Here is an intriguing look at the Book of Revelation that claims that the writer of the book, emphatically not John the Apostle, wasn’t writing about the end of the world, but rather about the collapse of the Roman empire, with Nero as the one stamped with the numerals 666.
I don’t know what John Milton’s personal interpretation of the Revelation might have been other than what he wrote in Paradise Lost, but it seems at least plausible to me that Milton, as ever, was onto something revolutionary.
In Paradise Lost, Satan, of course, is actually the Satan of religious lore, but Milton also established his character to symbolically represent Charles I, the king of England, and hell as the British monarch and empire at large. Students of British history well know, of course, that Milton was in favor of dethroning Charles I and supported republicanism, free speech and freedom of the press. In other words, he was well ahead of his time.
Again, I don’t know if a study has ever been undertaken, but what are the implications here if Milton, some 360 years ago, interpreted the Book of Revelation in the more modern sense, with the “end” coming not to the world, but to what was perceived as an evil, oppressive empire?
[Image credit: Illustration for John Milton’s “Paradise Lost“ by Gustave Doré, 1866.]