The Gospel of the Revelation
according to St. John the Divine
St. John’s MCC • Session 1
Understanding vs. mystery
Most people are drawn to mystery. They want to understand what seems hidden from them. They must find some way to make sense of things they see. Perhaps the biggest mystery, for most people, is “What happens next?”
Concrete vs. symbolic language
People also have a need to understand symbols and turn them into something that is concrete. They must understand. They do this by using their own past experiences and trying to see if there are any similarities. Initially, if they can’t find anything in their own lives that match, they reluctantly examine experiences that other people they know have had. If that fails, they check out the experiences (and teachings) of “experts.” Finally, in defeat, they give in to the “expert” opinion. Ultimately, when the symbolic language is so dense and defeat is so frequent, they decide that nothing they think about it can be true and quit searching for their own experience and believe anything an “expert” tells them.
That is how misconceptions of symbolic language are passed from generation to generation. You cannot pass understanding on to people if you don’t understand it yourself. Your former pastor probably never knew the Truth.
Major symbols of evil in the Book of Revelation
Jot down your understanding of what these symbols mean to you. It’s okay to leave the third column blank for now.
|Symbol||From past teaching||As a Christ-follower|
People want to understand exactly who their enemies are. It is no wonder that one of the first questions a person has when reading Revelation is “Who is this Antichrist?” Because people’s natural instinct is to find someone to blame, they look for a real person who could be the Antichrist. They want to know which country he will come from and how he can be recognized when they see him coming.
Why are Divine Comedy: Inferno by Dante Alighieri, Paradise Lost by John Milton, and Left Behind by Tim LaHaye so popular? Because they offer an easy way to recognize an enemy. Even though many religious people have adopted the ideas in these and similar books as Truth, they are fiction – purposefully written to be bestsellers. The more outrageous they are, the more books and movie tickets they sell.
Characteristics of First-Century People
When a first-century Roman read Revelation, he figured that the Antichrist and the Beast were two of the mischievous gods they had always heard about. When a first-century Jew read the book, he figured that the Antichrist was Caesar and the Beast was the Roman governor of the province of Palestine.
But, to a first-century Christ-follower, the Antichrist was not a person at all. It was an attitude – an attitude that had enslaved them and made them feel guilty, shameful, and powerless for centuries.
Questions to Ponder
- Who had the most conflict with Jesus’ teachings?
- How did the Jewish priests hold power over the Jews?
- Why did the Jewish priests hate Jesus?
- What guiding principles did Jesus teach?
- How would that be a new way of life for the Jews (or anyone, for that matter)?
- What kind of attitude must a person have to be able to engage in that way of life?
- What changes would you need to make in your life to begin that journey?