December 8, 2011

Friday after the Second Sunday in Advent

Lectionary

Morning - Ps 73, Is. 24:16, Mk. 4:21-29
Evening - Ps. 77, Is. 26:1-19, Rev. 15 and 16

Commentary
Revelation 15 and 16

Chapter 15 shows more of the plagues to be unleashed on the persecuting Romans, and the everlasting blessings of those who overcome the beast through faith in Christ. There is an intentional contrast drawn between the persecutors and the persecuted. The persecutors suffer immeasurable sorrow in time and eternity; the persecuted suffer for a while on earth, but live in blessed joy in eternity. The persecuted may have died rather than receive the mark of the beast by bowing to Caesar, and the persecutors may appear to be the winners in this battle. But, in reality, it is those who refused the beast and bore their afflictions who are the victors (15:2). They are the ones who dwell in Heaven and sing the song of Moses (Ex. 15:1-21).

Chapter 16 shows the angels of chapter 15 pouring out seven vials of wrath upon those who have the mark of the beast (16:2). Not only did these people worship the beast, they also participated with Rome in the persecution of the Church. They have "shed the blood of saints and prophets" (16:6). As in Rev. 13:1, the sea and rivers represent lost and rebellious humanity (16:3 & 4). Specifically they represent Rome, which rules the unGodly, and actually leads the nations into unGodliness. Turning the sea to blood represents the judgment of Rome and the death of the Roman Empire. It represents famine and destruction and war, but also the second death of eternal condemnation. It is noteworthy that the symbolic drying of the Euphrates prepares the way for invasion (16:12). As John wrote Revelation, Rome controlled the west, but other empires and peoples held the east. As Rome began to weaken, eastern tribes often raided the Roman boundaries.

The battle of Armageddon (16:16) symbolises the battles of Rome with the invading barbarians. The kings of verse 14 are those nations, then under the heel of Roman occupation, which, seeing Rome's weakened state, invade and harass the frontiers, and even penetrate to the heart of the city of Rome. Thus, verse 19 pronounces that Babylon (Rome) "came in remembrance before God" who gave unto her "the cup of the fierceness of His wrath" (16:19).