December 14, 2011

Thursday after the Third Sunday in Advent

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 96, Is. 32, Mk. 6:1-6
Evening - Ps.93, 98, Is. 33:1-34:8, Rev. 20:1-6

Commentary
Revelation 20:1-6

Tonight's reading takes us from the era of the Roman Empire to the distant future of the Millennial Reign. Here the persecuted Christians are allowed to see that Rome has passed away under the judgment of God, and even the devil, their greatest enemy, will be defeated by God. The world of strife and sin, in which they dwell, will be put under the complete rule of Christ. His ways will be the dominant ones, evil will be cast to the outer fringes, and the era written of in Micah 4:1-8 and Isaiah 11:6-10 will become reality. This era begins when God, by His angel, imprisons the devil in the bottomless pit for a thousand years.

It is important to note the progression in Revelation. It begins by warning the churches of the intensifying of the persecution that has already begun. It continues by warning them to put aside all distractions and sins because only those who are fully dedicated to Christ will be able to stand firm in the faith in the face of such tribulation. Revelation then moves to the fate of those who cause the death and suffering of the Christians. They will not go unpunished. God will vanquish them with His power, and the Church will continue by His power. First to fall under the wrath of God are the unbelievers of Israel, where prophets were murdered, Christ was crucified, and the Church is persecuted. Their fate is shown in chapters 4-11, concluding with the fall of Jerusalem. Next God deals with the Roman Empire, the great whore drunk with the blood of the saints. Rome's judgment is accomplished in chapters 12-19. Yet the one who is behind the persecutions is still at large. What will happen to him whom the book of Revelation calls the dragon and the devil? Will he go on forever raising up new enemies of the Church? Will Christians always suffer under his hand?

The answer is, "no." He, too, will be struck down by the power of God. He will be cast into the pit for a thousand years, during which the world will see great advances in evangelism and Godliness, and the Church will enjoy peace and holiness. The souls of the martyrs (20:4) will rejoice in Heaven as the Church on earth rejoices here. The details are not made clear to us. We see the outlines of this event through a glass darkly. But even if we see these things vaguely (and I think God intended vagueness here) we do see them. We know that they will come about. Satan will be bound and God's Kingdom will reign upon earth. This is the meaning of the verses we read tonight. Grasp this, and you have made great progress in understanding the book of Revelation and God's plan for this world.

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