Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (33) – More on the Kingdom and the New Jerusalem

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Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

763 It was the Son’s task to accomplish the Father’s plan of salvation in the fullness of time. Its accomplishment was the reason for his being sent. “The Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Reign of God, promised over the ages in the scriptures.” To fulfill the Father’s will, Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth. The Church “is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery.”

The above paragraph is important in the proper reading of Biblical prophecy, as well as private revelations. I have been reviewing a few books lately written by non-Catholic authors. Some of these works are very well done and thoughtfully presented. It is evident that the authors have done a lot of reading about the topic of prophecy. And yet, there are very fundamental flaws in their reading of Biblical Prophecy. They seem to lack recognition of the fact that the ushering in of the Kingdom of God is a historical, and not a future event. I suppose some of it is semantics – they are referring to the perfected Kingdom, but by not making this differentiation I am not sure it is simply a semantical difference. There are reasons why they view things in this way, including their view of a literal Millennial Kingdom. They do not recognize the current Reign of Christ in the earthly Kingdom, and view everything as a futuristic event. It may seem as if the “Kingdom” references in the Catechism, and my presentation of it in terms of Prophecy, is overdone a bit. After the 50th reference, we get it already! And yet, it is important to present it all. This one difference in understanding of the Kingdom between Catholics and other Christians creates some remarkable differences in the reading of the Apocalypse of John, as well as other prophetic references in the Bible.

As Catholics, we are often accused of “Allegorizing everything away” when we suggest that a number here is symbolic rather than intended to be taken literally, or that some reference in Revelation speaks of a more general allusion over all time since Christ as opposed to a specific time at the very end. But this is not so. We also recognize the references to the end of time, and we do consider private revelation as well. But neither do we ignore the knowledge that we have. In understanding the audience, time, purpose, and writing style of various books we must consider all that instead of just succumbing to the desire to apply current events to Biblical texts simply because we are personally convinced once way or another about the times we live in. Prudence is of utmost importance, because even with that some of the Biblical and private revelations are quite sensational. There is no need to make it any more so. What, after all, can be more sensational than the physical return of Christ, whenever that happens to be?

765 The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head. Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, they are the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem. The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ’s mission and his power, but also in his lot. By all his actions, Christ prepares and builds his Church.

This is somewhat heavy stuff when you think about it. We are living in the Kingdom. In our own imperfections, it often doesn’t feel that way. We bicker. We divide. We question. And yet, there is Christ in the Tabernacle and there is Mass and there is the Eucharist… And as the Apostles were chosen to play a very special role in this Kingdom, so are we chosen. We are all anointed in our baptism as priests (in a sense different from an ordained priest, but still in a very real sense).

Note the reference to the Church as the New Jerusalem. In the book of Revelation, there is a description of the new city of Jerusalem. Is this really a literal floating cube of gold and jewels? Or is it a reference to something else? The Catechism says it is most definitely a reference to Christ’s Church. It is possible that it has a dual meaning, I suppose, and that it means more than just that. But this is yet another example of the importance of realizing the Church’s exegesis and understanding of the prophetic biblical text. Otherwise you’ll read Hal Lindsay and swear that the day will come where a floating city of gold descends from heaven like a spaceship. When I’m done with my walk through the Catechism, I’ll move on to a look at some of the more influential non-Catholic modern works on prophecy and where they are compatible and incompatible with Catholic thought.

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