I’d like to share some more thoughts from Revelation up to this point that I have yet to comment on or that the lectionary skipped over in the weekly cycle of readings. These are important passages that I think we should understand and will help our faith to understand.
A Scroll with Seven Seals?
Revelation 5 while in the lectionary wasn’t heard this year by many people because it was thanksgiving day and most Churches likely used readings from a votive mass of Thanksgiving to God. Revelation 5 is the first time we hear about a scroll with seven seals. We will hear about this more later in the book of Revelation.
What does this symbolize. It’s not as complicated as it seems. First the number seven is associated with the covenant. I wrote on this in another blog post see here. The scroll with writing on both sides sealed with seven seals is a covenant document. A covenant is a relationship or agreement with God. God made a covenant with Noah saying that if he upholds his end he will not destroy the earth by a flood again. The covenant cannot be broken unlike a contract but throughout the old testament those who were a part of the covenant usually fell short in living out their end of it. That is until Jesus came, he gave us the new and everlasting covenant. Only the Lion of Judah, an image of the Messiah, and the lamb, another image of Jesus, can break the seals on the covenant document.
The first six seals and it’s connection to the Gospel’s
The Church leaves out Chapters 6-9 of the lectionary. These chapters are usually the ones portrayed on the history channel as explaining what will happen when Revelation is fulfilled on the earth. These occasionally air on the history channel (even though it’s not a show on history) are sensational and come from a protestant bias. There are many views on what John may be referring to. My view is that he is referring to something relatively specific and at the same time in general. First specifically he is speaking of the destruction of the temple, secondly he is speaking about the end of the world, more to follow bellow.
Compare Revelation 5 with Matthew 24, Mark 13 or Luke 21. Without quoting the entire passage here it follows a similar path. 1) War, 2) international strife, 3) Famine 4) Pestilence 5) persecution 6) earthquakes or de-creation The other Gospel passages may put it in a different word but they all explain the same things happening, using very similar language.
It is most likely that John is speaking about the coming destruction of the temple. It is likely the book of revelation was written sometime between 65-70 AD, the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Because he wrote this in the midst of the Jewish Rebellion some of the things explained by the opening of the seals is happening at his time. One last note on this, the temple for the Jewish people was a microcosm (little universe) meaning the destruction of the temple was like the destruction of the world. The destruction of the temple in 70 AD foreshadows the coming end of the world in, only God knows.
One last quick note, you will notice that during the seventh seal nothing happens on earth rather it depicts something happening in heaven. This further strengthens the idea of covenant as God rested on the seventh day.
I just want to make a brief point on the seven trumpets, it is to much for my short article to address each of the Seven Trumpets. First of all the trumpets parallel another great biblical event and that is the seven plagues of the exodus. Specifically the first five trumpets. The destruction described by the trumpets also is very similar to what happened in the time leading up to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. I’m not going to go into details but I will cite Josephus who wrote a history of Rome, and more specifically the Jewish war. You will need to go find a copy of this for yourself if you are really interested, but it is not an easy read as it explains the destruction of the temple.
First Trumpet: Josephus, the Wars of the Jews, Book 6, Ch. 1, no.1
Second Trumpet: Ibid. Bk 6, Ch. 5 No. 1 and Bk. 3 Ch 10. No 9
Third Trumpet and fourth trumpet: no parallel in Josephus but likely a connection to the amount of dead in the waters during war and the burning of the city of Jerusalem that would black out the sun, moon and stars.
Fifth Trumpet: Beginning of war in 66 AD where thousands of Jews killed for five months. C.F. Josephus War of the Jews Bk 2 Ch 14 no. 9 and Ch 19 no. 9
Sixth Trumpet: Ibid. Bk 7 Ch. 1 No. 3
There are more connections to the Jewish war but this will give you a good start. The amount of parallels between what happened during the Jewish war and what John describes is striking and convincing to me that John is describing the destruction in 70 AD.
More to Come later!
There is much more to talk about in the book of Revelation. It is a book full of meaning. I will cover Revelation 12 very soon as it is a very important passage in Catholic Thought. As we continue to pass through the readings this week I will cover those passages as well!