Reading Through The New Testament in 2016 - December 12 & 13 2016 - Revelations 8&9
For the first time this year we are putting two days together in one reflection. You’ll notice as you read Revelation 8 &9 that they go together, so for that reason this will cover today and tomorrow.
These two chapters are difficult to write reflections on because of the complicated metaphors. But, that’s what makes Revelation so interesting: the larger than life images, the depictions of evil and good and how they battle against each other..
This is what Eugene Peterson says about understanding Revelation:
The task of the apocalyptic imagination is to provide images that show us what is going on in our lives. “If there are mysterious powers around,” a character in a Saul Bellow novel says, “only exaggeration can help us see them. We all sense that there are powers that make the world—we see that when we look at it—and other powers that unmake it.” . . . Flannery O’Connor, in answer to a question about why she created such bizarre characters in her stories, replied that for the near-blind you have to draw very large, simple caricatures.
Revelation uses dramatic imagery to get our attention to reveal what is in front of our very eyes.
Take for example this imagery:
And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. Rev 9:4-6
Think of the imagery of locusts that sting like scorpions tormenting people to the point they wish they were dead.
Where do we see that in our world today?
Who around us are being tormented to the point they want to die? We live in an age where Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18. We live in a time where death becomes a welcome alternative to the torment people experience in this life.
David Foster Wallace was a promising and talented novelist who took his life in 2008. He battled with depression and suicidal thoughts for years. He candidly said this in an interview:
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
Revelation gives us stark imagery of a world where people have to choose between a burning building or jumping.
This is the world many people live in today.
What does revelation say is the answer?
Those with the seal of God on their forehead are spared.
There’s a way to overcome through the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.
There’s a God who wants to free us from the locusts that sting like scorpions.
Revelation gives us the warning that it isn’t too late to turn to Him.
Revelation tells us that we don’t have to jump to our death from the burning building, we can jump into His arms.
Revelation reminds us that who or what we live for matters in the end.
This is how chapter 9 ends:
The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
There are times when depression, emptiness, anxiety, and so on lead us to want to live for something better. They make life as it is so uncomfortable that we have to change.
Yet, Revelation tells us that there’s always repentance. There’s a chance to change, it’s not too late.
So, today, come to Him, jump into his arms, bring your depressions and anxieties to him. It’s not too late today to leave the idols that leave you more empty than when you came to them.
But be warned, don’t wait until it is.