Apocalypse (4)1 Apocalyptic Times

The people in the various congregations are beset by tribulation and persecution, by presumptions, untruthfulness and falsehood, by powers of adversary having taken hold. “Do not fear what you are about to suffer”, is said to those in the second congregation (2:10) – reminding us all that there is no worse suffering than the suffering one fears. Again and again, people have found that one finds that one receives strength according to what one has to endure. This second letter, which evokes prison and looming death, speaks about the crown of life, about not having to suffer the second death. In this letter, we don’t find two elements which in one way or the other are part of the other letters: the need to “repent” and the promise of the coming of Christ – even if “only” to put things right again. (For this promise and the way it evolves, see the preceding contribution in the paragraphs on “The Opening Vision”.)

In various difficult inner and outer situations, this need to “change heart and mind” becomes clear. Toil, patient endurance and bearing up are simply not enough when one slides away from one’s “first love”, says the first letter; turning back by “remembering” and changing heart and mind are needed (2:5). When surrounded by people who reach back into the past and hold on to its petrifying influences, one especially needs this change of heart and mind, says the third letter (2:16). And even when one seems rather sound oneself, it will be difficult to hold fast what one has, in a setting where lack of clarity and immorality which can’t exist in the light of Christ, “who searches heart and mind”, are tolerated by those who do not want to change heart and mind (2:21, in the fourth letter).

In the fifth congregation people just hang on by their fingertips – seemingly alive but in reality inwardly almost dead, not able to keep themselves out of rampant contamination. To strengthen what is dying one has to go back, changing heart and mind by strengthening one’s memory, to awaken what one received and heard (3:3). When once more patient endurance has been able to face strong temptations, the sixth congregation hears: “the door is open”, “I love you” – “hold fast what you have”, “I am coming soon” (3:11). Now the time has come to take stock of one’s situation, to stop sitting on the fence while fooling oneself, recognizing that who experiences Christ’s love without eagerly having changed heart and mind cannot but feel rebuked and chastised (3:19). The seventh congregation will behold the One who comes standing at the door, knocking.

With these short overviews I have wanted to give an impression of the need, becoming stronger and stronger, for us human beings to become part of the apocalyptic process announcing itself. Whereas in the Gospels the “birth pangs” of this process are described, referring to our growing human and terrestrial problems, here in the beginning of the Revelation to John Christ, present among his congregations, shows the need to prepare ourselves inwardly.

The Revelation to John shows how, once “apocalypse” has begun to unfold itself, humanity develops into an important factor working in this eschatological drama. “Human Evolution in the Apocalypse of John”, Rudolf Frieling has called the last chapter in his Christianity and Reincarnation.5 As this book has been out of print for a long time, in the next and last contribution, added to this series, I will give an impression of its contents.

  1. After a presentation in the Boston Christian Community congregation, August 5, 2007. Edited by Muriel Morris.
  2. A series of short articles appearing in the weekly Das Goetheanum between January 13, 1924 and April 12, 1925 (the last two posthumously) and from February 17, 1924 accompanied by these numbered “Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts”, meant as suggestions and stimuli for those working in anthroposophical settings, numbers 112-114 dated November 2, 1924.
  3. See also the paragraph in the preceding, third contribution (July 29), in “The Opening Vision”.
  4. “Keeping my word”: Jn 8:51,52; 14:23-24, “keeping my word and yours” Jn 15:20, “keeping my commandments” Jn 14:15, 21; 15:10, as I myself “keep my Father’s word” Jn 8:55, “keep my Father’s commandments” Jn 15:10; 17:6.
  5. Rudolf Frieling, Christianity and Reincarnation, Floris Books, Edinburgh 1977, pp 90-117.
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