Sunday, June 27, 2010
Volcanic Lightning, Internet Domain
In it's most basic form, the final chapter of the Bible, Revelation, speaks to our contemporary culture as a wake up call that the lives of all humanity will ultimately be judged by God. The book spoke to first century oppressed Christions of the hope for relief from the ruling Romans. The final end of human history will see evil eradicated with Satan, the false prophet, the beasts and all their evil worshipers destroyed. I'm not sure there are any absolute interpretations of John's symbolism. But it certainly cannot be taken literally. There are a lot of comparisons to the Roman rule over the persecuted Christians in John's time when he wrote the Apocalypse while exiled on the Aegean island of Patmos. It was meant to be read aloud for effect (1:3).
Prophets understand today and speak of tomorrow. Apocalyptic visions discern spiritual reality outside of time and space. Christian legend has it that John is the only one that actually died of old age versus the terrible executions the other apostles endured during this tumultuous time of early Christianity's development.
The dragon represents Satan who controls the first beast from the sea or Rome, the evil empire, the great whore or adulteress who worships false gods. Roman conquerors came to Asia Minor on ships from the sea. Babylon symbolizes Rome (with 7 hills), the beast (with 7 heads). Modern day Baghdad is in proximity to ancient Babylon. The second beast comes out of the earth, or the governors and political supporters of Rome who enforced the edicts. The self proclaimed Roman emperors decreed they were to be worshiped as a god. Jews had an exemption, but not Christians. Others note that every generation has it's own version of Revelation, including a beast such as Hitler, etc. and today's Bin Laden. The number 6 stands for imperfection, one less than 7(perfection), so 666 is really evil--the mark of the beast. And 666 also refers to Nero Caesar through Hebrew numerology which translates to 616 in some ancient manuscripts, just to keep things unclear.
Revelation is full of symbolism and 275 of the 404 verses have some kind of Old Testament allusion. Armageddon is the symbolic place of God's ultimate victory, the cross. The great confrontation will be won by Christ's blood (love) and his Word (truth). The old order will be replaced by a new earth and new heaven of God's Kingdom (21:4-5) flowing from the river of life to the tree of life.