Sacred Scripture Deep Dive: The Book of Revelation

John Kubasak

Sacred Scripture Deep Dive: The Book of Revelation

The apostle John, exiled on the Isle of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, received amazing visions that he wrote down into what we know as the Book of Revelation. This last book of the Bible is perhaps the most challenging to pick up. This is a layered book, full of prophecy, mystical visions, and images. Despite the complexity, however, we should not cast this book aside.  

It’s hard to date the book exactly; scholars conclude that the book was written down either in the late 90s A.D. or near the end of the reign of Emperor Nero (68 A.D.). Travelers can visit Patmos today and see the the cave of Revelation.  

One of the distinct features of prophecy in Scripture is the wide range of its application. Prophecy is first meant for a particular situation, time, and place—for example, Jeremiah spoke to the Jews in exile.  Yet his message of hope, perseverance, and promised deliverance is also for the believer of any era. The Book of Revelation works in the same way. Here are some points of note about the book that I hope make the book more approachable.   


Brief Outline

First, a quick outline of the 22-chapter book. St. John the Apostle notes himself as the author (1:1) in a brief introduction. The book progresses with letters to seven churches (ch. 2 – 3), handing out praise to some and judgment to others.  All seven churches were located in present-day Turkey.  

With that as a beginning, St. John has visions for the remainder of the book. He sees the hosts of heaven (ch. 4 – 5) worshipping God. Up until this point, Revelation has not delved into the more complicated visions; it is in ch. 6 is where the apocalyptic visions begin. The four horsemen (not Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley, and Layden), seven seals, seven trumpets blown by seven angels tell of great chastisements for the earth. We get a break in ch. 7 for a vision of the multitudes in heaven, and again in ch. 12 with the coming of the woman clothed with the sun.  

The battle soon picks up again with a cameo from St. Michael who chains up Satan and throws him out of heaven. The dragon who pursued the woman in ch. 12 continued to make war with her and her offspring, however, and the fight raged on. In ch. 13, the beast of the sea and the beast of the land combine forces to make war on the elect, but in ch. 14, “one like a son of man” came to save the elect (v.14).  Seven angels appear in ch. 15 with seven plagues; these would be the last of the wrath of God. They ultimately overcome the beasts, the dragon, and the harlot that worked with the beast.  

Ch. 19 starts the heavenly crescendo that concludes the book. St. John’s vision takes him to heaven, and he sees the hosts of heaven worshipping before the throne of God. Ch. 22 concludes the book with St. John getting one last message from Our Lord.  


The Antichrist

I feel that those who have little to no exposure about this book associate it only with its sensational, apocalyptic elements. While there is much more to the book than just that aspect, we ignore it at our peril.  St. John talks about the end times and the antichrist in his first epistle, from which we can get some additional insight.  

The antichrist is one of the many examples from the book of multiple fulfillments. First, the spirit of the antichrist denies Jesus as the Messiah and thus denies God the Father who sent Him (1 John 2:22-23).  “Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Two chapters later, St. John speaks of the antichrist again: “every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already” (1 John 4:3). The spirit of antichrist has remained in the world since St. John’s time; in recent memory, we have figures like Stalin and Hitler as examples.  

Second, when the book of Revelation speaks of the antichrist, it refers to an historical person. The number 666 is used in 13:18 to refer to a specific person. Popular culture has taken this and ran with it—but 1st century readers would have looked at 666 and concluded it as a reference to the Roman Emperor Nero (see Jimmy Akin’s brief article and his more detailed PDF). Nero ruled from 54 to 68 A.D. and launched a persecution of Christians.  

Third, there will be an antichrist that comes in the end times. St. Paul talks about him as the man of lawlessness in and the Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses this figure as well (#675-677). “The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). This person is similar to the beast of the land in Revelation 13, who would work signs and wonders, erect an idol, and cause men worship him in error.  


Perseverance Through the Worst

St. John takes a quick aside a few times within the book to call his readers to perseverance. We can read this in two ways. The first and most obvious is on a general level; a Christ-like life is impossible without perseverance. Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow Him, not our bag of candy.  

The second way looks toward the chastisements that await in the end times. Persecution, tribulations, and martyrdom are no joke. Seven angels pour seven bowls of wrath upon the earth in ch. 16. These are reminiscent of some of the plagues upon Egypt during the Exodus, with more added. Sores, waterways turning to blood, scorching heat, darkness, mountain-flattening hail, and a great earthquake. Even a single one of these calamities would likely stretch a Christian’s faith.  

Imagine living to see such times! Would there be any virtue needed more than perseverance? We read stories of the martyrs from a comfortable chair, in a temperature-regulated home. Persecution brings more of the emotions to the table that Jesus described when meeting the women of Jerusalem: “for behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’” (Luke 23:29-30)  

As difficult as it is to contemplate the end times, it is a tenet of our Catholic faith that they are coming. Will we live to see them? No one knows. Still, it does us no good to remain willfully ignorant. The world is currently spiraling out of control in directions away from God. Is there not a good argument to be made for a “powerful delusion” settling upon the present world, as mentioned in 2 Thessalonians?  


The Way Out is Through

Again, I think it’s important to read the prophecies of wrath and woe. This does await the world and the Church in the end times.  

But the book of Revelation does not end with wrath: it ends with victory! After the forces of evil are thrown down (the beast of the land, beast of the sea, the harlot, and the great city “Babylon”), St. John describes hearing “the mighty voice of a great multitude in heaven” singing a hymn of praise to God. This follows the biblical pattern of exultant hymns of praise: that of Moses and Miriam after crossing the Red Sea, of Zachariah after the birth of John the Baptist, Mary at the Visitation. All of those instances praise God’s deliverance of His people. And imagine the multitudes of heaven crying in a loud voice!  

Our Lord told St. John the trials to expect because He loves us. Would you rather know about future misfortune and given time to prepare, or be blindsided? 

Ch. 20 contains the final judgment and the ultimate defeat of Satan and his minions. More than focusing on judging per se, I think the main thing we should see in this is the victory of God. No matter how bad things look, no matter if everything feels lost, God will triumph. He is not asking us to single-handedly defeat the forces of evil; He asks us to persevere. In the end, goodness will assuredly win; evil will absolutely lose. For God is infinitely stronger than Satan, and our loving Father will deliver us!

St. John then sees a new heaven and a new earth (21:1). As bad as all the suffering in the previous chapters was, the consolation is even greater. Whenever the thought of trials comes up, read and reflect on Revelation 21-22. How would it feel to have God “wipe away every tear” from our eyes? And be given the water of life? To see the glory of God in its fullness? To have no more of anything accursed? The promise of heaven is worth it. 



One of the principal pieces of advice for studying the Book of Revelation is not to do it alone. Here are some suggestions that go into greater depth than we can in a blog post: 

Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper simultaneously goes into depth on the Mass and on the Book of Revelation. The Ignatius Study Bible by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch is another excellent resource. For even more Scott Hahn, here is a link to the St. Paul Biblical Center’s free audio series on that book.   

If that kindles an interest in further detail, Taylor Marshall did a lengthy podcast series in 2015 that went chapter by chapter through the Book of Revelation. Marshall’s podcast has gone in many different directions since then, but whatever one might think of those directions, this series is thorough. Episodes on chapters 1-13 are listed here and the rest are on his podcast archive page.