Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The beast & prostitute (short reflections on Revelation 17)

For this morning's Quiet Time, I considered Revelation 17.

Despite its strange apocalyptic language and imagery, this chapter may be the simplest in Revelation.

John writes about a vision he has of "Babylon," symbolizing ancient Rome and its empire in which he lived. Revelation 17:9 says: "The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits." Rome was known as the city of the seven hills. It was from there that the empire--the prostitute in Revelation 17--ruled.

The Roman rulers hated the most basic Christian confession--"Jesus is Lord" because they deemed themselves lords, even imbued with deity. And so, for that and other reasons, Rome persecuted the Church.

In Revelation 17, John is assured by the angel, explaining his vision that Rome's reign of terror would not last indefinitely. There will be a reckoning for all governments and people who sin unrepentantly, act unjustly or inhumanely, exhibit a callous disregard for God or people. Rome would fall in time or at the judgment, he could be sure.

"Stick with Christ in the face of persecution and adversity," is the message of Revelation 17. Christ has already defeated sin and death and on the day of Christ's return to this world, all will be made right.

That's a good word for all who trust in Christ. In its way, it echoes Paul's words in Romans 8:38-39: "...neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Evil may have its day. "Hordes of devils may fill the land, all threatening to devour us," as Luther puts it in A Mighty Fortress is Our God, but Christ has triumphed over the darkness, the evil, the devil, the suffering, and the sin set loose in this universe. And He gives a share of His triumph, achieved on the cross and from the empty tomb to all who follow Him.

Now seems like a good time to say, "Amen!"

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville Ohio.]

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