Hieromonk Job and Priest Athanasius Gumerov answer questions about the New Testament’s most mysterious book, the Book of Revelation, written by St. John the Theologian.
Is it a good idea to try to explain the Revelation of St. John the Theologian?
Priest Athanasius Gumerov: Any explanation of the Holy Scriptures requires spiritual maturity and special theological preparation. Otherwise it is easy to stray from the truth and do harm to one’s spiritual life. This especially applies to the Book of Revelations. It this book is much that is hidden and mysterious. Therefore it is necessary first of all to use the works of the holy fathers and authoritative Orthodox exegists. The work,
Explanation of the Book of the Apocalypse [Revelations], by St. Andrew, Archbishop of Cesarea is the most valuable in this regard.
In Russian are the books:
The Lord’s revelation about the seven Churches of Asia (experience of explaining the first three chapters of Revelations) by A. Zhdanov;
Explanation of the Revelations of St. John the Theologian by Bishop Peter;
On the final fate of the world and man by N. Vinogradov; Collection of articles of explanation and instruction on Revelations, compiled by M. Barsov;
The Apocalypse of St. John the Theologian. Experience of Orthodox Exegesis by Priest N. Orlov;
The Apocalypse, or Revelation of St. John the Theologian, by Archbishop Averky (Taushev) [this book has been translated into English by the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood].
What does the “wormwood” star mean in Revelations?
Hieromonk Job (Gumerov): And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter (Rev. 8:10-11). It can be seen from the text that this event must be related not to the present, but to future eschatological times. Archbishop Averky (Taushev) explains this passage thus:
“Some think that that is a meteor that will fall upon the earth, and the water sources on the earth will be poisoned. But perhaps this is also one of the newly invented weapons of a future, terrible war.”
Wormood (Hebrew laana; Greek apsintos) in the Bible is a symbol of the Lord’s punishment:
And the Lord said to me, Because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them, and have not hearkened to my voice; but went after the lusts of their evil heart, and after the idols which their fathers taught them to worship: therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I will feed them with trouble and will cause them to drink water of gall (Jer. 9:13–15).
What is the “sea of the dead” in the Book of Revelations? And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works (Rev. 20:13).
Hieromonk Job (Gumerov): The word sea in the Bible has several symbolic meanings:
1) It is something that is of enormous size (Job 11:9; Is. 11:9; Hab. 2:14).
What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee? (Lam. 2:13).
2) It is an image of the nations:
And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues (Rev. 17:15; compare: 13:1—And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy).
Both meanings are in complete agreement with each other and can be used in an explanation of the passage you cite. In this passage, the thought is expressed concerning the general resurrection: all people without exception will resurrect and stand before God’s Judgment.
How can we understand the words Gog and Magog in Revelations?
Hieromonk Job (Gumerov): In the book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Gog is the prince of the land of Magog:
And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal (Ezek. 38:1–3).
In Revelations these two names symbolize the pagan peoples, who under the leadership of the antichrist will act against Christ’s Church in the end times.
In Revelations are mentioned the 144,000 righteous ones who will be saved. What will happen to all the other Orthodox Christians?
Priest Athanasius Gumerov: And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel (Rev. 7:4). Biblical scholars suppose that this number is symbolic and expresses the highest degree of fullness: 12 x 12 x 1000. The number 12 symbolizes the entire people of God (Joshua 4:8; Ezra 8:35; Acts 26:7; James 1:1, and others). The Apostle John calls “Israelites” the representatives of the new Israel.
Some exegists understand those sealed by the Angel to be the most perfect Christians of the last times, and not just those who will be saved.