Who Wrote The Book Of Revelation?

2014-06-14 12:09

The Revelation of Jesus Christ is arguably one of the most epic and mysterious books in history and in western philosophy. It has been an inspiration for science fiction writers and anarchist adventurers for centuries across the radius of its spread and influence. This is a book that is encoded with riddle after riddle, and metaphors so complex that many a scholar has hence out of ineptitude dismissed the whole book as a fraud. Questions have also been raised throughout the past two historic millennia of liturgical discourse on the authenticity of this one book.

Having read the book extensively in my monastic days, I have found beyond doubt that it was indeed written by John, the disciple of Jesus, who also wrote The Gospel According to John and three other epistles in the New Testament. The writer declares himself as John in the first (Rev. 1:9) and 22nd (Rev. 22:8)chapters of the book. The book perhaps sums up the magnificence of Hebrew composition, in the way John narrates in symbolic literary genius the ultimate battle between forces of good and evil, or what is called the Armageddon. In the past, the book was also known as The Apocalypse of John, because it was crafted in the vision and allegory infused nature of gnostic Biblical literature. Symbolism and figurative language had been a common theme in Hebrew or Israelite history, going as far as the times of Enoch the great (±3500 BC), who is also known as the father of knowledge.

All the great Hebrew legends were ferocious writers and vigilant readers of the letters of their ancestors. The book we now commonly read as The Holy Bible is only a fraction of authentic Hebrew literature that is available today. Patriarchs like Noah, Abraham and Jacob were prodigious writers, but many of their books were not included in this compilation of The Holy Bible. Moses (c. 1500 BC) wrote many other books over the five ones which begin the current Bible. By the time John wrote The Revelation of Jesus Christ, he had very much been an ardent scholar of his ancestral predecessors’ books, whether they be poetic, liturgical, psalmist, gnostic, or even judicial.

John In Patmos    

John wrote the book during a very difficult period for the newly created faith of Jesus Christ and its adherers. At this time, all disciples of Jesus faced certain torture and crucifixion by the powers that be, whether in Israel, Greece, Rome or Egypt. It is generally assumed The Revelation of Jesus Christ was written between 80 and 90 AD, and that John was possibly the last living of the original followers of Jesus, who was killed in 33 AD. John presumably gets to writing this recital piece of Biblical composition from a Greek Island called Patmos, as a prisoner or an expatriate, under Roman Emperor and persecutor of Christians Domitian.

Compared with many Biblical books, which might be filled with metaphors but are still historical in nature, this book is based on a vision, an art form which only a seasoned apprentice of Hebrew literature could experience or tap into. It is like when a spirit dancer is affixed into a trance/mood of some sort, hence the words used by John in the impassioned prologue of the book are, ‘I was in the spirit’. This is the kind of vibration which is invoked in John’s other acclaimed predecessors’ books, namely Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra, and their great ancestor Enoch, who ‘travelled’ across the ‘seven heavens’.(This could be understood to mean figuratively.)

Books like The Revelation of Jesus Christ require more than reading at face value by the enthusiast.Their  subjective use of figures and symbolism cannot be unpacked unless one is deeply familiar with the overall technique of Biblical literature. By the time one engages in this genus of work, they’d better be familiar with the metaphoric meanings of visions like ‘Angels’, ‘Heaven’, ‘Crowns’, ‘White Robes’, ‘Abyss’, ‘Sea’, and others. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, much like other apocalyptic books of the Bible, is authoritative and prophetic while it uses parables and allegories  to foretell of the things to come, regarding the fate of humankind.

Some scholars have argued the John who wrote Revelation might not be John the actual disciple of Jesus. But having read the Gospel of John and his three epistles on several occasions, I have personally found they had an uncanny  resemblance with the book of Revelation,with regard to the persona and flair of the writing. Although Revelation is graphic when compared with the other Books of John in The Bible, it still contains that compassionate element synonymous with John, the disciple whom Jesus apparently favoured highly. Each Gospel also reveals the personality and/or the state of mind of the writer, so to speak.

In The Spirit                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The book consequently begins with John being ‘in the spirit’ and seeing a vision of Jesus Christ, with hair as white as snow, wearing a dashing white gown and holding seven stars in one hand while standing before seven golden lampstands. His eyes are described to look like a flame, while his feet were like brass which has been in the fire. All these details which are described by the author are symbolic and are not meant to be taken literally. In other parts of this valiantly themed book, some of the parables are deciphered or broken down, but the rest may be resolved through independent diligent study and consideration. For example, Jesus goes on to explain that the seven golden lampstands before him represent the seven churches which are in Asia, while the seven stars he holds in his right hand indicate the seven Angels of those churches.

Subsequently, Jesus instructs John to write seven messages to these specific churches, giving them guidance on spiritual purity and what not to do to avoid corruption and impurity. After these strict and binding instructions, told in poetic prose, John has another vision and is ‘taken up to heaven’, like his ancestor Enoch had done in one of his books, traversing the seven heavens.It is on this symbolic realm that John is shown the decisive and ultimate battle between good and evil, which happens to take place on earth. Seemingly, this Great War may span anything from a few years to even 2000 years or beyond. A crafty use of related timespans and numerology is applied on various parables, where [a time(1), times(2) and half a time(½)],[3½ days], [3½ half years], [42 months], [1260 days], might be interchangeable and may mean a common periodor sequence of events.Some theologians assert that our current generation is at the very pinnacle of this conflict that will seemingly end all conflicts when it is done with.

Numerology  

Numerology plays a significant part in the art of prophecy. In the book of Revelation also, as in many other Hebrew Books, mathematics is intermixed with numerology to define future events or conceptions. The number seven has been known in Hebrew tradition to symbolize perfection. But all the numbers, from one to nine have a significance attached to them in their own right. One is viewed as sacred in describing perhaps God or unity (oneness). Two also is a divine number, as in the duality of man and woman, Heaven And Earth, Aaron and Moses, etc. Three is also considered a Holy number, as seen with the depiction of the three men who appeared to Abraham, the three wise men who came to the birth of Jesus, and the three figures who appeared to Jesus and his disciples at the Mount. (This should not be taken to mean a literal transfiguration.)

In John’s book, some particular numbers are used repetitively within the analogies, like the four (4) angels (creatures) who guard the throne of God, the four (4) horsemen, the third (3) of mankind whom the devil kills,the three (3) unclean spirits, the dragon with seven (7) heads, the seven (7) angels who are released by God to plague the earth, the (24) elders who sit joyfully around the throne, the 144 000 (12×12 000) agents of the Lamb, the 200 million man army of the four (4) angels of destruction, and of course, the 666 – the number of the beast.

The reader comes to understand that of all the hosts of angels who are dispatched at various epochs according to their influence or purpose, some are good while others are evil. The crooked angels are the ones who are set together against God, Jesus, the good angels and all morality, who go far and wide to spread their spirit of destruction. Jesus is made the central figure of this epic, but it seems there are many other angels or men who fulfill similar duties and like him are martyred by the merciless and aggravated servants of Abbadon. Destructive things are normally seen as ascending from beneath (pit, sea, earth), while holy and good things descend from above (cloud, sky, sun). John plays the part of a petrified but nonetheless intrigued witness, as angel after angel takes him through the various perilous stages (angles) of this Armageddon. Where it permits, the author may intervene and ask the polite but authoritative angels as to what the specific meaning of a certain vision may be.

Beauty And The Beast   

At one point, John is shown an illustrious woman wearing luxurious items and riding on a red beast, which in turn hasseven heads and ten horns (Rev. 17). She is said to hold a golden cup full of abominations, and seems drunk off the blood of the servants of God, whom she is said to have murdered in her bloody spree of aggression for wealth and power. She is one and same or related to the symbolic dragon, which Michael the angel and his angels fight against and conquer (Rev. 12). Jesus Christ is described in like manner, as coming from ‘heaven’ with thousands of his Fathers’, marching on white horses and saving the earth from the symbolic dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, who are the key leaders of the rebellion against God and his chosen. Jesus, who is figuratively known as ‘the lamb’, is described in this book as ‘The Lion of Judah’, signalling kingship and authority.

Hell in this regard is used as a symbol for transitional torture, since the book gives an impression that all humans must and will be saved after the war. In chapter seven of the 22 chapter book, John elatedly describes a scenario where he sees a great multitude, which no one could number, of all nations, tribes and tongues standing before God in gratitude and praise, after having gone through the great tribulation, which presumably is the decisive and conclusive war. This war is not limited to the battlefield alone, as we hear of pestilence resulting from disease, gluttony, and even ignorance. Revelation is written in such a way that it seems the visions are not necessarily arranged according to a chronological aspect. Some visions that may relate to a much later period might be told first, and vice versa, but they all gel and harmonize to add up to a common theme without contradictions.

The New Jerusalem  

The book concludes by painting a utopian scenario of the earth after the war, where it is symbolically implied that God will come down from heaven and make earth his permanent abode, as opposed to living in the distant heaven (Rev. 21). Many have thus wrongly associated this heaven with the literal sky, which was not what the prophet implied. In another allegory earlier in the third chapter, Jesus speaks about a New Jerusalem descending from heaven to earth, signalling an approaching state of peace and justice, and not meaning a literal city will drop from the sky. John confirms this when he later on talks about a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. This should also not be understood to mean a possible explosion which destroys our current earth physically, so a literal new one may appear.

But rather worryingly, the Revelation of Jesus Christ is adamant that the corrupt kingdom which abuses humanity on earth will crash by violence, rather than through repentance and reformation (Rev. 18:21). Jesus and his angels are said to combat the dragon and its armies and to defeat them, but only within a specific region of the whole scope of play. The dragon is said to retreat from Jesus and his allocated region highly incensed, only to stir up a catastrophic duel elsewhere, which sees him and his allies turning against one another and being the cause of their own destruction. The wealthy and immoral woman who had previously sat so snugly on her scarlet beast is to be betrayed and eaten alive by the ‘horns’ of the same beast she sat on. After her ultimate collapse and defeat, the kings who had become rich through her, lament and wail over her ashy and smoking remains, while keeping a safe distance, so to avoid sharing in her definitive punishment.

Worship God    

Also of importance in my view, John is made to realise the only entity worthy of worship is God. On two occasions, John, out of sheer fascination attempts to kneel before the angels who had shown all these things to him, but is forbidden. In the first instance (Rev. 19:10), John falls at the feet of the angel to worship him, but is told: “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brothers who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” In the second instance (Rev. 21:8), John repeats the same error and says naively, ‘And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things’. Again he is told, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brothers the prophets, and of those who keep the prophecy of this book. Worship God.”

What is stressed in the above basically is the notion that the same authoritative angels are equal with humans, if not human at all. Twice, the angel says ‘I am your fellow servant’. John is advised the only person worthy of worship is God. Jesus is acknowledged, but God is worshiped. And as John describes again, he realizes there is no Temple in this New Jerusalem, because God himself will live in it. Jesus is like all the great angels who take part in this epic, and one is not sure whether the angel who speaks to John in the above quotes at the end is the same as the figure he sees at the beginning of the book, whom he describes as ‘one like the son of man’. But it’s in Revelation 21:17 where the matter of the angels being equal or the same with humans is resolved. As he describes the features and aesthetics of the metaphoric New Jerusalem, which the angel who revealed it to him has to measure, he says: ‘Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.’ ©

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