Exploring History of the Book of Revelation in Search for Its Meaning Today: Film Producer

By Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska
Reporter
Ella Kietlinska is a reporter for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S. and world politics.
and Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp is an award-winning investigative reporter with The Epoch Times and host of EpochTV's "Crossroads" program. He is a recognized expert on unrestricted warfare, asymmetrical hybrid warfare, subversion, and historical perspectives on today’s issues. His 10-plus years of research and investigations on the Chinese Communist Party, subversion, and related topics give him unique insight into the global threat and political landscape.
January 24, 2022 Updated: January 24, 2022

An investigative documentary that explores historical circumstances surrounding the Book of Revelation was produced with an intention to reflect on the book’s meaning for the people of today, said Tim Mahoney, executive producer of “The 7 Churches of Revelation: Times of Fire.”

Filmmaker Christophe Hanauer went to Patmos—a Greek island in the Aegean Sea where John received a vision and wrote the Book of Revelation—to investigate on-site the circumstances of that biblical event, Mahoney said on EpochTV’s “Crossroads” program.

To investigate an event, “you need to find out where that is, go there, examine it, and then look at what other evidences are related to that,” the producer said.

The Book of Revelation was written as a letter to be circulated among the Christian churches at seven important cities in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

Hanauer, inspired by Mahoney’s prior investigative documentary also focusing on Biblical events, investigated the first three of these churches in addition to Patmos and they both turned the investigations into their first feature film, the producer said.

The location where John was believed to have received his vision in the 1st century AD was preserved well because people for the last 2,000 years had reverence for it, the producer said. “You can enter into that cave.”

Mahoney said he believes that John was one of the last of the disciples of Christ and was imprisoned on the island of Patmos.

“I think that the idea that there was this potential savior of the world or this king that would cause a political change in the world of the Roman Empire was threatening, and so they put John on the island of Patmos.”

When Hanauer went to Patmos and places where the three churches were located, he questioned a lot of scholars about whether there was a real place of the biblical event, what happened there, how the event unfolded, Mahoney said, so the film is really “this sort of connecting, interlinking things with history and archaeology that supports this Book of Revelation.”

Investigating Three Churches

Epoch Times Photo
The ruins of the Great Theatre are seen in the ancient city of Ephesus in Izmir, Turkey, on Sept. 18, 2017. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)   

Mahoney believes that the purpose of the Book of Revelation being in the form of a letter to churches was to evaluate in what regards those churches were doing well and in what regards they were not doing well.

The message of the Book of Revelation is: “Are they [the seven churches] going to be ready for the return of Christ,” Mahoney explained.

There are different kinds of churches in each century that are doing really well, and in some ways, they’re being persecuted, and some persecuted to death, Mahoney continued. Yet “there are other churches that are blending in with the culture. … they’re getting along with everybody,” he noted.

The message that the letter conveys is an admonition to the churches, that if they do not do well, there will be consequences, the producer said.

Mahoney said that people should watch this film regardless of whether they believe it because “you’re going to learn an awful lot about a very important time in history.”

The Book of Revelation tells us about what could happen in the future, and some of the events described in prophecies in the Bible have happened, Mahoney said.

“[The] film that doesn’t get off into all sorts of speculation, but basically deals with what was happening back then. And then you can ask the question, ‘Well, what does that mean for me today?’”

In Ephesus, where a Biblical riot took place, “you can actually go and see that stadium where this event happened,” Mahoney said.

In Smyrna, you can learn about how the Bishop of Smyrna Polycarp was persecuted to death for his faith and how he stood faithful, Mahoney continued.

In the city of Pergamum, the filmmaker learned about the connection between Satan and an altar to Zeus, an ancient Greek god, where great ritual sacrifices were made.

Many believed that Satan lived in Pergamum, Mahoney said. “What’s fascinating is this connection, because when Hitler and the Germans learned about this altar, they were fascinated by it, and they …  brought that archeology back to Germany.”

“If you don’t believe in any of this, this film is an amazing historical look at what we believe is a true event. … I’ve used the technique, a pattern of evidence for the historical truth and reality of the Book of Revelation.”

“When you watch this film … you ask yourself: well, what does it mean for me today?”

There are multiple metaphors within the fire referenced in the film’s title “Times of Fire,” Mahoney said.

One is the fire of persecution that occurred in “this ancient time of the Book of Revelation when the letters were going out to the churches.”

“But we also see a fire today, that people, like never before, in different countries, are being persecuted for their faith.”

“There’s a third fire, … which is more or less the fire of God’s presence and spirit pouring out on people.”

Mahoney thinks that the film is important because it’s revealing ancient people’s courage to have faith while living in the Roman culture.

“You’re going to understand the Roman culture in a new way like you’ve never seen it before and you’re going to understand what it meant to be a follower of Christ in that culture.”

Mahoney said that the Book of Revelation is like a report card given to each of the churches the letter was sent to.

The church of Ephesus, for example, was so dogmatic about doing things the right way that they lost the love, Mahoney said, adding that it could be “the love for Christ, … the love for one another too.”

“A Christian person can be preaching more judgment … or following the rules, and there’s no love in their message.”

The letter does not say anything bad about the church of Smyrna, but it tells it: “Don’t be afraid about what you’re about to suffer,” Mahoney said. “It says that the devil is going to put some of you in prison and test you, and you’ll be persecuted. And some will be put to death.”

Mahoney said that the message from the letter may be relevant to today’s church because “there are people that maybe are following the rules, but they have no love. There are other people that are out in other parts of the world that are actually being put to death [for their faith].”

The message for the third church, the church of Pergamum, may mean that they were following certain false teachings, the producer continued.

“The convicting part of this film for me is: … how compassionate am I to other parts of the world, to other people who are suffering? It’s easy to just be thinking about your own little world and not be considerate of what is going on in the greater body of the world and people who are being persecuted for their faith. … What had happened to the early church, now I’m more sensitive to people in other parts of the world that are going through persecution as well.”

Religious persecution occurs in many parts of the world, and it is especially severe in China—where Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, the Falun Gong, and others are persecuted for their beliefs, according to the U.S. State Department’s report on international religious freedom in 2020.

Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska is a reporter for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S. and world politics.
Joshua Philipp is an award-winning investigative reporter with The Epoch Times and host of EpochTV's "Crossroads" program. He is a recognized expert on unrestricted warfare, asymmetrical hybrid warfare, subversion, and historical perspectives on today’s issues. His 10-plus years of research and investigations on the Chinese Communist Party, subversion, and related topics give him unique insight into the global threat and political landscape.