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Book of Revelation: A Few Points

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Past Problems with Interpretation of the Book of Revelation

While Catholic churchmen certainly acknowledge that Christ will return, and that there will be a harvest of souls and judgment, we tend to shy away from attempting to interpret the many mysterious elements in the Book of Revelation. While the pagan emperor was viewed as an antichrist, there have been many antichrists throughout history and likely at the end of history. The Church, like her Lord, is opposed by the world. The heretical Montanists (135 AD to 177 AD) interpreted the Book of Revelation so as to expect Christ to return soon and establish a New Jerusalem in Asia Minor. The Hussite Taborites (15th century) interpreted Revelation as prescribing violence or insurrection as a prerequisite for the second coming. Anti-Catholic fundamentalism has imagined (based on a political view of the Apocalypse) all sorts of end-times scenarios from the 1960’s to the present.

St. Augustine Speaks of Two Cities & Judgment But Sidesteps the Book of Revelation

I would side with St. Augustine who argued against taking the Book of Revelation literally. Joachim of Fiore’s commentary was overly speculative and the utopian world under the Holy Spirit never materialized. (He argued for an age of the Father, of the Son and a third one under the Holy Spirit.) We may speak of our time as the age or as the season of the Holy Spirit, but the Church would not mean what he intended by the label.

Probably No Thousand Year Earthly Reign of Christ

The theory of millennialism is that Jesus would have a thousand year earthly reign. While certain Catholic thinkers speculated about it, this notion is not an element of official Catholic teaching. However, a number of non-Catholics have picked up on the idea and teach this as a facet of their end-times scenario.

Anti-Catholics Wrongly Employ the Book of Revelation in Their Bigotry

The danger with interpretation throughout is demonstrated again and again as largely unreliable. Scripture should speak to us but many turn this around and read too much into the Book of Revelation. The Protestant reformers wrongly identified the papacy with the antichrist and the Catholic Church with the Whore of Babylon. It becomes an occasion for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and opposition to the house built by Jesus.

As a parish priest I am really not the one to ask for an exegesis concerning Revelation.  I would suggest asking authorities in Scripture. 

2 Responses

  1. Greetings , Father Joe
    These words of Jesus’s return are spoken in the Bernie Taupin/Elton John song
    “Captain Fantastic “

    And all this talk of Jesus coming back to see us
    Hmm, couldn’t fool us
    For we were spinning out our lines walking on the wire

    Those lines are fantastic, and deserve ponderance.
    What I think those words mean in a nut shell:
    While we are enthralled with his return, in the short term, we seek a life lived in truth, balance, and seeking

  2. Father Joe, thank you for your blog and exemplary service. Revelation language
    Certainly has artistic elements , however as
    You admit, the return and just judgement
    Of the lord Jesus will be literal.
    Who among us does not bear witness to
    A world run amok, and in great need of a
    Savior. What is the tipping point? I don’t
    Know , but geo political reasons cannot
    Be ruled out . Great suffering
    Is endured, yet he has not yet returned .
    I pray the world’s day of judgement is near.
    He will judge not I.
    You rightly point out anti catholic motions
    Are out of place , and plain wrong.

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