Book of Revelation

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The Greek word for "revelation" is "apocalypse," so the book of Revelation is also known as "The Apocalypse."

This is one of the strangest books in the sacred scriptures. Apocalyptic writing is a special genre in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. It is a huge mistake (in my opinion) to read apocalyptic passages as if they were a roadmap to the future or a "countdown to kickoff." As Jesus said so often, "Let those who have ears to hear, hear."

In my opinion, the book of Revelation was written to comfort Christians who were suffering persecution. All of the symbols are meant to tell them that their suffering will end and that victory is assured, if they remain faithful. Although the original audience of the book was people suffering under Roman persecution in the first century of Christianity, the message of the book applies to all Christians in all ages: be at peace, fear not, keep faith, because Jesus is Lord. The kings and princes of the earth may be able to torture and kill Christians for a time, just as Jesus was killed by the Romans, but the time of persecution will not last forever.

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away" (Rev 21:4).


Definitely someone named "John."

May be the apostle John or "John of Patmos."


This is the outline of the book from the New American Bible, along with some of my favorite quotations from each section. This outline is NOT part of the inspired text. It represents the best effort by a modern commentator to discern underlying structures or organizing principles in the book.

I. Prologue (1: 1-3)
1:3 "... the appointed time is near!" The persecution of Christians will soon come to an end.
II. Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia (1:4 — 3:22)
1:4 7 churches in Asia, 7 spirits before His throne.
1:12 7 golden lampstands.
1:16 Two-edged sword.
1:16 In his hand he held 7 stars.
1:20 The 7 stars are the angels of the 7 churches and the 7 lampstands are the seven churches.
2:10 For 10 days you will have tribulation.
2:16 "Therefore repent! If you do not, I will come to you soon and fight against them with the sword of my mouth." Christians have been falling away from Jesus' teaching.
3:1 The 7 spirits of God.
III. God and the Lamb in Heaven (4:1 — 5:14)
4:2 One seated on the throne.
4:4-5 24 thrones, 24 elders, 7 torches of fire which are the 7 spirits of God.
4:6-7 4 living creatures with 6 wings.
4:8 One source of the Sanctus at Mass: "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, He who was, and who is, and who is to come." The Sanctus:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest. cf. Jesus' Triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
5:1 1 scroll sealed with 7 seals.
5:6 A Lamb with 7 horns and 7 eyes which are the 7 spirits of God.
5:11 Myriads of myriads and thousands and thousands of many angels (καὶ ἦν ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτῶν μυριάδες μυριάδων καὶ χιλιάδες χιλιάδων).
IV. The Seven Seals, Trumpets, and Plagues, with Interludes (6:1-16:21)
The 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse: white, red, black, and pale.
"Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden..."
7:1 4 angels at the 4 corners of the earth holding back the 4 winds of the earth.
7:4 144,000 sealed from 12 tribes of Israel.
7:9 A multitude that no man could number.
8:2 7 trumpets.
8:7-12 Thirds destroyed by first 4 trumpets: earth, trees, sea, sea creatures, ships, rivers, waters, sun, moon, stars, day, night.
8:13 3 woes associated with the last 3 trumpets.
9:5 5 months of torture.
9:13-15 4 horns on the altar; 4 angels released from the river Euphrates to kill a third of humanity.
9:16 Twice 10,000 times 10,000 cavalry (200,000,000). That's a lot of horses and riders!
9:18 3 plagues kill one third of humanity.
10:3 7 thunders from a mighty angel — the message is sealed up and not told.
11:3 2 witnesses to prophesy for 1,260 days (1,260 / 360 = 3.5 "years"; this is an idealized year — 12 x 30).
11:4 2 olive trees and 2 lampstands stand before the Lord of the earth.
11:9-12 For 3.5 days the 2 prophets lie dead, then rise from the dead.
11:13 When the 2 prophets ascend, a tenth of the city falls, killing 7000 people in the earthquake.
12:1 A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of 12 stars.
12:3-4 A dragon with 7 heads and 10 horns, with 7 diadems on his head, knocks down a third of the stars of heaven.
12:6 The woman is hidden in safety for 1,260 days (3.5 idealized years).
12:14 The woman is given the 2 wings of an eagle to fly to safety.
13:1 A beast with 10 horns and 7 heads and 10 diadems on the horns.
13:5 The beast is allowed to rule for 42 months (3.5 idealized years).
13:11 Another beast with 2 horns like a lamb.
13:18 "A certain wisdom is needed here; with a little ingenuity anyone can calculate the number of the beast, for it is a number that stands for a certain man. The man's number is 666." Probably Caesar Nero. There's no limit to the insane calculations associated with this number (e.g., 1998 = 666 + 666 + 666). In some manuscripts the number is 616 (probably using a different title for Nero to calculate the number).
14:4 144,000 saints: "They are pure and follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been ransomed as the first fruits of mankind for God and the Lamb. On their lips no deceit has been found, they are indeed without flaw."
14:6-20 3 angels cry out different messages; 3 angels start the final harvest; blood river 1,600 stadia long (~200 miles).
15:1-7 7 angels with 7 plagues in 7 golden bowls.
16:13 3 foul spirits from the mouth of the false prophet.
V. The Punishment of Babylon [Rome!] and the Destruction of Pagan Nations (17:1 — 20:15)
Many Protestants seize on this section to 'prove' that the Roman Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon. But at the time the book of Revelation was written, the Whore of Babylon was undoubtedly the city of Rome and the beast was the Roman emperor (probably Caeser Nero). Those who apply these passages to the Roman Catholic Church are interpreting the scriptures symbolically, not literally.)
17:9 "Here is a clue for one who possesses wisdom! The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits enthroned. They are also seven kings, five have already fallen, one lives now, and the last has not yet come; but when he does come he will remain only a short while."
17:12 10 horns in the vision are 10 kings.
17:19 City split into 3 parts.
17:21 Hailstones as heavy as a hundredweight fall on people.
18:5-6 Make the whore drink a double draught to repay her double for her deeds. [Justice will be done!]
18:17 In one hour all her wealth is laid waste.
20:2 The dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan bound for 1000 years (a millenium).
20:4 Some saints reign with Christ for 1000 years.
20:14 The second death, the lake of fire.
VI. The New Creation (21:1 — 22:5)
21:3-4 This is God's dwelling among men. He shall dwell with them and they shall be his People and He shall be their God who is always with them. He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away." Until the Kingdom comes, however, we will endure sorrow, weep with grief, cry out in pain, and suffer death. Better days lie ahead.
21:6-8 "These words are already fulfilled! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To anyone who thirsts I will give to drink without cost from the spring of life-giving water. He who wins the victory shall inherit these gifts; I will be his God and he shall be my son. As for the cowards and traitors to the faith, the depraved and murderers, the fornicators and sorcerers, the idol-worshipers and deceivers of every sort — their lot is the fiery pool of burning sulphur, the second death!" Jesus tells us about both Heaven and Hell.
21:12-14 City with 12 gates, 12 angels, the names of the 12 tribes, 12 foundations, 12 names of apostles.
21:16-17 The city is foursquare, 12,000 stadia on a side (1500 miles!); the wall is 144 cubits high.
21:18 12 precious jewels form the 12 foundations; 12 gates made of pearl.
21:22 NO TEMPLE. No sun or moon. God Himself is the light of the city.
22:2 Tree of life with 12 kinds of fruit.
VII. Epilogue (22:6-21)
22:20 "The One who gives this testimony says, 'Yes, I am coming soon!' Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! [Maranatha!]." Advent = Latin for "coming"; all Christians should be Adventists. Judgment Day means the end of evil of every sort.

Scott Hahn, The Lamb's Supper

[Several ways to look at Revelation]]:
  • The futurist scheme has inspired interpreters to identify the beasts, in turn, with Napoleon, Bismarck, Hitler, and Stalin, among others.
  • The "preterist" view — which emphasizes a first-century fulfillment of Revelation's prophecies — tends to identify the beasts, for example, with one or another Roman Emperor, or with Rome itself, or with Jerusalem.
  • A third perspective, sometimes called the "idealist," sees Revelation as an allegory of the spiritual warfare that every believer must fight.
  • Yet another view, the "historicist," holds that the Apocalypse lays out God's master plan for history, from beginning to end.
Which view do I follow? Well, all of them. There's no reason that can't all be true simultaneously. Scripture's riches are boundless. The earliest Christians taught that the sacred text operates on all four levels, and all of those levels, all at once, teach God's one truth — like a symphony. (73)
The beastly message is this: we are fighting spiritual forces: immense, depraved, malevolent forces. If we had to fight them alone, we'd be trounced. But here's good news: there is a way we can hope to overcome. The solution has to match the problem, spiritual force for spiritual force, immense beauty for immense ugliness, holiness for depravity, love for malevolence. The solution is the Mass, when heaven touches down to save an earth under siege. (85)
The literal sense may describe a historical person, place, or event. The spiritual sense seeks — through that same person, place, or event — to reveal a truth about Jesus Christ, or the moral life, or the destiny of our souls, or of all three. (91)
For the Church is the kingdom already begun on earth, and it is the place of the Parousia in every Mass. (94)

A book for all ages

The destruction of Jerusalem was the destruction of a world. France, Spain, England, Germany, Russia, the U.S. — they have all risen and fallen. Millions incinerated in Hitler's furnaces were not the end of the world; it was the end of a world.

The U.S. government committed itself to a culture of lust when it taught soldiers to use condoms, and sent them home as missionaries to our society. We shot ourselves in the foot and undercut the foundations of our civilization. "Who needs families? We need soldiers."

We have sown the wind and we are reaping the whirlwind.

It's not necessarily the end of the world, but it doesn't have to be the end of the world to hurt like hell. The Book of Revelation is for us and for our age, just as it was for first century Christians and their age.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He has wept over many cities and nations since.

We have to stay faithful until the end. Rev 2 and 3. We have to endure the last battles. God isn't going to rescue us from the Cross. "Through the Cross, light dawns."