All this week and into next week the Church will present as the first scripture for daily Mass excerpts from the New Testament Book of Revelation- one of the most fascinating and strangest books in all of the Holy Scriptures.
Popular culture construes the Book of Revelation as being about the end of the world, and by this is meant the destruction of the planet by God. In this distorting and limited interpretation, God and the devil enter into a final conflict and the world is collateral damage in their struggle. The best hope for humanity is that God in his mercy might exempt some of us from this horror by “rapturing” a select few into a heavenly realm, thus freeing this elect from a terrifying fate, while those people unfortunate enough to remain endure unspeakable torment.
This distortion of the Book of Revelation is fantasy fiction, a novelization of the Biblical text, rather than it’s authentic meaning.
The meaning of the Book of Revelation is properly understood first by understanding the genre in which it is written- the genre is that of what is called “apocalyptic”, which means that through a highly stylized narrative, rich with metaphors and symbols, God reveals through a Biblical author truths about past, present and future circumstances.
Apocalypse or apocalyptic doesn’t mean destruction, it literally means a revelation, a revelation from God in Christ.
In terms of the Book of Revelation this means that in terms of the past, the symbols and metaphors of the Book of Revelation refer to real events that the Church endured because of the persecution Christians suffered from the power of Rome and how Christian set their hopes in Christ to guide them and see them through a terrible time.
In terms of the present, it refers to how God in Christ acts in the midst of the real, visceral, and raw facts of human events, politics, culture and economics. In this respect all the imagery of the Book of Revelation demonstrates how God in Christ is acting, even now, to bring a world that resists his revelation, to conversion and repentance.
And in terms of the future, we see in the fantastic imagery of the Book of Revelation the consummation of all things in Christ, meaning that in the end, despite all the resistance that the powers of the devil, death and the world can muster against Christ and his Church, he is in charge, he is guiding and directing all events in accord with his purposes, and he has the final word.
The ultimate message or meaning of the Book of Revelation is not that the world will be destroyed, but that the world will be perfected, fulfilled and transformed in and by Christ.
The imagery from the Book of Revelation is that of a scroll that is sealed. This scroll represents God’s revelation concerning his will and purposes and that the scroll is sealed indicates that the meaning of this revelation has been revealed by Christ- he is the one who opens the scroll and reveals to us the will and purposes of God.
Further, there is a glimpse into heaven, with the revelation of God’s throne and the Lamb- who is Christ the Lord. The four living creatures are the Evangelists of the Gospels and the elders are the Apostles and their successors. The seven eyes and seven horns on the Lamb represent Christ’s divine omniscience and omnipotence. The throne of the Lamb is situated in the heavenly temple, where the Lamb is worshipped and his glory is revealed.
This strange and fantastic display happens in a manner you can see and understand in the Mass, which is our participation in the worship of heaven here on earth. Here, in the Mass the Gospel is revealed, in communion with the Faith of the Apostles and the Lamb is enthroned, in his tabernacle, on his altar, and ultimately in the sanctuary of our own bodies.
Yes, here in the Mass, you unlock all the hidden secrets to the Book of Revelation.