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The Gospel From Patmos
Everyday Insights For Living
From The Last Book Of The Bible
Daily Devotional
Friday, October 19, 2018

            (The angel) said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples and crowds and nations and languages. The ten horns, which you saw, and the beast, these will come to hate the prostitute and she will be made desolate and naked and they will eat her flesh and burn her up with fire. Rev 17:15-16.



            Texts like this are disturbing to many readers of Revelation, and understandably so. A woman is brutalized, cannibalized and left naked and desolate. That sounds like a major atrocity to contemporary ears. While the Babylon represented here was certainly brutal and violent “herself,” does that justify the use of such brutal and violent images in a biblical book? If this scene were depicted on television or in a movie, we would rush to turn it off so our children will not be scarred by it.
            But perhaps we are not seeing the whole picture in this text. I am reminded of a business establishment in Philadelphia that put up a scandalous sign: “We would rather do business with a thousand Arab terrorists than with a single Jew.” Now Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love and has plenty of sensitive people in it (including many Jews). You would think that crowds of people would have come to protest that sign. I would have expected the governor of Pennsylvania to call out the National Guard in case of rioting. Yet not a single person protested the sign, not even in the Jewish community! What was going on?
            You had to see the sign in its larger context to understand. The business establishment was Goldberg’s Funeral Home. If anyone was outraged, it was Arab terrorists and they weren’t talking! The sign was not an expression of hostility to Jews, but rather of compassion, a wish that Jews would have long life.
            The violence in Revelation is also a matter of context. On the surface it appears that evil is overcome by the use of forces just as brutal and violent as Babylon was. Does that mean God is in the right because He has the might? Only if you ignore the larger context in the Book of Revelation. You see, the agent of God’s power is the Lamb (Rev 17:14, 17) that was slain (Rev 5:6). The violence by which Jesus conquers Babylon is ultimately the violence done to Him.
            Although there are images of battle in the Book of Revelation, God’s people are never called to use violence in His behalf. They are called instead to suffer as the Lamb suffered. They are to overcome, not with the sword, but by the word of their testimony (Rev 12:11). In the end Babylon’s violence leads to her own destruction (Rev 13:10; 18:5-7). But the sacrifice of the Lamb and His followers results in a world without violence (Rev 21:4).



            Lord, I am in awe as I consider the self-sacrificing path You took to end hatred and violence in the universe. I want to be more like You.




 
 
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