The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch men with fire; men were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give him glory. The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was in darkness; men gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
No, I’m not saying global warming is fulfilling Scripture! Or if you arrange the clues, it proves that political party over there is the Beast! That’s not the value of Revelation. As I said here, Revelation was written as Rome was beginning to look toward persecuting Christians as a matter of course. It was long removed from the days when St. Paul could appeal to Rome to avoid persecution by the Jewish community. Jewish Christians had long been banished from their communities for following Jesus by the time of Revelation. Now Rome was emerging as every bit the threat.
Plus, Rome had been going through some pretty tumultuous times in general. Then you had the destruction of Jerusalem that some believers thought would usher in the Last Judgement, but didn’t. Shaky faith, persecution, societal upheaval. The message of Revelation, no matter how you parse the horns and frogs, is persevere. Hold on to the Gospel of Christ. Do not give in, do not surrender, do not receive the mark, stay firm even if everyone around us is receiving the mark and cursing God and you.
A great many today are abandoning the Faith one way or another. They’re trying to jettison the world the Church helped build, and change the Church to justify doing so. They’re watering down the Gospel. They are throwing down teachings and truths that even common sense, much less divine revelation, declares indisputable. And those are the ones still going to church each Sunday. Outside of those a vast number is abandoning the Faith altogether, renouncing the Gospel and God, and joining the prophet and his minions.
That’s the setting for the call to hold firm. Not because there is some wonderful rapture that will bail us out of the tough times. If that were the case, there would be no need to hold firm. Instead, the message is that no matter how bad it gets – and the cyclical revelations in the book show things get worse, and worse and worse – we must hold firm and that’s that.
The thing proclaimed in so many churches today bears little resemblance to almost any version of Christianity taught before the 20th Century. But there is a remnant, a faithful remnant, and that is as much the target audience of Revelation as anything. Not that those abandoning the faith or allying with Caesar aren’t invited to repent. See above. The statements ‘they did not repent’ are stated with a sense of sadness. With everything collapsing we could repent and run to God. Yet so many won’t.
But those of us who do? Be inspired and be comforted. God will not abandon the faithful no matter how many abandon God. And the increasingly common idea that it won’t matter what we do to God, because God is honor bound to reward us with eternal paradise? That’s just a backhanded way of cursing and mocking God.
Just some thoughts as we head into Holy Week increasingly aware of our surroundings.
|The fifth bowl|