The Book of Revelation: A scary tale?

Good morning.


The first readings for the weekday Masses of this week and next are taken form the Book of Revelation. This is a highly contentious document, with many using it as a prophetic text and others a poetic message. So where does the Catholic Church stand on this?


To start off, the book is written using a style called apocalyptic literature, which was familiar to early Christians. During the time of Roman persecution, it was used as a means of communicating doctrine which would not be seen as a criticism of the civil rule. Therefore, there is a lot of poetic and symbolic text which is not necessarily relevant to our modern society.


It was written by a man who calls himself John and who is identified by some scholars as being John the evangelist. However, although he clearly commands respect among the early church, there are some differences in style and composition to the gospel and letters of John.


Some interesting observations:

  • The numbers used in the text (and in other parts of the bible) are meant to be symbolic, not taken literally. 7, for example, represents perfection; 12 is the number of tribes of Israel and is also the number of apostles chosen by Christ; 1000 is a great number. So the figure 144 000, which is often mooted as the number of souls that will enter heaven, is simply an indication that many people who follow Christ will be saved.

  • The Catholic Church often gets implicated in this book since it talks about the Beast and the 7 hills of Rome. Easy to get confused since the Catholic Church is based in Rome! BUT the sign of the Beast - 666 (and 6 represents imperfection) is tied to the numerical Hebrew calculation which brings the number back to Neron Caesar, who was the Roman emperor at the time. A different conclusion completely!

  • The different beasts relate to the Babylonian and other pagan influences of the time which could not be mentioned by name in the book.


Now it should not be concluded that this book has no relevance to us. Notably, there are messages about judgement at the end of time that should catch our attention. But it is not intended to be a prophetic book in that it predicts the future. To read it for this purpose would be a mistake. It brings to us, as it brought to the early church, the message that not all in this world is as it should be and that we must prepare ourselves for the next.


Have a wonderful day.


God bless and stay safe.

Dc Mike & the team.


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