The New Testament — and thus, for Christians, the entire Bible — swirls to a tempestuous conclusion with the book of Revelation. Singular, not plural.

Attributed to John, often presumed to be the one who’s source of the book of gospel as well, it’s a volcanic eruption of apocalyptic utterance that brings to mind the psychedelic imaginings of Ezekiel, the promised new land of Deuteronomy, the justice of Isaiah, the tribulations of the Babylonian exile, the trials of Daniel, and a harmonious New Eden with its tree of healing and pure waters.

While many commentators over the years have imposed literalistic, even legalistic, interpretations on the text, pegging it to specific historical events in Biblical times or their own, and reducing each image-metaphor to a mere symbol of some particular episode or figure, I prefer to approach this is a vast symphony, one as overwhelming as the outburst Job receives from voice in the whirlwind. The text addresses our own time as much as the fires leading up to the destruction of the Second Temple or the Holocaust.

Think of Star Wars, nuclear annihilation, or climatic upheaval with its melting ice caps and great disastrous flooding, if you must. Ask, too, just where you stand in this text.

Revelation is the promise of the triumph of goodness and passionate fidelity over the futility evil, and of holy victory over the Dragon and the Ancient Serpent, “which is Satan and the Devil.”

Yes, there are those who try to interpret this as the Rapture, but I think they fall way short in their vision. Revelation is far more about holding to the promise and Covenant now, despite all appearances, rather than some cataclysmic future.

Psalm after psalm call on the faithful to praise the Lord. Many even mention instruments of orchestration. In Revelation, I’d add a large chorus. Of angels, like the one accompanying this story.

And that’s what I hear as I read this.

Tree of Life

 

Some give the date of composition as 68 CE during the Great Revolt, or even earlier, in 55 CE. Others place it as 95 CE.

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