Summary: A discussion of the symbolism in The Book of the Revelation.
SYMBOLISM IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
PREPARED FIRST DECEMBER 27, 2004
CONTINUED JANUARY 10, 2005
Suppose that you are a male missionary from the United States who with a number of other American male missionaries has been taken captive by the Russians to Siberia. You are a great baseball fan. Your wife and children as well as the wives and children of your colleagues are being detained in a portion of Cambodia held by the communists but subject to American attack. Those in Cambodia are allowed to write letters to their husbands and fathers, but the letters are subject to censorship.
Your wife has written you a number of letters. In the middle of most of her rather lengthy letters are descriptions of baseball games apparently taking place among those in detention in Cambodia. The following lines are among those which describe the baseball game.
One of the red-white-and-blue team tried to steal second base today, but the catcher caught him off first base.
One of the red-white-and-blue team tried to steal second base today, but the catcher threw him out at second base.
One of the red-white-and-blue team stole home today.
One of the red-white-and-blue team hit a grand-slam home run.
The red-white-and-blue team was given many extra players this week.
The red-white-and-blue team has been having good success extending its dugout.
One of the red team decided to co-operate more fully with the red-white-and-blue team. He has been abele to get the team some of the bats of the red team.
There may be many interpretations of the above lines. Likewise there are many interpretations of the Revelation. It is likely that there is some code to the above lines. That there is a code in the Book of Revelation is stated. One of the reasons for the special promise given in the third verse of the first chapter of the Revelation apparently is to encourage people to read the book thoroughly enough to understand that there is a code and to decode the message.
(Rev 1:3 NIV) Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
Now suppose that you are living in the days of the severe persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire. Recent emperors have become more and more enamored with the idea that the best way to unite the empire is for the emperor to proclaim himself to be god and to have people worship him and images of him. More and more he has taken away the religious freedom of individuals. Recently he has made laws preventing people from being members of the equivalent of trade guilds or unions unless they say Caesar is Lord and worship his image. He has representatives throughout the Roman provinces using all manner of practical and superstitious devices attempting to enforce these new laws.
The Apostle John was once an elder of your assembly. He has been exiled to the remote isle of Patmos for preaching the Gospel. Quite understandably any letter, which he would write to, you is subject to careful censorship. He wants to wants to let you know that he understands your problems. He is experiencing the same tribulation, which you are experiencing.
(Rev 1:9 NIV) I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
He wishes to tell you that Satan controls the Roman Empire; and that it is absolutely wrong for a Christian to say that Caesar is Lord, no matter how much he is persecuted. He wants you to know that even though Caesar and Rome and even Satan seem to have the upper hand, Jesus is the real Lord; God has ultimate control; and He will have His day.
Having read the promise in the third verse of the first chapter and having therefore persevered in the reading of the Book, you have come to the seventeenth chapter. How would you interpret (decode) the following messages?
(Rev 17:1 NIV) One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.
(Rev 17:2 NIV) With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries."
(Rev 17:3 NIV) Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.