Posted by David
I recently read a comment on a blog referring partially to John of Patmos, the author of Revelation. See if you agree with him:
“John of Patmos…was an old man…exiled to an island – powerless against the Roman empire. Between the heat, rotten fish sauce, moldy rye bread (LSD!) and longing to see the Romans grovel before John’s all-conquering God before John dies, you get some pretty wild images. Ah – how could I have been so foolish?”
sunnnv, June 4, 2010
I include that comment, because it captures a present-day perspective of the author of Revelation and of Christianity in general.
The more I study the Book of Revelation, the more it makes sense to me. But my view of the world is not as materialistic as is today’s modern worldview. This gives me a distinct advantage in comprehension. I believe dreams and visions to be integral aspects of reality. The things that dwell in our minds are not only reflections of reality, but reality itself may actually be manifest due to the reflections within our minds (See the K-Bomb series). In John of Patmos’ vision, John was witnessing the reality of the past, present and future. His writing was the reflection of reality. Reading Revelation and understanding it is more similar to dream interpretation than it is to reading a history book.
I by no means fully understand John’s Revelation, but only very dimly, nor do I think it is possible to fully understand it. The symbols of his vision are very archetypal and do have clear meaning, yet some symbols have been obscured by the decay and metamorphosis of language and culture over time and will be irresolvable until the end of history.
Mostly John’s Revelation is a book of hope. It shows that the earth’s abominations will not deceive us cyclically or eternally, nor will it crush joy forever. The message is as clear as it is in the gospels: Goodness will prevail in Christ Jesus.
Even with this message, it’s tempting to seek understanding of the hidden meanings within the book. This is where so many have gone astray and ended up looking very silly. Many have acted on that temptation due to fear or desire for power and attributed all kinds of worldly powers, past and present, to the various evil characters within the book.
“Look! Obama is the first beast!”
“No, George W. was the first beast and Obama is the second beast..”
“Be careful not to get it wrong! America is the Great Prostitute and Israel is…”
“Watch out for Bert and Ernie. They are actually Gog and Magog!”
We end up building our interpretations based on our political, philosophical, cultural or nationalistic bias. How many people will this book lead to pointing fingers at the other guy?
In my study of the book have I really been any different from the finger-pointers described above? Not really. I’ve fallen into the same trap. Only now, the difference is that I’m pointing back at myself, not really me specifically as a person, but toward the greater civilization in which I am a cog: the post-Renaissance West. By this I mean the dominating global civilization that exists worldwide today. I think much of the prophecy in the book discusses the fall of ancient Rome, its rebirth in the West, and the final removal of evil from the places of power when history ends. But then again, my bias might be leading me astray.
I’ll provide an example, which was initiated by my ponderings of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of all things. In my mind, I’ve never been able to let go of the common idea that ancient Babylon, Ancient Rome, and the present-day Modern Civilization are of the same ilk. The oil spill has encouraged a gut feeling that says, “The things that we (our present civilization) has done to the people and planet are not right. The things we do for profit and greed and lust are wrong. Neither technology, nor education, nor military, nor law will not resolve the matter.” I feel the same way that John does but instead of Rome, I feel it about our global civilization. We have been an abomination for a great variety of reasons. I am and have been a part of that machine. In John’s Apocalypse he didn’t have the nicest things to say about the great civilization of his day either:
“Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” Revelation 17:5
Now he might have been talking about ancient Babylon or some other future civilization, but I tend to think that he was talking about the Rome of his day and in Revelation 18 he may have been describing what was to be the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The rejoicing in heaven of Revelation 19 seems to be due directly to the fall of the Rome.
If I take this interpretation to be true, then it leads me to think that the Millennial Period—which people make such a fuss over—has already occurred and was simply the period of time from the 5th Century AD to the 15th Century AD, the so-called Middle Ages. This was a time when the great civilizations of the West, i.e. Babylon/Rome, were stifled by the Church. The flourishing of civilization was put on hold for one millennia. Satan could not deceive all the nations without the glory of a great modern civilization. The unleashing of the worst was yet to come.
“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea”
Revelation 20: 7-8
And curiously just about a thousand years after the decline of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, a rebirth of Rome occurred. The Catholic Church became entrenched with irreconcilable problems. The Church was ruptured into the hundreds of splinter groups in the Protestant Reformation. The ancient serpent was set free. Rome was rebuilt and expanded worldwide to create the industrial, technological, post-modern travesty I see today.
And could it be that we are living today in Revelation 20:8 or 20:9? I can’t say for certain. But if you’re looking for a solid interpretation of the symbolic imagery of Revelation, be sure to read Saint Augustine’s view of the new heaven and new earth in the City of God.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!