I get a little worried when I hear people say that they know what the code is to understanding the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation falls into the category of Apocalyptic Literature. There is nothing terribly mysterious to this other than that characteristic to it is a lot of imagery, signs and symbols. However, I would argue that there is no code involved at all other than the underlying reason for all Apocalyptic Literature, namely to bring hope to a people undergoing a time of suffering and distress.

Someone for whom it is specifically written will readily understand the language of Apocalyptic literature. However, it is not explicit or specific enough to be understood by the persecuting party. Thus a person can freely write to encourage those being persecuted without fear of being understood by the persecutor! The imagery, weird and wonderful beasts, curious collections of numbers etc will be meaningful enough to convey the general message of the author to the intended recipient.

With this in mind we can now return to the text of today’s First Reading. The key line in this text is “Alleluia! Victory and glory and power to our God!” The first part of the text speaks of a powerful persecuting power. The text finishes by affirming that OUR God will be victorious. The Church when St John is writing from Patmos was undergoing intermittent but severe persecution. Many men and women were being martyred for their faith. John writes to encourage them in their faith and he does this by reminding them that God is and will be victorious in the end. Yes, the suffering at this present time is great, however, the victory of God, when it comes will be worth every drop of blood that has been shed in the defence of our faith.

The Book of Revelation is not meant to be a focus of the Scriptures. The Gospels are far more important. It is a much better use of our time to spend it trying to discover how to apply the many lessons of the Gospels to our lives. Revelation is an inspired text or it would not be a part of the Scriptures, but it is minor in comparison to the Gospels and the Letters of Paul. It carries a message for all Christians to persevere in their faith even during times of trial and suffering. It certainly DOES NOT hold a key to discovering the date of the end of the world and things like that!

What lessons and messages have I drawn from the Scriptures? Do I allow them to speak to me each day?

Lord Jesus, teach me how to read the Scriptures in the way that will benefit me the most. Help me to avoid superstition and to concentrate on the reality of the lessons to be found there. Guide my reading such that I will concentrate on reading the parts with the greatest relevance to my life.