Notes on Revelation


Key theme: affirming Christianity's hope for an immediate transformation of the world (with governmental oppression) and assures the faithful that God's prearranged plan --including the destruction of evil and advent of Christ's universal reign is about to be accomplished


Apocalypse:  from Greek, an unveiling of unseen realities--in Heaven as it is now; on Earth as it will be in the future; combines visions of unseen worlds with previews of future history--all told in highly symbolic language


cryptic: highly coded, using metaphorical language and symbols


Portrayal of Jesus in Revelation: Jesus is a major character; an all-powerful heavenly (even militant) representation; different from the Gospels' portrayal of the human Jesus as in Mark's suffering servant or John's Jesus who embodies divine Wisdom

Jesus of Revelation: the Messiah of popular expectation--who will conquer oppressive government, is a warrior-king, will slay enemies and prove beyond doubt his right to universal rule. In contrast to the Gospels, this Jesus isn't primarily about mercy, but is one who will inflict wrathful punishment on enemies (Rev 19:11-21)


The portrayal of Jesus fits the Revelation writer's sense about the present world seen as hopelessly corrupt and the future world of God's righteousness; the only way the new order can come is through God's direct intervention in human affairs; Jesus may have to act as destroyer or avenger--the view was a challenge for many.


The woman: (starting in Ch. 12) woman dressed in the sun, moon, and stars; resembles portraits of the Egyptian goddess Isis; probably symbolizes Israel, historically the parent of Christ; the 12 stars = traditional twelve tribes, the woman gives birth to the Messiah; multiple interpretations possible


The dragon: seven-headed dragon = a composite of apocalyptic beasts; recalls pre-biblical myths of creations--the Mesopotamian creator-god Marduk vanquishes a primordial dragon. Michael the archangel = a traditional symbol of the spirit prince of Israel -- defeats the dragon, chaotic reptile


The Roman beast: the beast with "ten horns and seven heads" symbolizes Rome, earthly focus of the dragon's power; two-horned beast may represent Roman priesthood that promotes emperor worship (13:11-17). The occult no. 666 is a mystery scholars haven't solved.