Original Research - Special Collection: Cosmological Perspectives

Cosmology in the book of Revelation

Gert J.C. Jordaan
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 47, No 2 | a698 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v47i2.698 | © 2013 Gert J.C. Jordaan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 February 2013 | Published: 05 November 2013


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Abstract

The cosmology of the book of Revelation mainly involves God’s restored reign over the created universe (κόσμος). Throughout the book, the κόσμος is depicted according to its constituent parts, namelyheaven, sea and earth. At first sight, this threefold description seems to stem from the ancient Jewish and mythological three-storied cosmological view of ‘up-above’, ‘here-below’ and ‘down-under’. However, this correspondence proves to be only superficial. Heaven is used by John not as much in spatial sense as in temporal sense: as symbolic reference to a divine point above time and history. Heaven is also a qualitative reference to a situation of complete obedient worship to God. Earth in John’s visions is mostly used as metaphor for sinful mankind under the rule of Satan. Yet, the earth remains part of God’s creation under his divine authority, and even becomes a refuge for the church in this dispensation. The sea in Revelation, when not denoting a physical space, is often equated by scholars to the abyss or the underworld. However, in Revelation the sea is mostly used as metaphor for the basic evil from which the beast originates and of everything immoral and impure. The last chapters of Revelation reveal that in the eschaton heaven, sea and earth will all be part of the new creation − renewed to the point where God’s reign is restored and acknowledged above all doubt throughout the κόσμος.

Kosmologie in die boek van Openbaring. Die kosmologie van Openbaring getuig van God se herstelde regering oor die geskape heelal (κόσμος). Regdeur die boek word die κόσμος volgens sy samestellende dele beskryf, naamlik hemel, see en aarde. Oppervlakkig beskou, lyk hierdie beskrywing na die antieke Joodse en mitologiese drie-verdieping-kosmologie van ‘daar bo’, ‘hier onder’ en ‘daar onder’. Hierdie ooreenkoms is egter slegs oppervlakkig. Hemel word deur Johannes nie soseer in ruimtelike sin gebruik nie, maar in temporele sin: as simboliese verwysing dat God bo tyd en geskiedenis verhewe is. Hemel is ook ’n kwalitatiewe verwysing na ’n toestand van volmaakte gehoorsame aanbidding van God. Desgelyks word aarde meestal gebruik as metafoor vir ’n sondige mensdom onder Satan se heerskappy. Tog bly die aarde deel van God se skepping onder sy goddelike heerskappy, en word dit selfs aangetoon as ’n toevlugsoord vir die kerk in hierdie bedeling. Waar die see in Openbaring nie na ’n fisiese verskynsel verwys nie, word dit dikwels deur biblioloë op gelyke vlak met die diep put of die onderwêreld gestel. Johannes gebruik die see egter meestal as metafoor vir die boosheid waaruit die dier sy oorsprong het, asook vir alles wat sondig en onrein is. Openbaring 21 en 22 maak bekend dat hemel, see en aarde in die eschatondeel sal wees van die nuwe skepping − vernuwe tot op die punt waar God se heerskappy herstel is en erken word regdeur die κόσμος.


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