The life of those of us who live in this physical world is a different reality from those who live the spiritual world. They are two separate worlds united in the day-to-day lives of people. As flesh and spirit, people have the obligation to observe both dimensions. A lot has been said about the Book of Revelation. Quite simply, it is allegorical and not literal in terms of the images expressed. There is not an actual beast with the number 666 with legs and horns. That is but a way to describe circumstances related to these two worlds.
My writing on this is follows from a 2-day course on the Book of Revelation. I had a schedule conflict that prevented me from the first day, but fortunately that day’s information was reviewed. Fortunately, I was able to do the full sum of the second day. The course was about clarifying some of the messages of the book. My words here are not representative of the course content but my own reflections.
The Book of Revelation is about the recognition that certain patterns of behavior emerge among people. The instructor brought up the theological idea that there are two ways to fall away from God. You have systemic evil in the world system. The very structure of social systems at large, under a certain influence, pulls people away from God. The second way to fall away from God is through personal dilemmas or overt personal attitudes. Lucifer does not involve himself directly with individuals as the world system is generally sufficient for a majority of persons but rather targets those, in the world, who have made unique decisions to pursue a path in alignment with God.
That leads me to see the Book of Revelation in a particular way. Remember, persecution of Christians was active during the times Revelations was written. It is written with code words. That is why Revelations seems complicated or hard to understand. It was made hard to understand on purpose. The language of the book was designed to not be decoded by authorities seeking to end the life of anyone who did not worship the Roman Emperor. The case against idolatry was one of the main messages of Revelations but it could not be openly said.
Jesus’ message, The Sermon on the Mount, is the ultimate message. It is the feel good message, it is the road map for how people want the world to be, and it is the expression of a thoroughly good and just personality. It is about love and how you express that in many ways. If evil did not exist, that would be the end of it. The Book of Revelation is the other side, it is the story of the cost of genuine peace and love in the face of a world at odds with authentic love, altruism, and giving. You will pay a price for following the path that Jesus outlines in his Sermon on the Mount. The Book of Revelation is a gift that previews what those scenarios are and offers readers a chance to reflect on the challenges and results of following certain paths.
The Mark of the Beast? The Whore of Babylon? Those and other images describe a choice people have. Rewards for choosing pleasures of this world. Denying discipline, balance, forgiveness, and authentic nobility in exchange for every person for themselves. The Anti-Christ is not so much a person to fear so much that they will predictably offer a compelling counter argument to the divine wisdom that has produced creation. You will not believe because it is far easier to put aside what you do not see for those things you can gain and experience with your own senses. It is predictable human nature and that nature has always been known from early history. How?
The Israelites came under the subjugation of Babylon. During the course of that subjugation their understanding of God and their culture was negatively affected by the values of Babylonian society. Eventually, over the course of time, they steered back onto the right way but not without much cost, hardship, and brutal lessons learned. Those lessons were learned over centuries of encounters with regimes who exercised systemic repression of noble values while rewarding excess. There was and is a cost for this and the Book of Revelation charts this course in artistically colorful way to describe a hopeful return to an ideal state, not the utopia of modernists, but the earlier authentic values alluded to in the Book of Genesis.
What about the spiritual images cast in this last book? Miracles of a divine nature can happen in this physical world but, by definition, they are rare. Why are they rare? God created free will and beings made in such a way who are then micro managed to behave good at all times respond with resentment. Love cannot operate widely in such a circumstance. Besides, choices to do good are far more powerful when they are made freely, but that leaves the door open for evil as well.
Nobody really knows why Lucifer rebelled against God. The Fall of Lucifer is a story of ultimate free will that became dark. We who are without eyes to see God in the way we see other people day-to-day are called to faith in the unseen. Imagine the irony of a being that sees God every moment and still falls away. That is not a lack of faith, that is a direct, conscious decision not to follow the will of the Most High God even though He created you and you see Him every day, in person. Nobody knows why. A theological theory is that because God became man in the form of Jesus that Lucifer would not serve a nature lower than himself. By implication, God’s incarnation not only restored humanity’s divine nature in the Book of Genesis but elevated it at the same time. If that is true and you serve Lucifer you are serving one who has enmity for you and would only reward you to destroy others by subtle or overt means.
As the instructor of the course mentioned, many of us have been fortunate to live in a time in which being a Christian does not lead to persecution. When I look at the Book of Revelation, I see a broad description of a choice. People deserve to live a good life. People deserve the fullness of life and to live well. People deserve to have a truly superior physical, social, financial, and emotional existence from the time they enter this world until they leave it but to do so in accordance with noble principles. The Book of Revelation reminds you that in the present structures of the world, as it has existed for thousands of years, this is not always possible. You are made aware that your trust and observance of the Most High God is foremost and you have to be willing to suffer in a world contrary to that belief. If you have to, will you make that choice and hold to it when it is no longer popular to do so regardless of any rewards that may follow in the spirit? That is what the Book of Revelation is truly about. The test that this life has become.