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The Apocalypse -1

"The Apocalypse" is for sure the best movie ever made about the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible. The symbolic nature of this book makes it really difficult to represent visually because the dreamy images used in the book are not meant to describe the appearance of things, but to describe the meaning of things through symbols, hence the difficulty to give it a visual nature. This movie, the last of a long Bible series, is mixing images from John in his prison-island of Patmos, and the visions he gets from heaven. Good acting, good story; here we can see a fragment from the beginning of the movie. (the sentences overimposed on the movie are the original text on which the movie is based on)

Historical background:

It is 90 AD, and the Roman Empire is being run by the Emperor Domitian, who has declared himself to be God and ruler over heaven and earth. The Christians, who do not recognize his divinity, are a thorn in his side and he is having them cruelly persecuted. The small village in Asia Minor to which the aged apostle John has withdrawn is also attacked by Roman soldiers. As if by a miracle, John is the only person to escape the slaughter and he receives divine orders to write down the visions he will have and communicate them to the Christian communities in the Roman provinces of Asia. The voice tells him that they should discover what is and what will happen thereafter. Among the Christians of Asia Minor, who believe that John is dead, everyone is deeply worried about being persecuted. Gaius, the community elder in Smyrna, is concerned that only a few believers still dare come to the ritual supper. Under these circumstances, Christianity can no longer exist! But here are John’s revelations to give them support and understanding.

Father, hallowed be your Name, your Kingdom come, give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive everyone who is indebted to us, and lead us not into temptation. Amen.

- John, tell me more about Jesus and how he died.

Blood was running from his hands, his feet and his side, and his breathing so sad I could not dare to listen to it. It was very cold. A strange wind came up and his mother took her veil to shield herself. But she stayed. She would have stayed until the end of time. And then, before Jesus died he opened his eyes and looked at her and said "mother, do not cry" and then, and then he said to her, "mother, this is your son", and he looked at me.

- John, John.

- What you see write in a book and send it to the churches of Asia.

- Lord!

- Do not fear. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, and he that lives. I was dead but now I am alive and forever more. I have power over death and hell. Write the things I will show you, they are messages for all churches. Come, I will show you things which must be hereafter.

I entered the door of heaven. There were 24 old men dressed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads, and 4 living beings. Bless the Lord, fire and heat. [I] Behold the throne that was set in heaven and on the throne there was a scroll that was written on back and front and was sealed with seven seals.

- Seven seals!
- Yes. To guard the story of man, the past, the present, the end, the truth.

Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals? Who can reveal the true meaning of the things God has prepared?

- No one in heaven nor on earth or under the earth can open the scroll and read it, no one is worthy.

HALLOWED= Sanctified, consecrated. If something is hallowed it is highly venerated or worshipped.

KINGDOM= In Christian belief, God’s Kingdom is the new world order that Jesus started, but humans have to build. It is a new society based on justice and good, aimed to make this world more heaven-like (on earth as it is in heaven).

COME= This tense is present subjunctive (rarely used to day) and expresses a wish: "your Kingdome come" = "I wish your Kingdome would come", "I want it to come, please". Present subjunctive form is the same a normal simple present except that there is no -S in the third person singular:
- God save the Queen! = I'd like God to save the Queen. (subjunctive present)
- God saves the Queen = God usually/always saves the Queen. (habitual present)
In modern English we use MAY instead of this present subjunctive, but with an inversion:
- May God help you = (God help you) = I wish you protection from God.

DEBTS= /dets/ In this context it means “offences, wrongs”.

HIS SIDE= Roughly, the sides of a person are both parts of the trunk covered under your arms (if they’re just hanging down).

DARE TO= If you dare to do something you can do it even though it is something very difficult, dangerous or painful.

VEIL= /vɪəl/ A piece of cloth worn over your head, face or mouth or all of them at the same time.

SHIELD= Protect.

LORD= In the Bible this word is used to refer to God or to Jesus as God.

ALPHA AND OMEGA= The New Testament was written in Greek. Alpha (α) is the first word in the Greek alphabet and Omega (ω) is the last word, so Jesus is saying that he is the beginning of history (see John 1:1-3) and also the point towards which the world is moving. This expresses the Christian idea that the world is not just moving blindly and randomly but according to a big general plan, so there’s nothing to worry about.

FOREVER MORE= An emphatic form of “forever, always, in eternity”. We can also say “forever and ever”.

HEREAFTER= (formal and literary) From now on, after this moment.

24 OLD MEN= They’re thought to represent the 12 tribes of Israel plus the 12 apostles, as a symbol of all the saints from the Old Testament and the New Testament, that is, the people of God in the past and in the future.

4 LIVING BEINGS= A being is a creature, anything that is alive (usually referring to animals and humans). It is often used when we haven’t got a better word to describe something that looks human (or animal-like) but is not exactly a man/woman (or a known animal). These 4 beings here, according to usual Old Testament symbolism, are the four cherubs surrounding the throne of God (we have them also described in the vision of Ezekiel 5-11). So they are angels. The description, though, is not that of a wonderful beautiful human-like winged creature, but a horrible mixture of different parts of animals all covered with eyes. That depiction, as many others in the book of Revelation, are not meant to describe the real appearance of something, but the symbolic meaning of its nature, so it’s not something fit to visualize, but to understand (food for your thought, not for your imagination). That’s why it is so difficult to make a movie about Revelation, it would be too crazy and even horrible, but this film made quite a good job and is probably the first film about the Apocalypse which is a top quality movie and not some kind of cheap B-rated pastiche.

BEHOLD= (old fashioned or poetic) Look, watch.

SCROLL= A long piece of papyrus that was rolled up into a tube, and then unrolled to be read. Christians soon began using books as we know them now (a collection of sheets bound together to form a pile, so when reading it you were turning pages over instead of unfolding the whole set) but in John’s times “books” were still scrolls, a single sheet rolled up. See picture.

WRITTEN ON BACK AND FRONT= This gives the idea that the book was very long. A letter or something short would be using only one of the two sides of the scroll, not both.

SEALDED= Rolls (same as later parchments) were rolled up in a tube, so a string or cloth band was used to tied them up and keep them from opening. But if you wanted to make sure nobody could open it (at least without your knowledge), you could sealed it up with one or more seals. A seal was usually made of wax mixed with other things. The waxy stuff was heated, melted over the edge of the roll or over the string and then stamped with a seal. To unfold the scroll you had to break the seal and then they’ll know somebody read it without permission. So it was quite simple to open a seal scroll, except for the fact that scrolls sealed with an official seal had the protection of law or his owner’s power. Opening a sealed scroll could send you directly to prison or death, so yes, sealed scrolls were usually quite safe, especially this one here, sealed by God (and with seven seals! Big, big secret). See picture of a seal.

WORTHY= /wɜ:ðɪ/ If you are worthy to do something, you are good enough to do it.

This fragment is a summary of the chapters 1, 4 & 5 of the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible, also called “The Apocalypse of Saint John” (Apocalypse is a Greek word meaning “revelation”). It was written in the second half of the first century, probably towards the end. Christians were being persecuted by the Romans, many of them killed, many sent to prison. One of those prisons was the Isle of Patmos, between Greece and Asia Minor. There was the apostle John when he had a series of visions, revelations from God about what was to come. Those visions have all the symbolic qualities of dreams, and are full of metaphors, some of them clearly explained, many more obscure.

It is not a book about the destruction of the world, as modern people tend to think, but about the victory of good over evil and the start of a New World, purified from evil and suffering, which will start a new phase for humanity. It’s a book of hope and encouragement. Historically this book has usually been accepted as having two levels of meaning, one addressed to the persecuted Christians of the time, the other addressed to all humans in all times:

1- A symbolic representation of the present persecutions from Rome. Christians were probably wondering if they and their faith could survive such a powerful repression, so God is encouraging them to persevere and trust his power. No matter what may come, in the end He will prevail and everything would be fine. The history of man was developing according to his plans, nothing was amiss, everything was all right even if they couldn’t understand it.

2- An eternal message addressed to all humankind to remind us that no matter what happens, in the end Good will always prevail and evil will be defeated. Humans have free-will to choose but God is the Lord of history and everything is flowing towards a planned end. What’s more, He is taking an active part in that global story, so we will never be left alone.

More recently, some groups view the visions of the Apocalypse as describing literally what will happen at the end of the world, so everything told there will actually happen some day in the future, which they think will be very soon or some even think those things are actually already began and we are living the beginning of the end of times. This view is mostly present in the United States though rarely supported outside.

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