December 7, 2011

Thursday after the Second Sunday in Advent

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 62, 63, Is 13:1-5, 16-22, Mk. 4:1-20
Evening - Ps. 66, Is. 13:6-15, Rev. 14

Commentary
Revelation 14

Chapter 13 ended with the Church under the severe affliction of Roman persecution. Chapter 14 opens with a picture of the Church in victory. The 144,000, delivered from the judgment of Jerusalem, are joined by a great multitude of the redeemed praising God with a new song to God in Heaven. Verse 4 refers to spiritual chastity as opposed to spiritual adultery. The Church does not profane itself with the adultery of Caesar worship. It remains chaste for God alone.

The second angel (14:8) tells of the fall of Babylon for making the nations follow her in fornication. Babylon is Rome. Just as John symbolically called Jerusalem "Sodom and Egypt" (11:8), he symbolically calls Rome "Babylon" because it persecutes the Church as Babylon once persecuted Israel. But Rome also forced idolatry on her people. This was done through the official pageants and ceremonies of the Empire, and also through the cult of emperor worship which required all subjects of Rome to offer a sacrifice and prayer to the Emperor. The second angel pronounces the doom of Rome for this idolatry.

The third angel (14:9-11) proclaims the doom of those who worship the beast (emperor). This message is to Christians hoping to avoid persecution by making offerings and prayers to Caesar. To some it appeared very harmless. They didn't have to believe Caesar was a god, or really worship him; they could just go through the motions, and Rome would let them live in peace. But to God it was a betrayal of all that He is and stands for. It was placing a man in God's place and obeying a man rather than God. Above all else, it was placing their own selves and desires above obedience to God, and that is the worst kind of idolatry, for which the punishment is torment with fire and brimstone forever (14:10-11).

In contrast to those who worship the beast, those who die in the Lord, meaning to remain faithful to God, even at the cost of their own lives, are blessed because they rest from their labours and their works follow them (14:12-13). They will be like the 144,000 and the myriads of martyrs worshiping God in the opening verses of the chapter. They will reside in blessings and peace forever.

Verses 14-20 return to the wrath of God upon Rome for her persecution of the Church. In a graphic image of suffering and death His angels are compared to reapers who harvest grapes and crush them in a press to extract the juice. The press is the wrath of God, and the meaning is clear, the blood of the Romans will flow as they have made the blood of the Church flow (14:20).