Can someone explain Revelations to me?

I have read the book of Revelations, and I just don’t get it. I think the problem is, there is a lot of symbolism in there. Can any dopers tell me there take on the book? Maybe hearing other’s take on it will help me understand it more.

(Just in case it’d help, I’m Catholic)

Just so you know, it’s just the drug-inspired dream of an out of work fisherman. J/K, no offense. Which parts are you not getting? I’m Catholic too, but it took three or four readings to really get Revelation down pat.

I have no idea but I’ll take Stemba’s word for it.

Here is what Thomas Jefferson at age 81 said of it in a letter to Alexander Smyth, 17 Jan 1825:

“… the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy or capable of explanation than the incoherences of our nightly dreams.” From Thomas Jefferson Fawn M. Brodie.

So if you don’t get the drift of Revelations you are in good company.

It’s a work of apcalyptic literature. That means it is a specific genre of literature which was designed to communicate a message to the faithful using allegory and coded symbols. Revelation was written at the end of the reign of the Emperor Domitian, during a time of when Christians were being persecuted by the Romans. The author was trying to comfort the faithful by telling them that Jesus would return and wreak vengence on the Romans. The “Whore of babylon” was Rome. the “Beast” was the emperor. “666” was a coded reference to Nero. (Domitian was widely believed to have been Nero in disguise).

Everything in Revelation is about Rome at the end of the first century. Contrary to some popular works of literature and bad exegesis by 19th century American crackpots, Revelation is not a prediction of the future except for the very general assertions that Jesus will return and there will be a day of reckoning.

Also, contrary to the likes of the Left Behind books. Revelation contains neither the rapture nor the Antichrist.

As Diogenes said, it offers consolation to people under persecution with the hope that they will be on the “winning side” in a great struggle. Therefore, it sets out horrible events that will overtake the world, first in symbolic imagery of the persecutions by empire, with its evil emperor, and then under the retribution levied against that empire (and the people who did not stand up against it) by God, through which the faithful, though suffering, will endure to be united with God in a period of peace and prosperity.

The seven churches are seven actual cities with Christian communities, suffering under the Domitian persecution, to whom the letter is addressed.

Apocalyptic literature is first found in a brief passage in Isaiah and in lengthier passages in Ezekiel, offering consolation to the exiled Jews held in Babylon in the sixth century B.C.E. By the second century B.C.E., it was a recognizable literary motif, with a great deal of stylized imagery. Sections of Daniel make extensive use of it. The point of the stye was to pile on image after image in fantastic ways that really grabbed the imagination of the audience. By the first century C.E., the images had become sufficiently stylized that any audience familiar with the style would immediately recognize the symbolism involved.

It only looks strange to us because we are not used to the conventions of that style.

According to one of the professors in “Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency” by Douglas Adams, Revelations was written in a depressed frenzy brought on by the failure of the ferries on Patmos to arrive anywhere near on schedule.

I’ve read commentaries on what the symbols represent. The most sensible of them try to link symbols to the time in which the book was written and guess what the author was trying to predict. But like the predictions of Nostradamus, a lot of people use it as a way of saying “You see! It’s all here! The end of the world is NOW!”

It is most definitely a prediction of the end of the world. And I would guess that the author believed that this was not all that far off. At least the beginning of the end was not far off. Satan gets chained for 1000 years, so you have to leave time for that.

Jehovah’s Witnesses used to say that the world would end in 2014 (1000 years after WW I). They may be hedging as 2014 approaches. I know I would be.

If I were rich and had a lot of time on my hands, I’d collect books predicting the end of the world according to Revelations. I’m sure that they come out regularly as the end of the world continues to be postponed. I’m not sure I’d bother with the novelizations. They usually don’t bother with matching the predicions to current or historical events. The predicted events just happen in the novel. That’s not nearly as much fun.

Dont let someone else try to tell you what they think it means, because they are most likely wrong. If you really want to know what it means, you will have to figure it out for yourself. That is the ONLY way.


We have quite a bit of apocalyptic literature to examine (including works in the Jewish Tanakh/Old Testament and several works (both Jewish and Christian) that never made it into the canon of accepted works by either group, in addition to the Revelation of John. We can study and compare the literary devices used, compare the historic events contemporaneous with their creation, and find commentaries that were written about them near the time they were written.

This will not necessarily give anyone an explanation of 100% of the imagery used, but it provides a wealth of information to discern what the author intended in general.

(Hal Lindsey “figured it out for” himself and has predicted that the world will end three times since 1970. The world has continued after each of his predicted dates and he continues to rake in millions on the sale of his disproven books.) hmmmm. Maybe one should figured it out for oneself.

I’m amazed no one has noted… the title of the book is Revelation, not Revelations!

my explanation forthcoming…

Not really. Stemba, Diogenes, and I were simply polite enough not to make an issue of it while using the correct title, ourselves.

So basically, I should read REVELATION with a grain of salt, and not put too much thought into it?

Well, it depends on what you want to get out of it. I’d say for a Catholic looking for the message of consolation and hope, looking into it pretty thoroughly would be the best choice. (This, of course, would mean ignoring just about any silly thing that tried to explain various paasages as indicating that Russia was going to invade Israel to kick off the Last Great War or that the number of the beast indicates the pope and I would not take very much of it, at all, literally.)

An excellent readable approach was provided by The Spirit Speaks to the Churches** by, I believe, Paul Richards. However, I suspect that it has been out of print for a very long time and I am not sure what current books are its equal. Just reading the notes from the Jerusalem Bible can help a lot.

here are several interpretations of Revelation- btw, a factor in some of these is when “John” was imprisoned on Patmos & wrote Revelation- during Nero’s reign in the early 60s AD (a persistent minority theory) or during Domitian’s reign in the 90s AD (the common tradition, especially in the Western Church)…

All begin with Jesus appearing in His Glorious Form, in Priestly
attire, to give counsel, commendation & correction to the seven
main churches in Asia Minor, which were real churches at the time & also represent all of the Church in the world & history-

the Preterist view-
Rev 4-5 The Lamb (Christ) ascends to Heaven & Father God gives
Him the Scroll of Judgement
Rev 6 the first six seals are opened to bring social & natural upheaval upon Jerusalem & Rome
Rev 7 The original Jewish Christian Church is sealed by God and results in multitudes of all nations coming to Christ.
Rev 8-9 The Trumpets of Judgement herald Roman attacks on the agriculture, by the Mediterranean Sea
& on the fresh water sources on Jerusalem, resulting in both physical smoke blurring the sky & the metaphorical “lights going out”; Zealot terrorism inside the city & Roman siege from without.
Rev 10-11 The Gospel is preserved, the Apostles (Two Wtnesses)
martyred & then vindicated by the fall of Jerusalem
Rev 12 Christian Israel flees throughout the Empire where the Church shall survive tho Satan through Roman can kill individual members
Rev 13 The Roman Empire becomes the prime agent of Satanic oppression, with its religious leadership enforcing the Imperial cult
Rev 14 Christ gathers His people, both the slain & the living, & prepares to unleash final judgement in…
Rev 15-16 The Chalices of Wrath finish off Jerusalem & brings Judgement throughout the Empire (the Roman civil wars & the end of Julius Caesar’s family’s rule)
Rev 17-18 The Roman Beast has destroyed the Jerusalem Harlot & now is ready for destruction
Rev 19 Christ & His people triumph as all powers that fight Him fail
Rev 20-22 His Kingdom proceeds throughout human history, binding Satan’s authority, tho Satan will at the end be allowed to mount a massive attack on God’s Earthly Kingdom, which will be thwarted as Christ returns to end the world, complete the Final Judgement & establish His Eternal Kingdom

Well, that tired me- later I’ll do the Historicist & Futurist scenarios & maybe the Allegorical/Symbolic one

Im still working on trying to figure it out too…Maybe God will give me to wisdom to do so one day. :slight_smile:

Smarty pants, my King James Version of the Bible gives the title of the book as:


Oh come now, we know youre “looking up”.


Well, I think I’ve probably dug myself too deep a hole at this point. If I’m wrong about the rapture I’m going to be standing on the ground waving goodbye to people and feeling really, really stupid. :wink:

Diogenes- since I’m a post-Trib Rapturist (assuming the Trib is a future event). I’ll be going up & feeling stupid L

Now to another view- the Historicist one-
Rev 1-3, Christ’s messages to the churches of that time & all history
4-5 His ascent to God to receive the Book
6- the Roman Siege of Jerusalem 70AD
7- the early Jewish Christian Church & the later flourishing of the Church among the Gentiles
8- the Trumpets, the Northern Barbarian & Hun invasions of the western Roman Empire -400-500sAD
9-the Arabic & Turkish Islamic assaults on the eastern Roman Empire
10-11 the proto-Protestant movements to publish the Bible & the
Protestant Reformation
13- Pagan Rome revived as Papal “Christendom” as the AntiChrist persecuting power
14-16 Christ preserve the Reforming Church & pours Chalices of Judgement upon Papal Christendom
17-18 eventually the AntiChrist spirit turns on Roman Catholicism & heralds its own downfall
19-22 either the world triumph of Biblical Christendom followed by the last deception, Second Coming, judgement & end & eternity
OR the Second Coming & the Millenium/Eternity

am I the only one who loved the Simpsons episode where the rapture happened, and Lisa was going up and Homer pulled her back down?