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When I was a kid, I was taught a method for understanding a story was to apply the "5 questions" approach. The 5 questions are who, what, when, where and how. That is a very strong basis for understanding (or misunderstanding) the Book of Revelation. I would argue that perhaps no other Biblical book is more misunderstood because no other Biblical book has been more misinterpreted through the eyes of novel ideology. Particularly pervasive had been novelties emerging from the 20th century.

So let's examine the who, what, when, where and how of this book with respect to how it was understood by the early church compared to how it is understood by much of modern society. After we do this, we can examine why the early church had it right.

Early Christian understanding Modern Christian understanding.

The church existing in the 1st century WHO Those alive in the end times

The end of the old covenant and the

emergence of the new WHAT A play by play of coming events

Overwhelmingly fulfilled by 70 AD WHEN Now, and to the end

Out from Jerusalem WHERE Back To Jerusalem

A tapestry of all time HOW A linear time-line of events

The interpretations we are going to present are going to seem strange at first but you will soon see that our approach is to throw imaginative speculation away and remain faithful to the text in it's proper context. Some call our approach preterist but that's not correct. A preterist is someone who upholds the belief that all Biblical prophecies have been fulfilled. We do not hold to that view. However, we do reject the futurist mindset that believes that all prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. We hold to following what the text says, period.

This of course allows for the possibility of multiple layers of fulfilment but we again, don't go beyond what is written.

The forced imposition of 21st century themes on 1st century realities have gotten many people way off track. A working assumption began to emerge from around the 1970s, that "John the Revelator" was being shown almost exclusively end-times events in either fully symbolic visions or in real visions he could not comprehend because of their futuristic content, or in some combination of the two. The facts will show that John understood the themes he was projecting in this book, just like in his other 4 works and that this work is a beautiful tapestry revealing, in bold strokes, the emergence of the Catholic church as the New Jerusalem and bride of Christ and the power and majesty of Catholic worship.

Contrary to popular belief, the Book of Revelation is largely understandable and not open to any interpretation you choose. We think you may be shocked that, far more often than not, the text actually takes you where you need to go if you will only take the time to listen. We will be pressing that point boldly as we go.

This presentation will draw upon a number of sources which may be cited as we go. I want to start by citing some of primary importance that I will draw from.

Coming Soon: Unlocking the book of Revelation by Michael Barber

Ascension Catholic study Bible RSVCE by Ignatius Press

The Collegeville Bible Commentary.

The 'Faith Database' software platform

This project is the exclusive property of The 4 Persons, Inc and will be completed in audio, video and book form for public consumption at a reasonable cost upon completion.

Distribution will be through the Bible Catholic network and it's affiliates.


The Collegeville Bible commentary gives a useful outline of the structure of the book, noting how one set of visions is announced while another is still ongoing. The groups of sevens seem to demonstrate God's plan of perfection as seven is the number of perfection.

I reproduce their outline for your use:

Catholics apprehend the Book of Revelation as we do all the Books of the Bible- in the context of it being part of a whole, seamless garment. The idea of isolated proof-texting is something we simply do not accept. You cannot wrench the sentence from the verse, the verse from the chapter, the chapter from the Book and the Book from the whole of Scripture and expect to grasp the proper meaning. This can be difficult at times, to be sure. Different books of the Bible are written in different styles or genres and cannot be read in the same way. The Books of the law, such as Leviticus read in a radically different way than do poetical books like the Psalms. Likewise, the Book of Revelation reads differently from even John's other writings- the Gospel and his 3 letters.

That does not mean we won't find elements in Revelation that echo elements in John's Gospel or in the Psalms or even in Genesis and the Books of the Law. They are all present, they only need to be fleshed out.

The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. ~ Augustine.

This is the framework by which all Scripture must be understood. The word Revelation means to remove the veil. This book unveils the whole of God's plan in it's complete grandeur and it displays the tenderness of His mercy and the terror of His wrath.

All the Books in the Old Testament are the blueprints of what the coming Kingdom of God will look like. Everything in the New Testament is the formation of the Kingdom, sometimes violently portrayed1.

Scripture cannot be properly interpreted without respect to the culture of the people of the audience to whom it is being written. The little idioms and sayings of the time are important to understand. The nuances of the languages- Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin also hold great sway.

Finally, the 4 senses of Scripture.

  1. Literal Sense: This refers to the straightforward meaning of the text—the historical context, events, and facts described.

  2. Allegorical Sense: Here, we look beyond the literal to find deeper spiritual or theological meanings. For example, events in the Old Testament may prefigure or symbolize aspects of Christ’s life in the New Testament.

  3. Moral Sense: This focuses on ethical lessons and practical guidance. It asks how the text applies to our lives and behavior.

  4. Anagogical Sense: This points to the ultimate goal or destiny—often related to eternal life or heavenly realities.

You may find elements of all of these senses in all the Biblical books and Revelation certainly is very heavy in the Allegorical sense. The truth is that the best approach to understanding scripture must include the church- especially the early church.

What we will be doing here is not so much a new and novel approach to understanding this book but rather, a trip back to how it was understood before the new ideologies began to be imposed on it.

Let's get started.


1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near.

What must soon take place....for the time is near. In the first 3 verses of this book, John tells us twice that the things to be portrayed here will happen very soon. It is rash to quickly dismiss this or rationalize it away by assuring yourself that soon could mean 2000 years.

It is true that Peter said that with God a day can be as a thousand years and a thousand years as day2. ,so I fully understand the temptation to put soon and near in the context of eternity and conclude that John is referring to end-times events.

This is the first example where I will simply implore you to let the text speak to you. Do not impose pre-conceived judgements or interpretive models. You will soon see clearly that John is speaking with a genuine and literal urgency and that this book, written in 68 AD, is now foretelling events that happen very soon after that.

In his work "Coming soon", Michael Barber recounts that the Syriac version of the Book of Revelation places it's writing around the time of Nero3. That is, about 68 AD. I think other evidence supports this conclusion including (as we will later show) the text itself.

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

Notice that John asserts himself as the authority God works through, as the writer to the seven churches. He is acting as the messenger and one who speaks by the authority of God, A Priesthood, over all 7 churches. This, of course, follows the model of John as a Bishop of the Catholic church- and history proves that to be so. This first argument for this understanding may be uncompelling by itself but as the chapters unwind and the pages turn, the case for a Catholic message becomes more and more impossible to dismiss. You will see.

You also cannot miss the fact that this is a current message for John's time, set in his own time, to 7 churches that are currently in Asia, in John's time. It is a present tense message. None of these 7 churches survived to our present time. It is ok to extrapolate it, in a general way to all of us in the same way that all scripture applies to all of us. However, in the specific, literal sense, it cannot be missed that John is not addressing a future group of churches but people in his own time. He addresses real issues they were facing at that time.

The seven spirits reference from verse 4 is the first of many very challenging ones. Obviously, we are used to thinking of the third person of the Trinity as a Spirit rather than 7 Spirits.

This verse refers to the one Holy Spirit, expressed by His seven gifts, as seven spirits. They are of course; wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. As 7 is the number of completion or perfection, this would be the one Spirit manifested by the perfection of his gifts.

There is something more at play here. The Seven Spirits extend us greetings, Grace and Peace so they are obviously of the Divinity. At the same time, they stand before God, in the appearance of a servant role.

This strange duality is the entirety of the mystery of Jesus, the one mediator between God and Man5. This expression of the Divinity as 7 spirits appears in Isaiah Chapter 11, in one of the most beautiful prophecies of the coming of Jesus.

11 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.5 Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.

6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.7 The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.8 The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.9 They shall not hurt or destroy

We are revisited by this curious turn of phrase 3 more times, in chapters 3, 4 and 5. Only by working through these usages will you be able to fully appreciate the full context and understand just what is being said. We don't want to simply answer the riddle but do so in a way that is going to have an impact and change your way of thinking. As Isaiah 11 shows, and as these 3 future references will show, the Seven Spirits of God phraseology is a deep penetration of Jesus, simultaneously on both sides of the equation, as Son of God and Son of Man and how deeply mysterious that is.

In Isaiah 11, the Seven Spirits are shown as resting particularly on Him and in Revelation 1, they are shown as the binding tie between Father and Son

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

It is a fascinating penetration of the Trinity and of the two natures of Jesus.

6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

and here we see two early points raised in more specific detail. First, that Jesus has raised up the Priesthood- a Kingdom of priests- to serve Him and the Father. Our protestant brothers and sisters believe that God abolished the Old Testament, hierarchal, ministerial priesthood and replaced it with an invisible one that lacks authority, hierarchy, liturgy and a sacrificial offering. They could not be more wrong and there is really no evidence to support their position, Biblically or historically.

What God did was end the temporary priesthood, with it's temporary sacrifice and replace it with the perpetual priesthood that would offer the perpetual sacrifice of Christ. This is what Scripture foretold.

Exodus 29:9

and you shall gird them with girdles and bind caps on them; and the priesthood shall be theirs by a perpetual statute. Thus you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.

Malachi 1: 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.

This will become clearer as we go on.

The second point is to make manifest that the message of His coming is of imminence. Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.

John is sounding the alarm that this coming of Jesus is not to be understood as being His coming at the end of days. This is something that the current generation of people are going to witness in the flesh. This is not the second coming proceeding the final judgement. This is something imminent.

This warning was made many times in the gospels. Jesus promised vengeance against the current generation, the very people alive at that time.

Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”

But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. So shall it be also with this evil generation.”

Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place.

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place.

that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, 1 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechari′ah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it shall be required of this generation.

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place.

And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

At the risk of belaboring the point, that the coming of Jesus into His Kingdom and the manifestation of his power would be something the living of His time would see is manifestly clear. Equally clear, from the words of chapters like Matthew 23 and 24 were the words that Jerusalem's destruction would occur within a generation.

Matthew 24:  Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.”

3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8 all this is but the beginning of the sufferings.

9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.

15 “So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; 17 let him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house; 18 and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle. 19 And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 Then if any one says to you, ‘Lo, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Lo, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Lo, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; if they say, ‘Lo, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 28 Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; 30 then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; 31 and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place.

The word is Genea (Strong's 1074) that gives us Generation. It is a word that denotes a time period of about 40 years. Jesus ministry began in 30 AD and a generation would take us up to about 70 AD.

Notice a few things;

  1. Jesus uses the same apocalyptic imagery of Himself coming with the clouds, as Rev. 1.

  2. That imagery is in an answer to a direct question regarding Jerusalem's temple being destroyed.

  3. In Rev 1, it is predicted that the eyes of those who pierced Him will see it.

  4. Jesus, Himself tells us that all this will happen within 40 years (a generation).

The message of the imminence and urgency of these passages is just too strong to ignore. Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are simply hammering the point too relentlessly for us to dismiss it.

The dismissal of imminence is not tenable from a linguistic point of view but rises from a simple misunderstanding of apocalyptic language and it's deep symbolism.

People believe that Matthew 24:1-34 hasn't been fulfilled because they haven't seen this:

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken;

People in our time have not seen the heavens shake and the stars fall and the sun and moon go black so they think these things have not come to pass yet. Yet, Jesus does not speak of the Second coming as happening until after these events.

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

You have to ask yourself this. Why would you tie these former events to the second coming of Jesus when He specifically divides them? Why would you insist they are related when we know the former had to have happened within 40 years but of what happens after verse 34, no one knows when they occur?

Remember, the same event is prophesized in Revelation 1:7 as in Matthew 24:30. As we go, it becomes clearer. In time, you will understand the deep symbolic meanings conveyed in this ominously symbolic language.

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
9 I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Per′gamum and to Thyati′ra and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to La-odice′a.”

It cannot be emphasized enough that John is being told to write to the churches (dioceses) of 7 specific cities under his jurisdiction. The idea of the totally autonomous, local church is abolished here. That has never been the Biblical model.

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; 14 his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; 16 in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Now write what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

The imagery is just stark. These 7 churches on earth are represented by 7 lampstands that the glorified savior walks amongst and the 7 Bishops of those churches, whom John will address by letter are referred to as Angels (messengers) and stars that He holds in His very hand. Jesus is giving us a startling image of His intimate union with His church.

The seven lampstands hearken back to Zechariah chapter 4 and the image closely compares to these 7 Bishops as God's eyes in the world.

 And the angel who talked with me came again, and waked me, like a man that is wakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps which are on the top of it. 3 And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” 4 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 Then the angel who talked with me answered me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerub′babel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerub′babel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” 8 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerub′babel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerub′babel.

“These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.”

The verses clearly show the connection between God's heavenly and earthly kingdoms.

Finally, it cannot be missed that Jesus says I have the keys of Death and Hades (v18) because of the words Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16.

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

To those with too linear a view of God, these verses seem to contradict each other. People just keep losing sight of Jesus as both a Divine and Human person and thus, they keep losing sight of His church as both a Divine and human institution. It is such a difficult construct but an absolutely Biblical one.

God's salvific action is through His church. They are one.


  1. Matt. 11:12

  2. 2 Peter 3:8

  3. Coming soon, page 4

  4. The Book of Tobit (part of the full canon of Scripture)

  5. 1 Timothy 2:5


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