Friday, November 04, 2005

Revelation 15:1-8

Okay, I don't particularly like the Book of Revelation. There, I've said it. It is an uncomfortable Book to me. Why? Because I don't know much about it. Every time I read it, I just get confused by the symbolism and the imagery. Also, I am put off by the violence. Sure, I've heard lots of different things about the Book of Revelation, mostly the rantings of those who believe the end is near based on the literal reading of the Book. Frankly, that kind of fanaticism scares me and that keeps me away from fully discovering this Book.

So, to prepare for this writing, I started doing some research. It was fascinating to me because I love history and to understand this Book, you need to know something about the history of the time. I'm not going to give you a history lesson and I will eventually get to the verses I am supposed to write about. But it is helpful to know a few things.

For example, I learned that the Book of Revelation comes from John's dreams that he had while a prisoner in a cave on the Greek island of Patmos. He wasn't really in prison, but was in exile and in a self-imposed prison, for the most part. John had very firm political beliefs that the Roman Empire was an illegitimate power and to accept the emperor the way you were supposed to in that day was idolatry. This was not a widely held view so it set John apart. In fact, many Bible scholars believe that the Book of Revelation is really a story of the collapse of the Roman Empire. One of the most widely held beliefs about the Book of Revelation, thanks to the influence of Constantine and St. Augustine, is that this is the story of the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. There will be wars, famine, disease, heavenly signs and crises. Then comes the Antichrist (although that word is not in the Book of Revelation). Then, the Antichrist is overthrown and Jesus Christ returns on a white horse to re-establish the kingdom of God.

With that little bit of history, let's talk about these verses. Thus far in this Book, John has introduced the main "characters" of the drama. We have seen horrific visions of destruction and death, culminating in the introduction of the beast. But, chapter 15 seems to be the beginning of the end of the story. The seven angels with the seven plagues are the last characters to be introduced because, as John sees it in his vision, after the seven plagues, God's wrath will be ended. Through Chapter 14, there has been a tapestry woven by John of symbols and characters representing good and evil. This is the world poised for the introduction of the Antichrist. It's a horrible place, with timely visions of God's love and mercy interspersed through the story.

Verse 2 is the pivotal verse to me in that it underscores the gist of this Book: Those who accept Christ as their Savior will prevail over the devil (i.e., the Beast). With all the myriad of controversy and interpretations of this Book, that is what it gets down to.

So, I have learned a great deal since I started working on this. Instead of being intimidated by the Book of Revelation, I find myself wanting to learn more about this story. I hope this has helped open your eyes and your heart on this Book as well.

Vicki Nelson

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