If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.
The last four sections of the Bible in a Year blog, covering the whole of the Book of Revelation, are being uploaded together (just because I was without Internet access this week).
30 December. Revelation chapters 12-18
I suggested yesterday that in reading Revelation we should focus on the references to humanity rather than to the symbolic or mystical beasts. In these chapters the references to humanity include several specifically to the followers of Christ. There are many references to those who have died as martyrs and are shown among the angels worshipping God. But there are also references to those still on earth in the times of persecution during which the book is set.
In 12:17, “those who keep God’s commands and hold fast to their testimony about Jesus” are opposed by the dragon that had previously opposed the “woman crowned with twelve stars” who probably represents Judaism. In 13:7 another beast is given power to conquer God’s holy people. In 17:6 the “prostitute called Babylon” (whose seven heads represent seven hills, and therefore is traditionally identified with the city of Rome) symbolically gets drunk on the blood of those who were killed for their testimony about Jesus. Clearly the Church is faced with persecution, not only from Rome but from the other and less easily identified foes. And that persecution continues today – just this week there has been another attack on a Christian church in Egypt where Christians are a minority, and it continues unwitnessed in many places around the world. The same is true, of course, of followers of other religions, as with the Rohingya Muslims now being driven out of Burma.
What the book of Revelation portrays is a world in which, due to the normally unseen forces of evil behind visible events, those who believe in God and try to live his way will always be at risk of attack from those forces of evil for which God, Jesus and those who belong to them will always be seen as enemies.
But it also portrays a world in which, sooner or later, those who do not believe in God or do not try and live his way will eventually find both God and the forces of evil turning on them, and they will suffer even more. The lucky ones in all this are those who know God and are rescued by him from the worst of the suffering and taken to heaven. Everyone else is shown suffering unbelievable torment, not in hell but on earth.