Since childhood, Revelation, or The Apocalypse of St. John, has been one of my favorite books in the Bible. The imagery and drama captured my imagination, and the promise of a city where there is no sorrow has gotten me through much heartache. However, I have never really understood the book. What is the significance of John’s imagery? What is the books relationship to Daniel and the rest of the canon? Should Christians identify current events with the imagery in the Apocalypse? These are just some of the things I’ve wondered.
Thankfully, a professor recently recommended a book to me by one of my favorite New Testament scholars, Richard Bauckham. The Theology of the Book of Revelation is a short book, a mere 164 pages, but the content is intriguing and elucidating. I’m only a couple of chapters in, but I’ve already learned much. I particularly found the following quote on the divine title “the One who is and who was and who is to come” insightful.
It is true that, as in English, this can mean virtually ‘future’. Thus for example, ‘the age to come’ or ‘the coming age’ (ho aion ho erchomenos) means ‘the future age’. But John has taken advantage of this usage to depict the future of God not as his mere future existence, but as his coming to the world in salvation and judgment. He no doubt has in mind those many Old Testament prophetic passages which announce that God will ‘come’ to save’ and judge (e.g. Ps. 96:13; 98:9; Isa. 40:10; 66:15; Zech. 14:5) and which early Christians understood to refer to his eschatological coming to fulfil his final purpose for the world, a coming they identified with the parousia of Jesus Christ. – p.29