Over the last couple of days we have been reading chapters 13 thru 19 in the Book of Revelation. These are some of the most dramatic, strange and spectacular images in the Bible. So what’s it all mean? Few definitive assertions can be made but one thing is certain – the end of days comes in every generation. These things are as true now as they will be in the final end of days.
Let’s take a look at some key passages:
And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”
This is an important verse. Note that worship of the beast stems in part, from despair. The fence sitters see the power of the beast. They see his omnipresence. They see the rest of the world go that way. What can they do? So they choose not to fight against it. They go along to get along. This we must not do. Remember, Jesus said that the world hated him so it will hate us. However, the world won’t hate us because we give to the poor, or run schools and hospitals. It will hate us because we refuse to go the way the secular world wants to go: contraception, abortion, marriage, euthanasia, cloning, etc. Again, we see why true doctrine is so important. How do we know the right answers to these questions in a changing world? The Church was given a divine voice to speak for God on these questions, to protect us from fatal errors such as these. So that when the world is going one way, we can know the way of the Lord.
Then there is the prophecy that everyone knows. The number of the beast:
Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.
This reference is almost certainly a reference to Caesar Nero of the first century. The Hebrew letters for his name as well as the Hebrew letters for the word “beast” add up to 666. So the real question is, does it point to anyone else in history? The answer is a little indirect. Nero probably also represents all pagan secular governments that persecute Christians. So when a government turns against the Church this is in some small manner the fulfillment of this prophecy. We have seen this happen many times in history and will undoubtedly see it again. Ultimately, it is likely to occur on a world wide scale.
Next, we have two passages that should add significantly to our understanding of the question of works:
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!“
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
Here we see Angels in Heaven stating clearly your deeds or “good works” are with you in heaven. In Heaven, the linen garment you wear will be your good deeds. You wouldn’t want to be naked in Heaven would you?
Next we see the “Whore of Babylon”. Oceans of ink have spilled on trying to define who she is. I’ve tried over the last few days to summarize it in my mind but it has been a nearly impossible task. There are a few things we can say:
And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.
So the woman is a city, but which city? Even a cursory reading of the text shows that the city is either Rome or Jerusalem. A deeper reading of the text makes the distinction between the two even murkier. I think that one can only reasonably conclude that the city is BOTH Rome and Jerusalem. This makes sense from the perspective of when John was writing. Jerusalem had rejected the Messiah and thus was unfaithful. Rome was the capital of the pagan world and worshiped many false gods and was thus a fornicator. Whether it is these two cities that will one day rise again to be the focal point of the end times is impossible to say. Or perhaps it will be Jerusalem again (which always seems to be at the center of conflict) and some other city that becomes the focal point of the secular world.
The question is often raised if the Catholic Church, which is of course headquartered in Rome, could be the whore. For many reasons, I do not think this is a plausible interpretation. Here is a good article refuting many of the arguments often made on this point:
However, I think best reason comes from Chapter 19, verses 1 through 8 (which I previously quoted line verse 7 and 8 above). The key is this, in verse 2, John writes:
…for his judgments are true and just; he has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants.
and recall verse 7 and 8:
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”– for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
We know from other scriptures we read during the year that the Church is the Bride. Thus, we see here that the whore (or harlot) and the Church (or bride) are two different “people”. One corrupted the earth with fornication and is judged and one “made herself ready”. We know that a Husband and Wife become one flesh. We know that the Church is the body of Christ on earth, “the fullness of him who is all in all”, literally Jesus’ physical manifestation on earth until he comes again. We know that Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the Church giving it a eternal spiritual life. Thus as we have seen many times up until now, the Church and the Lord are in sense indivisible. As God could not be the source or corruption the Catholic Church can therefore not be the whore which corrupts the earth.
Finally, we see of the most important and wonderful things in scripture:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
We see Christ, returning in Glory. Not as a helpless infant but as a mighty king. His legions of angels do not stand back singing but come with Him like a wave as a vast infinite army sweeping over creation. He easily defeats the forces of the evil. We see him bringing justice and His enemies and the enemies of the faithful are plunged into the lake of fire.
One should never despair, for we know the ending. In this world dark forces will rise. Secularism, corruption and false gods will make their way through the world but ultimately this darkness will be vanquished.