Preface to Revelation: Dawn of This Age

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Why?

Why this book? To be honest, this wasn’t something that I had even anticipated being able to write. In October 2017, God led me into a season of major transition, which began with me being let go from my employer at the time. Suddenly, I found myself staring at the sidewalk in front of the office tower with a compensation package in one hand, and a phone that was ringing my wife in the other.

But when we can trust God in the mystery and contend to maintain our peace, great things will happen. The abrupt transition resulted in months of focused time with our Heavenly Father. It was in that five month season that I felt His invitation to begin to write. For the past 15 years I had been cultivating a growing interest in early church history and John’s Revelation. And over the course of those five months God’s grace enabled me to put thoughts to words.

My writing process was unconventional. I would often pray and worship before writing, leading to wonderful experiences with God. There were a few times, for example when I read aloud the victory of Jesus in Revelation 5, that I became so overcome with God’s presence that wept under the weight of His majesty. I also felt at times like a student attending a class as questions would come to mind, but then the answers soon followed. On other occasions I considered myself to be sort of like Indiana Jones, digging deep into ancient texts and connecting clues together in order to unlock a great mystery. Those moments were so exhilarating. I never had a premise or an argument that I was trying to prove. Rather, I tried to extract as much as I could from texts and from history in order to understand what was going on in the days of Jesus and John.

I wrote for an average of six to eight hours per day (sometimes more), almost every day. After six months, I had written close to 200,000 words. Once I began working again, the schedule then shifted to one or two hours a day wherever I could find the time between kids, church and work (right now, this preface is being written on a flight from Winnipeg to Calgary). In and around that time I received council from a friend who had published several books. He suggested I break apart my book into volumes. I hadn’t even considered the publishing side of things at that time since I was still so immersed in the writing process. Am I ever grateful for his timely advice! Few would dare to pick up a 600+ page book on Revelation. Hence, this became a three volume work.

What’s it About?

Perhaps the most surprising discovery for me in exploring the words of Jesus and the Book of Revelation was that it was primarily written to Israel. I had no idea that this was the case. Much of the consensus today is that John’s Apocalypse is almost entirely unfulfilled, or that it was all fulfilled, with the Roman Empire as the recipient of the woes. However, as I pieced things together I found myself arriving at a very different conclusion. In addition to John’s prophecy being a message of hope to the first century community of Jewish and Gentile believers, there was more importantly a deeply embedded message of closure and context for the Jewish communities of Judea and of the diaspora. Again, this was shocking to me. And even prior to John, our Lord Jesus Himself also went into great detail in His prophecies (recorded in the Gospels) in order to communicate to the descendants of Abraham this same message of context and closure.

More specifically, John’s revelation is primarily Jewish-centric and Jewish-focused, re-affirming the Jewish place in the narrative of God’s grand design to redeem and restore (in fact, upgrade) all creation. The Jews emphatically mattered and still matter to Yahweh God and Yeshua Ha-Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah). But just as the Lord spoke through Isaiah, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?” (Is 43:19), so through Jesus and later John, these themes of the new beginnings are revisited (consider also that these words in Isaiah 43 came after the fall of Israel to Babylon). Isaiah provided Israel with context for the calamity, but more importantly He provided them with an invitation into the next chapter of God’s great work of restoration. John’s revelation was like the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel to Israel and Judah.

In the midst of tribulation amongst the saints and ecclesiastical communities throughout Judea and the Empire, and the tribulation amidst a falling Rome, John was commissioned to prophesy. John was given a message of hope and context during the last years leading up to the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple to both the Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus, and those who chose to defend the old religious system.

Hope was proclaimed to the saints who had seen their great leaders martyred, and who themselves were facing tremendous pressure from both Jewish and Roman oppressors. And context was given to the most devastating event in the entire history of the Jewish people: the destruction of the Holy Land, the ancient boundaries of the United Kingdom of Israel, the razing of the Second Temple, and the eventual displacement of the Jews from their homeland. Jesus and John provide the Jewish people with validation and understanding as to why these events took place, and what Yahweh God has invited them to in this age of Messiah.

Revelation was a letter to the Jews, not just for that day, but this day as well. My heart swells with emotion as I consider how powerful it would be for the Jewish people today to lay hold of this letter and be able to understand how it relates to them. I’m excited to release these books not just into the church communities, but hopefully, into the Jewish communities as well.

My Research

My process for research was fairly straight forward: I would pray, then study the Biblical texts in Aramaic (more on this below), Greek and Hebrew (in the Old Testament). Then I would study early historical works by early historians like Josephus, Tacitus, Cassius Dio and Suetonius, and the occasional early church father. Once I began to feel like I understood what was taking place in a section of Scripture, I would explore commentaries and other books that focused on the subject at hand.

I love research. So for people like myself, I’ve included footnotes throughout and on the same page (I can’t stand flipping to the end of the chapter or book to read footnotes!). But I’ve also chosen to write in common language (I can’t stand the unnecessarily complicated jargon of Biblical scholarship. Have you every tried reading Jurgen Moltmann? Good grief!).

An Aramaic Focus

“Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.” [1]

Another major discovery of mine during this endeavour was the fact that the primary original language of the New Testament was Aramaic, not Greek. This presents the translator and reader with several problems. What are they? First, New Testament scholarship has placed too great an emphasis on Greek as the golden standard. However, this is the equivalent of focusing on Greek in order to read the Septuagint (an ancient Greek version of the original Hebrew Old Testament), or Latin in order to read the Vulgate (an old Latin translation of the Catholic Bible). Second, every language had within it idioms, hyperbole and nuance that is often lost when translated. Consider this modern-day example (a scene from the movie, Ocean’s Eleven):

Basher - Window or aisle, boys? Yeah, we're in deep... That poxy demo crew didn't back the main line. They naused up the mainframe. Naused it up! Reuben - You understand any of this? Livingston - I'll explain later. Basher - They're so pony they blew the backup grids one by one. Danny Ocean -Basher, what happened? Basher - They did what I would have done but by accident. Now they know their weakness, they're fixing it. So unless we intend to do this job in Reno, we're in Barney. (everyone looks at him confused) Barney Rubble? (everyone still confused) Trouble!

Unless you’re from specific parts of the United Kingdom, you (like myself) will have likely missed the idioms, word-plays and nuance here. Now imagine translating these modern-English words into another language, any language. How easy would it be to retain these idioms and word-plays? Worse, how hard would it be to understand what was originally said if someone found the translated transcript 2000 years later?

Because of this issue of a Greek-focused scholarship, I realized that I needed to shift my focus to the Aramaic versions of the New Testament and allow them to have priority over the Greek ones. Now, I still reference and translate Greek text (often as a hat-tip to traditional Biblical scholarship), but where there is a known deviation from the Aramaic I will always allow it to trump the Greek manuscript. My conclusions were later fortified when I came across the writings of Ewan MacLeod. His books, Discover Aramaic, and, Jesus Spoke Aramaic, are worth reading for more information on this.

Style

As I mentioned above whenever possible I have tried to write in plain English. Additionally, you will also notice that I repeat quotes, sentences and sections throughout the book. This is not in an effort to rack up word counts. Rather, it is to emphasis key concepts and major points. Also, you will see that I will regularly expand (amplify?) quoted Biblical passages with [ ], and insert a different (better?) word translation in bold. This is in an effort to help maximize one’s reading and understanding of said passage. I also quote Kindle books and website URLs. Why? To demonstrate to the reader that information is readily available to anyone with an internet connection.

In closing, I pray that you will find this book fun and exciting to read. I truly have not come across anything like what I’ve written. If I had, this book would not have been necessary. Perhaps this work (the three books in this series), along with other authors and voices around the globe, can contribute toward filling an important void in our day and age: providing the Jewish people with a message of hope, context and reconciliation with God our Father. And provide the body of Christ with an understanding of Revelation that marries both historical context and allegorical prophecies so that, like the Old Testament Prophets, we can feast on multiple layers of truth and understanding. The book of Ezekiel cannot be stripped of its history, lest the people in Judah in his day lose all hope and understanding of their calamity. Nor can it simply be a historical document, lest the visions of God’s grand plan of renewing humanity and all creation be lost, and the Christian and Jewish hope with it. Thank you for reading.


Footnotes [1] Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 1.

Leo De Siqueira