The Inspiration and Hope to Find in the Book of Revelations
Hurricanes, war, disease, and occasionally the walking dead, humanity has a constant obsession with the end of our time on this Earth. Apocalyptic predictions and fantasies have been a part of our human experience since Rome dominated the known world. Much lore and oral history surrounds the Apocalypse. Some believe it will come in the form of rising oceanic tides, others believe it will come on the back of thermo-nuclear war. Regardless of the delivery method this end to our existence on Earth will be a fiery, dismal, and macabre experience. Arguably one of the most vivid and detailed predictions of what the Apocalypse will be like comes from the Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible. While on the surface the Book of Revelation appears dark and disparaging, to a second century Christian the Book of Revelation is a hopefully message for those who are loyal followers of Christ.
The second century was turbulent time for Christians. Most of the known world was under the control of the Roman Empire and her Emperor. Christians were actively persecuted by the Roman government due to their religious beliefs. The legalization of Christianity was still decades away and in the mean time Christians needed something to turn to for hope. The Book of Revelation provided this hope for early Christians. Facing violence and discrimination, the Book of Revelation helped the second century Christians to remain stead fast to their faith. One of the recurring images throughout Revelation is the Lamb. “Then I saw standing in the midst…a Lamb that seemed to have been slain” (Revelation 5:6). It is clear from the fact that the Lamb is both appearing to be slain and standing near the throne, that the Lamb is a metaphor for Jesus. The use of Jesus in through out the book serves as a beacon of hope. Second century Christians would look for Lamb for guidance through out the coming events. One of the key things the Lamb is tasked with is breaking the seven seals. Only the Lamb can carry out the divine plan since it is hidden from God (Revelation 5:7-9). This again would create hope for second century Christians because of the power of Jesus. The Lamb has considerable power during the events in Revelation. Not only is he tasked with breaking each of the seven seals, but also he is more capable of this task than God.
Another reason why the book of Revelation served as a source of hope for the second century Christians was the removal of the Devil. The Devil is seen as the root of all evil and wrongdoing in the world. He is responsible for leading nations astray and causing much suffering (Revelation 20:2). Symbolically, he could also be responsible for all the pain and suffering the second century Christians were facing. The angle throwing the Devil into abyss shows how that evil is released from the world and no longer poses a threat (Revelation 20:4). The disappearance of evil with Christ’s coming would have been a significant source of hope for Christians in the second century. Having faced persecution at the hands of the Romans, which included such horrors as being pit against lions for sport, the ending of this evil would provide much hope for them. When the Lamb finally comes, they would no longer have to face such events and they would be able to live and practice their religion without fear.
The finals chapter of Revelation offers a beautiful image of how those loyal to Jesus will be rewarded after the end of the Apocalypse. Chapter Twenty-Two paints a picture of what will come at the end. “The river of life giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb…the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year” (Revelation 22:2). The passage also goes on to describe how the leaves of the trees’ leaves can be used as medicine for the nations and that “nothing accursed will be found there anymore” (Revelation 22:3). It is hard to read the description of this place and not think of the Garden of Eden from Genesis. The place that the believers will eventually be brought to is a paradise. There is no evil or want, and both God and the Lamb are present. This type of place would serve as a huge source of hope for second century Christians. Despite the turmoil and pain of their current situation, they will eventually be delivered to a sanctuary free from persecution. For a people living in such a desperate time, the hope of a paradise would be a key source of distraction from their present pain.
While there is a strong message of doom and destruction in Revelation, the book would have been a crucial source of hope for second century Christians facing persecution. The promise of the return of Jesus, freedom from the Devil and their Roman oppressors, as well as the eventual paradise that will come in the end would all seem like a ray of light in the very dark place second century Christians were living in. The Book of Revelation serves as a reminder to all Christians that no matter the challenge, no matter how difficult the obstacle; as long as one remains faithful and strong in the faith, they will be saved and rewarded.
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