Revelation (2)


Beale, G.K.   The Book of Revelation.  Part of the New International Greek Testament Commentary series, I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner editors.  (Eerdmans Publishing Co..  Grand Rapids.  1999)

Blount, Brian K.  Revelation.  Part of the New Testament Library commentary series, C.Clifton Black, M. Eugene Boring, and John T. Carroll editorial board.  (Westminster John Knox Press.  Louisville.  2009)

Boring, M. Eugene.  Revelation.  Part of the Interpretation commentary series, James L. Mays series editor..  (John Knox Press.  Louisville.  1989)

Doyle O.F.M., Stephen.  Apocalypse: A Catholic Perspective on the Book of Revelation.  (St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, 2005)

Gorman, Michael J.   Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness / Following the Lamb into the New Creation.  (Cascade Books.  Eugene Oregon.  2011)

Harrington, O.P., Wilfrid J..  Revelation.  Part of the Sacra Pagina commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S.J.  (Liturgical Press.  Collegeville.  1993)


Review of week 1 major points:

·         The book is about the Risen Jesus who is LORD (Caesar is NOT).   The one who died a shameful death is not a pitiful loser but the Lamb that was slain for the sins of the world, the Lamb who sits on the throne in heaven.

·         The book is intended to guide us on how to live as a faithful disciple in this world.  Discipleship has costs.

·         The primary problem for this community in 95/96 AD has been a problem from the time of Moses and remains a problem for us today – How do we live our life of faith surrounded by a secular culture or one that is dominated by another faith?  Do we reject it and live as if we are on an island?  Do we throw ourselves into it and attempt to “Christianize” it?   Do we live in tension with it  – accepting what is good and criticizing what is not?

·         John takes a harder line on these issues than did Paul.  Eat no meat sacrificed to idols, make no adjustment to the pagan culture of Rome that surrounded them as thoroughly as the air.  He calls for the Christians of western Asia Minor (now Turkey) to stand up and witness that “Jesus Christ is LORD” fully knowing that doing so would mean accepting death.

·         It is not a book of predictions for the future.


Blount p. 2:  “The violent fires of Revelation appear in the form of plagues and catastrophes that wipe out entire swaths of earthly landscape and human beings.  They do not burn down, though, as much as they tear up.  The cataclysms are like the plow that must break the ground, tear it up, if a farmer is to prepare it for the seeding that is necessary for a productive harvest.”

Boring p. 113: “Not only is mind and imagination overwhelmed by the quantity and unrelenting intensity of the violence perpetrated against both humans and the cosmos itself, the theological problem is compounded by the fact that the source of violence is God and the Lamb, sometimes invoked with cries for vengeance.  This whole range of imagery has posed a severe problem for interpreting Revelation as a Christian book, particularly when compared with the pictures of Jesus in the gospels.”  Don’t ignore the issue.  “John’s violent / “vindictive” language can be properly interpreted by attending to (1) the givenness of John’s situation, (2) John’s appropriation of tradition, (3) his use of language, and (4) his theology.”

Boring p. 116: “In the portrayals of the terrors of earthquake, plague, and other catastrophes that afflict the cosmos just before the final victory, the community confesses its faith that it does not control the universe and its destiny; it does acknowledge that that destiny is in the hands of an indescribably awesome power over which we have no control.  This, and not the fate of those portrayed as suffering the final woes and its justice or injustice, is the ‘point” of such imagery – as in Exodus and the Psalter!”    This is a key point – in the context of worship and the life of a suffering community – God will protect you in the future as God has done in the past (Exodus / Egyptians).  This is not some objective or logical presentation that takes into account the impact on the Egyptians or even on the wicked of the future – it is a message for the believing community.


CHAPTER 6 – 8:1  Heavenly worship / the sealed scroll

The prices are 8 to 16 times the norm of the day – the sort of prices charged during famines.

Harrington p. 90: in 92 the emperor Domitian ordered half of the vineyards in the region to be cut down in order to grow more grain.  But wine was also a staple like bread.  “Our text may reflect, then, famine conditions and a remedy which threatened the vines (and, perhaps, the olive groves) of the region.”  Blount p. 129: one theory is that the point is that the emperor ordered something and God countermanded it.  Another theory is irony – in the midst of a famine sent by God who controls all people are trying to control things.

Beale p. 372: “The most obvious background is Zech. 6:1-8.  There four groups of horses of different color are commissioned by God to patrol the earth and to punish those nations that they see oppressing God’s people.”

pale horse a symbol of pestilence and disease

Harrington p. 91: “It is evident that, in our passage, the four horsemen must be taken together.  They represent war and its attendant evils – the war, strife, famine, and pestilence of the Synoptic apocalypse. The white horse signifies triumphant warfare; the horseman rides on his path of conquest.  Though the rider is a symbolic figure, the Parthians, Rome’s dreaded foe, are in mind, for John is going to focus on the fall of Rome – for him the foe of the Church.”   The Parthians controlled the area to the east of the Euphrates River at this time (to the northeast of Palestine), modern day Iraq.  They were the only ones with mounted archers in that time period, with white horses as their trademark.  The Parthian cavalry had defeated the Romans a number of times in battle.

Boring p. 124: The first horseman (white horse) is not Christ but has some Christological symbolism attached – the death that comes from this element of the vision is this-worldly death, not the conquering death of the cross

The synoptic apocalypse vision: Matt. 24:9-14; Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-19.  (deception, wars, international strife, earthquakes, famines, persecutions, cosmic upheaval)

blood was poured out at the base of the altar in Temple, that is where the souls of the martyred would linger.

Harrington p. 97: “The martyrs had called for vindication.  God has unleashed his ‘wrath’.  He is not, nor ever could be, a vindictive God.  He is not aloof to injustice and the human suffering it involves.  He has his own way of coping with it.  His answer is the Lamb.  His ‘wrath’ is written on the Cross.  We should read his message and act accordingly – act for justice and peace in our world.  That way of facing and overcoming evil is the way of ‘the wrath of the Lamb.’”

Chapter 7 begins with an interlude on the church.  Not billions strong with a long history at the time of John.  Boring p. 128: “Their congregations are small; on the margins of society; politically suspect; without impressive buildings, institutions, or respect from their neighbors.  In their minds this was in sharp contrast to the synagogues (to which some of them had once belonged) with their sense of historical roots and worldwide fellowship.  The Christians of Asia needed a vision of the church to which they belonged; John’s dual vision addresses this need.”

Harrington p. 99: “The ‘sealing’ (of 144,000 = vast number), assurance of divine concern, will entail no ‘rapture’ for the elect.  They will be ‘caught up’ indeed, but caught up in the tribulation, helpless victims – helpless as their Lord on his cross.  For them, as for him, there will be no legion of angels.  We must look for no miracle, apart from the abiding miracle of our God’s loving care.”   Beale p. 409 – the sealing protects their faith – but not their bodies.  (Catholic tradition of baptism – an indelible mark …)

Beale, p. 416 and ff., on the meaning of 144,000, sees as possible explanations:

1.       literally true, ethnic Israelites (who convert during the tribulation)

2.       a significant portion of ethnic Israelites who will be saved when Jesus comes again

3.       represents Christian ethnic Jews living at the time of John

4.       figurative, represents all God’s people who will be saved

5.       figurative, represents the totality of the redeemed, numbered as a holy army who conquers by enduring in faith through persecution and death

Boring p. 130: “… the church is not only big, it is complete.”

early in the chapter it is the church before the last day, at the end of the chapter the same folks after the last day.    Remember – Revelation is not a linear unfolding of events, it is a word picture.  Perhaps like a symphony where the composer introduces a theme (even in the overture, that pops up throughout the piece) that will dominate the closing portion of the work.

Boring p. 131: “Again, they have “won” only from the heavenly perspective of the Lamb’s redefinition of winning: on earth they have been killed.”

Beale p. 449: Isaiah 41:1 the nations are commanded to listen in silence to God’s declaration of judgment against them.

Keep silence before me, O coastlands;

you peoples, wait for my words!

Let them draw near and speak;

let us come together for judgment.



CHAPTER 8:2 through CHAPTER 11  Heavenly worship / the seven trumpets

Boring p. 133: for John’s small churches that gather for prayer and worship (never described in the book)  in their homes: “The “prayers” are “heard”; they have an effect.  … The saints’ prayers do not result in a deliverance from historical troubles but the deliverance of the world and history, by the eschatological appearance of God’s kingdom.”

Boring – this is a retelling of the first cycle of woes at a more intense level.

Boring p. 135: “Like the seven seal visions, the seven trumpet visions are not a prediction of distant future events but fit into the apocalyptic pattern of the woes that must precede the victory of god at the End, which john saw as rapidly approaching in his own day.”

Beale p. 472: “The trumpets portray judgment on unbelievers because of their hardened attitude, thus demonstrating God’s incomparable sovereignty and glory.  These judgments are not intended to evoke repentance but to punish because of the permanently hardened, unrepentant stance of the unbelievers toward god and his people.”

Ezekiel 5 – Israel divided up into thirds and then judged – this seems to be the parallel early in chapter 8

the 7 archangels of Jewish tradition: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, Remiel.  Luke has Gabriel doing the annunciation to Mary.

wormwood / bitter water – a reverse of the miracle in the desert in which bad water was turned to good.

Harrington p. 107 – for the plagues of trumpets and bowls John has mined Exodus 7 – 10, the plagues on Egypt, for the images.

“The plagues are not God’s primary will but the fruit of its rejection.”

                  (CHAPTER 9)

fallen star = fallen angel  1 Enoch 6-13  connects to Gen 6:1-4, Luke 10:18 “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’  This is a fascinating subject for another day – how this whole tradition of a fallen angel developed over time – originally a mocking of the desires of foreign kings and deities.

Harrington p. 113: “The motivation of the plagues is not vindictiveness; they are a summons to metanoia.  But, as with Pharaoh, this purpose was not achieved; humankind did not repent.”


                       (CHAPTER 10)

Harrington p. 115: why seal up the vision?  may be to insist that while John is given information to convey regarding Jesus as Lord he is not to be privy to all heavenly knowledge.  may be that the disasters contained within it have been cancelled by God.

Ezekiel 3:13 he eats the scroll he is handed.  Sweet in his mouth, it is full of lament and woe for Israel.

Harrington p. 117: “This message is bitter-sweet: sweet because it proclaims the triumph of the church, bitter because it must include the sufferings of Christians.”


                   (CHAPTER 11)

42 months (1/2 of 7 years) – the approximate time of the persecution of Antiochus IV in the time of the Maccabees (about 100 years before Jesus), a symbol of a time of great trial

The temple and the community will be ‘measured’ (protected, that is – they will survive) but a time is coming when they and the Church as a whole will be trampled and will suffer.

Beale p. 571: temple, altar, outer court, and holy city all refer to the Christian community

Boring p. 147: “What John has been describing is perceivable to the eyes of faith only.  To all ordinary observation, the “witnesses” have no power at all.  In 11:7 the “beast opposes them, “conquers” them, kills them …  The faithful Christian martyr / witnesses are easily dispatched by the pagan courts.  Yet they do not die without completing their testimony; their death is not a meaningless tragedy.”   “The beast does not have the last word.”

The two witnesses are Moses and Elijah.  (Transfiguration!)  In Jewish tradition they are associated with ushering in the Messianic age

The great city is Rome, spoken of here symbolically.  Is not Jerusalem.

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