Finished off a first close reading of Revelation this weekend. I wanted to get a feel for it before I go off and look at the commentaries. First impressions:
Sense of Time
The prologue clear states that “the Time is close” (1:3) an assertion that bookends the narrative and is repeated again in the final chapter: “Do not keep the prophecies in this book a secret because the time is close” (22:10).
This sense of time related to the things that are to “take place” is also contrasted against an eternal sense of time: “I am the Alpha and Omega says the Lord God, who is, who was and who is to come”(1:8). Again this assertion is bookended by the final chapter: “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (22:13)
Catastrophe and Victory
This dialectic sense of time: the things impending meets the things impending is matched by a similar dialectic throughout of prophecies of catastrophe and doom matched by prophecies of victory.
The book is in a sense a prison hallucination and thus has the marks of both brutalisation and escapist fantasy.
The author introduces himself: “I am your brother and share your sufferings, your kingdom and all you endure, I was on Patmos (a prison island) for having preached God’s word and witnessed for Jesus”(1:9)
This notion of endurance is a key motif and is matched by the promise of ultimate victory.
The language of an empire at war that builds alliances, colanises, invades and destroys is key to the symbolic structure of the book
Babylon and Jerusalem represent key geographies of sin and innocence in both cases the materiality of these places is a key aspect of the representation of the gathering of the “evil” and the gathering of the “holy”. These symbolic cities must be recognised as two models of governance or civility and as two communal or peer authority structures.
Other key themes
Justice of God’s retribution
deceit/idolatry as key sins
The dialectic catastrophe/victory structure of the vision, the call to resistance and endurance and the call to reject the demands of empire makes for a radical message but this same radical core can also obviously induce a sense of overly righteous fatality.