to learn, realizing that there are many things that are beyond us, that are too great for us. We should seek to learn, but in a humility that is reverence for the truth, a humility that realizes that we are but little children, not lords and masters.

Scripture says, Beyond these created wonders many things lie hid. Only a few of God’s works have we seen (Sirach 43:34).

Thank you, Lord, for what you have taught us and revealed to us. Thank you, too, for what you have mercifully kept hidden because it is too much for us to know. Thank you, Lord. Help us learn and keep us humble, like little children.

A Biblical Portrait of Christ Our Risen and Glorified King

Given that Sunday was the Feast of Christ the King and that we have begun to read the Book of Revelation in the Office of Readings, this is an opportune time to examine the glorious portrait of Jesus Christ presented in Revelation 1:8-20. It is a portrait of the risen Christ in all His glory. The vision is of a high Christology. The Christ that is encountered here is the Lord of glory, who has attained to His glorious kingdom and who is the Lord of history and King of the Universe.

Let’s look at the passage and then draw from it ten descriptions of Jesus the Christ.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” … 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 round his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool. 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. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:8, 12-18).

The Recapitulating Christ“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” In this usage, recapitulating means subsuming many things under one heading. Saying that the Lord is the Alpha and the Omega means more than just the beginning and the end. It also means, “I am A and Z.” In other words, “I am the alphabet of God. I am in every word you speak or read. I am in every thought you articulate.”

He is the Word of God. He is the refulgence of all wisdom and knowledge. He knows all things. The Bible says this of Jesus:

That in the dispensation of the fullness of times [God the Father] might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him (Eph. 1:10).

For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:16-17).

The Reigning Christ 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 round his chest. These are regal robes, the dress and splendor of a king, magistrate, or judge. Indeed, the portrait here is not of Jesus Christ as savior per se, but Jesus Christ as judge.

We must all face Jesus one day as judge: For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So each of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:11-12).

The title “Son of Man” was one Jesus often used to describe Himself. It points to the vision of Daniel: I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).

Thus, we behold Christ here in all his glory.

The Righteous Christ His head and his hair were white as white wool … This text speaks of His wisdom, righteousness, and purity. White (or gray) hair is a symbol of wisdom. The whitened wool also speaks to His purity and recalls this text from Isaiah: Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Is 1:18). Hence, Jesus’ wisdom is pure, lightsome, and holy. He alone can cleanse us and make us share in His righteousness.

The Revealing Christ His eyes were like a flame of fire… His eyes illumine and see all things. He has a kind of penetrating vision, like x-rays. He sees right through you.

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him to whom we must render an account (Heb 4:13).

He knows everything you’ve ever done; every thought, every word, every deed. His eyes not only see all things, they illumine all things, shining the light of truth on them.

The Relentless Christ his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace. This means that His Kingdom and His judgement will be unstoppable. Brass, a hard, weighty metal, symbolizes that which is unyielding and unstoppable.

When Christ comes again, no one will be able to resist His word and judgment. Myriads will be summoned before Him in the valley of decision. Scripture reports an awesome and terrifying aspect of the judgment concerning the feet of Christ: So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city (Rev 14:18-20).

Here, then, is burning judgment and strong feet. He is the relentless Christ; you cannot stop Him. He is going forth to judge. He will judge. He must judge. “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” For the Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honor the Son (John 5:22-23).

The Resounding Christand his voice was like the sound of many waters. A likely background to this text is Psalm 29: 2-4 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders: the LORD is upon many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. He is our majestic Lord and God.

God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet (Psalm 47:5).

The LORD shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 25:30-31).

For the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29).

The Regulating Christ in his right hand he held seven stars. Jesus doesn’t just have the whole world in His hand; He’s got the whole universe in His hand. He is the one who regulates it all. He runs and rules all of creation.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Col 1:15-17).

The Book of Revelation also defines the stars as the seven churches. Rev 1:20 states, The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. Thus, we see here the governance over the Church that Christ has. And he is the head of the body, the Church: he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence (Col 1:17-18).

The Rebuking Christfrom his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword. This is a word picture that is reminiscent of Hebrews 4:12. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The sword that is in His mouth is His Word.

Repent; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will fight … with the sword of my mouth (Rev 2:16).

And out of his mouth goes forth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them (Rev 19:15).

Thus, the Word of God must act like a surgeon’s scalpel and remove all that is putrefied in us. We must be healed by God’s word and the sacraments of grace, lest we perish on that day when His Word shall have its full effect.

The Refulgent Christ and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory. He is the Light of the World.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world (John 1:4-9).

If we are faithful, this light shall transform us. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

The Reassuring Christ When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” On the one hand, our world needs today a new vision of the holiness of God. Look at John: He knew Christ and lay his head upon His chest at the last supper. Despite all the history that John has with Jesus, when he beholds the glorified Christ, he falls on his face as though dead.

“But you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Too frequently, today, God has been trivialized. Look at John’s experience. Jesus will reassure him, but the glory is awesome.

Yet Jesus says, Fear not. He is the reassuring Christ. Notice what He tells John not to fear: death and the power of evil one. Thus, the awesome power and majesty of Jesus becomes the basis for fearing not. His resurrection is the source of His glory and also the reason we should not fear. Jesus lets His glory shine forth not to make John afraid, but to reassure him. Jesus has power to save.

Here then, is a picture of the risen and glorified Christ. He is King; He is Lord and His glory is eternal.