Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

The time is at hand, Rev 1.3, lino print by Tobias Mayer, 2023

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Revelation 1:1-3

The beautiful, powerful opening lines of the Book of Revelation are designed not to fill us with fear, as certain books and films would have us believe,1 but to fill us with hope. All will change, and all will be well. Those that read, understand and keep the words of this prophecy are destined for blessed happiness.

The original Greek title of the Book of Revelation was Άποκάλυψις (Apokalypsis) which means the revealing, or unveiling of something that was previously hidden. Jesus came to reveal, the text begins, to show us the things which must shortly come to pass. Must, not might. This will happen, change is inevitable, so pay attention.

The Book of Revelation is written in cryptic poetry, rife with metaphor. The language was likely very familiar to Christians of the time, and easy to tease out the meaning from the metaphor. For us it is harder, and reams have of course been written on the hidden meanings contained in this book.2 It is likely we'll never know or understand the full truth, but we can certainly gather the spirit, and hear the message as intended—which, again, is not about the violent destruction of the planet earth and the saving of a few souls to a heavenly realm; that is a modern, and very biased reading of the text. This text is exactly compatible with Jesus' message of the "Kingdom on earth" that we read about in the gospels.3 And this is why the revelation John gives us is cause for celebration.

And what bearing does the text of Revelation have on life in the 21st century? Perhaps this. As we move into an era of greater restriction and greater limitation; as governments become more and more oppressive; as the illusion of freedom and democracy is revealed for exactly what it is, vapid nonsense, appeasement, false hope,4 we can ultimately look forward to a turning, and unveiling, to a time when the people will say "Enough!" and the true process of change might begin. The Book of Revelation is a book of hope, but it requires participation, not passivity. The kingdom will come—but only if we do the footwork. We must find the courage to prepare the ground. God will take care of the outcome.

1 Consider the awful "Left Behind" series of books, and films like "Apocalypse Now" both of which indicate terrible, violent, world-ending scenarios, exactly contrary to the message of John.
2 For example, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation by Elaine Pagels, Penguin Books, 2013
3 For example, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, Mark 1:15 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven, Matthew 6:10. See also The Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Mark, by John Hepp, Jr.
4 Frank Zappa says it best: "The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre."