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Book Review: “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back” by Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock

I recently heard the authors on the radio discussing the Church and Christianity in America.  After hearing the show, I purchased “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back”.  Certainly, this issue is one of the most important facing the modern church.  Of course, their analysis that we must reject “That Other God” – all the false gods of day to day life and radically recommit ourselves to Christ.  It is obviously the correct answer to restore the church.

However, something particular in your book caught my attention.  On page 85, they sight the church fathers.  Specifically stating:

By contrast, the church fathers (men like Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, and Barnabas) vigorously spent time in the Scriptures.  … And in their work, their single source of authority was Scripture. (emphasis is original)

For this premise they specifically quote Origen, Jerome, and John Chrysostom:

Origen (AD 185-254): The Word or God is in your heart.  The Word digs in this soil so that spring may gush out.

Jerome (AD 342-420): You are reading?  No.  Your betrothed is talking to you! It is your betrothed, that is, Christ, who is united with you.  He tears you away from the solitude of the desert and bring you into his home, saying to you, “Enter into the joy of your Master.”

John Chrysostom (AD 347-407): Listen carefully to me: procure books [of the Bible] that will be medicines for the soul.  At least get a copy of the New Testament, ….

However, men as learned as they, who are advocating a new radical commitment to Christ, must know that these quotes are misleading.  First, none of them expressly establish scripture as the author’s single source of authority.  Second, even a cursory search shows both Origen and Jerome also relied on the teaching of the Church, apostolic succession and tradition as sources of authority:

Origen (c. AD 225): [T]here are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet, as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and remaining in the churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is be accepted as truth that differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic Tradition. Fundamental Doctrines, Preface 2.

What is Origen saying here?  He is saying some people hold what they think are Christian beliefs but that differ from the traditional teaching of the Church.  He says those beliefs are not to be accepted.  And John Chrysostom:

John Chrysostom (c. AD 402): “So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold to the traditions that you have were taught, whether by word, or by letter of ours.”  From this it is manifest that they did not deliver all things by letter, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit.  Therefore, let us think the TRADITION OF THE CHURCH also worthy of credit.  It is a Tradition, seek no farther.  Homilies on Second Thessalonians. 4:15

And Jerome, on Apostolic Succession:

Jerome (c. AD 376): Far be it from me to censure the successors or the apostles, who with holy words consecrate the body of Christ, and who make us Christians.  Letters 14:8.

Jerome (c. AD 376): Since the East, shattered as it is by the longstanding feuds, subsisting between its peoples, is bit by bit tearing into shreds the seamless vest of the Lord … I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a Church [Rome] whose faith has been praised by Paul.  I appeal for spiritual food to the Church where I have received the garb of Christ … Evil children have squandered their patrimony; you alone keep your heritage intact.  Letters 15:1

And Jerome, on the Church:

Jerome (c. AD 376):  As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter.  For this, I know, is the rock on which the Church is built!  This is the house where alone the Paschal Lamb can rightly be eaten.  This is the Ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails. Letters 15:2

These are just some other verses from the fathers they chose to quote.  But what of the other fathers they mentioned but did not quote?  What of Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, and Barnabas?  The quote from Ignatius is most famous:

Ignatius of Antioch (c. AD 110): Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.  Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it.  Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.  Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp acknowledges that the church was Catholic:

(c. AD 156): He was not merely an illustrious teacher, but also a preeminent martyr, whose martyrdom all desire to imitate, as it was completely consistent with the gospel of Christ.  Having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous [in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, the governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church through out the world.

Note, that the above quotes show the Church is called Catholic by the second century.  Clement also specifically acknowledges Apostolic Succession was begun by the apostles based on what they learned from the Lord:

Clement (AD 70): Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate.  For this reason, therefore, since they had obtained perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.  Letter to the Corinthians 441-2

In fact, Clement, who became Pope, and the other bishops were asked to address problems, in AD 70, even while the Apostle John was still alive:

Clement (AD 70): Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events that have happened to us, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points about which you consulted us: and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God…. Letter to the Corinthians I, 14, 63

Of course, all this are but a few quotes from the fathers that were named. There are dozens more from them and other fathers that show that the first Christians did not rely on scripture alone but rather placed authority in Scripture, the Church, and Tradition.

Thus, we come to the crux of the matter.  Their advice is to reject, “That Other God” and to make a radical recommitment to Christ with the S7 mysteries (Surrender, Scripture, Submission, Service, Sacrifice, Simplicity, and Suffering).  Have they done so?

Jesus Christ is, “the way, the TRUTH, and the life”.  Have you SURRENDERED to Truth if you use three quotes out of context to justify a premise you must know is false?

Have you accepted the teaching of SCRIPTURE, if you reject the Bible’s clear references to tradition and a Church founded by the Lord with authority?

Have you truly SUBMITTED if you reject authority of the Catholic Church in favor of a protestant church that by their own doctrines don’t claim authority?

What SERVICE are you giving to the Lord if you don’t participate in the works of the Church He founded?

Was it a SACRIFICE to write this book or take this stand?  Wouldn’t a true sacrifice be to set the example and join the Church founded by Jesus Christ?

Are the multiple protestant denominations an example of SIMPLICITY?  Isn’t it more likely that the Lord founded one Church, with “one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism”?

Finally, has taking this position caused you to suffer?  Wouldn’t taking the bold stance that there really is only one true Church cause you suffering among friends, family and collogues?  Isn’t that fact that conversion would cause you to suffer an indication of truth?

In the final analysis, that is why I found the book heartbreakingly disappointing.  How can this advice be accepted by the faithful if it is being offered by men who failed to heed their own advice?  I am not their conscience.  I hope they have success with their book.  I imagine that they will, but I also think that the success will be muted on the grand scale of things.  My guess is that this book probably won’t achieve the blockbuster real-world change that all Christians hope it would.  I don’t think the book will achieve real change because it doesn’t have the supernatural power it could have.  It cannot have this power as it does not do what it calls on the faithful to do.  It does not reject, “That Other God”.  Rather, it embraces “That Other God”.  It follows the easy path.  That path of Protestantism and “my church home”, where doctrine is easy and fits with what you want it to be.  Worse yet, it does by being disingenuous – by being untruthful – with quotes from the church fathers.  How can a book calling for a radical recommitment to truth include such a glaring disregard for truth and expect to be empowered by the incarnation of truth itself?

 

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Day 354 – The Beatific Vision

Today’s reading: Revelation 22

Today we reach the final chapter of the bible.  In this final chapter, we see two important apologetic points.

First, we see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a manner that sheds like on the filioque controversy. For those that don’t know what it controversy consists of it is basically a dispute between the Catholic and Orthodox churches regard the phrase “and the son” which was added to the Nicene Creed and reads,

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son, …

The controversy is a difficult point of theology but boils down to whether the phrases “through the son” and “from the son” mean essentially the same thing.  The orthodox argue that everything proceeds from God the Father and therefore “from the Father through the Son” is the correct formulation.  The Catholic Church argues that Jesus himself says that everything he does comes from the Father and with that in mind that “from the Father and the Son” is a correct formulation.  The Catholic Church’s position that both formulations, when considered in the context of all scripture, are both valid, seems to be supported by this verse of scripture:

Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city…

Revelation 22:1-2

Here we see the “water of life”, which is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit flowing forth from the Father and the Son.  Thus, as the Catechism says, “This legitimate complementarity [of expressions], provided it does not become rigid, does not affect the identity of faith in the reality of the same mystery confessed” (CCC 248).

The second point we see in this final chapter is what will be the ultimate joy of heaven:

There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. Rev 22:3-4

This is what heaven will be, it is called the Beatific Vision.  We will behold the actual face of God, we shall see him as he is.  Recall, that in Exodus, God said this is not possible for a mortal man:

And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD’, and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live.”

And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand upon the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

Exodus 33:19-23

In heaven, we will have come full circle.  We will have completed the process of sanctification.  We will be able to see God face to face and know him as he truly is.

FINISHED.

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Day 353 – The New Jerusalem

Today’s reading: Revelation 21

Today we see a glimpse of what existence will be like after the second coming.  The world, indeed the entire universe, “heaven”, will be transformed and made “new”.  This new heaven and earth will be a place of perfection with no mortal danger to us.  We can tell this because it (1) “the sea was no more” and in Jewish thought, the sea was a place of danger and (2) God will dwell among men and “wipe away every tear”.  Here is the verse:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;  and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:1-4

The question arises as to what is the city, the “new Jerusalem”?  It is the old earthly city of Jerusalem transformed and glorified?  Or is it an entirely new city?  To me, for several reasons, it seems more likely that it is an entirely new city.  Notice, what is said about the new Jerusalem:

And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.  It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

And he who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its breadth; and he measured the city with his rod, twelve thousand stadia; its length and breadth and height are equal.

Revelation 21:10-16

So John is shown the new city “coming down” out of heaven.  This implies that old city is not being transformed but that something new is being set down upon the earth.  One recalls Jesus words that, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2).  In other words, it could be argued that this city was “constructed” in heaven and is not being made present on the new earth.  Second, notice that the new city is a perfect cube, “its length and breadth and height are equal”.  We know that the earthly city of Jerusalem is not a perfect cube.  This again suggests that the new Jerusalem is something totally unique and different.

Finally, notice that the foundation of the city is laid on the twelve apostles.  Historically, we know that Jerusalem is destroyed soon after the advent of Christianity.  The foundation laid by the Apostles is not to the city of Jerusalem but of the Church.  The gates of the new city are named after the tribes of Israel and indeed Judaism was the first gateway into the Church and still provides the vitally important context to understand the revelation of Jesus. Therefore, based on the evidence I think the verses suggest that the new Jerusalem is, in fact, the Church.  This is corroborated by the fact that elsewhere the Church is described as, “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”.  Elsewhere the Church is described as the bride of Christ.

For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church;

Ephesians 5:29-32

And

I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

2 Cor 11:2

Finally, unlike Jerusalem, there is no temple in the new city because Christ is the new temple and being ever present in the city there is no need for a temple.

Tomorrow: Revelation 22

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Day 352 – The Thousand Year Reign

Today’s reading: Revelation 20

Today we read about the effect of Jesus’ triumph over the world.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain.

And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,

and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while.

Revelation 20:1-3

The gospel is the “great chain” that binds the devil.  It restrains him and prevents him from running loose over the world for “a thousand years”.  As with numbers generally in the Book of Revelation, you should not take the use of a thousand years literally.  We know for sure that two-thousand years have already passed since the resurrection.  Nations, both pagan and Christian, have risen and fallen.  The gospel has been preached and conquered great areas or land and great civilizations but is still taking root and spreading in many countries of the world.  The work of the thousand years is clearly still ongoing, so the use of “a thousand years” is certainly a metaphor.

After the end of this period of the gospel spreading and conquering earth the devil will be released for a short time to bring about the final battle:

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison

and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.

And they marched up over the broad earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city; but fire came down from heaven and consumed them,

and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Revelation 20:7-10

What’s key here is two things.  First, that the devil will only be released for the final battle when it is time to deceive the entire earth.  This implies that the gospel will first have to be spread to the entire earth before the final end times.  Second, notice that all the judgments and punishments associated with the horses, seals, and trumpets come before this final battle.  This is where the Book of Revelation is at its most difficult.  We know that many of the things predicted in Revelation repeat themselves.  For example, we know that the “red horse” from Chapter 6, had the power to take peace from the earth.  We know that down through history it is rare that there has been complete peace around the world.  So we know that the red horse has been with us many times.  So the question arises, will the judgments, plagues, and punishments of the early chapters come again in new and grander ways during this last reign/battle with Satan described in Chapter 20? It’s interesting to think about but in the end, it is mostly just speculation.  What’s important is what happens next:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.

And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire;

and if any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:11-15

This time, the defeat of the forces of darkness are complete and final.  Notice, again we see that all the dead are judged by their deeds, by “what they had done”.

Tomorrow: Revelation 21

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Day 351 – Glory in Heaven

Today’s reading: Revelation 19

In today’s reading, we see what happens in heaven after the beasts, the whore and Babylon have been vanquished.  There is much singing and rejoicing.  Then we read this:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying,

“Hallelujah! 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 be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Rev 19:6-8.

Here we see Angels in Heaven stating clearly that your “righteous deeds” (i.e., good works) are with you in heaven.  In Heaven, the linen garment you wear will be fashioned from your good deeds.  This is one of the clearest indications of the role of good works in salvation.  Stated again, good works don’t earn you heaven but they go with you heaven.  You wouldn’t want to be naked in Heaven, would you?

Then we read this phrase:

 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” …  Revelation19:9

I love verses like this because this verse is quoted in several Catholic masses.

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”.

Rev 19:11-16

We see Christ, returning in Glory.  He no longer as a helpless infant but now as a mighty king.  His legions of angels do not stand back singing as they did at his birth but now follow him on horses like a wave, a vast infinite army sweeping over creation.  He easily defeats the forces of the evil.  The sword he uses comes from his mouth and is the Gospel.  Thus, this first victory will be the triumph of the gospel over the world.  We see Jesus bringing justice to 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.  Christ is risen and the gospel is being preached, it will ultimately have victory over the enemy.

Tomorrow: Revelation 20

 

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Day 350 – The Fall of Babylon

Today’s reading: Revelation 18

Today’s reading is much more straightforward than many of the others in the book of Revelation.  Having previously established that Babylon is code for Rome, we see the fall of the great pagan city vividly described.  The destruction of the city is portrayed as a judgment upon it for its many sins, including martyring many faithful saints.  The many merchants that once filled the city and frequented it for commerce can do nothing to save it.  In fact, despite once having frequented the city they now “keep their distance”.  An angel throws a great millstone into the sea by the city to mark its final destruction.  In doing so, we are then presented with a list of things that are now absent from the city.  They are:

“… the sound of harpers and minstrels, … of flute players and trumpeters, … a craftsman of any craft …, and the sound of the millstone …, and the light of a lamp …, and the voice of bridegroom and bride.”  Revelation 18:22-24

These are things that represent the religious.   Music for the temples, craftsmen to build sacred objects, lamps to show the presence of God, and of course the Bride and groom.  Thus, we see that the destruction of the city will happen in conjunction with the loss of religion.

 

Tomorrow: Revelation 19

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Day 349 – The Whore of Babylon

Today’s reading: Revelation 17

Today we see the “Whore of Babylon”.  Oceans of ink have spilled on trying to define who she is and what or who she represents.  Of course, the primary point of contention is that some Protestants denominations accuse the Catholic Church of being the whore.  There are several things we can say as to this issue:

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.

Revelation 17:1-3

The angel takes John out of heaven and into a wilderness.  In Jewish thought, the Temple, Jerusalem, and Israel, all where to varying degrees, God’s dwelling place on earth.  “The Wilderness” was the outside, the pagan world beyond the borders of Israel.  Thus, the whore, does not exist within the sacred space but is outside, and therefore likely pagan.

The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

Revelation 17:4-6

Those who would argue that the Catholic Church is the whore often look to the passages here, which describe the robes and cup, as describing the vestments of Catholic priests and the chalice at Catholic masses.  However, the remainder of the verse calls that into question.  We know from history that “Babylon” was the code name for Imperial Rome.  Ancient Rome, being the greatest empire in history is, therefore “Babylon the great”.  We see that the harlot is, “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs”.  Whatever, your thoughts on the Catholic Church it is clear, as a historical fact, that the Church has great honor and reverence for anyone martyred in the name of Jesus.  The Church does not “get drunk” or martyrs but honors them with great reverence.  This further implies that the whore is not the Catholic Church.    Why then is the woman arrayed in what could be described as priestly attire?  Her attire does describe priests but in this case, Old Testament Jewish priests who had aligned themselves with Roman power.

The next verse, the angel explains the woman and clearly identifies all that is going on in this passage as having to do with Rome:

But the angel said to me, “Why marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.  The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition; and the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will marvel to behold the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.  This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated;  they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes he must remain only a little while.

Revelation 17:7-10

First, the beast being someone who “was, and is not…” is a reference to the rumor/fear/belief that the Roman emperor Nero was going to rise from the dead.  One must consider how odd it would be for such a belief to spread so relatively soon after the death and resurrection of the Lord.  Or maybe not so odd if one considers that the devil’s plan is often to “ape” or copy in a mocking way, that works of God.    Second, the “dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life…” are clearly the unsaved, pagans, those that reject the Lord, or atheists.  Thus, those that are associated with the beast are non-Christians.  Again, this identifies the beast as secular and pagan.  Third, the “seven heads are seven mountains” are easily identified as the seven hills on which Rome was built.  Opponents of the Church are quick to point out that the Vatican sits on a hill in Rome!  Of course, Vatican hill is across the river Tiber and not one of the original seven hills of imperial Rome.  Finally, the “seven kings” describe the Roman emperors up until this point in time.

The final description of the whore is a follows:

And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And the woman that you saw is the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

Revelation 17:16-18

Here, in the last verse of the Chapter, we see that the whore is directly identified as, “the great city”.  We know from Revelation 11:8, that this city is “where their Lord was crucified”, or Jerusalem.  We see here now that the “10 horns” who are either Roman governors or generals, together with the beast, which is Rome, end up hating the harlot and, “devour her flesh and burn her up with fire”.  This is in fact what happened when Rome eventually ended up turning on Israel and destroying her.

Thus, we can see from all the evidence within the chapter that the whore is Jerusalem, representing all of Israel who rejects the Messiah in favor of an alliance with imperial Rome.  This alliance ends up turning on them and destroying them.  This is exactly how history unfolded.

The question remains that since Revelation is both a book about the immediate future after the time it was written but also a book of prophecy that repeats itself continuously until the end times is there any possibility that the whore could refer to the Catholic Church?  I think the only answer is … maybe.  The very clear message of the chapter is that when the spiritual tries to make alliances with the secular it is essentially, a “deal with the devil”.  One could make the case that this has happened with the church at various periods down through history and also argue that it has met with similar results.  On the other hand, we know that as Christians and as Catholics in particular, we are not called to stop all participation in secular political affairs but rather to participate in them when good conscience allows.  Think, Sir Thomas Moore.  However, whether the Church will ultimately be the whore in the final version of this play remains an open question.  I think the best reason to think that the Church will not ultimately fill the role of the whore in the final end times comes from Chapter 19, (skipping ahead..).

After this, I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying,

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
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.”
Once more they cried,
“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”  And from the throne came a voice crying,

“Praise our God, all you his servants,
you who fear him, small and great.”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying,

“Hallelujah! 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 be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Revelation 19:1-8

Thus, we see here that the whore (or harlot) and the Church (or bride) are two different “people” at the end times.  One corrupted the earth with fornication and is judged and the other “made herself ready”.  We know from other scriptures (Ephesians 5) that the Church is the Bride of Christ and we know that the mystery of the Husband and Wife becoming one flesh applies to Christ and the Church.  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.

Tomorrow: Revelation 18

 

 

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Day 348 – The Great City Destroyed

Today’s reading: Revelation 16

Today’s reading we see the seven last plagues unleashed.  Specifically, the wrath of God falls on one city:

The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered great Babylon, to make her drain the cup of the fury of his wrath.  And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found; and great hailstones, heavy as a hundred-weight, dropped on men from heaven, till men cursed God for the plague of the hail, so fearful was that plague.  Rev 16:19-21

Remember, that in chapter 11:8 we saw that “the great city” is the city where “their Lord was crucified”.  So there is really no doubt that at a minimum “the great city” represents Jerusalem.  Whether other cities over the course of history may also be represented as the great city is an open question.

The next question that arises is what city is represented by “great Babylon”.  It’s hard to tell from the context whether in this passage whether it also represents Jerusalem, Rome or some other city. In my opinion, at this time in history among the Jewish people Babylon was the code name for Rome and therefore I think that in this context Babylon refers to Rome.  Although the case can certainly be made for other meanings I think understanding Babylon as Rome makes later uses of the name in the book of Revelation more understandable.

Revelation 16:19-21

Tomorrow: Revelation 17

 

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Day 347 – Seven Last Plagues

Today’s reading: Revelation 15

In today’s reading, we see seven more plagues being prepared to be unleashed.  Some details are key:

Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and wonderful, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.  And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands.

Revelation 15:1-2

This appears to be the same “sea of glass” from chapter 4 that surrounds the throne of God.  Thus, these plagues come directly from God but they are mediated out by the righteous in heaven.  Next:

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and wonderful are thy deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are thy ways, O King of the ages!  Revelation 15:3

Thus, it is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and the New that will bring about the end times.  Next:

After this I looked, and the temple of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, 6 and out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues, robed in pure bright linen, and their breasts girded with golden girdles.  And one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives for ever and ever; and the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were ended.  Rev 15:5-8

We see here several important details.  First, the plagues come out of the heavenly temple.  Second, it mentions the “four living creatures” who we previously identified as the Gospel writers.  Third, they are wearing linen with gold sashes that are evocative of priestly vestments.  Fourth, they hand the angel’s golden bowls.  Similar bowls were used in the Jewish temple to collect the blood of the sacrifices.  Thus, this scene is liturgical and has something to do with formal worship.

Tomorrow: Revelation 16

 

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Day 346 – The Harvest of the Earth

Today’s reading: Revelation 14

Today’s reading shows forth imagery from which we can make important inferences.  First, it this passage, we see that the torment of the damned in hell will be eternal:

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If any one worships the beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also shall drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and he shall be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”  Revelation 14:9-11

Thus, we can see that concepts like “soul sleep” and the animation of the souls of the unrighteous are false.  In the next passage, we see that works are relevant to salvation.

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!”

Rev 14:13

We also see this Eucharistic imagery:

Then I looked, and lo, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.  And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat upon the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat upon the cloud swung his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Then another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has power over fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.”  So the angel swung his sickle on the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God…

Revelation 14:14-19

The blood then flows out of the wine press and covers an area of two-hundred miles. This is the approximate size of Israel.  Thus, we see that it is the Eucharistic blood that will cleanse the nation of Israel.

Tomorrow: Revelation 15

 

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