A Catholic understanding of St John’s Revelation

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Previously I was asked about my understanding of the end times and the correct interpretation of Revelation.

My reply was along the lines of:

Book of Revelation,"Worthy is the Lamb"

Book of Revelation,”Worthy is the Lamb”

Revelation is typical apocalyptic literature – the first word of the book is apocalypsis. It reveals to us God’s work. Whether or not it is intended to reveal the future is very much debatable. The time-line contains the goings on of the time when John wrote, using them as a type of human society, interwoven with a time-line of God’s work with man (from beginning to end), interwoven with the time-line of the early Christian liturgy, based on the Jewish liturgy. Whether that time-line of contemporary events matches up with events in the future is debatable. How perfectly it matches up with future events is also debatable – must each individual future fulfilment be an exact match? Many prophecies and types do not match perfectly – David was a type of Jesus, but Jesus never killed anyone to steal their wife. The Passover lamb was a type of Jesus, but there has never been consensus as to whether Jesus ate the Passover lamb when it was eaten by everyone else and died the next day after the lambs were killed (which is an imperfection in the type but not the antitype), or whether he died as the lambs were killed but celebrated Passover with the disciples a day early (the right time for the Essene calendar, but the wrong time for the calendar that had the Passover meal the next day).

There is also a lot of symbolism involved. Few people believe the beast is a literal multi-headed monster, or that there is a literal dragon. Likewise, the literal deaths under Nero – must future parallels be literal deaths or can they be huge suffering of the faithful under an oppressive system? Does massive spiritual death count? Do the literal deaths of those in Africa because nobody cares about whether or not they starve count and fulfil the literal death aspect? Even if the deaths are not caused by a despot intentionally killing people, they are caused by Western (and non-Western) materialism that makes the West rich at the expense of the poor elsewhere. The deaths of the rich can be included – money doesn’t bring happiness, materialism is eventually, by some, seen as a failure, resulting in hopelessness, and that brings a high suicide rate.

Is it necessary to count and identify 7 heads and 10 horns out of 20 greedy and materialistic nations in order for us to be able to say that today’s world (or the world of the 1700s, or the world of the 1200s, or the world of the 2300s) is depicted in Revelation?

What is more important – identifying the heads and horns precisely in each generation, or fighting the effect they have on the world? What is more important – knowing whether the mark of the beast is materialism (and other modern evils), the wrong day of the week, a barcode on food items, or an identity chip … or fighting the evils of materialism by feeding the poor and banning the immoral slaughter of innocents, fighting godlessness by turning people to Christ?

John's Vision of Heaven

John’s Vision of Heaven

Anyway, Catholics do have interpretations of Revelation, and Taylor Marshall has an excellent series of podcast episodes dealing with just this.

First are two stand-alone episodes, dealing with 666 and the Mark of the Beast, and the end times in general.

What is 666 and the Mark of the Beast?

Catholic View of the End Times and Tribulation

Then there is the series on Revelation.

Catholic Apocalypse: Book of Revelation Audio Commentary by Taylor Marshall PhD [contains an incomplete index up to chapter 13 of Revelation]

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