1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was filled with light because of his glory. 2 He called out with a loud voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a home for demons and a lair for every unclean spirit. She is a lair for every unclean bird, and a lair for every unclean and disgusting beast 3 because all the nations have fallen[a] due to the wine of her lustful passion. The kings of the earth committed sexual immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth became rich from the power of her loose and extravagant ways.”
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say, “Come out of her, my people, so that you don’t take part in her sins and don’t receive any of her plagues.
11 “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their cargoes anymore— 12 cargoes of gold, silver, jewels, and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk, and scarlet; all those things made of scented wood, ivory, fine wood, bronze, iron, and marble; 13 cinnamon, incense, fragrant ointment, and frankincense; wine, oil, fine flour, and wheat; cattle, sheep, horses, and carriages; and slaves, even human lives. 14 ‘The fruit your whole being craved has gone from you. All your glitter and glamour are lost to you, never ever to be found again.’
15 “The merchants who sold these things, and got so rich by her, will stand a long way off because they fear the pain she suffers. They will weep and mourn, and say, 16 ‘Oh, the horror! The great city that wore fine linen, purple, and scarlet, who glittered with gold, jewels, and pearls— 17 in just one hour such great wealth was destroyed.’
“Every sea captain, every seafarer, sailors, and all who make their living on the sea stood a long way off.
1 After this I heard what sounded like a huge crowd in heaven. They said,
“Hallelujah! The salvation and glory and power of our God!
2 His judgments are true and just,
because he judged the great prostitute,
who ruined the earth by her whoring,
and he exacted the penalty for the blood of his servants
from her hand.”
3 Then they said a second time,
“Hallelujah! Smoke goes up from her forever and always.”
4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God, who is seated on the throne, and they said, “Amen. Hallelujah!”
5 Then a voice went out from the throne and said,
“Praise our God, all you his servants,
and you who fear him, both small and great.”
6 And I heard something that sounded like a huge crowd, like rushing water and powerful thunder. They said,
“Hallelujah! The Lord our God, the Almighty,
exercised his royal power!
7 Let us rejoice and celebrate, and give him the glory,
for the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8 She was given fine, pure white linen to wear,
for the fine linen is the saints’ acts of justice.”
9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Favored are those who have been invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb.” He said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
In 586 B.C., Babylon’s army destroyed Solomon’s Temple and took God’s people into exile. But the prophets said Babylon would also face a day of judgment (Isaiah 21:8-9, Jeremiah 50:38-39, 51:8-9), and it did. In Revelation, “Babylon” symbolized the Roman Empire, which exiled Revelation’s writer and persecuted Christians (see Revelation 1:9, 17:5-9). That God and God’s Kingdom would in the end outlive the mighty empire that oppressed them filled early Christians with hope.
King Jesus, the greatest compliment I could ever receive is your invitation to your wedding banquet. Teach me, day by day, how to live a life that shows how much I value being your guest eternally. Amen.
* Hamilton, Adam. Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today (p. 290). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
I am currently working on a project that has me reading the writings of early Christian Mystics.* I incorporated this quote from Teresa of Avila into my project yesterday morning:
"Remember: if you want to make progress on the path and ascend to the places you have longed for, the important thing is not to think much but to love much, and so to do whatever best awakens you to love." **
I feel like Teresa is speaking directly to me here as my spiritual director. I summarize this quote for my clients as “think less, love more.”
Yesterday, I took a break from the mystics and opened the document to see what my assigned text was for this week’s GPS. My heart raced a bit and resistance rose. I don’t want to write on Revelation 18 and 19. I do not like that book. I worked to understand it for seminary papers, and then I filed it away.
As I was feeling resistance to this GPS Insights assignment and kicking myself for procrastinating on writing on a text that would require some research, I went back to those words of Teresa of Avila. What was it she said? “The important thing is not to think much but to love much.”
I think this important to remember in my relationship with the book of Revelation. Here is some of the backstory that makes me wrestle with this book: I have a relative who removed herself from our family because her denomination reads Revelation literally and she doesn’t want to be sad when she watches all of us (outside of her denomination) destroyed during the end times. I counsel with a woman who is deeply hurt by a local organization that reads Revelation literally and she lost her feeling of connection to God because this group created grave levels of fear in her life. I know a teen who reached out to me because her boyfriend loves apocalyptic books and movies. His family is part of a church that is stockpiling supplies and guns because they believe that they are the chosen who will survive. She loves this boy, but she feels this is a deal breaker in their relationship because his beliefs are so extreme.
All of this comes from reading Revelation literally. Passages that Biblical Scholars struggle to make sense of. And yet, people are destroying lives today by imagining paranoid, violent end times. Sometimes we get so focused on having an afterlife that we forget to be loving right here, right now. We are called as Christians to create heaven on earth, not compete for who gets an admission ticket.
Religious groups that want you to think some are chosen by God and some are rejected by God have their foundation in fear, not love. A truly Biblical Christian follows the teachings of Jesus. In story after story, Jesus quieted people’s fears and offered compassion, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love. John had a colorful abstract vision that he shared with us as his revelation. Parts of its meaning may be a mystery, yet it makes a statement and offers a perspective. As we run this text through the Jesus filter, we can find compassion, hope, love, and grace. Reading it without that filter leads too many people to fear. We can consider it and learn from it, but not use it to cause harm. Less thinking, more loving.
*If you want an introduction to the Christian Mystics, this class is available to you. In March and April I taught this class on a Zoom platform hosted by Church of the Resurrection. Now the recordings are available to you to view any time.
** The Interior Castle, Saint Teresa of Avila, Translated by Mirabai Starr, New York: Riverhead Books, 2003.
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