Sunday, April 25, 2010

Olsen on the Apocalypse

Carl Olsen offers a sane and uplifting meditation on the imagery of the book of Revelation.
Overcoming death and establishing eternal life is a constant theme in The Apocalypse. This can be seen in the imagery throughout the book, which is bursting with allusions to the Old Testament, especially the Pentateuch and the Prophets. The idea of being made “white” through perseverance in faith is drawn from Daniel, a book used often by John: “Many shall purify themselves, and makes themselves white, and be refined” (Dan. 12:10). White robes symbolize holiness and endurance. Priests in the time of Christ were examined for purity; if they passed, they were dressed in white robes, as was the High Priest. In the new covenant, those who have been baptized into Christ, the High Priest, and who endure to the end will be saved through the sacrifice of the Lamb on the Cross.

The palm branches allude to the feast of Tabernacles (cf., Lev. 24:39-40), which celebrated the harvest of crops and commemorated God’s divine protection during the Exodus. Palm branches were also used as symbols of victory (1 Macc. 13:51; 2 Macc. 10:7). In The Apocalypse they stand for God’s victory over evil, His protection of the Church throughout the time of tribulation, and the restoration of right relationship with God, as evidenced by the songs of praise before the heavenly throne.

John’s vision is also filled with a liturgical and sacramental perspective. The great multitude worship God in His temple, which ultimately is the Person of Christ (cf., Jn 2:19-22). Being washed and made white suggests the bath of Baptism, and the lack of hunger or thirst is Eucharistic in its promise of complete joy in the presence of the Lamb.

Thus, in the end—The End!—the apocalyptic truths of the Book of Revelation don’t involve helicopters and top secret technology, but the salvation of God’s flock, His people, through the death and Resurrection of the Lamb.