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by Paul E. Kretzmann
The Revelation of St. John the Divine
The Lord had given the Apostolic Church the special gift of prophecy, by which ordinary Christians as well as the apostles were able to predict future events. Prophetical passages are found in a number of books of the New Testament, for instance, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10; 1 Timothy 4:1-3. But the prophecy of the last book of the Bible belongs to that special form of foretelling future events which is known as apocalypse. In which the future is unveiled to the eyes of the seer in the form of visions or pictures. Thus we have here a symbolic history of the fortunes of the Church from the first century to the end of time. "In a series of vivid pictures John was shown how the Church would develop, pass through dreadful conflicts with the wicked powers of earth and hell, and ultimately gain the victory."
The author of the book calls himself God's servant John, chap. 1:1, without assuming the designation of apostle. But since he wrote to seven congregations of Asia Minor, and, moreover, writes as one having unusual authority, there is no reason to question the tradition that it was the Apostle John who received the revelation from the Lord and embodied it in this book. He was at that time an exile on the island of Patmos in the Southeastern Aegean Sea, off the coast of Asia Minor, having been banished to this mountainous, barren, and lonely spot "for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus," chap. 1:9. It was on the Lord's Day, on a Sunday, that John was granted these visions, his mind, through the influence of God, being in a peculiarly detached condition, making it possible for him to visit remote places in spirit while his body was on Patmos. The banishment of John probably took place during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, and the book was written in the nineties of the first century.
The Book of Revelation was written to the seven congregations of Asia Minor, which are named Revelation 1:11. It was designed to meet an immediate need on the part of those to whom it was addressed, but, like the other books of the New Testament, it serves for consolation to the children of God in the manifold trials and tribulations which are the lot of the believers in Christ until the end of time. "The prophecy of the ultimate triumph of the kingdom of God over all hostile forces of earth and hell, the promise of the coming of Christ, the pictures of heaven with its glory and joys, have been a source of cheer, comfort, and courage to millions of Christians."
Although the book may be divided in various ways, the following outline will serve for orientation. After the introduction we may distinguish seven visions. The first vision shows us Christ as the Ruler of His Church, governing the believers by means of His Word. In the second vision we see Him as King of the universe, who controls and directs even the evil for the benefit of His Church. In the third vision, Christ appears as the High Priest of His Church, permitting no false spirits to overcome its power. The fourth vision pictures Christ's fight with the dragon, the power of the godless world, and with Anti-Christ. The fifth vision shows the avenging judgment of God upon the enemies up to the time that the elect strike up the song of triumph. The sixth vision shows Christ as the Blaster of the dragon, the latter being finally thrown into the bottomless pit. The seventh vision paints a comforting picture of the perfection of the Kingdom of Glory in the heavenly Jerusalem. The book concludes with the appealing cry: "Even so, come, Lord, Jesus!"
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26