December 11, 2011

Monday after the Third Sunday in Advent

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.84, Is. 29:1-14, Mk. 5:1-20
Evening - Ps. 75, 76, Is. 29:15, Rev. 18:11-24

Commentary
Revelation 18:11-24

Tonight let us pause to retrace the sequence of events in this portion of the book of Revelation, which began with chapter 12. The primary message is the fall of Rome and the end of its persecution of the Church. In chapter 12 the beast with seven heads and ten horns is shown persecuting the Church of God. Chapter 13 shows the beast receiving a commission from Satan (the dragon) to persecute the Church, yet chapter 14 shows the people of God still holding to the faith and singing the song of the redeemed. 14 also gives a stern warning that all who follow the beast will suffer its fate. Chapter 15 shows the wrath of God on the beast, and the saints who have come through the persecution worshiping God in Heaven. 16 continues the judgment of God on the beast, and 17 finally reveals the beast's identity. It is the city that sits on seven hills, rules over many nations, and murders the people of God. This can be none other than the empire of Rome, which was beginning an empire wide persecution of the Church that would continue for generations. Nero, the Roman emperors, the city of Rome, and the Roman Empire are all included in the symbolism of the beast.

Chapter 18 pronounces the fall of Rome, calling it "Babylon" as Peter also called it in 1 Peter 5:13. In verses 9-19 the wicked lament her fall, but in verses 20-24 the Church rejoices. Her joy is not that people will suffer and die in the calamities that will befall Rome. It is that the persecution will end and the faith and perseverance of the Christians will be vindicated. The blood of prophets and saints will no longer run in the streets of Rome.