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The REVELATION of JESUS CHRIST THE FAITHFUL WITNESS

Jennifer McGaw P helps & M atthew P helps I llustrations by Tami Palladino

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nihil obstat Very Reverend Aquinas Nichols Censor Librorum imprimatur X Most Reverend Richard E. Pates Bishop of Des Moines July 1, 2013 The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat or imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.

Copyright © 2013 by Turning to God’s Word. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible—Second Catholic Edition (Ignatius Edition) copyright © 2006 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Cover photograph is of St. John’s Vision on Patmos, a stained glass window at St. Augustin Catholic Church in Des Moines, Iowa, copyright © 2011 by Tom Knapp. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-9895756-0-7

check out our online study pages for additional resources related to this catholic bible study.

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table of contents the revel ation of jesus christ : the faithful witness

LESSON 1 LESSON 2 LESSON 3 LESSON 4 LESSON 5 LESSON 6 LESSON 7 LESSON 8 LESSON 9 LESSON 10 LESSON 11 LESSON 12 LESSON 13 LESSON 14 LESSON 15 LESSON 16 LESSON 17 LESSON 18 LESSON 19 LESSON 20 LESSON 21 LESSON 22 LESSON 23

the ruler of kings on earth behold, I am alive for evermore what the Spirit says to the churches he who has an ear, let him hear and behold, in heaven an open door! who is worthy to open the scroll? and behold, a white horse salvation belongs to our God silence in heaven so the four angels were released a mighty angel come down from heaven I will grant my two witnesses power a great sign appeared in heaven men worshiped the dragon on Mount Zion stood the Lamb seven angels with seven plagues seven bowls of the wrath of God mother of harlots fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! the mighty voice of a great multitude this is the first resurrection I saw a new heaven & a new earth and behold, I am coming soon

INDEX OF CITATIONS

5 10 15 21 26 31 36 41 46 51 56 61 66 72 77 83 87 92 97 102 107 113 118

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INDEX OF TOPICS

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NUMBERS IN REVELATION

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WHO’S WHO IN REVELATION

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TABLE OF CONTENTS


5 n o

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and behold, in heaven an open door! hen John sees the open door, this is not something he can investigate in the same way that Moses checked out the burning bush in the book of Exodus 3:1–3. John’s vision of heaven is a description of a profound interior experience into which he has been drawn by a speaker he once saw and then saw no longer. For John, heaven is the place where God can be seen. John’s use of the phrase “in the Spirit” suggests that he is familiar with this state of spiritual awareness, but the translators’ punctuation (“an open door!”) implies that despite John’s spiritual advancement, never before has he been privileged to visit heaven. Consider your ideas about how Christians are able to enter heaven. In what ways is John’s experience similar? How is it different? Is there anything especially surprising about John’s experience?

REVELATION 4:1—11 After this I looked, and behold, in heaven an open door! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! 3 And he who sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald. 4 Round the throne were twentyfour thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns upon their heads. 5 From the throne issue flashes of lightning, and voices and peals of thunder, and before the throne burn seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God; 6 and before the throne there is as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all round and within, and day and night they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” 9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, 11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revised Standard Version of the Bible—Second Catholic Edition (Ignatius Edition) copyright 2006 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

LESSON 5 — REVELATION 4:1—11

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come up here

1

Read the book of Revelation 4:1. What indicates that being shown a door into heaven is not an everyday experience for the author? Compare this verse with the Book of Ezekiel 1:1. How is John’s experience unique? The Letter to the Hebrews 9:11–12 describes a Christian view of heaven based on Old Testament worship. What understanding do the Jewish and Christian traditions share about heaven?

2

One difference between Old Testament visions of heaven and the vision described in the book of Revelation is that John participates directly in his vision. This, and the emphasis on eternal life in the prologue and letters to the seven churches, indicate that heaven is less an abode of the dead and more like a home base for those participating in eternity. What implications might this understanding of death and heaven have had for 1st-century Christians? TURNING TO GOD’S WORD

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a peek at heaven When readers get a first view of heaven, the author switches verb tenses in the book of Revelation 4:8 to convey God’s existence outside of time in the eternal now—as he “who was and is….” The “Is to come” still is to come. John’s vision occurs halfway between Alpha (A—the original Creation) and Omega (Ω—new heaven and earth).

LESSON 5 — REVELATION 4:1—11


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a map of heaven In the book of Exodus, chapters 25—27 and also chapters 35—40 describe the layout of the tabernacle that contained the ark of the covenant. This layout begins with the ark as the central point and locates everything in relationship to it. Of note in the Exodus descriptions of the tabernacle is that items closest to the ark are the most precious, made of gold, while items farther away are made of less precious metals. The implication of this shift is that the items contained in the tabernacle received their sacredness by their proximity to the central element, which was the ark. The temple of Solomon was patterned after the design of the tabernacle, so it essentially was structured in the same way. The Old Testament descriptions of sacred space appear to be a model for John’s vision of heaven. As intriguing as John’s vision of heaven

is, sincere Christians generally show more concern about learning how to get there than what to expect once we finally arrive at our ultimate destination. John’s analogy depicting the layout of heaven leads to some interesting conclusions, however. The most obvious is that God appears as the central point from which all sacredness derives. Closest to God are the 24 thrones with the 24 elders, then the four living creatures, and finally the sea of glass. This sequence determines which occupants of heaven in John’s vision are to be treated as most sacred. Somewhat surprisingly, it is the 24 elders. Finally, this floor plan of heaven causes us to wonder not only about what is present in John’s vision, but also about what is absent. What are some of the missing items we still might expect to encounter as we move forward in our study?

3

Read the book of Revelation 4:2–3. Compare the throne in this passage with the heavenly thrones described in the Book of Ezekiel 1:26–28 and the Book of Isaiah 6:1. What reason might John have had for placing his vision of the throne in this Old Testament apocalyptic tradition? Why might each apocalyptic vision of heaven begin with a description of a throne? The exclamation point inserted by the translators indicates that the author was surprised to see someone on the throne. What do the descriptions of gemstones and a rainbow suggest about the one who is occupying the throne?

4

The book of Revelation 4:3 and the Book of Ezekiel 1:28 both depict a rainbow around God’s throne. Refer to the book of Genesis 9:8–17 to explain the significance of a rainbow in Hebrew tradition. How is a rainbow related to Creation? How is a rainbow related to the Christian sacrament of Baptism?

old images used in new ways The book of Revelation borrows from other apocalyptic texts, especially the Books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. It is useful to know how these images are viewed in the Old Testament and then to note the ways in which they change when they reappear in the book of Revelation. Important images borrowed from the Old Testament that show up in the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation include God’s throne in heaven, the rainbow, the sea of glass, and the four living creatures. Each plays a significant role when the Christian understanding of heaven is overlaid on the apocalyptic visions recorded by the Old Testament prophets.

LESSON 5 — REVELATION 4:1—11

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holy, holy, holy In the book of Revelation 4:8, the four living creatures sing: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” This is a variation of liturgical chant from the Book of Isaiah 6:3: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” “Holy, holy holy” is unique to the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Repeating the word “holy” three times emphasizes that nothing is more holy than God. The four living creatures each have six wings, an element consistent with the seraphim in the Book of Isaiah. The book of Revelation 4:8 borrows language from Revelation 1:4 and 1:8 to show the universal nature of God that encompasses all time and space. In the book of Revelation 4:11, the 24 elders introduce a new hymn praising God’s power as Creator.

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5

Read the book of Revelation 4:4. For whom are thrones reserved? Paragraph 1138 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church suggests that the 24 elders represent servants of the Old and New Covenants. Read the Gospel According to Matthew 19:27–30, in which Jesus promises his disciples that they will sit on 12 thrones in heaven. What will they be doing? Which 12 servants of the Old Covenant might sit on the other 12 thrones described in the book of Revelation?

6

Read the book of Revelation 4:5. What three things come forth from the throne in heaven? What emotional responses would you expect from a person who was seeing such things emerge from a throne? Compare this passage with the description of God’s presence in the book of Exodus 19:16. Refer to the book of Revelation 1:4, 1:20, and 2:1 to compare the seven torches of fire with other series of seven in the book of Revelation. Which person of the Trinity might these images represent? How is the presence of the other two persons of the Trinity apparent from this vision of heaven?

7

Read the book of Revelation 4:6–8. The sea of glass resembles the sapphire pavement in the book of Exodus 24:10 as well as the crystal firmament in the Book of Ezekiel 1:22. The image in the book of Revelation differs in that it is described as a sea. Refer to the book of Exodus 30:17–20 and to the First Book of the Kings 7:23–28 to explain how “seas” figure into Old Testament worship.

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The sea of glass also calls to mind God guiding the Israelites safely out of Egypt through the Red Sea. Refer to the book of Exodus 14:1–31 to explain how this action prefigures the sacrament of Baptism. How might early Christians have interpreted the sea of glass in heaven as a hopeful image? How do you interpret it?

power & glory

We just heard a hymn composed of certain verses taken from the book of Revelation and pieced together for liturgical use. It is based on two fundamental elements. The first is the celebration of the Lord’s work outlined in the book of Revelation 4:11: “You created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Creation reveals God’s immense power. In the Book of Wisdom 13:5, it is written that from the greatness and beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, may be seen. In his Letter to the Romans 1:20, Paul notes that: “since the Creation of the world, invisible realities— God’s eternal power and divinity—have become visible.” It then becomes a duty to raise the song of praise to the Creator in celebration of his glory. —Pope St. John Paul II 3 November 2004

24 elders with front-row seats in heaven A variety of ideas exist about the identity of the 24 elders. The Greek word used by John in the book of Revelation 4:4 and translated as elders is presbuteroi, root of the English word for priest. Because the elders are wearing crowns and seated on thrones, they most likely are symbolic of the royal priesthood about which Peter writes when describing Christians in his First Letter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Paragraph 1138 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church suggests that the 24 elders represent servants of the Old and New Covenants, but offers no hint about who they

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might be. Some scholars believe these elders are the 12 apostles and 12 representatives of the tribes of Israel, an idea that seems in keeping with the rest of the book of Revelation and with all of Scripture. In the Gospel According to Matthew 19:28, Jesus promises his disciples: “In the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The arrangement of heaven that John describes places the human elders on thrones next to the throne of God, a new idea in biblical apocalyptic literature. More intriguing than the location or even the identity of these 24 elders, however, is that they are constantly relinquishing their own power in order to worship God.

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LESSON 5 — REVELATION 4:1—11


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Although the four living creatures have come to be associated with the Gospel writers, a more plausible explanation is that John intended them to represent all of Creation. The number points to the four corners of the earth, which ancient Hebrew cosmology saw as the far bounds of the world. Compare the four living creatures in the book of Revelation with those in the Book of Ezekiel 1:5–11. With their many eyes and their vantage point near the throne in heaven, what might these creatures be able to see? Compare their song with the song sung by the seraphim in the Book of Isaiah 6:1– 3. Which version most closely resembles the liturgy of the Mass?

10

Read the book of Revelation 4:9–11. What seems to be the primary activity of the 24 elders? What does the fact that they are constantly casting down their crowns indicate? What does it imply about how Christians should view our place before God?

in the spirit John undoubtedly is in a state of grace when he is invited into heaven. Paragraph 1861 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that moral choices have consequences. Mortal sin results in the loss of the state of grace, which can cause exclusion from Christ’s kingdom. The sacrament of Baptism restores men and women to the state of grace.

 the sea of glass One of the more intriguing elements of heaven is the sea of glass in the book of Revelation 4:6. Something similar is seen in the instructions for construction of the tent-sanctuary recorded in the book of Exodus 30:17–20: “The Lord said to Moses: ‘You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing. And you shall put it before the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering by fire to the Lord, they shall wash with water, lest they die.’” The Temple of Solomon included a more elaborate sea of bronze, described in the First Book of the Kings 7:23–28. Any reference to a sea calls to mind the Israelites’ passage through the Red Sea in the book of Exodus 14:1–31. This powerful image of Baptism is a mandatory reading at the Easter Vigil, the Mass during which adult catechumens are baptized and enter into full communion with the Church. The image of the rainbow also points to the sacrament of Baptism by recalling the covenant God made with Noah after the Flood, recorded in the book of Genesis 9:12–17 and discussed in paragraph 1219 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Flood was God’s attempt to unmake Creation by returning everything to the watery void that had

existed in the beginning. One man, Noah, found favor with God, however. God instructed Noah to build an ark to save himself and his family from death. By entering into the Church, often referred to as the barque (boat) of Peter, Christians also are able to survive the waters of death. In the sacrament of Baptism, the evil in humanity is destroyed and men and women are reborn. In his Letter to the Romans 6:8, Paul explains what happens this way: “But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” The sea of glass and the rainbow in John’s vision are images of hope, reminding Christians that while the sacrament of Baptism is necessary to enter heaven, God may choose to provide another way for those unbaptized whom he finds worthy to be cleansed. Paragraph 1257 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are ‘reborn of water and the Spirit.’ God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.”

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LESSON 5 — REVELATION 4:1—11

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the Lamb standing as though slain

one like a Son of man

the woman clothed with the sun

four living creatures

the child of the woman clothed with the sun

the dragon

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John, the author of the book of Revelation 13 2

the rider on the white horse WHO’S WHO IN REVELATION


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The Revelation of Jesus Christ: The Faithful Witness—sample lesson  

This Catholic Bible study focuses on the way that the Christian view of heaven depicted in the book of Revelation is shaped by the apocalypt...

The Revelation of Jesus Christ: The Faithful Witness—sample lesson  

This Catholic Bible study focuses on the way that the Christian view of heaven depicted in the book of Revelation is shaped by the apocalypt...