Revelation (4)

Resources:

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)

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CHAPTERS 17 AND 18  THE FALL OF BABYLON / ROME

Boring p. 178: The fall of Babylon / Rome is the mirror (reverse image) of the rise of the New Jerusalem.

The metaphor using a woman to represent a city / nation was common in OT times and in the OT itself – both positive (beautiful …) and negative (prostitute).  Most famous example is the lived metaphor of the prophet Hosea who married a ‘loose woman’ Gomer and then used this metaphor (and even the names of his children he fathered with her) to challenge the people of Israel whom he accused of being unfaithful to the LORD.  Other texts: Gen 34:31, Isa 1:21, Isa 57:3, Jer 3:3, Ezek 16:30, Hos. 2:5, 3:3, 4:10, 5:3 and more.  Blount p. 309: “John fears that his people will destroy their relationship with Christ by accommodating themselves, through either social fear or economic lust, to a prostituting relationship with Rome.”

Blount p 315: The forehead was where ownership was branded for slaves.  In Revelation – all persons have a branded name on their foreheads.  Either “Rome” or “Jesus”.  No other option.

The beast “was, is not, is to come”   persecution was under Nero, isn’t now, but will come soon.  But the beast has been defeated by the resurrection of Jesus who (was, is, and is to come).

Boring p. 183: “John is writing a pastoral letter to address the immediate problem of his reader-hearers, not a puzzle for later for readers.  John was not concerned that his original hearer-readers learn from this passage who the reigning emperor was – they knew that already – but rather what he was, what he represented.  He was afraid that his fellow Christians might not recognize that imperial power was ultimately demonic, that the current lull in persecution was only the calm before the approaching storm.”

Boring p. 184: “It is arrogant human empire as such that is here condemned, not just its embodiment in Rome in John’s time.  But John knows there are other dimensions to human government and culture and presents these in other passages.  …  Other passages in the bible, including some in Revelation, can point out the positive values in culture and politics.”   The book does not call us to abandon the world and government or to fight all culture as evil, nor does it let our culture completely off the hood since it is “just” about Rome.  We are left with the tension – what about our culture is sinful and unjust?  what about it is good and valuable?

The “double” punishment of Rome echoes Isaiah 40’s “double” punishment of Jerusalem / Zion / Israel.

Boring p. 187:  Summarizes Adela Yarbro Collins points about what made Rome (standing for the whole empire and its leaders, not so much the city itself) so evil:

1.       idolatry, particularly the emperor cult

2.       persecution of Christians

3.       Rome’s self-glorification

4.       Rome’s wealth gained by exploitation of others

The text is not clear about WHO are the agents who implement the destruction of the beast / Rome (though it is clear that it is through the power of God).  Blount argues on p. 331 that it is a collection of kings and the beast from the sea.  It is NOT the Christians of Asia Minor.  All those who prospered under the Roman system will mourn.  The extravagance of Rome is detailed – a perpetual problem of empires – think of the excesses of Versailles and the French court, of the U.S. in the eyes of much of the world?

At the end of Chapter 18 – stone into the sea.  End of Jeremiah he writes a scroll of judgment on Babylon, has another read it and tie a stone around it and then throw it into the river – so too will Babylon sink into oblivion.

CHAPTERS 19 THROUGH 22   GOD REDEEMS

Boring p. 191: “In contrast to the dirge over the dead and silent city which had been usurped by the false rule of the beast, there is the song of praise to God, the true ruler of all, who has judged and avenged the injustice practiced by the oppressive imperial city of earth.”

Worship language of Halleluia (Praise the LORD), Salvation to our God.   This is a victory acclamation.

Blount p. 347: “John has introduced the bride as the people of God (vv.7-8). Now the people of God are suddenly the wedding guests!  Can both significations hold?  In John’s world, as in the world of dreams and visions they certainly can.  John’s presentation cannot be held to the same type of logic that governs literal narration about the “real” world.  He is trying to make a single point and to do so is perfectly comfortable with mixing his metaphors, even in a conflicting way.”  

Blount p. 354: “… John never depicts the army actually fighting.  …  After all, the primary weapon is a sword not of steel but of God’s word.    The combat is one of competing testimonies to competing lordships.  This is a war of the Word, a war over which word, the word of whose lordship, is the true word.  It is therefore on the level of testimony that the combat is waged.”

Blount p. 358: “It is not his intent to present a real picture of the judgment.  He instead intends to scare hearers and readers straight back to belief in the singular lordship of God and the Lamb.  Like the plagues, the lake of fire has repentance as its primary goal.  …  A people who do not trust Babylon / Rome to survive will be less likely to accommodate themselves to it …”

Boring p. 194: Seven final scenes or visions of the end:

1.       the return of Christ,

2.       the last battle,

3.       the binding of Satan,

4.       the thousand year reign,

5.       the defeat of Gog and Magog,

6.       the last judgment,

7.       the descent of the New Jerusalem.

Boring p. 195: “… a tour through an eschatological art gallery in which the theme of God’s victory at the end of history is treated in seven different pictures, each complete in itself with its own message and with little concern for chronology.”    NOT seven successive steps, seven visions of the same reality – God redeems.

Jesus triumphant on horse – robes are red with HIS blood from the cross, the Lion is the Lamb, the conquering is by death on a cross and resurrection.

Boring p. 197: “As the Bible’s pictures of ultimate beginnings are personal (not a Big Bang but “In the beginning God …”), so also its pictures of the End are neither bang nor whimper but the God revealed in Christ.”

Chapter 19 contains a theological tension in how we think.  Jesus truly lived, was crucified, died, was buried, rose again.  Experienced as present through the Holy Spirit in the lives and community of believers.  Also present in Word, in Eucharist, in priest at the altar.  In real sense – He is here, now and always.   So, to say He will come again (to judge, to bring mercy and justice) is another way of looking at things both for now and regarding the future.  So too is John’s emphasis in Revelation that He is not here now but will come at the end of time.

Final battle scene reflects what began in creation scenes – God subdues the chaos of the sea, of nature, of forces of evil.

Boring p. 202: “The power of evil, deadly real though it be, is temporary and finally operates by permission of the one God.  The victory of God already accomplished in the Christ even, though real, is presently hidden.  This hidden reality, already apparent to the eyes of faith, but only to them, will finally become manifest to all.”

Early (and essential) Christian belief – along with personal survival after death – Jesus’ reign in a renewed and real (physical) world.

Satan, after being bound, “must” be released for a little while????  John only wants to use another image of the end times, this is NOT chronology.  Gog and Magog tradition is from Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39.

Blount has another take on the “must”.  p.363: Satan has worked to deceive many into following Rome.  In binding Satan for 1,000 years God shows God’s power and gives everyone a chance to see correctly that only God is God.  Then Satan is loosed again for a short time – who will choose to follow Satan now?   And then Satan is permanently disposed of.

Blount p. 366   way too much is made of the 1,000 year reign.  John does not give it extensive treatment.  It is more like a ‘merge’ lane on a big road.  A way to bring the present currently corrupted world and the future perfect kingdom together. 

Blount p. 367: “The period of Christ’s rule no doubt has the same objective as the period of the dragon’s incarceration.  Witnesses are to see in it the truth that despite the circumstances of their oppression and even executions, God’s vindication is assured.  Judgment, and the justice that will come for them from that judgment, is imminent.  The witnesses have only to hold on. …  …these witnesses should focus less on the thousand years than on the new heaven and new earth to follow it.”  Only the martyrs are resurrected for this reign, the rest of the dead stay dead, this is their reward for their witness.  The resurrected witnesses shall rule with Christ over this earth and all who are alive at the time.  This is a first and limited resurrection.  At the second / final resurrection all appear before the heavenly throne.

Two books in final judgment scene – book of our deeds and book of Life /grace.  Boring p. 212: “Those who are saved from the eternal “second death” are saved only by God’s grace – not by their deeds but by God’s.”

Blount p. 377: “John’s vision … redeems the earth as a part of Gods good creation and as the locus of God’s grand re-creation.  A witness for God and the Lamb does not dream of escaping the world. A witness for God and Lamb works with God to transform the world.”

 

 

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