Is it the end of the world?
The Revelation to John, sometimes referred to as the Book of Apocalypse, is the last book in the Bible. Many people are afraid of Revelation because of the seemingly doomsday language. Also, the general definition of “apocalypse” is “an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale.” So people sometimes use Revelation to speculate the final destruction of the world.
From the Catholic Christian perspective, Revelation is not a prophesy of the destruction of the world. It is, rather, apocalyptic literature, a genre of “the unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling.” Because Revelation and other apocalyptic literature is visionary, the chief characteristic is extravagant symbolism, making it difficult for modern readers to understand. This is why it is important for us to dig deep into Bible study to understand the ancient meanings of the symbolism.
Revelation is the account of John’s visions while he was in exile on the island of Patmos, a Roman penal colony. Many early church Fathers and contemporary scripture scholars attribute Revelation to Saint John, the apostle and writer of the Gospel of John. He shares his visions with his Christian brothers and sisters to encourage them in the midst of the Roman persecutions. When we begin to understand the biblical symbolism of John, we realize the beautiful hope that John offered the early Christian community and offers us as we live in our chaotic world.
John begins his first vision: “I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus…” Like all of the early Christians, John is suffering through the Roman persecution. He shares with his brothers and sisters the distress of the pain and suffering they experience for their belief in Christ Jesus. He also experienced fear and worry, beatings, arrest, and imprisonment. He knows well the pain of persecution.
The kingdom to which he refers is the kingdom of King (Christ) Jesus. The members of Christ’s Kingdom actively follow the Way of the King in service to one another and proclaiming the euangelion, the “Good News” of Christ’s victory over sin and death. Rome is persecuting them because they are proclaiming Jesus as their King rather than giving their allegiance to Caesar. Christ Jesus is a direct threat to the power of Caesar and the Roman empire because of the growing numbers of Christians.
Then John shares his first nugget of hope: “the endurance we have in Jesus.” They are enduring the persecutions because of their faith in Jesus the Christ. They know that their physical pain and death are nothing compared to attaining eternal life with Christ. They believe whole-heartedly in the Christ, the One who was dead, but who is Resurrected and will live forever. They believe in resurrection and eternal life and are willing to give their very lives for their convictions. They are convinced that the sufferings they endure now are nothing compared to life eternal with Christ.
Throughout this season of Easter, let us re-commit ourselves to living the Good News of Christ. May we endure our sufferings to stand in solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. Let us surrender our hearts to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and live according to the Way of Christ, joining in Christ’s mission to build the kingdom of God on earth. Let us live now with generous charity as we look forward with hope to living eternally with our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.