Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament which foretells the second coming of Christ, the end of the world, the Last Judgement, Armageddon and the establishment of a New Heaven and a New Earth. Angels of intricate symbolic power figure prominently. A very good example of Judgement can be found in Revelation 17, in which the Whore of Babylon is the main figure that others are accused of fornicating to.

The beast was given a mouth uttering proud boasts and blasphemies, and it was given authority to act for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling and those who dwell in heaven. It was also allowed to wage war against the holy ones and conquer them, and it was granted authority over every tribe, people, tongue, and nation. All the inhabitants of the earth will worship it, all whose names were not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life, which belongs to the Lamb who was slain.

"Whoever has ears ought to hear these words.
Anyone destined for captivity goes into captivity.
Anyone destined to be slain by the sword shall be slain by the sword.
Such is the faithful endurance of the holy ones."

~ Revelation 13:5 - 10.

Although a common tradition attributes the book to John the Apostle, there is vigorous scholarly debate as to the true author. Moreover, it is not agreed that the author of Revelation is also the author of the Gospel and Epistles of John. There are many stylistic and linguistic differences between the five Johannine writings, but there are striking similarities as well.

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his servants what must happen soon. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who gives witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ by reporting what he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message and heed what is written in it, for the appointed time is near.

~ Revelation 1:1.

Scholars agree that early readers of Revelation were well versed in the sort of symbolic allegory and imagery in which the book was written, able to read the language of myth because they knew well the traditions of Jewish apocalyptic writings and Greek and Roman literature. Yet decoding that symbolic language 2000 years later is no easy task.

The Book of Revelation has had a sorted existance, especially in today's pop culture. Many read this book literally and foresee a horrific End of the World. Many read about the seals, the dragons, the serpents, and imagine an ultimate evil. Thinking about the number 666, the number 144,000, the number 7. Fortunately, these flowery pictures are only meant to be pictures and not truths. The Book of Revelation is a book of symbols.

First, I just want to inform you that I am using the New American Translation of the Bible that I will quote from. I will also provide references for the King James Version of the Bible.

The Book of Revelation was written during the beginnings of the early Christian church. A man by the name of John wrote this controversial book while he was in exile on the island of Patmos from the Roman Government. John was one of the lucky ones. Fellow Christians who weren't exiled were being stoned and persecuted at the hands of the Romans. John decided to write the Book of Revelation to give his fellow Christians hope for the future. Admittedly, times were hard for early church members, but John reminded them the struggle was worth it for Heaven.

The first chapter (NA and KJV Rev 1:11) reads, "...'Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches...'" These seven churches are both symbolic and practical. In Hebrew, the number 7 is regarded as a perfect or full number. The seven churches are to represent the fullness of the church. Realistically, these churches listed were cities in which John's writings would have visited. John intended this book to be a circular letter that would travel throughout the Christian community, and these seven cities were probably cities that were to receive the letter.

Later John refers to the seals. Rev 7:4 of both versions reads "I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, on hundred and forty four thousand marked from every tribe of the Israelites." You might recognize the 144,000 from Jehovah's Witnesses "Are you part of the 144,000?" If taken literally, this 144,000 people are the only ones who will get to Heaven. If taken symbolically, this 144,000 people represents the entire church. 144,000 is equal to 12 x 12 x 1000. The twelves represent the twelve tribes of Israel. The 1000 represents infinity. In Hebrew, the number one thousand was symbolic of infinity, much like something like gazillion means now.

The number 666 has taken a sort of Satanic or Evil symbolism. This so-called 'Devil's Number' is merely symbolic of Emperor Caesar Nero. John refers to several beasts in Chapter 13 of both versions. In Rev 13:17-18 the New American translation reads "(17) so that no one could buy or sell except one who had the stamped image of the beast's name or the number that stood for its name. (18) Wisdom is needed here; one who understands can calculate the number of the beast, for it is a number that stands for a person. His number is six hundred and sixty-six."

The picture of the chapter is that of two beasts that persecute all who don't believe in them, or all who do not carry their symbol of 666. In Hebrew, the 666 was representative of most evil. I said before that 7 was perfect and full. The number 6 stood for evil, impure, not full. One analogy I've been told is that of losing a game by one point. You feel really bad when you lose by one point because you were so close to winning. This sort of explains how 6 can be seen as imperfect and impure. Also, Hebrew carries no comparative or superlative forms of words. In order to create, create the idea of 'better' out of the word 'good', the Hebrew language would just repeat 'good'. Therefore, 'better' would be 'good good.' Similarly, the idea of 'best' would be 'good good good.' This explains why 6 was repeated 3 times to represent evil. So how are the Romans symbolic of evil? The early Christians were being persecuted by the Romans under Emperor Nero. The beast with the inscription and the people who beared the symbol of the beast were all depicted as forces that were doing evil.

Finally, the reason for the apocolyptic style. The reason why everything was written in symbols is for cover. John had to write this book in symbols so the Romans couldn't understand it, or more importantly, recognize it as Christian literature. Thus, instead of saying "Beware Emperor Nero and the Romans," he wrote "Beware the beast and all those bearing the inscription 666."

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