Day 359: John's Apocalypse









Revelation 1:1-9 The Book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse of John, is a mysterious work whose canonicity was debated in the early centuries of Christianity. However, it was accepted as canonical in Western churches by the mid-second century and in Eastern churches a few centuries later. The initial objection was the book's difficulty of interpretation and its use by certain heretical groups such as the Montanists to support their errant beliefs. John the Apostle has long been recognized as its author, and most scholars date the book to around AD 94-95. The introduction, written in the first person, identifies the Apostle John and makes reference to his exile on Isle of Patmos, an island off the coast of Greece. Scholars over the years have variously interpreted this book as pertaining primarily to the persecutions of the early Church, to the future history of the Church, or even to the end of the world and the Last Judgment; the dominant view today is that it applies to all three in various ways. The literary structure resembles the Mass, or Divine Liturgy, and so provides an allegorical depiction of the heavenly liturgy, the wedding feast of the Lamb. (CCC 1137-1139) 


Ch 1:3 He who reads... those who hear: This suggests that the book was intended for public reading.

Prophecy: Like the Old Testament prophets, the author interpreted the "signs of the times" to reveal something about the future with the purpose of building up the faithful in the present. As is common in apocalyptic literature, this book uses symbolic language and imagery to give hope to the faithful in their present trials and to reveal God's glory and Providence. (CCC 101-104, 1100, 2642) 


Ch 1:4-5 Seven churches: Seven is a number that represents perfection or completion. Although Revelation is addressed to seven particular communities, it is symbolically intended for the entire Church. 

Him who is... to come: An elaboration of Yhwh, "I am who I am," that stresses God's eternal existence. The Church looks forward to and prays for Christ's return. 

Seven spirits: This is a reference to the Holy Spirit and his seven gifts (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord). Along with the subsequent mention of Christ, we see an affirmation of the Trinity. 

first-born: Christ was the first to have his humanity glorified by Resurrection and his Ascension into Heaven. (CCC 206, 212, 1830-1831, 2854) 


Ch 1:6 Made us a kingdom, priests: Every baptized person shares in Christ's high priesthood in the common priesthood of the faithful. This priesthood is exercised by taking part in Christ's mission as a priest, prophet, and king in accordance with each Christian's vocation and state in life. Additionally, some men are called to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders by which they become part of the ministerial priesthood, whereby they act in the Person of Christ the Head (in persona Christi capitis). The ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of the faithful although interrelated "differ from one another in essence and not only in degree" (LG 10). (CCC 786, 1548-1551, 1546-1547, 2855) 


Ch 1:7 He is coming: A constant theme in this book is the exhortation to repentance in preparation for the return of Christ in glory not only in terms of the Last Judgment but also in the sense of rescuing the faithful from their tribulations. (CCC 2854) 


Ch 1:8 Alpha... Omega: These first and last letters of the Greek alphabet indicate the eternity, sovereignty, and perfection of God. (CCC 198)

Ch 1:9-11 In the late first century, the Isle of Patmos was a place of exile, and John was sent there as punishment for preaching the Gospel. Although the letters are addressed to the seven churches, they are intended for every Christian community. 

The Lord's day: Sunday, the day of Christian worship in commemoration of the Resurrection. (CCC 1166-1167) 


Ch 1:12-20 The seven lampstands, which symbolize the prayers of the seven churches (i.e., the whole church), bring to mind the Jewish menorah, a candelabrum of seven candles used in the Temple. John's vision was of Christ, "one like a son of man" (cf. Dn 7:13), whose vestments symbolize his high priesthood. The lampstands and priestly vestments set the stage for Christ, the Eternal High Priest, whose priesthood is linked to our redemption. The seven stars in his right hand indicate the angels who watch over the seven churches. The angels may also refer to the seven bishops who were given charge over these churches. The living one: Christ, who was raised from the dead, lives forever. (CCC 612, 633, 662) 


Ch 1:18 Keys of Death and Hades: Hades is a term for the underworld. Christ has full power over life and death—and has won victory over sin and the prince of darkness. We affirm this when we pray the final petition of the Lord's Prayer: "Deliver us from evil." (CCC 625, 633-635, 2854) 


Ch 1:20 Angels: This may refer to the bishops of the seven churches who were to be the recipients of the seven letters. (CCC 334-336) 


Ch 2:1-7 The letters to the seven churches reflect many of the same concerns addressed in other Epistles of the New Testament. Each of the churches experienced struggles to remain faithful to the Gospel and to resist the deceptive temptations of the pagan world. The first letter is addressed to the angel of the Church in Ephesus. Whether this referred to Timothy, the Bishop of Ephesus from AD 65 until his martyrdom in 80, or a bishop who succeeded him, the message was intended for all of the faithful in Ephesus as well as Christians in general. They were praised for their faithful endurance but were also urged to repent so as to recapture their original enthusiasm for the faith. 

Nicolaitans: This heretical sect taught that Christ's salvation freed them from the moral law. They had a reputation for idolatry and sexual immorality. (CCC 401, 1429) 


Ch 2:8-11 The message would have been received by St. Polycarp, a disciple of John, who was martyred around AD 155, or a bishop who preceded him. No reprimand is made, only a warning that the faithful of Smyrna would soon face persecution from some of the Jews whom he called the "synagogue of Satan." If they persevered to the end, however, they would gain Heaven ("the crown of life") and not face eternal damnation ("the second death"). (CCC 1014) 


Ch 2:12-17 Pergamum was the site of a strong pagan cult of Zeus, and it seems that some Christians had accepted elements of pagan worship, which included eating food sacrificed to idols and the practice of sexual immorality as a form of religious worship. Others had become Nicolaitans. Both of these errors are rejected, and they are called to repentance. 

Balaam: This Old Testament pagan prophet encouraged the sin of idolatry (cf. Nm 25:1-3). 

The hidden manna: Christ, the Bread from Heaven, gives us his Body in the Eucharist. 

A white stone... new name: White stones were a sign of acquittal in a trial and were also used to gain entrance to private gatherings. 

A new name: This indicates a new identity in Christ. In later centuries, it became customary to receive a Christian name at the time of Baptism. (CCC 1025, 1429, 2159) 


Ch 2:18-29 The Church in Thyatira had tolerated some who lived immorally; the Lord chastised the Church there for tolerating such offenses against the moral law. God had been patient in giving these individuals time to repent, but the time of judgment was close at hand. 

Jezebel: This wife of King Ahab led the Israelites into sins of idolatry (cf. 1 Kgs 16:31). 

As your works deserve: Christ will judge every human person according to what he or she has done. 

Deep things of Satan: This is possibly a reference to the occult. Rod of iron: This is a reference to Psalm 2:9. 

Morning star: The planet Venus is a symbol of victory; its mention here indicates the victory of Christ over death. The name is also popularly applied to Christ and to Mary. (CCC 631, 682) 


Ch 3:1-6 In Sardis, some claimed to be Christian but did not live according to the teachings of Christ: "You have the name of being alive, and you are dead." Christ called them to repentance and warned that he would come to judge them unexpectedly. 

Soiled their garments: Worn by the saints in Heaven (cf. Rev 6:11), the white garments symbolize purity. From the earliest days of the Church, it has been customary to robe the newly baptized in white garments; in this metaphor, the white robes of many in Sardis had become soiled due to their regression to their former, sinful ways. 

Book of life: This is a list of the names of those who will be saved. (CCC 2706) 


Ch 3:7-13 Because the Church in Philadelphia had remained faithful, the Jewish false teachers would be vanquished and the faithful rewarded. The "open door" refers both to the success of their efforts to spread the Gospel and of their accessible path to eternal life; it is controlled only by Christ and always in harmony with the will of God. Key of David: This is a symbol of power over the kingdom. (CCC 303, 2614)

2 Timothy 3:1-14 Paul warned of a coming time when some, who live without virtue and morals, would attempt to entice weaker believers into their own self-destructive ways, sometimes even in the name of religion. The errors and misdeeds of those who have fallen for these false teachers will be made apparent. (CCC 852, 1852, 2847) 


Ch 3:15-17 In dealing with these issues, Paul encouraged Timothy to rely on the inspired books of Scripture in his teaching and pastoral work. At this point in time in the early Church, Sacred Scripture was comprised of the Old Testament. These books point the way to Christ and remain of great value to the Christian community. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition form the basis of all Church teaching, and both are necessary for the fullest understanding of the Christian message. (CCC 105-108, 120-123, 128-130) 


Ch 3:14-22 The relative affluence in Laodicea and a sense of self-sufficiency and comfort that comes from material wealth had made them "lukewarm," or indifferent toward the Faith. Christ knocks on the door, desiring to be invited in so as to achieve a close intimacy with his faithful. Christ promises that we who remain faithful will share in his everlasting reign over his kingdom. 

Hour of trial: Persecutions and difficulties will test the faith of Christians; this refers at least in part to the persecutions of the late first century under the Emperor Domitian. 

The Amen: This Hebrew word signals affirmation of what has been said. Here, it refers to Christ, through whom the New Covenant with God is fulfilled. Isaiah refers to "the God of truth [Amen]" (cf. Is 65:16). (CCC 1063-1065)

Ch 4:1-5 Because the threat of false or empty teaching was very real, Paul strongly urged Timothy to work tirelessly and confidently in catechizing his people, regardless of the setbacks or obstacles. (CCC 679, 854, 861) 


Ch 4:6-8 Paul sensed the proximity of his own death. Therefore, he eagerly looked forward to his eternal reward. 

On the point of being sacrificed: Another translation reads that he is "being poured out like a libation"; he saw his approaching death as a sacrifice. 

Crown of righteousness: The prize for those who reach Heaven through the grace of God. "The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross," says the Catechism. "There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. . . . Spiritual progress entails the asceticism and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes." (CCC 162, 2015-2016, 2473)

Ch 4:9-22 Not all of Paul's disciples stayed true to the Faith, and it seems that no one testified on Paul's behalf at his first trial. The Lord was present there, however, and empowered Paul to speak in his own defense and the defense of the Gospel. 

Linus: The first successor of Peter as head of the Church, or Pope, was a man named Linus; it is not clear if this is the same man. (CCC 2044-2045, 2466-2473, 2577) 


Ch 4:17 Paul was grateful that his trial enabled him to bear witness to Christ in a pagan court, possibly touching a few hearts along the way. (CCC 2472)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Key Event 68c: John's Apocalypse (Revelation)

The risen Jesus appears to John and directs him to write down seven prophetic messages to the churches of Asia Minor, along with a series of visions that reveal the present and future of God's people.  Like other apocalyptic passages in the New Testament (e.g., Lk 21; 2 Thess 2), the visions foretell times of great trial for the Church and the world (see CCC 675-677) before Christ returns and establishes his kingdom.  The book of Revelation concludes with a glorious vision of the Church, the Bride of the Lamb, the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven to dwell forever in the presence of God and the Lamb in a new creation.