Photo by Evan Boudreau

Misunderstood Revelation is really a story of hope

  • September 10, 2015

TORONTO - Revelation may be the last book of the Bible, but it certainly is not the least important when it comes to understanding the Bible, says Cardinal Thomas Collins.

“It is very important that Catholics have a true understanding of the Book of Revelation mainly because it is filled with profound spiritual wisdom about serving Jesus in a pagan world,” he said of the text sometimes referred to as the Apocalypse. “The Apocalypse is a beautiful book and most spiritually fruitful.”

Collins was to be one of four guest speakers on Revelation at a Faith Explained Seminar Sept. 12 at St. Joseph High School in Mississauga.

Rather than being regarded as a text about doom and gloom, Revelations should be viewed as a story of hope, the final battle of good verse evil from which Christ prevails, said Collins.

He went on to say that part of the work can be found in various liturgy readings and hymns. For example the popular hymns “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” “Lamb of Glory” and “Holy, Holy, Holy” all draw on parts of the Book of Revelation.

But just because Catholics hear it, and even repeat the words at times, does not mean that all understand what is truly being said.

“Some parts of it are easily misinterpreted,” said Collins. “Because of the symbolic language in it, it has been misused by people who want to manipulate the Apocalypse in order to give divine authority to their own ideas. That can cause spiritual harm.”

The apocalypse has also been a reoccurring theme in pop culture for quiet a while, said Cale Clarke, director of The Faith Explained Seminars.

“This stuff is all over pop culture and it seems like every year or two somebody has a new book out trying to say, ‘well if you read the signs of the times the end of the world could be right now,’ ” said Clarke.

Hollywood has tapped into the theological text for inspiration numerous times including for the films End of Days, This is the End and Armageddon.

Many songs, television shows and video games have also drawn from the Book of Revelation for theme, characters and imagery.
Clarke said the use of Revelation references in pop culture has contributed to what he sees as a growing interest in the book.

“There seems to be an unquenchable appetite for the Book of Revelation,” said Clarke, who teaches Bible studies at his parish. “(Pop culture) is part of the reason people are so interested.”

As further evidence of the widespread interest in Revelation, Clarke noted the conference had to be moved from the St. Joseph parish hall in Mississauga, Ont., which has a capacity of about 200, to the local Catholic school as tickets began to sell out.

But while these interpretations and adaptations of sections of the Book of Revelation generate interest in the text among the masses, they are not an accurate recounting of the work, said Clarke, citing a culture of “biblical illiteracy.”

Collins said that errors in interpreting Revelation may also be due to an unfamiliarity with the historical context, being the first persecution of the Church by the Roman Empire in the second century, when the text was written.

“The Apocalypse can be hard to interpret correctly because it comes out of a historical situation that many people don’t understand,” said Collins.

“Once the purpose of the book and the historical situation ... are explained accurately, then people can interpret correctly the many assuages in the book that seem, on first sight, to be confusing or that are misused by people.”

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