The message of the text is one of hope, not fear, at least for those who put their hope in Christ
Deacon Bob Hunt
For the last few weeks, I’ve been immersed in a deeper study of the Book of Revelation. November is a good month to study Revelation, for at the beginning of the month we celebrate the solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls, and at the end of the month we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King. The eternal reward of the saints and the victory of Christ are central themes in the Book of Revelation.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion surrounding this book, largely due to an interpretation of Revelation as something of a road map to the last days and the second coming of Christ. The notion that Revelation provides us with a timeline of events to watch for in order to identify the end of the world and the coming of Judgment Day is a common misunderstanding.
It’s not a new misunderstanding, but it has become more popular, I think, especially among our Evangelical brethren and in light of world events that some cannot resist the temptation to interpret according to the symbolism of Revelation. So demonic locusts become Apache helicopters, Vladimir Putin is the Antichrist, and the battle of Armageddon will be fought between the forces of the United States, Russia, and China on Mount Megiddo in Israel. A dear loved one once told me that she won’t read Revelation because it frightens her. That’s a shame, because, while the book doesn’t mince words when it comes to the sufferings people will endure, including God’s faithful, the message of Revelation is one of hope, not fear, at least for those who put their hope in Christ.
The key text of the book is Revelation 1:19, where Christ comes to His servant John in a vision and tells him, “Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.” As such, the Catholic Church understands the Book of Revelation to be part commentary on the situation of the Church in the first century (in particular in Asia Minor, where John is told to write to seven churches of the region) and part a prophecy of what the faithful in Christ can expect in the future, not so much in the specific details of historic events to come, but of the torments the faithful will endure until the final victory of Christ over Satan.
In the Gospel According to John, Christ tells His disciples, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). That word of encouragement from Christ Himself is a good perspective to keep when reading the Book of Revelation. God gave us this revelation through John, not to cause anxiety and distress among His people, but so that we might find peace in Christ knowing that, while we cannot expect to avoid tribulations in this temporal order, especially from those who are enemies of Christ, we know that the final victory belongs to Him, that He is Christ the King, and that His kingdom will never end.
And what a kingdom that will be! After the final battle between God’s forces and those of Satan, when Satan is thrown into the pool of fire (Revelation 20:6), John sees a vision of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.’ The one who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Revelation 21:1-5a). This is the glory awaiting those who are victors in Christ.
We have a foretaste of that time when God will dwell among us in the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ reserved in the tabernacle for our adoration. Even as we face whatever adversities may come, our hope is firmly grounded in our faith—faith not that Christ will be victorious, but faith that He already is.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Deacon Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville.