What is it about?
In this article on the Book of Revelation I lay out reasons we should take seriously John, the author, when he claims he had a series of visions given to him by God. I relate John's paranormal experience to the Old Testament prophets that claimed God's Spirit came upon them in a special manner. John insists he was "in the Spirit" and this is essentially a special altered state of awareness that both Old and New Testament prophets, like John, entered into. That John experienced a series of God-inspired visons is an important interpretive key since it explains to a large extent the vivid but strange imagery in the book. It also helps us understand the sudden shifts from past, to present, to future and back, and the shifts in scene from heaven to earth and back to heaven numerous times. Further, I note this altered state of consciousness is justifiably called "ecstatic" because it is literally out of this four-dimensional world in which we live. It arouses very intense emotions in John, such as amazement, confusion, sadness, and holy reverence. For example, in chapter 2 John sees and describes the risen Jesus, that is similar to Isaiah's and Ezekiel's descriptions of Yahweh on His throne. In addition, I stress that what John describes in his vision report are several exalted beings (24 elders, 4 Living Beings, powerful angels, etc.) that interact with each other and with John throughout the book. There is also a somewhat technical section where the Greek phrases "I saw" and "I heard" are explored in detail. I owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Ralph Korner in his fine journal article published in 2000, from which most of this data is taken. Also, for skeptics inclined to devalue or dismiss altered states of awareness, I offer the comments of a few astrophysicists like Hawking and Harris that explain there are almost assuredly 11-26 dimensions of existence according to String Theory. In another section I devote some attention to the strange and bewildering language in Revelation. However, I point out that in the spiritual dimension a person enters a new world, a new reality much different than our four-dimensional world--one not normally accessible to humans except on special occasions. The Revelation is an unveiling of what is mostly hidden in our customary, 5-sense dominated world. Several times I attempt to explain the cryptic language and exotic imagery is part and parcel of visions; it is the stuff visionary material is made from. Therefore, I argue Revelation should not be interpreted according to regular rationalistic/discursive conventions that rely on systematic classification. Revelation uses picturesque, figurative language and symbols that shift repeatedly. The descriptions of personages and events are very fluid and change like the patterns of a kaleidoscope. My conclusion is that John experienced a mountain top transcendent experience. There are a minimum eight "take-away" insights viewing it from an altered awareness perspective. For a full description, please see my 38 page article that is heavily footnoted (over 100). It goes into much greater detail than this highlighted summary.
Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash
Why is it important?
What I assert is important because it significantly helps the serious Bible student understand the Revelation to John. Without some explanation of the imagery and symbols common to the visionary experience and altered states, the book will remain a closed book filled with dark mysteries the keenest mind cannot penetrate--even if it is a book of disclosures.
Read the Original
This page is a summary of: John’s Visionary Experience as an Interpretive Key to the Book of Revelation, Journal of Pentecostal Theology, February 2022, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/17455251-31010002.
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