Monday, April 3, 2023

In these changing times

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.

Revelation 16.8-11

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


  1. (Tom New Poster)
    As long as the Roman Empire was in good shape, most Christians were ignored rather than persecuted. It started with Nero needing a scapegoat, and early persecution was largely reactive: challenge Christians if you find them, but (largely) don't bother to look. Read Trajan's rescripts to Pliny: "Don't ask, don't tell", no anonymous accusations, etc. Persecution switched from reactive to proactive under Decius (about 250 AD), when a new set of provincial soldiers (the so-called sergeant-major emperors) needed to prove themselves "more Roman than the Romans" (sound familiar?) and started hunting in Rome, north Africa and the East, to demand that Christians honor the gods of Rome to restore Roman glory. It peaked in the decade after 300, but even then many local governors had other things to do and (like Constantius in Britain), were content to topple a church here, burn a gospel book there, but leave things generally alone.
    So the pattern will not start with lions in the arena (which might upset the Greens), and although massacres may happen, it will be more like a slow, downward grind: you can't work here, you can't get a degree there, can't build a new church or run a school, won't be protected from mobs if you speak in public, shut up and keep safe (for the time being). Those will be the challenges.

    1. That's true. It didn't start with the worst. It never does. That's why as the world keeps moving the bar and we keep hearing 'stop your whining', it's clear the world can keep moving the bar. The thought that a Christian would lose a job or face a lawsuit for holding to historical Christian values regarding sexuality would have sounded like Frank Burns paranoia 30 years ago. Now it's practically mandated in schools and corporations that you go along with and accept LGTBQ activism or else. Now we have six people killed because of the Church's stance (and we all know it), and yet silence. No, it won't start with feeding Christians to the lions, but we're fast learning that when it does happen, most - including Christians and our leaders - will stand by and keep quiet.

  2. With all due respect, you're starting to sound like this guy.

    1. Interesting. I wouldn't imagine that if someone is reflecting on the Scriptures.

    2. "With all due respect, you're starting to sound like this guy."

      You might as well add St. John the Baptist, Jesus, all the Prophets of the old testament and anyone else that prophecies in the name of God. To the lukewarm the Word is an embarrassment.

  3. You're correct David. We are all called to evangelize whether in writing, voice or actions. You're last two posts on Revelation are much needed in a world that pooh poohs spirituality or outright denies it's existence. Gnashing of teeth anyone?

    1. Years ago a teen at a youth conference said something that I've not forgotten. When asked by the fellow who was leading the group about why young people were abandoning the historical faiths, some kid said it flat: They don't think most adults believe it either. And I think the point was adults in churches. Sometimes I fear we've become functioning atheists in Christian garb, bringing out a sort of faded biblical worldview on Sundays, mostly in the morning. Then it's back to accepting the World's premises and perspectives, despite the growing dumpster fire of the world. Getting back to the basics is not a bad way to counter that.


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