We continue this introduction to Revelations noting that this was a time of rampant sin, oppression by a foreign government and these types of dreams and visions contained in apocalyptic literature would draw people of hope to them. It is said by scholars that because one of the themes of these writings was the destruction of the alien power that was making it difficult to achieve their own recognition and power, it brought about an extraordinary thing. If those who exerted oppressive power could understand these visions and dreams contained in these writings it is very possible that the oppression would only get worse. Some of the commentaries I am reading to better understand this book, suggest that it was very likely they were written in code. The code being the language that would not be understandable to an outsider, so these are the visions and dreams of a people that would be unintelligible to those outside the faith. They are difficult because the codes no longer exists. It is in part because of the historical background of such books we can to some degree interpret them. The Book of Revelations, the Christian apocalypse, is the only one in the new Testament. There were others but they did not get in. We then have to consider why with there being other Christian apocalypses does the Revelation of John stand out. It is believed that the reason for its inclusion was that it alines itself with Jewish thought, containing two basic thoughts, the new age and the old age. Instead of speaking to the Day of the Lord it points to the coming of Jesus Christ. Now we come to another key point. Both apocalyptic and prophecy deal p0int events to come. There is an important difference in these two-forms of communication. The prophets were different because they dealt with the present world. They always spoke of how important it was to serve God in this present world. There is more here but I will just add one other thing about these prophets. No matter how messed up the present state of the world was, they believed if the people accepted the will of God it could be put right. Now a view from the apocalyptic side. The thought here is that this world is already to messed up in the present. It will only change with the avenging wrath of God. They saw a need for destruction of the present world , they were pessimists, who believed that things as bad as they were could never be changed. The new age, that golden time of mankind could only come after this world has been destroyed. The message of the prophets was always spoken, unlike the apocalyptic message which was always a written thing. Had it been delivered in the spoken word the complexity of such a view would have been overwhelming, as we have noted it was difficult, and involved, often unintelligible. We are not putting people down here we are simply noting that it required a great deal of study before it could be understood. Prophets always spoke under their own names while most of the apocalyptic writings were under no name or at best a false name. The exception to this of course is our New Testament one written by St John. Let’s add a little footnote to this last statement. Those who wrote apocalyptic literature had no confidence in their own standing in this terrible world and assigned names of great figures of the past, believing that this would add authority to the writings much more than their own names would. They were trading on the greatness of the past to condemn the state of the present.
This is a short introduction to this book of Revelation, as seen From The Pew. I encourage you to pursue reading and studying this book. There is no way I can tell you anything other than it is difficult to read and to understand without the commitment to a rigorous study routine. There are many commentaries and writings by theologians and scholars that will give you guidance. The good news is many are available on the internet for free. Revelations sets forth the unconquered faith of the Christian Church in a time when life was truly an agony and people had no hope of a better day. These Christians had an unshakable belief that the horrors of their day would be overcome by a powerful God……WE would do well to believe the same.
Life is Good
I recommend the following study materials if you want to study this remarkable book.
New Interpreters’ Bible William Barclay’s Daily Bible Study