As I’ve mentioned before, the strands tell about the various aspects of God’s judgments on the world. Today’s reading deals with the strand of prophecies dealing with the finishing of God’s wrath on the material world.
Har-Magedon — 16:13ff
Chapter 16 deals with God’s plagues on the world in ways that are intended to remind us of the plagues of Egypt. This is not accidental, since the plagues on Egypt were the prelude to Israel’s liberation, like these plagues are a prelude to the liberation of God’s people and even of the creation:
Romans 8:19-23 “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”
But as the effect of these plagues of God mount up the forces of evil gather in an effort to make one great push, for the war of the great day of God. The place where they gather is called Har-Magedon (Armageddon, otherwise known as Meggido), referencing a hill fortress on the western side of the plain of Jezreel. It is at this “place” that suddenly the Lord appears and decisively vanquishes all His enemies (v. 15) — “it is done” (v. 17).
Are these plagues literal? Is this great battle going to happen literally at the hill (Har) of Meggido. Remember this is a mystery, broad outlines of God’s strategy without the details, usually clear only after the fact. So, maybe, maybe not — I’m guessing “not literal”; what I am certain about is that it will happen just as God has revealed it. And what we most need to get out of it all is actually in v. 15, hang on! Hang on even when the sky seems to be (maybe literally) falling, even when the force of evil are gathering in gargantuan numbers against the saints, even when it all seems like a lost cause — because Jesus just may be “right around the corner”.
The great harlot, taken down by the beast — 17:1ff
How perfectly ironic that the great harlot, called Babylon, a great materialism tool in the hand of Satan, should be taken down by another great tool in Satan’s hand (v. 16). God, just as in the case of Assyria, uses another pagan power to punish the first. God just lets evil men punish other evil men — not unlike how murderers are often reputed in prisons to abuse and punish sex offenders.
This prophecy, like many of the Revelation prophecies probably are also, is likely to be a double prophecy — something to be fulfilled in the near future and in the more distant future. In the near future Babylon seems clearly to be Rome, since she is sitting on 7 hills. Will the more distant “Babylon” fulfillment be also sitting on 7 hills? Maybe. Is the more distant “Babylon” Rome again? Maybe. Will it be literal Babylon? Not likely, since Babylon was prophesied (in Isaiah and Jeremiah) never to be rebuilt. What it represents is a city or place that is the financial and trade center of the world, that seduces the world with its money and corruption. But it’s economic might couldn’t save it from destruction; though men fight for it thinking that it offers them great protection, money is a treacherous shield against destruction.
What would that city or place be today? I’ll let you assess that. But the point here for us is to resist being seduced or corrupted with the materialism of the great harlot — a tough maneuver to pull off and sustain in a consumer society like ours, wouldn’t you agree?
Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great — 18:1ff
Her fall was to be swift and complete. It will cause the leaders of the nations, the merchants of the markets, and the peoples of the world to mourn — the source of all the material wealth and sensuality is gone, forever gone! Why? “In her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth!” (.v 24). When wealth and fortune become the prime value of one’s life, the value of the lives of others, the value of right, the value of truth, the value of integrity, of compassion, of faith fades into the shadows. Prophets, saints, and whoever else might oppose them are really quite dispensable. Money becomes the thing, the measure, the metric for success and meaning and even goodness (right). No wonder Babylon falls so completely and quickly — and justly. You can hear the celebration echoing from the next room (the next chapter)!
See you tomorrow, Lord willing