It is perhaps, with the greatest unease, that I finished today’s reading.
Unease, though, is not the same as fear. I feel like I have been told a truth I knew to be truth, but never really wanted to hear.
In today’s reading, from Revelation 10 through Revelation 12, there is again, hope for the people of God. It is a resplendent, overwhelming, and miraculous hope that keeps one from sinking into the mires of terror.
Yet today, the hope isn’t before the terror. It is in the midst of the terror, and the images of fear.
Two witnesses are attacked and killed. These two witnesses, in Revelation 11, call us to the lives of both Elijah and Moses, with their abilities to devour their enemies with fire and turn water into blood.
Here, the two witnesses represent the church itself, and in the midst of this chapter, and even with their incredible powers, they are tormented and killed, with their bodies left in the street to rot.
The world celebrates at their murder. The celebration will be so exuberant that people will exchange gifts because they have finally died.
It is (another part of this book that is incredibly) disturbing.
I can only imagine, as John watched all of this, that he was horrified.
Until this happened to the two witnesses, anyway.
But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on. At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (Revelation 11:11-13; NIV84)
Again, there is hope.
But there is still terror. It follows fast in the vision.
Revelation 12 is filled with an image of a pregnant woman and a dragon waiting to eat her child. John saw this vision, and it must have terrified him. It must have. It terrified me. A red dragon, poised and in position to eat a child right after it is born is not the scene of sweet bedtime stories.
The woman is Israel – a very pregnant Israel, painfully expecting the Messiah. (It’s not Mary. I’ve grown so tired of people lazily believing this woman is Mary.)
The evil of our world, though, was waiting to stop the coming of the Messiah. Herod, himself, ordered that all the baby boys be killed when he learned the king of the Jews was born.
It is interesting, though, in John’s vision in Revelation 12, that all of Jesus’ life is omitted. He was born, then he was “snatched” to the throne of God.
Yet as that happened, in John’s vision, Michael, the archangel, is the one who made war with Satan, not the other way around. It doesn’t appear to be much of a fight, even with Satan earlier described as the red dragon, with the power to hurl stars from the sky. The evil is defeated in heaven, yet left to pursue the woman, the new Israel, which is now you and me and all of the believers.
This vision is still happening.
The church is still being pursued by evil. The church’s ability to overthrow our planet must be so intense, that as long as it is influential, evil will constantly chase it. And though the church is ultimately victorious, we are not immune from these persecutions.
Which, for me, only raised on question today. How much evil is attacking our churches?
Because if this vision is correct, then the more intense the attacks, the more influential our churches really, truly are.
But if the attacks are weak, and our churches are too distracted to be attacked, then our influence must be extremely petty.
Wow. Tough thoughts today.
Thanks for reading.