3:21:17 The Revelation to John

As a religious and literary book in Western civilization, The Revelation to John in the New Testament is highly unusual for its ability to grab and hold people's attention.

[666]

You turn on your radio or TV. A fire-and-brimstone preacher warns we're in the end-time, Apocalypse to follow.

At a gas station the other day, my purchase totalled $16.66. The gas station attendant took my twenty and said, "I like that number." But this from the same guy, who, giving me change, invariably says, "Have a blessed day."

At one time, I speculated whether Revelation really applies to our times. In Los Angeles, I worked in an office building, where a woman I'd see in the lunchroom occasionally talked about her Wednesday Bible study classes. Cris had come to Hollywood with a dream of being “discovered,” but settled for less.

Cris became a seeker. She expected the Second Coming soon. In a matter of weeks, Jesus Christ would make a worldwide appearance on television. That got my attention. I decided to read Revelation closely.

Alas, Cris's day came and went before I could figure out any predicted chronology for Armageddon and the like. If Satan were sealed away for a thousand years, when was "after that he [Satan] must be loosed for a little while" to happen? [RSV 20:3]

Although Revelation resonates across two millenniums, it was not written for a 21st century audience. More like the 1st century. Recently I read Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar, who teaches at Chapel Hill. He clarifies a few key passages.

The great city of Babylon--poetically, a harlot for humankind--will be destroyed. Mention of earthquakes confuses the prediction, and points to, say, decadent Hollywood near the San Andreas Fault? Not so. For Ehrman, those hearing Revelation circa 95 A.D. readily understood Babylon on "seven hills" was Rome. [17:9]

What about 666? Ehhman unravels that one too. In Roman times, a person's name was encoded with a number for each letter. A Roman emperor who persecuted Christians was Caesar Nero. His name encodes to 666.

If Nero was a nemesis of the early Christian sects, their savior was another Roman emperor.

I was in York, England, a few years ago and read on a monument that campaigning at that Britannic outpost of the Roman Empire, the son of Constanius learned of his father's death in 306 A.D. On that day, in present-day York, Constantine I was declared Emperor of the Roman Empire by succession. In 313 A.D., Constantine I decreed tolerance for Christianity and made it a legal Roman religion. What followed was a mighty current in Western civilization's story.

Image credit: atlanteanconspiracy.com


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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection [and feel free to share with a friend] The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.



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