“Maranatha” – “Come, Lord Jesus!”
The Book of Revelation – Series 6
The message of Revelation does not depend upon calculations about the time of the second coming of the Lord – we must be convinced about the “nearness of the Lord” and the certainty of the Christian vision of salvation. Yet, many of the questions raised by Revelation continue to create problems for us today.
What are some of the questions that continue to cause problems today???
As Christians we must question false claims of political and economic systems when they destroy Christian values.
We must question the nature of human compliance with evil and injustice.
We must face the dangers of sectarian groups which pervert the Gospel by claiming to have “inside knowledge” of God.
We must also ask whether we really believe in God’s rule over the cosmos which Revelation presents as real and active.
Revelation uses all the mythic and symbolic resources at its disposal to show us the dangers of a false estimate of the powers of this world – the “new Babylons” of our time in history. As a result, we have to live on the edge – taking our values from the Gospel. We do not need to ask, “What would Jesus do?” Rather, we need to reflect on “What did Jesus do?”. This is the starting point and the ending point for our moral reflection when faced with issues in our everyday life. We are called upon to make incarnate those values that continue God’s dream for the world, a dream that was enfleshed in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.
And, when push comes to shove we must join with the voices of those early Christians who prayed in the midst of fear, doubt and persecution – “Maranatha”!!! “Come Lord Jesus!
“Maranatha” – “Come Lord Jesus!”
The Book of Revelation
“The Famous Puzzle of Revelation – 666”
In chapter 13 we read about the great enemy of God, the “anti-Christ” who is referred to as “the beast” and is given the number 666. Who is this and what does this mean? First of all, it is NOT a prediction of the future. The answer is not so surprising when the text is put in the context of the late 1st century A.D. By indicating the beast’s “number” the author is referring to a very common practice from antiquity which was the calculation of the number of a word or name based on the numerical value assigned to each of its letters.
The best solution to the identity of the beast is “Nero Caesar”, since the Hebrew letters for this title add up to 666. Several other features suit the Nero legend and add to our conviction that Nero is the person to whom the author is referring.
What legend are we speaking about? A legend circulated among the subject peoples of the eastern part of the empire that Nero had not died and that he would return to lead a revolt against Rome and reclaim the throne. The legend maintained that Nero had fled among the Parthians and that during the period between 69-88 A.D. a “Nero reborn” led a series of revolts. How did the legend function? For the Jews and other conquered people is was a symbol of anti-Roman feeling and hopes for a revolt that would bring freedom and wealth to Asia. Nero is identified as the mythological opponent of God in the last days and he embodies the final outbreak of evil vs. God and His people. Most people seem to have thought that Nero was still alive, even though it was said that he had died at the age of 31 so there was some plausibility to the belief.
The emperor who was on the throne at the time of the composition of Revelation (Domitian) tried to appropriate the positive side of the Nero image by using “Nero Caesar” as one of his titles. Considering the positive expectations of Nero in the populace at large, it was necessary to speak in a symbolic and guarded way since any criticism of Rome was dangerous. Yet, Revelation presents Nero as the epitome of Rome’s demonic power. Both Jews and Christians would have understood the type of writing embodied in the prophecies.
“Maranatha” – “Come Lord Jesus!”
The Book of Revelation
A Mistaken Understanding???
In the midst of so much colorful imagery, visions and noise, it would be quite easy to think that wrath and punishment is the real foundation of Revelation. But a close reading shows us that the letters to the seven churches and the visions make it clear that this is an attempt to encourage Christians to be faithful during a difficult time. Revelation does not teach Christians to glory in the expectation that others will suffer a terrible fate while the just Christian basks in heavenly glory. John sees that the divine victory, won by Christ, is the beginning of a divine process of redemption that takes in all of creation.
The repetitious cycle of visions that we encounter seek to show us that we are nearer to the end of the world rather than the beginning. Symbolically, this occurs by having visions that encompass the past history of Israel as a way of reassuring people that the future as well as the past is under divine rule. When we read through these visions we notice that most of them have already been fulfilled from the standpoint of the author and his immediate audience. Revelation wants us to understand that the same divine judgment and guidance that were manifest in those past events are also at work today, but not that those events have to be repeated in some way. The prophet or seer (John) is having a vision of the divine or symbolic truth that is to be worked out over the course of history – he is NOT trying to predict a sequence of historical events as they might be recorded in a newspaper or reported on CNN.
The majestic scene of the divine throne combines images of the temple of Solomon in the Old Testament as well as the heavenly court assembled in judgment in the Book of Daniel. The author combines images of heavenly liturgy with those of the heavenly court. This is a liturgical experience. The entire book is intended to be read aloud and proclaimed during the celebration of the liturgy. The earthly celebration of the supper of the lamb is a parallel to the eternal supper of the lamb in heaven. It is this that gives hope in the midst of suffering and persecution.