Apocalypse (5) Human Evolution in the Apocalypse of John1

Immediately following we are reminded of the Christians living on earth, as their ascending prayers are accepted by the angels and as it were interspersed with additional substance (8:5). The progressively destructive catastrophes, that break out as the trumpets resound, afflict the earthly world and mankind itself ever more severely. Before the seventh trumpet sounds the seer is asked to measure with a measuring rod “the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there” (11:1). The court outside the temple is abandoned, the holy city trampled by the heathen. As John sees “temple” and “altar” in the midst of annihilation, the intuition “It will be and is already now” (Jn 4:23, 5:25) more and more becomes a reality within a world, already lost to the profane.

In the destiny of the two witnesses, characterized as Moses and Elijah reincarnated on earth, a preparatory stage of the fall of Babylon appears (11:8). While their corpses are “seen” (11:9), the resurrection and ascension of two witnesses are “perceived” by their foes (11:11, 12), who in spite of themselves participate in a spiritual experience. Here we find one of those moments showing that there are stages on the way to final achievement, as it were stages of a process between the Resurrection happening at Easter and what will occur on the Last Day.

After the sounding of the seventh trumpet [inaugurating the Third Throne Vision] the name of Michael is mentioned (12:7), exactly in the middle of the book. The “war in heaven” between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels, ending with the dragon being thrown to the earth, happens in supersensible realms. There is no mention of human beings, neither on earth nor in the heavens. But the hymn which the seer hears, sings of the salvation “of our God” (12:10), and shows that even in this supersensible event human beings are a contributory and important factor. Michael’s battle has been won not without human beings: “And they [our brethren] have conquered him [the dragon] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives [psyche] even unto death” (12:11). This is a classical example of how the visions of the seer often one-sidedly include only one aspect and are open to completion. The battle in heaven was fought by Michael and his angels – and those singing with a loud voice sing of their brethren who, Christian souls living on earth, act as it were as Michael’s sword, through “the blood of the Lamb”.

Salvation, the great deliverance, was sung “to our God” when beginning to radiate out from human beings before the seventh (last) seal had been opened. Following the sounding of the seventh (last) trumpet, it has reached the higher world and now belongs to it: “now it has come”. After the pouring out of the seventh (last) bowl [at the beginning of the Sixth Throne Vision] a great multitude in heaven cries out that salvation is God’s, clearly existing and resting in Him: “Hallelujah! Salvation … belongs to our God!” (19:1) Salvation, finally “belonging to God”, is connected with human beings becoming Christian on earth.

The dragon having been thrown down, the view is again towards the earth. “The woman who appears in heaven as mankind’s cosmic soul, adorned with sun and moon and stars”, Frieling writes (p. 102), “now gains a bare living in the ‘wilderness’, and ‘the rest of her offspring’, as Christians are here called in this significant and mystical expression, are exposed on earth to the attacks of the dragon (12:17). It is one of the revealing paradoxes of the Apocalypse that the heavenly jubilation at the victory – as if it had not been at all – is followed by the triumph of the Antichrist on earth. The victory has been decided above, but it still takes a while till it comes into effect below; the phases are not simultaneous.”

The beast from the bottomless pit (11:7) did conquer the two witnesses, and now the beast rising out of the sea “was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them” (13:7). In a comparable way, Pilate had been “given” power “from above” over the life and death of Jesus (Jn 19:11). Having to defend a hopeless position also is part of the process of Christian development towards maturity. Endurance, patience (hypomonè in Greek), as well as their confident faith enable the saints on earth to survive the regime of the Antichrist with its terrible compulsion, able to be part of economic life only with the mark (the name of the beast) on right hand or forehead (13:16-17).

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