Skip to comments.On Prayer in the 2nd Part of the Book of Revelation [Apocalypse]
Posted on 09/14/2012 1:48:38 PM PDT by ELS
On Prayer in the 2nd Part of the Book of Revelation [Apocalypse]
"There are no superfluous, useless prayers; not one of them is lost"
VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in Paul VI Hall at the general audience. The Holy Father today continued his reflection on prayer in the book of Revelation [Apocalypse].
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Dear brothers and sisters,
Last Wednesday I spoke about prayer in the first part of Revelation[Apocalypse]. Today we move on to the second part of the book; and whereas in the first part, prayer is oriented toward the Church's inner life, in the second, attention is given to the entire world; the Church, in fact, journeys through history; she is part of it, in accordance with God's plan.
The assembly that listened to John's message presented by the reader rediscovered its duty to cooperate in the expansion of the Kingdom of God, as "priests of God and of Christ" (Revelation[Apocalypse] 20:6; cf. 1:5; 5:10) and it opens out to the world of men. And here, in the dialectical relationship that exists between them, two ways of living emerge: the first we may define as the "system of Christ," to which the assembly is happy to belong; and the second, the "worldly systems opposed to the kingdom and the covenant and activated through the influence of the Evil One," who by deceiving men wills to establish a world opposed to the one willed by Christ and by God (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Bible and Morality, Biblical Roots of Christian Conduct, 70). The assembly must therefore know how to interpret in depth the history it is living, by learning to discern events with faith in order to cooperate by its action in the growth of the Kingdom of God. And this work of interpretation and discernment, as well as action, is linked to prayer.
First, after the insistent appeal of Christ, who in the first part of Revelation[Apocalypse] said seven times: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Church" (cf. Revelation[Apocalypse] 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22), the assembly is invited to ascend to Heaven, to look upon reality through God's eyes; and here we discover three symbols, reference points from which we may begin to interpret history: the throne of God, the Lamb and the book (cf. Revelation[Apocalypse] 4:1 – 5:14).
The first symbol is the throne, upon which there is seated a person John does not describe, for He surpasses every human representation. He is only able to note the sense of beauty and joy he experiences in His presence. This mysterious figure is God, God Almighty who did not remain enclosed within His heaven but who drew close to man, entering into a covenant with him; God who makes His voice -- symbolized by thunder and lightning -- heard in history, in a mysterious but real way. There are various elements that appear around the throne of God, such as the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures that unceasingly render praise to the one Lord of history.
The first symbol, then, is the throne. The second symbol is the book, which contains the plan of God for events and for men. It is hermetically sealed with seven seals, and no one is able to read it. Faced with man's inability to scrutinize the plan of God, John experiences a deep sadness, which causes him to weep. But there is a remedy for man's dismay before the mystery of history: there is one who is able to open the book and shed light on it.
And here the third symbol appears: Christ, the Lamb immolated in the sacrifice of the Cross, but who stands as a sign of His Resurrection. And it is the Lamb, Christ who died and rose, who gradually opens the seals and unveils the plan of God, the deep meaning of history.
What do these symbols tell us? They remind us of the path to knowing how to interpret the facts of history and of our own lives. By raising our gaze to God's heaven in a constant relationship with Christ, by opening our hearts and our minds to Him in personal and communal prayer, we learn to see things in a new way and to grasp their truest meaning. Prayer is like an open window that allows us to keep our gaze turned toward God, not only for the purpose of reminding us of the goal toward which we are directed, but also to allow the will of God to illumine our earthly journey and to help us to live it with intensity and commitment.
How does the Lord guide the Christian community to a deeper reading of history? First and foremost, by inviting it to consider with realism the present moment we are living. Therefore, the Lamb opens the four first seals of the book, and the Church sees the world in which it is inserted, a world in which various negative elements exist. There the evils that man commits, such as violence, which comes from the desire to possess, to prevail against one another to the point of killing one another (second seal); or injustice, as men fail to respect the laws that are given them (third seal). To these are added the evils that man must undergo, such as death, hunger and sickness (fourth seal). Faced with these oftentimes dramatic realities, the ecclesial community is invited to never lose hope, to believe firmly that the apparent omnipotence of the Evil One collides with the true omnipotence, which is God's.
And the first seal the Lamb opens contains precisely this message. John narrates: "And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer" (Revelation[Apocalypse] 6:2). The power of God has entered into the history of man, [a power] which is not only capable of offsetting evil, but even of conquering it. The color white recalls the Resurrection: God drew so near to us that He descended into the darkness of death in order to illumine it with the splendor of His divine life: He took the world's evil upon Himself in order to purify it with the fire of His love.
How do we grow in this Christian understanding of reality? Revelation[Apocalypse] tells us that prayer nourishes this vision of light and profound hope in each one of us and in our communities: it invites us to not allow ourselves to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good, to look to the Crucified and Risen Christ, who associates us in His victory. The Church lives in history, she is not closed in on herself; but rather, she courageously faces her journey amid difficulties and suffering, by forcefully affirming that ultimately, evil does not conquer the good, darkness does not dim the splendor of God.
This is an important point for us; as Christians we can never be pessimists; we know well that along life's journey we often encounter violence, falsehood, hate and persecution, but this does not discourage us. Above all, prayer teaches us to see the signs of God, of His presence and action; indeed, to be lights of goodness that spread hope and point out that the victory is God's.
This perspective leads us to offer thanksgiving and praise to God and to the Lamb: the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures together sing the "new song" that celebrates the work of Christ the Lamb, who "makes all things new" (Revelation[Apocalypse] 21:5). But this renewal is first and foremost a gift we must ask for. And here we find another element that should characterize prayer: the earnest entreaty to the Lord that His Kingdom come, and that man may have a heart that is docile to God's dominion, that it be His will that directs our lives and the life of the world.
In the vision contained in Revelation[Apocalypse], this prayer of petition is represented by an important detail: "the twenty-four elders" and "the four living creatures" hold, together with the harp that accompanies their song, "golden bowls full of incense" (5:8b) that, as is then explained, "are the prayers of the saints" (5:8b); of those, that is, who have already reached God, but also of all of us who find ourselves on the journey.
And before the throne of God, we see an angel holding a golden censer in which he continually places grains of incense, i.e. our prayers, whose sweet aroma is offered together with the prayers that rise before God (Revelation[Apocalypse] 8:1-4). It is a symbolism that tells us how all of our prayers -- with all the limits, difficulty, poverty, aridity and imperfections they may have -- are as it were purified and reach the heart of God. We must be certain, therefore, that there are no superfluous, useless prayers; not one of them is lost. And they find a response -- even if it is oftentimes mysterious -- because God is Love and infinite Mercy. The angel -- St. John writes -- "took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on earth; and there were peals of thunder, loud noises, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake" (Revelation[Apocalypse] 8:5).
This image signifies that God is not indifferent to our prayers; He intervenes and makes His power felt and His voice heard on the earth, He makes the systems of Evil tremble and disrupts them. Often, when faced with evil, we feel incapable of doing anything, but prayer is the first and most effective response that we can give and that strengthens our daily commitment to spreading goodness. The power of God makes our weakness fruitful (cf. Romans 8:26-27).
I would like to conclude with some mention of the final dialogue (cf. Revelation[Apocalypse] 22:6-21). Jesus repeats several times: "Behold, I am coming soon" (Revelation[Apocalypse] 22:7,12). This statement does not merely indicate the future perspective of the end of time; it also speaks of the present: Jesus comes. He establishes His dwelling place in the one who believes in Him and welcomes Him. Then the assembly, guided by the Holy Spirit, repeats to Jesus the pressing invitation to come even closer: "Come" (Revelation[Apocalypse] 22:17a). It is like the "bride" (22:17) who ardently longs for the fullness of marriage. A third time the invocation is repeated: "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (22:20b); and the reader concludes with an expression that manifests the meaning of this presence: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints" (22:21).
Revelation[Apocalypse], despite the complexity of its symbolism, involves us in a very rich prayer. Therefore, we too listen, praise, give thanks and contemplate the Lord, and ask His forgiveness. Its structure as a great communal liturgical prayer is also a forceful reminder to rediscover the extraordinary and transforming power of the Eucharist; in particular I would like to urge you to be faithful to Holy Mass on Sunday, the Lord's day, Sunday, the true center and heart of the week! The richness of prayer in Revelation[Apocalypse] makes us think of a diamond, which has a fascinating array of facets, but whose preciousness resides in the purity of its one central core. The evocative forms of prayer that we encounter in Revelation[Apocalypse] therefore make the unique and inexpressible preciousness of Jesus Christ shine forth. Thank you.
[Translation by Diane Montagna]
[In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our continuing catechesis on prayer in the Book of Revelation[Apocalypse], we now turn to its teaching on the importance of prayer in the Church's pilgrimage through history. Prayer enables us to discern the events of history in the light of God's plan for the spread of His Kingdom. That plan is symbolized by the book closed with seven seals which only the Lamb, the crucified and risen Lord, can open. In prayer, we see that Christ's final victory over sin and death is the key to all history. While giving thanks for this victory, we continue to beg God's grace for our earthly journey. Amid life's evils, the Lord hears our prayers, strengthens our weakness, and enables us to trust in His sovereign power. The Book of Revelation[Apocalypse] concludes with Jesus' promise that He will soon come, and the Church's ardent prayer "Come, Lord Jesus!". In our own prayer, and especially in our celebration of the Eucharist, may we grow in the hope of Christ's coming in glory, experience the transforming power of His grace, and learn to discern all things in the light of faith.
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I am pleased to greet the participants in the communications seminar sponsored by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. I also welcome the priests taking part in the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, including those from England, Scotland, Wales, Denmark, Malta, India, Korea, the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America, I invoke God's blessings!
© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
[In Italian, he said:]
A final thought for young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today we celebrate the memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary: dear young people, may you learn to love in the school of the Mother of Jesus; dear sick, in suffering may you ask help and comfort of Mary through the prayer of the Rosary; and may you, dear newlyweds, always know, like Our Lady, how to listen for the will of God for your family.
Please let me know if you want to be on or off this ping list.
Apologies for the later than usual posting.
If one looks at the original Italian text of Benedict XVI's catecheses of September 5, 2012 and September 12, 2012, one can see that in Italian the name of the book of Scripture being discussed is "Apocalisse". So, why did the translator use "Revelation" in English when the Catholic Church refers to that book as Apocalypse and the Italian word is a cognate?
Revelation does NOT say this. It says: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches". Churches, plural. Not Church, singular.
It is extremely dangerous to add to, or subtract from, the words of the book of prophecy of the revelation of Jesus Christ. To do so incurs a curse (see Revelation 22:18,19)
“as Christians we can never be pessimists”
Words I know I need to remember.
Apocalypse(Revelation) 22:18,19 is talking about people who mischievously add to or subtract from the Apocalypse. “Church/churches” is probably nothing more than a translation thing. To make that into a curse for changing the Scriptures seems kinda OCD.
Rev22:18,19 doesn’t address motive/intent. It addresses actions. And you cannot dismiss it as a simple translation issue. The author has a Cathoilic motive (universal church) which dictates his mistranslation of [ekklesiais] (dative plural) in all manuscripts.
When Jesus Christ speaks we should listen, not discount or dismiss what he says. The author subverts these Revelation verses. Sounds and smells like a change to me.
“Rev22:18,19 doesn’t address motive/intent.”
That’s your opinion.I disagree. Now what authority will we go to to settle our dispute? Why don’t we found two new churches? The Church of MDLION and the Church of nonsporting. But in all seriousness, we disagree. My interpretation of Revelation 22:18,19 is that it applies to people who deliberately and maliciously add to or distract from the Book of Revelation.
I am sure people change the Bible for what seems to them good and honorable reasons. Jesus Christ didn’t address the reasons. He focused on the act. He said don’t add to or subtract from Rev, period.
Changing “churches” to “church” (in 2:7 and the other referenced places) may seem innocent to you, but Jesus Christ in Rev22:18,19 warns against changing the words of the book of this prophecy—precise acts and precise scope of change. (As to motive—It was done by the author on purpose to presumably conform to Catholic doctrine of the universal church.) Does one need to publish a changed version of Rev or simply misrepresent portions in speech or print (both mean “publish)? It is safest not to go there and rather adhere to the letter of scripture as if one’s eternal destiny depends on it—it does.
What are you trusting in to save you? Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross? Or your own righteous acts? (i.e. to keep you saved).
“It was done by the author on purpose to presumably conform to Catholic doctrine of the universal church.”
You don’t know that. That’s a guess, a judgment on your part without proof. If it wasn’t for the Church and her councils, you wouldn’t have the Bible to read in the first place. The Church is the Guardian of Scripture. If every single person (and not the Church) is his own arbiter of Scripture, we end up with the ridiculous situation we have now, 40,000 Christian denominations and splitting more every week. Jesus called for believers to be one, not 40,000. There must be a final authority for this to happen.
“so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” -John 17:21
At the end of that verse, Jesus points out that one of the main reasons the world won’t believe in Him is division among Christians.
“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.” -Acts 2:1
“All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.”
I trust in Jesus Christ for my salvation through faith, but that my faith is dead without works. I believe I am being saved, not saved once and for all. Jesus talks about how if the Final Trial isn’t shortened, no one would be saved. The apostle Paul talks about backsliding and being lost after having preached to others.
I can find no place in the Bible that says that the Catholic “church” is the guardian of the scriptures. On the contrary God says that he will preserve his word and that his word endures forever (Matthew 23:35, 1 Peter 1:24,25). Rather, God is guardian of his people, he will preserve them (Psalm 12). But this is a different discussion and I do not want it to distract from the immediate issue—salvation.
The bible says that faith, even so-called dead faith—a faith without works—is enough to save:
“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” (Roman 4:3-6)
Without works. Salvation is a gift, not of works lest any man should boast (Galatians 2:8,9). If you are trusting in your works in any capacity to keep you saved, then you have not trusted in the FINISHED work of Jesus Christ to save you.
From the moment you trust trust in Jesus Christ your eternal disposition is determined, you are sealed with the holy spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13,14) and you will never come into condemnation, because at that moment you have passed from death unto life. (John 5:24) and you shall never die (John 11:24,25).
If you believes that you can lose your salvation this is prima facie evidence that you are trusting in your own works to save you. Salvation is not of debt, but of grace, a free gift received through faith.
“if you believes” should read “if you believe”. (I originally had this in the 3rd person, but changed it to the second.)
I also want to address the mistaken notion that one must endure in belief until the end to be saved. This is first and foremost a mistaken understanding of verbal aspect. The works -rowd wants to translate “believe” (present tense) when it serves their purpose with progressive aspect (i.e. “believing”, “continues to believe”). We see this in John 11:25 “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” As if to say, “See, you must be believing when you breath your last.” Of course it doesn’t necessarily mean this. It can simply mean that you must believe while you live, because afterward it will be too late.
I wonder how many proud and unbelieving dead there will be when they are raised from hell to stand before God at the great white throne of judgement. (Revelation 20:11-15). It will be too late, because they came to belief, if at all, while dead. The requirement for salvation was “liveth and believeth”.They will be cast into the lake of fire, the second death (:14) where they shall suffer forever (”And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night[, who worship the beast and his image, and whosever receiveth the mark of his name.]”—which shows that helll/lake of fire is NOT annihilation, but eternal torment.).
We also can use verbal aspect to our favor. The aorist shows action at a moment in time (punctiliar in contrast with progressive aspect.) In Acts 16:29 the jailer “brought them out and said, What must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe (aorist imperative) and thou shalt be save and thy house.” Notice they did say “keep on believing”, or “endure to the end”. They said “believe” (one time act).
Since the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, any other verse which might be represented as suggesting otherwise must be examined in context. Acts 16:31,32 could not be any clearer. Believe.
“I also want to address the mistaken notion that one must endure in belief until the end to be saved.”
But Jesus said we have to persevere to the end to be saved.”
“But he that shall endure to the end shall be saved.”-Matthew 24:13
To say we don’t have to persevere in belief until the end contradicts a number of Scriptures.
“But whoever does not believe will be condemned.” -Mark 16:16
“But without faith it is impossible to please God” -Hebrews 11:6
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” -Acts 16:31
Every translation of that verse says “Will be”, “shall be”, or “shalt”, not “are”, thus witnessing to a need for perseverance.
As for salvation, I don’t know whether you accept the book of James or not, but I do. And so I take what it says as inerrant.
“What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? ... So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” -James 2:14,17
Another verse comes to mind.
“But women will be saved through childbearing - if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” -1 Tim 2:15
Yes, it says a woman is saved by “faith”, but the mention of “childbearing” will not allow me to accept as meaningless, works, which are a witness to faith. And also notice how that verse says she must “continue” in “faith” if she is to be saved, thus once again witnessing to a need for perseverance.
This is yanked out of its context. Jesus is talking about the great tribulation during the rein of anti-christ and prior to his(Jesus') return. He later in this chapter clarifies what he means by "saved":
"For then there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days sould be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." (Matthew 24:21-22).He's not talking about salvation/justification, but rather salvation/not dying at the hands of anti-christ. Had he meant what you imply, then he would have lied in John 5:24 and John 11:25 and many other places. We used the word "saved" to mean many things: "I was wearing my seat belt back in 1981 and that saved my life.'
As for salvation, I don't know whether you accept the book of James or not, but I do. And so I take what it says as inerrant.
James is repeatedly abused by the works-righteousness crowd. James does not contradict Romans 4 (or vice versa) or one of them isn't scripture. "For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God." (Romans 4:2). His works justified him before men. And we know that in Hebrews 11:17 that faithful Abraham, who was justified before God several decades earlier, before Isaac was even conceived (Gen 15:6), fulfilled this prophecy (Gen 22 and James 2:23).
"What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? ... So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." -James 2:14,17
Faith without works benefits few. Only the believer benefits. But a believer who sows the word will forward the kingdom, "[he] beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty." (Matthew 13:23) He will receives rewards. The foundation is Jesus Christ, built by faith (1 Corinthians 3:11), but whatever a man builds upon this foundation will be revealed "by fire and the fire will try every man's work of what sort it is." If any thing survives the fire, "he shall receive a reward" (1 Corinthians 3:12-14). But, "if any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:15). Righteous works will result in a reward, they will not save him (they are not foundation upon which the works are built).
(1 Timothy 2:15) Yes, it says a woman is saved by "faith", but the mention of "childbearing" will not allow me to accept as meaningless, works, which are a witness to faith. And also notice how that verse says she must "continue" in "faith" if she is to be saved, thus once again witnessing to a need for perseverance.
I don't know precisely what Paul is referring to and few do. It cannot mean that a woman must give birth to children in order to be saved/justified before God. This would contradict many clear statements on the necessity and sufficiency of faith for salvation. From chapter 3 of John alone:
Paul is also logically concise:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9)
Grace through faith saves, not works.
So where do works factor in to the Christian's life? Paul continues:
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10).
We should walk in them, not that we must. Works FOLLOW salvation. They are NOT a PRECONDITION for salvation. Nor are they a REQUIREMENT for REMAINING saved, as if we could become "unborn" again. If we love Jesus Christ, we should keep his commandments. We were not good enough to earn our salvation. We are not good enough to keep it. But he is, because he has promised to never leave or forsake us. As I explained from Ephesians 1:13:
"... in whom also after you believed, you were sealed with that holy spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."
When we believed, we were sealed. We became his forever, and received the "earnest" (a security deposit), the holy spirit of promise. We were born again (John 3:3), born of the spirit (John 3:6). And nothing can snatch us out of his hand. (John 10:28,29)
I'll repeat the verse I mentioned in the last post, because it says it all:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath eternal life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24)
The moment you believe you have eternal life. It is eternal life, not temporary life. It is a condition that lasts from that moment onward forever. What is more, and confirms, you shall NEVER come into condemnation, that is, you will never find yourself suddenly LOST and destined for hell. That is all behind, because you have been adopted into the family of Christ, forever a son. You have an eternity with God whether you do a single work thereafter or not. And you shall never die, because you have passed from death unto life. Hell, the great white throne of judgement, and the lake of fire are not in your future, because you have sealed your blessed fate by trusing (in a moment of time) in the one who died to set you free from the bondage and consequence of sin.
But be warned: If you are trusting in your own works to save you (or keep you saved), then you have NOT trusted in Jesus Christ. It cannot be both. It's either all him or all you. If you, then you must keep the whole law. However, "He that would keep the law, yet offend in one point, is guilty of all." (James 2:10). If you have sinned (ever), then you have no hope in law, but must trust in the Son of God.