What is the message of the book of Revelation? – Monday, 33rd Week in ordinary time – Revelation 1:1-4, 2:1-5a

The word ‘Revelation’, referring to the last book of the New Testament, is a translation of the Greek word Apocalypse. When we speak of apocalypse as a term in Greek, it literally means, ‘to pull the lid off something.”

The 22 chapters of this book are filled with symbolic descriptions. Sadly, many have approached this book as a road map for reading its alleged ‘hidden secrets’ about the end of the world. Let me say this plainly, the symbolic descriptions in this book are not to be taken literally nor is the symbolism meant to be pictured realistically. One would find it difficult and repulsive to visualise a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes; yet Jesus Christ is described in precisely such words (Rev 5:6).

Before we answer when and by whom was this book written, it would makes sense to understand why was it written. Like the book of Daniel and other apocalyptic books, it was composed as resistance literature to meet a crisis. In the early part of 60 A.D., Nero instituted a violent persecution of Christians in Rome, but it was restricted to Rome and had nothing to do with the issue of emperor worship. The first emperor who appears to have tried to compel Christians to participate in Caesar worship was Domitian (81-96), a fierce persecutor of the Christians.

Clearly, the Roman imperial authorities were attempting to revive and enforce the cult of emperor worship. The Church of course resisted, leading to a ruthless persecution of the early church. Rome, the city on seven hills (Rev 17:9) is portrayed as the harlot, Babylon. John pictures the Roman Empire as a seven headed beast rising out of the sea (13:1). The imperial priesthood is represented as a second beast, having two horns like a lamb (simulating the Messiah) but with the voice of a dragon (betraying its Satanic origin). Working great signs and imposing economic sanctions, it endeavours to enforce the universal observance of Caesar worship (13:11-17). The date of the book in its present form is probably near the end of the reign of Domitian (A.D. 81–96).

The author of the book calls himself John (Rev 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8), who because of his Christian faith has been exiled to the rocky island of Patmos, a Roman penal colony. Although he never claims to be John the apostle, whose name is attached to the fourth gospel, he was so identified by several of the early church Fathers as John the apostle. Most probably he was a Palestine-born Jew who had fled into exile, a prophetic figure known to the churches in the Asia Minor region of what is today, western Turkey.

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