Saturday, May 27, 2006

Fallen!

The dragon and the beasts have their day, but eventually it comes to an end, and all who have aligned themselves with them will share their lot. Chapter 18 of Revelation is a long dirge over fall of Babylon (pagan Rome), which grew rich through greed and lust, and which lies in burning ruins in this apocalyptic scenario. (I suppose all scenarios in the book called Apocalypse are by definition apocalyptic.)

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons…for all nations have drunk the wine of her impure passion, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich with the wealth of her wantonness… her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities… she glorified herself and played the wanton…so shall her plagues come in a single day, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she shall be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.”

There’s a repeating refrain here: “Alas, alas, great city… in one hour has your judgment come… Alas, alas, great city… in one hour all your wealth has been laid waste.” This ought to be for us both consolation and warning. The consolation is that evil will not triumph forever, that the righteous and the poor will not be persecuted and crushed forever, that God’s justice and judgment will ultimately prevail. And the execution of his justice will be swift and complete: “in one hour has your judgment come.” The warning applies to us to the extent we have allied ourselves with Babylon, with the powers of darkness, ill-gotten wealth, or any sort of inordinate pleasure or power, especially when it is enjoyed at the expense of others. Everything will go: “in one hour all your wealth has been laid waste.” Whatever we try to cling to, hoard, or use for self-aggrandizement in any form will be wrested from our grasp and destroyed by the judgment of God.

All this mourning and lamentation of wicked world leaders and greedy mega-corporations is contrasted with the rejoicing of the saints and martyrs and all those who were faithful to the Gospel and did not follow the ways (“receive the mark”) of the beast, but who stood with Christ at great personal cost and suffering. As the citadel of evil burns, we hear: “Rejoice over her, O heaven, O saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” Even though there is still a final battle to be waged on earth to definitively dunk the dragon in the lake of fire, heaven is already celebrating: “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; he has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication… Alleluia! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory…”

This is meant to encourage the beleaguered faithful as they wonder if justice will ever come, if truth and goodness will ever prevail. Well, God answers with a resounding Yes! It is not given us to know the seasons and times of that which the Father has fixed by his own authority, but He gives us glimpses of the ultimate victory and asks us to trust, with patient endurance and hope. The Lord will always have the last word, and those who stick with Him to the end will have the last laugh, as it were, or rather the everlasting joy. For mighty is the Lord God who brings all before his awesome tribunal.

Little Hannah, one of the anawim, the humble faithful ones of the Lord, burst out in prophetic song when the Lord at last came to her aid: “Speak boastfully no longer, nor let arrogance issue from your mouths. For the Lord is an all-knowing God, a God who judges deeds. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry hunger no more… The Lord will guard the footsteps of his saints, but the wicked shall perish in the darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; He will thunder against them from heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth…” (1Samuel 2:3-10).

Even if Babylon has not yet fallen; even if the dragon is still at large; even if the kings and the merchants are still gloating over their power and profits—know that the Lord is God, that his day is coming, and that in a single hour all the wickedness of the world will be overthrown. Therefore know whose side to be on, and with whom to persevere unto the end.