The quite different. So different in fact,

The Book of Revelations is a series of letters written to members of the early Church in Asia Minor around ninety six years after the death of Christ. It was written by a man named John The Elder from Ephesus (in Asia Minor at the time). He came to be known in the Church as John of Patmos because he was thought to have been exiled to the Greek island of Patmos when he wrote the Book of Revelations. When he was on the island John claimed to have written down what he saw in visions God gave to him. He said that he heard God’s voice one Sunday and suddenly was overcome with visions depicting the end of the world. Over the course of twenty one chapters John illustrates an incredibly complex alternate world where evil had taken over and the sinless followers of Christ had become a minority. Christ was supposed to have returned for the Battle of Armageddon and the emergence of pure evil is foretold in the guise of the Whore of Babylon, the False Prophet and the Beast.     I believe that John wrote the book of Revelation as a sort of warning sign to the early followers of the Church as well as a quite large metaphorical “carrot.” Many early adopters of Christianity martyred themselves with the understanding that they would receive a place in heaven. While that is well and good in grand scheme of things people are now and always have been of a me first mindset that computes the pros/cons of any situation. After reading in the Book  of Revelations that the world would be ending soon and that the second coming of Jesus would come soon your life would probably not seem to mean as much in the moment. Plus, your family would join you relatively soon! It must have seemed like a real win-win. However, I think another point that John was trying to make in Revelations was that the world before Jesus and the world after him were quite different. So different in fact, that they could even be considered completely different worlds. When Jesus was born of man and died to resolve the sins of man he had in effect pushed the reset button on Creation. He had completed a cycle that was started with the creation of the universe itself by his own father and in effect, himself. So, slightly confusingly, he completed himself as he was both the terminus of his own experiment and the missing piece of his own creation. If your brain hasn’t imploded by this point I’ll bring up my next point: I believe that Revelations is a complete puff piece.     When I read through Revelations with my modern sensibilities I of course have an inability to grasp the full emotional impact these words would have on someone from two thousand years ago. People from Jesus’s era and even for many years after interpreted Revelations as a description of the VERY imminent end times. They believed that the world would end and they would be sorted into Christians and non-Christians, good people and bad, and bring low those with power. This was obviously quite terrifying and probably inspired quite a few believers to be more fervent in their belief in order to get a better spot in the final order. This all seemed to come from a divine source so it had to be true right? The Book of Revelations was a motivator of literally divine proportions. This is exactly what made it the perfect tool for the Church and the reason I believe it was included in the first collection of the Bible. It was also a powerful recruiting tool for early Christians appealing to Pagans. Pagans were all into doomsday prophecies, from the Norse Ragnarok to the arrival of Zoroaster’s three sons in Persian Mythology. So when the early Church brought forth the concept that all non-believers and sinners who didn’t adhere to the standard of love and respect for others that Jesus had preached would live in horrible pain during a period of culling they were probably intrigued. Also, a few of the more superstitious ones probably saw the ever growing power of the Christian Church and said hey, what if these guys are right? It wouldn’t hurt to join in!         Yet another facet of John’s writing I believe alludes to the circumstances the early adopters of Christianity faced under harsh control of the Romans. They had been bullied and belittled in all areas of their lives by their rulers from far away whom they believed had no business controlling the “Chosen People” of God. John described the conquering force of conflict and human greed resulting in evil deeds being the catalyst for the events of Revelations and the end of the world. The Romans were an obvious embodiment of these evil forces for the early Christians in both Judea and Asia Minor for whom the book was actually written. (John wrote the Book of Revelations as letters to the Christians in each of the seven main cities in Asia Minor because he was told to do so in his vision.) The Great Whore herself stood for Rome and the Great Beast was the Emperor. There is a reference with the seven hills of the Beast’s throne that scholars have said are the “seven hills of Rome.” The Playing the “we hate the bad guys too” card has been a very popular recruiting technique for thousands of years and the early Church adopted it wholeheartedly. Christianity came to be seen as a way to rebel against the Roman rule both physically and ideologically with the added bonus of a safety net after their inevitably horrible death in the form of an instant introduction to Heaven.         Another thing part of the the Book of Revelations I always thought was interesting was the constant use of and repeating of certain numbers and pieces of the story. For example, John writes that he was presented with seven seals to undo on seven scrolls (seven being one of these numbers). He opens the first five of these scrolls with little lyrical fanfare compared to the sixth in which there is a long description of the cataclysms the world befalls including earthquakes and other natural disasters. There is a lot put on the meaning of the sixth scroll and yet the seventh scroll, (being the last it would be assumed that it was the most important), actually only prompts a choir of angels to trumpet out a cue to open the seven vials. This is a series of plagues God sets out on the earth that is each controlled by its own angel. There are also seven trumpets from another seven angels that signal down another seven terrible things to the world. This repeated use of the number seven is a common event in both the Book of Revelations and the rest of the Bible. One interesting point that I realized while reading this was that the worst events of the seven were always in the first six events. They would grow in severity and then end in a continuation of the cycle of sevens. It was almost like John always wanted to keep his readers on the edge of their seats; right where they were expecting a full wave of destruction and were instead surprised by a new layer emerging.     While the Book of Revelations was definitely more impactful and meaningful for people around the time it was written its message has persisted throughout the ages into modern life. For almost two thousand years people have been citing the Book of Revelations as the reasons why the world was going to end soon or as their reasoning for hating non-believers. Doomsday conspiracists, some of whom aren’t even Christian, cite the Book of Revelations as a part of their calculations for the specific date of the end of the world. They have been doing this for years and of course they’ve found out they’re wrong every time. However failure in their predictions seems to have the opposite of a normal effect on people with such high levels of belief.     The Book of Revelations was originally written to strengthen the members of the early Church and to possibly recruit more people in the name of feat. Today, it is used in much the same way; as both a stopgap for Christian’s questions of what comes next as well as an impending feeling of doom to keep followers in line and faithful.    

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