My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
HOMILIES ON THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION
Introduction to the Apocalypse (Revelation)
By Archmandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios
The central theme of the books is the Second Coming of Christ as judge and king! The book begins and ends with this same theme. The Church, or the Bride, and the Spirit (who remains in the Church) will say, Come Lord Jesus! And the response is, 'Yes, I am coming soon!' (cf. Rev. 22:20). These words describe the state of expectation, characteristic of both the book and the Church. The Church is expecting Christ; she awaits Him as Judge and as King to put away all evil and to expel the devil so sin will cease to exist.
The central idea of the book is Jesus Christ, the Second Coming of Christ, Christ coming back as Judge and King. We will be more obvious during the analysis of the book. Again, the central theme is the battle between the Kingdom of God and the God-opposing power, with the resulting triumph of the Church of Christ. The purpose of the book of Revelation is both the preparation of the faith that they might "fight the good fight" until the end (1 Timothy 6:12). All things that I am referring to in a few words are recorded in the book of the Revelation with visions, images, and descriptions that make up its symbolic language.
To be sure, the book of the Revelation is primarily a prophetic book. However, prophecy does not only reveal future events, it also reveals the present! Thus, we have here prophecy in its broad sense. Our Lord Himself instructs John, "Now write what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter" (1:9). According to our Orthodox Christian Tradition, Saint John was exiled to the island of Patmos, where the cave of the Revelation is located. The cave is still there today. Saint John used to pray there incessantly. According to Tradition, on a certain Sunday (as he will tell us in the beginning of the book) "he was in the spirit" (1:10) and he saw these revelations and visions which he recorded following the command of Christ, "Now write what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter" (1:19). From this we see that the book of the Revelation is prophetic.
We mentioned that prophecy in its broad sense is not limited to the future, but may contain or include the future, the present, and even the past. We will explain. When a prophecy pertains to the future, it reveals something that will take place in the future and which is unknown to every created being. The future is not known to any man or angel, or even the devil! In reality, the future is known to God and to no one else! Therefore prophecy is a privilege only of the True God, and if you will, it is a privilege of our True Orthodox Faith.
A prophecy can also pertain to the present and to whatever thing or event escapes the attention of the people at that time. For example, when Saint John the Baptist is called a prophet, what do you think--did he prophesy the future? No! Saint John prophesied the present! He did not prophesy the future, nor did he prophesy the past. Saint John the Baptist only prophesied the present, and the nucleus of his prophesy was, "Here is the Messiah! Here is the Lamb of God!" (cf. St. John 1:29). The leaders of the people asked him, "Who are you? Are you the messiah?" No, I am not the messiah! "I am the voice of the one calling and crying out in the wilderness! (Isaiah 40:3). I am here to witness for the Messiah. The One Who has been before me in time, is here now! "The One Who is more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie!" (St. John 1:27). St. John is prophesying about Christ, but Christ is already present! St. John the Baptist is a great prophet, but he is only prophesying the present. We must add that it is more difficult to prophesy the present than to prophesy the future.
Finally, a prophecy also pertains to the past if it prophesies those things that the human eye has not seen. For instance, when Moses records the creation of man and the world in the book of Genesis how does he know these things? He is writing prophetically! Therefore, he is a prophet referring to the past.
To add another dimension to the meaning of prophecy, which we set forth above, prophecy has the element of teaching. It serves to advise, to move people towards straight paths and repentance, to bring consolation and encouragement to those who are fighting the good fight of the spiritual life, and so on. Many times the prophets come to strengthen and help people, to move them towards repentance, and to elevate those who listen to them. So prophecy does not limit itself to what happened and what will happen, but it also serves to teach God's people how they must walk.
For this reason, and I want to emphasize this, please make a mental note of this; we must not look at the book of Revelation in the narrow sense of prophecy, as a book that will reveal the future to us. Not so my friends! The book of the Revelation will take us back into the past and refer to the present as well. Our Lord said, "what is now" *1:19)--those things that exist now--not necessarily the symbolic images that St. John was seeing in the vision. No, when Saint John writes about Babylon the great prostitute (the great harlot), meaning Rome, Rome is not limited to that period of two thousand years ago. "What is now is also valid for today, so we must not limit our interpretation only to historical facts. Thus, what is now is for today and for tomorrow."
We need to understand that the book of Revelation transcends the past, present and future. It serves to comfort, uplift, restore, warn, call out, and to point out the Antichrist. This is for all times, for all seasons but especially at times when spiritual awareness is very low. The book of Revelation is a very graphic book with much inexpressible grace and freshness despite some of the horrific images. This book has a freshness about it as well as a certain tenderness. It is a true manuscript of the Holy Spirit and it becomes truly delightful for the person who can catch on and see some of its wonders. It is written in the common dialect of the Hellenistic times.
The scope of its literature is so interesting that foreign scholars claim that the book of the Revelation "employs" its own grammar, and this makes it very graceful. It is not extremely rich in its vocabulary. In this, it is similar to Saint John's Gospel, which although it has the poorest vocabulary of the four Gospels, flies in the stratosphere of theology. It is the most theological of all the Gospels. Saint John mimics the kenosis (emptying) of God the Logos/Word, Who takes on the poverty of human existence. The very Logos of God became poor, and through these lowly and poor words that Saint John uses, the wealth of theology is made manifest, the wealth of the Kingdom of God. This wealth something so fantastic, so amazing, that only the person who familiarizes himself with this book of the Revelation can discover all these elements and wonders in a way that they never exhaust themselves.
Again, it is a true masterpiece. It has unity, symmetry, great rhythm; it has powerful wording despite the poverty of the words. It has wealth--wealth of color and tone. It has a great variety of topics, a certain flexibility, and a vivacity. Its charm magnetizes the person who reads and studies it. There is no other book in the history of humanity that has as many commentaries, writings, and references as this book. A great number of books have been written, are being written, and will be written about the book of the Revelation. It a great treasure, a book of great depth that awakens the conscience of people!
(To be continued. Next: Revelation 1:1)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God