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Understanding the Bible Part 9
The Book of Revelation
by Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

The significance of the Apocalypse and the interest in It

The Apocalypse ("apocalupsis" in Greek, means revelation) of St. John the Theologian is the only prophetic book of the New Testament. It foretells the impending fate of mankind, the end of the world, and the beginning of eternal life, and it is, therefore, naturally placed at the end of the Holy Scripture.

The Apocalypse is a book of mystery, and its comprehension is difficult. At the same time, it is the very mysterious character of this book that draws to it the interest of believing Christians, as well as that of simply inquisitive thinkers, striving to resolve the meaning and significance of the visions described therein. There are a great number of books about the Apocalypse, among which are found quite a few absurd publications, especially those which are associated with contemporary sectarian literature.

Notwithstanding the difficulty in understanding this book, spiritually enlightened Fathers and Teachers of the Church have always treated it with great reverence as a book which had been inspired by God. Thus, St. Dionysius of Alexandria writes: "The darkness of this book does not prevent one from being astonished at it. And even if I do not understand everything in it, that is only because of my incapability. I cannot be a judge of the truths which are contained in it or measure them with the poverty of my mind, being guided more by faith than by understanding. I find them only surpassing my understanding." The Blessed Jerome expresses himself in the same manner regarding the Apocalypse: "In it there are as many mysteries as words. But what am I saying? Every praise of this book will be beneath its worth."

The Apocalypse is not read during the Liturgy because in ancient times the reading of Holy Scripture at the Liturgy was always followed by an explanation of it, whereas the Apocalypse is quite complex to explain.

Published with the kind permission of Bishop Alexander Mileant

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