Breaking Open the Word: Revelation Ch. 10-11

The Two Witnesses    Anonymous Unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Two Witnesses

Anonymous Unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, November 25th, 2018 – Revelation Chapters 10 and 11

               These two chapters of Revelation are packed with mysterious visions, symbolic numbers, and veiled Old Testament references! While we couldn’t begin to exhaust the riches of this bit of God’s Word, we were able to find many points that are meaningful to us today.

               We began with the “mighty angel” holding the “small scroll” at the end of Chapter 10. One commentary saw this scroll as representing our personal share in the Paschal Mystery: while we cannot take in the entirety of Christ’s mission (the sealed scroll previously opened by the Lamb ), we are each given a unique portion of it to “eat.” This sharing is “sweet” in that we are united with Jesus and heading towards Heaven, but it also has a “sour” quality, since it involves embracing our daily crosses.

               Several Sisters were struck by the authoritative way John approaches the great and terrifying angel:  “I went up to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll.” (10:9) No “please”– John just walks up, demands the scroll, and receives it! This really underlines the incredible mystery of the holy angels; they are immensely powerful, awesomely holy, superior to us in every way . . . and yet they joyfully obey God’s command to serve us, to help us to salvation!

               We also found a great deal to discuss in the passage about the Two Witnesses (11:1-14). Among other things, these figures can be taken as a representation of the Church and her mission, which is both Old and New, Jew and Gentile, hierarchical and prophetic. One Sister noted how the witnesses were utterly invincible while they were doing God’s work (“anyone attempting to harm them will surely be slain” 11:5), and even their death led ultimately to resurrection and vindication (“they went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies looked on” 11:12). Thus, we in the Church must be fearless in doing God’s will, for we know that nothing, even death, can truly harm us while we are under His protection.

               This passage also highlights an important and mysterious truth about the Church’s ultimate victory at the end of time. As the Catechism puts it, “the kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause His Bride to come down from Heaven.” (CCC 667) In other words, the Church can only win the battle by seemingly losing it – she must follow her Bridegroom through the Passion and Cross to achieve the Resurrection.  How important it is to study God’s Word in Scripture and Tradition, so that we will have His perspective on events that some might see as “defeat” of the Church. Even – especially – in darkest times, the Lord is mysteriously preparing His Bride for His coming.

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation
— Lumen Gentium 16

Finally, one Sister noted an interesting line in the song of praise after the blowing of the seventh trumpet. The hymn mentions “your servants the prophets,” who would represent the baptized faithful, but it also speaks of “the holy ones who revere you, the great and the small alike.” (11:18) These words could refer to those who, though they do not know God, sincerely seek Him and strive to follow their consciences. In God’s great mercy, they are permitted to enter into His presence for all eternity!

We have officially passed the halfway mark for the Book of Revelation! Thank you for keeping up with us in this Scripture sharing series, and we hope you’ll stay around for next week, when we discuss Chapter 12, the epic conflict between the Woman and the Dragon.