Text fragment 1 is the inscription or preface of the Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible. It immediately makes clear that it contains a revelation, a prophecy, passed on to us from God by Jesus, the Messiah, showing his own role as acting divine being in the creation of man. This divine aspect of God interferes to break up man’s downward, matter oriented, path and elevate it to a divine spiritual destiny, which was at that time gradually getting out of sight. But this turnover or transformation is a possibility which can only become reality if man wants it himself or herself. (In general all remarks related to man refer to males as well as females, although the male version will most often be used.) Those who make this choice are called servants, followers of the Messiah. Nowadays, the word ‘servant’ may easily arouse a feeling of resentment or irritation. We do not see ourselves as slaves or footman, but as free people. In the Apocalypse ‘servants’ has the meaning of free people who chose voluntarily, and with an awake consciousness, to follow the example of the divine force of the Messiah, which they experience not outside but inside themselves, and recognize as their highest moral example and destination.
The Apocalypse uses a language of images
The glorious future destiny of man is revealed to John in a stepped way. The origin of the revelation is God, through God’s Christ aspect, which was incarnated in the man Jesus, and subsequently this revelation descends to an angel, – according to Schult (1976) this angel most probably is archangel Michael – , and finally by means of visions to the initiated man John. John is a spiritually advanced human being, capable of perceiving and understanding what is revealed to him in these visions.
Steiner has translated the opening phrase of the Apocalypse (see his lectures on the Apocalypse in 1911) as follows: ‘Contemplate the revelation in which Jesus Christ unveils himself, like God gave it to him in order to show his servants concisely the genesis, that must come to pass. He has written this revelation in signs and sent these through his angel to his servant John’. In his lecture of 8 September 1924 Steiner describes the origin of the revelation of the Christ as follows: ‘The Father God has given the image of the appearance of Jesus Christ, and the Apocalypse is like a letter of God self, given to John to be able to understand this image.’ So we have Gods revelation of the Christ after it has descended in four steps: from God to the Christ, to the angel, to John and finally to us, the readers of the Apocalypse. It is like a waterfall that flows to lower and lower regions.
We should not take the images literally, but on the other hand we should learn to experience the images exactly as they are depicted. We are called to search for their deeper meaning. The words used are representing a ‘sign’, an ‘image’, and these are much richer in meaning than just what is described. John receives his revelation in a state of higher consciousness. This revelation relates to Christianity as in pre-Christian times the mystery school revelations were related to popular religion. This can justify treating the Apocalypse as a mystery (Steiner, GA 8, p.116).
The time is near
It further strikes the reader that what is shortly coming to pass is at the brink of occurring, ‘the time is near’. This does not refer so much to the large physical changes that will happen in the future evolution of Earth and mankind, according to the book. It particularly refers to inner developments in man that are starting due to the incarnation of the divine Christ in the man Jesus, which took place shortly before the conception of the Apocalypse. This is why heaven is at the brink of opening up in order that we start to SEE, to open up our inner vision.
Arthur Schult (p.22) explains this in more detail. ‘That what has to occur soon’ is a description of time experience. At the moment that the Christ enters the earthly realms, time becomes transparent. Christ enters Earth according to the Apocalypse at the moment that Earth and mankind have reached the middle of their development. At this moment past, present and future merge and are touched by eternity. At that moment time is fulfilled, like it is said in St Mark (St. Mark 1:15). Time is not unfolding endlessly, but is, according to the Apocalypse a fulfilled time. The earthly time can any moment transform into eternity. If time and space would not rush to a finish they would lack true sense. The course of history in repeating cycles is without perspective, according to Schult. The sense of history is not to be found in history itself. The mystery of history and time is not solvable within the realm of time itself. Once time has started and once time will end. Its solution is found beyond time and history, in the origin of time: divine eternity.
We can experience the end of time when our consciousness is uplifted like John is experiencing later in the Apocalypse. Man can transcend time any moment in himself by consciousness development and then experience the above time situated eternity of the kingdom of God.