Twelve Things the Book of Revelation Means to Me

1. The Book of Revelation is a long letter that was not written to me. As long as I keep this in the back of mind, as I should when I’m reading any New Testament letter, I can benefit from treating it as if it were.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Masterful, Dave. No room for conspiracy theories and fear mongering here. Keep it up and thank you.


Dave, so glad you prefaced this as what it means to you. Very wise–just as you are and which I have always enjoyed and appreciated about you. :slight_smile:

One difference that you and I “share” is that I do see this book as being written “to me” because, just like the early Messianic believers, I see myself as living in “the last days”. What this means to me is that I’m involved in the same phase of the story as those early believers. None of the issues in the Grand Narrative have changed from prior phases, but they have intensified–perhaps even more now. Therefore, the messages of the book are of critical importance to me.

However, as Rabbi Samuel Sandmel said, Jews and Christians have an overlapping vocabulary, so that when we use the same word, we think we have shared a particular meaning, and yet we haven’t. So this is one difference that I “share” with the early Messianic believers and is what I suspect was at least part of the meaning behind your statement that this book wasn’t written “to you”. This difference has, itself, intensified over the past two thousand years.

Steve Moyise’s book, “The OT in the Book of Revelation” (1995) is one of those treasured resources that has helped many to translate the Jewish meaning of Revelation by delving into the “intertextuality” complexities of the book–not that he seeks to “answer our many questions”. He doesn’t. But he does provide another perspective for us to consider as we wrestle through our own exegetical tasks.

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Wow! It didn’t take you long to pinpoint where I feel least confident! Rhat I had originally written that it was “not written to me” it was not written “for me.” That was not right (II Timothy 3:16, 17).

I would like to avoid two things. The first is to underplay the letter’s importance to those who first it read to them (maybe in one sitting). The second is to turn the letter into a collection of very precise predictions that would have baffled its first hearers.

In his commentary on “Revelation,” Sigve Tonstad expresses reservations about “excessive predictive specificity” or something along these lines.

As you indicate, we can believe that we are near the end of this chapter in the Grand Narrative, that we are living in the Last Days, without being excessively specific. Yes, indeed, The Last Days began with Jesus. (Hebrews 1:2)!

Our study of the letter this time around has impressed me as never before how seriously we need to keep in mind that most of its recipients heard it read to them (perhaps in one sitting). This puts constraints on our interpretive exuberance!

I emphasized the particularity and distinctive issues of each of the Seven Churches. To the contrary, what John said to each of the Seven Churches is so repetitive that Sigve Tonstad holds that he is expressing a general concern. That’s a new one on me!

I knew nothing about “intertextuality” until I recently saw his video. Thank you for writing!


The Book of Revelation was written, according to the author, by John the prophet who was exiled at Patmos, to seven churches in Asia Minor, and the whole book was to be read aloud in all seven of the churches, When read at a church the whole book was to be read, not just the letter to that church. The message is quite simple, and it is guaranteed by its endorsement by Jesus Christ. The addressees are identified as the “elect who were chosen before the foundation of the world,” and whose names are written in the Book of Life. Faced with the need to participate in the cult of the emperor, which is the ticket for social and economic well-being, and which, if refused, my bring about martyrdom, the author tells his audience that biological death is better than idolatry. Given the suffering in which they find themselves on account of their faithfulness, patient endurance is the order of the day. They must know that The Lamb has already conquered the Dragon and his surrogates and is sitting with his Father in the Father’s throne. History is predetermined and Righteousness has already triumphed. They must conduct themselves in a manner that will not cause their names to be blotted out from the Book of Life. They must not fall for the deceptions of the Dragon and his acolytes. In order to insure that they take his advice seriously, the author underlines the consequences of participating in the worship of the emperor, that is to bow before the beast from the land, who is the surrogate of Satan, the Dragon from the sea who has been conquered and thrown into the bottomless pit . For that he depicts a god who will avenge the blood of the martyrs by watching as the idolaters suffer torments in fire and brimstone for ever and ever in torments that give them no rest day or night. I find myself in total disagreement with John of Patmos in his description of a sadistic and vengeful god. As has been repeatedly pointed out, John writes by picking up passages from the O.T., which means that he is quite aware that all the previous predictions of the “soon” coming had been proven wrong by history. To think that he writes to give the signs of the Second Coming is disproven by his recycling of previous predictions that did not prove true. The message is: history is running according to God’s designs and you are in them, Live your life now according to His will if you wish to escape the horrible punishment of idolaters. To encourage that he has all the host of heaven signing his praises. It was common for apocalyptic communities to see themselves joining the angels in praising God, as the Dead Sea Scrolls testify, and the Letter to the Colossians also refers to. I must confess, however, that my praises of God are not directed to the god of John of Patmos.


I read the book as if it is written to me. Afterall, the Spirit tells me that if I have an ear let me hear what He says to the churches. Granted, one does take into consideration the time, place, and intent of the “letter,” but I don’t view it as not written to me, anymore that God isn’t speaking to me in the entire bible. He is. If we listen.

The twelve points are helpful. I have learned from them and find them resonating with my understanding and experience with my favorite book in Scripture.


Continuing the discussion from Ten Weaknesses of Seventh-day Adventist Historicism:

Thanks, @bartwillruth.

Actually — if I may, instead, steel-man this — an “alternative to facing reality is evading reality.”

Another alternative to facing reality — if, for example, one cannot face “reality” because they can’t know what it is — is working to determine what’s real; what’s reality. (For example, I think this is what @davidrlarson is working to do in his above and timely essay on Revelation.)

That’s cute :face_with_raised_eyebrow:, but ungenerous, Bart.

Most of all, though, this statement is impossible to prove.

One can’t do it:

a) For the reasons I’ve already given, but also

b) For a reason which, again, intersects with Larson’s duodectet essay, above: It isn’t necessarily clear, yet, what purpose religion serves.

What if ultimately, all religions — or at least one — is true? Given the timescales at which religions tend to function, this is certainly possible. If so, it would falsify your conjecture on reality. Really.


Dave, thank you for your candid reply! My apologies if I came across in an impertinent way–for sure, it was not intended. I am in complete agreement with your goals. I also wonder how we can further open up the dialogue to other ways of understanding the book of Revelation. Including Dr. Adela Yarbro Collins’ presentation about intertextuality was really helpful in expanding these kinds of paradigmatic options. As she included in her presentation, there have been a number of people working in this space over the past 40+ years. There’s a lot of good stuff there for us to learn! Thank you! :slight_smile:


All angels sing praises… not quite… a third of them don’t according to John in Rev 12.
John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11

Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.

2 Corinthians 4:4; cf Eph 2:2

in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Two things I have appreciated in bringing to the study of Revelation are:

  1. The methodology of intertextuality because it opens a way to understand this text such that we don’t have to become “orthodoxic” about its interpretation. I think Steve Moyise says it well: In his chapter on John’s use of the book of Ezekiel, he remarks, “On the side of the hearers/readers, they are invited to ‘reappropriate biblical metaphors through the lens of Revelation itself’… The reader is confronted with two contexts [i.e. that in Ezekiel and that in Revelation] and each affects the other… The reader is caught in a dilemma. Much of the book [of Revelation] sounds familiar [because the reader is already familiar with Ezekiel], yet he or she is constantly having to wrestle with the ‘literary landmines’ buried in the text… John has not offered an interpretation of Ezekiel as a finished product… Rather, by utilizing much of its structure and language, he has bound the two works together to form a complex set of interactions… The reader is not expected to create a synthesis and then retire from the exegetical task… What is required of the reader is to think out the implications of calling Rome a Beast and to be ready to act upon it. In other words, John’s use of Ezekiel involves the reader in a hermeneutical challenge.” (The OT in the Book of Revelation, pp. 82-3)

  2. The Jewish way of interpretation because it also teaches respect for a number of views. As they say, two Jews, three opinions. Not sure where the third opinion comes from–possibly the two first come at the matter from their own perspectives, but as they discuss it, together they come up with a third view…?

With these methodologies, I believe we can learn to appreciate that prior generations (1st century or 19th century, or anything else) could hear God’s voice to them through this book, encouraging them to see beyond current terrors to the magnitude of issues involved in the Grand Narrative, and to continue relying on God’s promises–even though the specific issues these groups faced were different.

Maybe 1st century believers did have a fear of Rome. Maybe some perceived how the foundation of Rome through the myth of Romulus was a “reversal of the mythological narratives” (quoting Suzanne Ross of the Raven Foundation) from what the scriptures taught in the story of Cain and Able. We know they did wonder why Jesus’ second coming was delayed… as did the 19th century believers.

And now, today, issues we wrestle with include inequality, injustice, ecological disasters… and why the second coming continues to be delayed! One could understandably throw up their hands, say it’s all a hoax. Where is this God? And who is he, anyway? Is he capable of keeping his promises? Is there any benefit to remaining loyal to him and doing things his way? Yet, there’s the book of Revelation… encouraging us to “look a little higher,” in the words of Graham Maxwell.


I thought this was funny, not that he wanted it to be funny, but they had to have the letter read to them because most were illiterate. They did not need prophetic charts because again they could not read. So since they did not need them David does not need them. Very much a non-sequitur.

well, as I have learned fro m a nowadys writer of Syrian origin - the Near East languages tell a message by the words, their literal meaning - and by the sound - the latterbeing the primary bearer of the message !

Just imagine having istened to the “666” : HEXAKOSIOI HEXHKONTA HEX !" -that was like strokes of a sledgehammer !

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Not the least bit impertinent! Fun! Thank you!

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Thank you! As someone who is not a Biblical scholar, I don’t try to correlate things in the visions with pinpointed things in human history. To me, its a great story, or cluster of stories, and should be enjoyed as such. Pondering its meaning should focus on what one experiences immediately after hearing the whole book read in one sitting. For instance: Whether the seven heads of the dragon refer to the seven hills of Rome or something else seems a little over much to me. Why don’t we debate the meaning of the claws on its bear-like feet? Thanks again for writing! It is always great to hear from you!

What does Revelations mean to me?

Exactly what I think it would have meant to Jesus.

That is, precisely nothing.

To date, Jesus has been mentioned in millions of books, letters and articles but there is no evidence that he is even aware of that body of work, much less that he personally endorses any of it.

So to my mind, Revelations is as significant as is the array of countless postmortem Elvis sightings and John’s dystopian apocalyptic nightmare can be seen as just one of early “Christian” attempts at what has now become a two millennia long tradition of using the at-least-partial, if not utterly mythological personhood of Jesus to supposedly lend credence and gravitas to one’s letters and writing.

For better or worse, it seems that such credence only works with those who already have demonstrated a bent toward credulity, people who default to belief and faith rather than detailed investigations of facts and very young children.

The fact that Adventism has not spent the past 100 years or so apologizing for the terror they’ve been trying to instill in people’s minds, most particularly in the impressionable psyches of their kids, by constantly finding new “signs” supposedly mentioned in Revelations and EGW that “prove” the world can’t last another two seconds, would be considered absolutely comical if one could only overlook the cruelty of this ongoing joke.

If everything is subjective as you’ve stated, and given the essential incompleteness associated with all philosophy as is implied by Godel’s theorems, nothing that can be expressed in words or found in a book-as is the case with all religions-can ever rise to the level of absolute truth.

There will always be the near certainty that any purported truth is an illusory artifact of finite mind, along with the perpetual doubt that no truth has been, or ever could be, perceived correctly by human sensory apparatuses which are known to be less than comprehensive. (For example, our eyes cannot see radio waves.)

Further, since we know the word “truth” is not truth just as one can’t quench his thirst with a picture of a glass of water, and that there is no need to consider what a squared circle* that cannot possibly exist would look like, there is obviously no good reason to entertain the possibility that any religion can, or ever might, somehow rise above the limitations of language and be found to be conclusively true.

Thus, Pascal’s Wager is again shown to be a loser’s bet and the safe money still assumes there’s is no pot of gold at either end of Religion’s Rainbow.

(*With apologies to Vince McMahon and the WWE.)


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What a vision ! - Three angel with an earnest admonishion - Baylon, all the world around us , also here and now - ready to get deleted - Three angels - - the ONE, like a son of man, amidts - - three other angels - - -

Oh yes, and verse 13 : " - blessed are - - - they may rest fom their labours and their works do follow them - - "

Besides, once again : I repeatedly cherish “Das Buch mit sieben Siegel” , an oratorio in later Romantic style, 1938 ( ! ) here composed by Franz Schmidt , him as a RCC man taking the text from Martin Luther .- - - an impressing view - - -

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Yes. Thank you very much!

Thanks, @NY_G_PA2.

Gödel’s incompleteness theorem has implications for mathematics and the philosophy of mathematics. Its application to the rest of philosophical reasoning is a radically underdetermined.

However, even allowing for your use of Gödel, here…

a) So what? That is, why need any religious system be composed of “absolute truth,” whatever that is, in order to be useful?

b) How does your conclusion apply to your own hypothesis? In other words, if nothing that can be expressed in words can ever rise to the level of absolute truth, what should we say of the statement, “Nothing that can be expressed in words can ever rise to the level of absolute truth”? Is that statement absolutely true?

I’m not clear what you’re arguing, here, or what it has to do with my statements. If your argument is that no religion can be absolutely certain its formulations are true, both of my responses, above, apply, and are restated.


It seems you’ve moved the goal post.

The question was if any religion could be “true”.

Now you’re asking about utility.

History has shown any number of philosophies to be useful, sometimes for precisely the opposite purpose. E.g., Christianity has been used to justify slavery and liberation theology.

Even philosophical systems that are now considered essentially evil and basically “truth less” can be useful, for example, the Nazis built some of the world’s best roads, so the question of usefulness seems irrelevant to the previous topic.

Probably not.

Which is why I qualified the statement by using the terms “if” and “nearly certain”.

To sum up, the basic argument is that given finite minds, an incomplete set of facts, the limitations of language, the possibility that each of us is a brain in a vat, seemingly unavoidable and ubiquitous subjectivity, etc., many philosophers have argued there is a certain, and possibly profound, wisdom in remaining perpetually uncertain about pretty much everything, including religion.

Indeed, if insecurity is the best policy, perhaps a “true” religion is the last thing one should go looking for, much less expect to find, as one suspects that the supposedly everlasting and undeniable truths religions purportedly provide most likely cannot exist in a cosmos where subjectivity, incompleteness, impermanence, relativity, etc, may be the most fundamental principles.

In others words, I don’t know exactly what your argument might have been, but you asked

Which I find to be not merely idle speculation but an utter waste of time, given the likelihood of humanity’s inability to be conclusively objective.

To my mind, and given the interminably long time line you’ve mentioned, trying to find, or waiting around for a verifiably true religion is probably like trying to prove that pi is a rational number.

Thanks, @NY_G_PA2:

Actually, you have moved the goalposts.

• The issue you raised was not truth but absolute truth.

I said “absolute truth” is undefined, meaning, seemingly, there is no way to talk about it.

I take as a given that utility is a, if not the, significant aspect of any religion; i.e., that all religions exist for a functional purpose; i.e., unlike the Hope Diamond, at which one may merely stare in order to utilize it, a religion must be "done,’ or “acted out,” in order to actually utilize it.

See above.

You did not. You qualified other statements, such as:

I did not say this. I said:

However, I considered your reduction an acceptable, limited interpolation.

You also said:

I addressed that here.

What remained was your statement, which, again, is self-refuting.

This certainly seems one way to do it.

Another way to do it, obviously, is to be perpetually uncertain about one’s uncertainty about religion.

Again, insecurity, of the kind you describe, can, just as well, lead one to doubt the insecurity you describe.

All right.

The person who finds otherwise might draw opposing conclusions.

Maybe you’re just doing it wrong.