Welcome to this blog which is following the Book of The Revelation. Previous blogs can be found by date from the archive, or at emmock.com bible reference, or emmock.com topic word. Comments and questions are always welcome. My other blog, which is more political can be found at xtremejesus.co
The daily headlines are reminders of the world we live.
AMELIA BOYNTON, THE MOTHER OF CIVIL RIGHTS DIES AGED 104
Revelation 14New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
The Lamb and the 144,000
14 Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found; they are blameless.
The Messages of the Three Angels
6 Then I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live[a] on the earth—to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgement has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.’
8 Then another angel, a second, followed, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’
9 Then another angel, a third, followed them, crying with a loud voice, ‘Those who worship the beast and its image, and receive a mark on their foreheads or on their hands, 10 they will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and they will be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image and for anyone who receives the mark of its name.’
12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of[b] Jesus.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them.’
Reaping the Earth’s Harvest
14 Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like the Son of Man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand! 15 Another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to the one who sat on the cloud, ‘Use your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.’ 16 So the one who sat on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Then another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, ‘Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.’ 19 So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse’s bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles.
In this book, heaven is the counterpart and ultimate future of the earth. On the earth as we have seen in the previous chapter (Blog 1791), the majority of people worship the Beast from the sea, the Roman Empire and its rulers, who persecute those who refuse to worship, the followers of the slaughtered Lamb, namely, the messianic assemblies of Jesus.
In heaven, we see that they do indeed belong to the Lamb; they are the same as the great crowd of chapter 7 who have come out of the persecution and stand before the Lamb. They offer themselves to God, as the first fruits of the harvest were offered in Israel. Only they can sing the new song to God because only they have suffered with the Lamb and now share his victory. In a sense, their faithful lives are this song of praise.Their number is the perfect multiple of twelve which designates them as the twelve tribes of the true Israel of God. In the sexist langauge of this book they are male virgins, that is, they are spiritually virginal and have not contaminated themselves with other Gods. I emphasise this meaning because of course the faithful members of the assemblies are both male and female. We should ask whether the New Israel includes only the members of the assemblies. I think the answer must be that all who have not worshipped idols and have suffered with the Lamb, are part of the people of God.
The first angel announces the hour of God’s judgement. Because I accept that the author of the Revelation has a connection with the communities who produced John’s Gospel and Letters, I think that this “hour” is to be interpreted as it is in that Gospel, in which the hour of judgement is the crucifixion of Jesus. The world is judged by the fact that light came into it, but people preferred the darkness. The hour announced by the angel is the hour of the great refusal to worship the beast by the Lamb and by those who follow him, who suffer accordingly.
The second angel announces the fall of Babylon, the Roman Empire – it falls because it is defeated by the spiritual power of those who make the great refusal. “She has mad all nations drink the wine of the wrath of her fornication”, (Again we have the unacceptable comparison of idolatry with sex). This is a however a vital phrase. The Empire has been promiscuous in its idolatry; it has worshipped all sorts of earthly powers and encouraged its conquered citizens to do the same. They have “drunk the wine of the wrath of her fornication”, that is, they have become spiritually drunk by giving their allegiance to Roman values, which are ultimately directed towards violence (wrath). This violence, which is the product of Rome/ Babylon’s idolatrous values, is also in verses 19, 20, called the wrath of God. God does not cause the violence but rather shows that terrible and self-defeating bloodshed is the harvest of idolatry.
The third angel announces this wrath, which is God’s permission for evil to work its own results on its adherents. If God’s people share his banquet and enjoy his endless Sabbath, the adherents of the Beast drink his wrath and have no rest ever. The punishment God brings on evil is not arbitrarily imposed but is the logical consequence of evil itself. The time of God’s wrath is a time when idolatry and injustice cause bloodshed on earth; and is therefore the same time in which the seven churches of the first chapters are called to make their costly witness to Jesus. They are assured that if they have to die for the sake of the Lamb, their deaths will be blessed and their faithfulness remembered by God.
The Son of man is Jesus is his role as the judge who gathers in the harvest of the earth. In this case the harvest reveals the fruits of earth’s evil: the bloodshed that flows from violence. The author attributes the violence (wrath) to God because he does not stop it by force but rather suffers it in the Lamb.
It is important to work patiently with the violent imagery of these visions, showing the origin of the violence in the idolatry of the Empire and its supporters. God is not a terrorist, but in a world subject to imperial ambitions there will be terrorism as well as the violence of the state.
The power of this vision can be seen in its capacity to interpret our contemporary world. The blood-crazed violence that afflicts the innocent, the displaced families, the oppressed minorities, the refugees and asylum seekers, as well as the guilty, the armies of states and terrorists and those who control them, can be seen as the fruit of the idolatrous worship of wealth and power. “The best lack all conviction; while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” wrote WB Yeats. The call to God’s people in the above passage is for them to make the great refusal quietly; to do nothing that allies them with the Beast; and to maintain the faith and life of their communities.
The best of humanity in the present time might see this as a model for their own refusal to worship and obey the idolatrous powers of the world. Idolatry of power and wealth is very subtle and it is not easy to refuse. Good people have to see how it may have infiltrated their consciousness and actions. For this purpose explicit Christian faith with its worship of the one, only God can be helpful. Refusing all allegiance to the Beast is also difficult, especially if, for example, our pension funds are invested in the some of the Beast’s subsidiaries, like the arms industry. And such refusal will inevitably involve suffering, in which trust in the slaughtered Lamb of God will give strength.
There are many other actions which good people could and sometimes should take, but these ones are essential.
The Second Coming by W B Yeats