Homilies on the Book of the Revelation (Apocalypse) Part I

St. John the Faster the Patriarch of Constantinople

St. John the Faster the Patriarch of Constantinople

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

By Archmandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios

Chapter I

Revelation 1:1

"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near" (Rev. 1:1-3 RSV).

My friends, this book begins with a wonderful introductory outline in which we can observe a number of essential elements. First, it is distinguished by its official tone that reminds one of the inscriptions of the books of the Old Testament. Its beginning can be compared with the grandeur of the beginning of the book of Isaiah, for instance. "The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah" (Isaiah 1:1). Second, the character of the book is made known by the name Revelation and the holy writer calls to our attention that what we have before us is a prophetic book! Third, the validity and authenticity of this book is declared because the source of this book is God Himself, Jesus Christ, whether He speaks personally or through an angel. Fourth, the purpose of the writing of this book is pointed out where he says it is "to show His servants what must soon take place."

So, we have a record of the purpose of the writing of the book of the Revelation. Again, the purpose is to show the servants of God those things which must take place soon! A fifth observation is the identification of the writer, who is none other than His servant, Saint John the Evangelist. This is the disciple that Jesus loved, the writer of the Gospel according to John and of the three catholic epistles.

A sixth point is that the content of the book is revealed, "who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw." Therefore, Saint John bears record to the word of God; so the book of Revelation is the word of God, the testimony of Jesus Christ and all the things that Saint John saw. He will not add or subtract. At the end of the book John himself will note, "anyone who adds anything to the words of this book, God will add to him the plagues described in this book! And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy God will take away from him his share in the Tree of Life," meaning he will not enter the Kingdom of God (cf. Rev. 22:18-19). Saint John is very careful to record only what he saw and heard and nothing more!

The central theme of this book is the Second Coming of Christ, which includes the war of the godless powers against the Church, their great defeat handed to them by Christ, and the glorious reign of Christ unto the ages of ages. A seventh point, is that the purpose of this book is made clear by the blessing which it bestows upon those that read, those that hear, and those that keep the word of God. "Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein."

Finally, what is also recorded here is that the time of the fulfillment of the content of this book is short, "for the time is near." The time is at hand! All these things, in the introductory outline of this book comprise a great deal of information in just a few lines. Now by the grace of God, we will proceed to interpret the Holy Script, word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase. It has so much beauty; there is so much beauty that even if they tell us to hurry along, how could we possibly hurry? When the Script itself stops you, it holds you down fast; it stops you dead in your tracks. It demands your attention!

The Revelation of Jesus Christ! [Revelation is apocalypse in Greek.] With these words, this great book of the New Testament begins. However, what is the meaning of the word revelation? Initially it means that this book is prophetic. It is the only prophetic book of the New Testament even though the other books of the New Testament have prophetic elements as well. Whether they have a historical character, like the gospels, or a letter character like the epistles of Saints Paul, Peter, John, James and so on, even though they are full of prophetic references, they are not especially prophetic. They are historical, advisory, and so on. The book of the Revelation is essentially prophetic, the only one of its kind in the New Testament, even though it is full of spiritual counsels as well.

According to Saint Andrew of Caesarea, "Revelation is the declaration of hidden mysteries which take place by the illumination of nous, whether by divine dreams or visions, or in a state of wakefulness like Saint John." Saint John was not asleep. He was quite awake! He was not dreaming. Daniel, in the Old Testament however, saw similar things in his dreams while he was asleep. He saw great images, great visions, but he was asleep. Saint John here is quite awake. He writes; "I was on the island of Patmos...I was in the Spirit of the Lord's Day, (Kyriaki, on Sunday) I heard behind a loud voice...Then I turned around and I saw what I saw, someone like the Son of Man (cf. 1:13), the glorified Jesus! And He told me, I am the one walking among the lampstands...write these things that I am about to tell you" (Rev. 1:17-19). So, Saint John is fully aware.

However, the word revelation also has a deeper meaning. Many times, we use the term revelation without managing to understand it fully. Generally speaking revelation means that God is revealing Himself to man and this revelation is either direct or indirect with its purpose always being to lead people to the knowledge of God.

God is not unknown. He is both known and unknown at the same time! He is known because God wants to be in communion with His creation. At the same time, He is unknown because He is the Unsearchable, the Untouchable, the Unfathomable, the Everlasting, the Timeless, the One above the corporeal and created nature because the essence of God will always escape the knowledge of all created beings. This is why He is the Unknowable Known!

These are all expressions of what is called apophatic theology. This very statement for example, "I do not know what God is, and the more I learn about Him, the more I become certain that I do not know God!" is an apophatic stand towards the knowledge of God; however, God loves to reveal Himself! He never keeps to Himself. He reveals Himself either directly or indirectly; and the revelation of God can be visualized in the natural divine revelation or the supernatural divine revelation. The natural divine revelation has three spheres through which God is revealed within His creation.

First, He reveals Himself through creation itself; second, through man himself; and third, through human history and the history of creation. God reveals Himself through creation according to the words of Saint Paul, "Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him" (Romans 1:20-21). Therefore, within creation we recognize God's qualities in the cataphatic way, not apophatic as we mentioned before. Here the knowledge is in a cataphatic way, through the very creation..."

(To be continued)

Please note: Those of you interested to learn and understand better the book of Revelation should purchase this Orthodox book by Archmandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios, Homilies on the Book of the Revelation. It is an excellent book and every Orthodox Christian should read it.

I will be taking excerpts and material from the various chapters of the book, so as to give you a taste, of what is contained within it, and how we, as Orthodox Christians, understand its divine message.



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

+Father George