Scripture Study--

The Apocalypse, or Revelation to John, the last book of the Bible (circa AD 70), is one of the most difficult to understand because it abounds in unfamiliar and extravagant symbolism, according to its introduction in the New American Bible. The perspective of the book is eschatological—ultimate salvation and victory are said to take place at the end of the present age when Christ will come in glory. It was written at a time when Christians were being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. The writer’s main concern is to give his readers hope and encouragement, and to urge them to remain faithful for the coming of the Kingdom during times of persecution.

In Revelation 15:1-4, John gives yet another picture of the coming of the Kingdom.. As in the other visions contained in this book, the scene that he draws is strangely great and richly symbolic. In this particular scene, a great host are gathered on something like a sea of glass mingled with fire. This is the same shining sea we read about earlier, which supported the emerald throne on which the Holy One sat surrounded by awesome living creatures and the gathered hosts of heaven. This particular group is made up of those who have won the victory over sin and death. These victors over the Evil One hold the harps like those used in the ancient temple of Solomon for worshipping God, and in perfect voice and chorus they are singing two great canticles—the canticle of Moses and the canticle of the Lamb.

Apparently the refrain of the two canticles is the same: "Mighty and wonderful are your works, Lord God Almighty! Righteous and true are your ways, 0 King of the Nations!" What we see symbolized in these two canticles is the final summing up of all that God has done to bring his creation to completion. The canticle of Moses stands for the old covenant—God’s dispensation of law and sacrifice. The canticle of the Lamb stands for the new covenant—God’s dispensation of grace and faith. What emerges from this grand view of biblical history is a sense that the world will not be complete until all people of all languages, and nations, and governments, and religions somehow come together in praise of life. Earth’s long journey will not be complete until God’s final canticles are sung!

There was a time when sophisticated readers of the Book of Revelation took all this futuristic talk of a world destroyed by fire and of cities dying of corruption as strictly metaphorical. But life in the last half of the twentieth century has convinced many that these pictures of doom are not that far off the mark. While early fears of an accidental nuclear chain reaction being set off by a nuclear holocaust have been alleviated, the specter of a world consumed in flames most certainly has not gone away. The Soviet Union’s arsenal of nuclear weapons turning up in the hands of terrorists, giving them the ability to destroy the whole inhabited world by fire is a distinct possibility.

The fate of our great urban cities was never more in doubt. Choked by traffic, smog, and garbage, riddled by crime and corruption, the death of our cities does not seem far away. We have a melancholy picture of what happens when a city dies in Revelation (See Chapter 18:1-2, 21-23 and 19:1-3,9). "No tunes of harpists and minstrels, of flutists and trumpeters, shall ever again be heard in you! No craftsmen in any trade shall ever again be found in you! No sound of the millstone shall ever again be heard in you! No light from a burning lamp shall ever again shine out in you. No voices of bride and groom shall ever again be heard in you!" What a heartbreaking picture. Imagine the San Francisco Bay Area with no sporting events, plays, or concerts, with no secretaries and sales-people, with no assembly lines and no BART, with no street lamps and lighted office buildings, with no weddings and no families as we know them today—and Golden Gate Park over-crowded with the homeless. Pretty depressing thought, isn't it?

The Book of Revelation, however, does contain the Good News in its central theme: through Christ the Lord, God will finally and totally defeat all his enemies, including Satan, and will reward his faithful people with the blessings of a new heaven and a new earth when his victory is complete. GDP

Return to List of Articles