In the fifth chapter of Revelation we find The Lamb- who was crucified under Roman authority-now standing in power and glory over all things. The Lamb now speaking power into his followers, reminding them that THEY the followers of Jesus, have been made to be a kingdom and priests, that those who follow Jesus will reign on the Earth. The end of the Roman dominance and the beginning of the new creation would have been an incredible vision of endurance to all the persecuted Christians.
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain (BY ROME), to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
Rome my dear friends, has not won and every creature on heaven and earth will know this to be true. The Romans-who displayed death as entertainment in the arena. Killing men by use of beasts-their evil will be returned onto them. The blood of all the Christians who have been slain by Rome will be avenged! (6v10) God will come on those who persecuted his Children. Stand fast in this hope my brothers!
In (7v9) we find that God has taken back the world from the Empire. People from every nation, tribe, every tongue now stood before the throne of God.
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
The good news of the Romans was “Salvation can be found in none save Caesar” but here we declare “Salvation belongs to OUR God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” The one YOU killed. The Palm branches were symbols of the last time the Jews defeated the Empire by pushing them out of the temple. The Maccabees defeated the Seleucids and entered the holy city waving their palm branches.
7 But now, carrying green palm branches and sticks decorated with ivy, they paraded around, singing grateful praises to him who had brought about the purification of his own Temple.-2 Maccabees 10
As the trumpets are sounded (ch8,9) an eagle (the symbol of Rome’s military) comes flying in announcing Rome’s destruction. Soon following we have imagery of a NEW Exodus. Fitting in the drawing out much of the OT imagery. We have the sacrificial lamb of Passover-the symbol of judgement for all who oppose God. And salvation for all who do not. John writes of seven plagues that will destroy the earth and demand the people repent and turn to the Lord. But again the people refuse salvation.
The story of Revelation is the new Passover. Those who endure for the Kingdom of God will be saved and those who persecute and reject the kingdom will not be spared. Be marked with the new blood. The blood of Christ.
John is saying “My friends, God will take care of Rome and every enemy that may ever persecute us. We will be the victors. Endure to the end!” As the Israelites were delivered from Egypt so too will we be delivered from Rome. God did not forget his people in Egypt and he has not forgotten us!
In Chapters 11-13, the language that continues captures many other traditions of “the end of the age” many of them not Christian or Jewish. The Woman and the Dragon draws from the birth of Apollo narrative where a dragon chases a pregnant woman. Here the Messiah is born. And the dragon pursues the mother and attempts to kill her Children-Christians. In the thirteenth chapter, like Rome, this beast of Revelation wages war on the Jewish people and the temple and rules the entire world. “Who is like Rome, who can wage war against them?” (13v4) The forty-two months is likely a reference to the Jewish Revolt that went from 66AD to 70AD and culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Chapter 13 picks up many of the events and beliefs that surrounded the Emperor Nero. Whose name “Neron Kaisar” in Hebrew has the numeric value 666. The other beasts are those under Rome (governors) who enforced the powers of the Emperors on the people.
“Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”
All who do the evil of Rome will be destroyed.
“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.”
This reveals the purpose of John’s apocalypse. To call the faithful into patient endurance. Into hope that God will take care of the enemy and bring salvation to His people. Like the days of the Exodus.
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
Even in death you will find victory.
Chapters 16-18 redraw the events of Exodus again. What happened to Egypt will happen to Rome.
“The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.”
Rome was built on seven hills. Once Rome has fallen, a period of grace will fall on its people. “Come out of her. So you will not share in her sins.” God will cast his judgement. And the reign of the Empire will cease. (18v21-24)
And now John instills the image of hope for the people.
“19 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
3 And again they shouted:
The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:
5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying:
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
both great and small!”
6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
The fall of Rome will be like a wedding feast for those who have endured the hardships of the empire for the sake of Christ. On that day God will be found near his people. If you endure to the end you will be invited to the wedding supper. Do not forsake hope.
John declared Christ is coming in power to defeat the beast. The white horses-used by Romans to celebrate their victories-stood before the open doors of Heaven. And on this horse stood the Word of God. God Judges Rome. God Judges the Dead. Those who held true to the kingdom were spared and those who served the enemy were condemned. All were judged according to what they had done. And those who were not loyal would share in the defeat of Rome.
And when this day came, the new heaven and the new earth would stand. God’s dwelling place would be HERE. Out of the ashes of the old new life would spring out. From death would come resurrection.
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
Once Rome was defeated John insisted that all would be under God. The evil of the Emperor wouldn’t even slightly exist. Because Christ has reconciled the entire creation. And God has returned to his people. And the holy city that was once destroyed by the beast has been renewed. And in this holy city there will be no need for a temple. Because God’s dwelling place will be in and with all things.
God will re-root the tree we were taken from; the Tree of Life. This tree will be the tree that unites humanity with one another and with God.
Creation will be restored from it’s fall.
Come, Lord Jesus.
How Revelation was received and what are we to do with it?
Rome did not fall in the lifetime of John. Nor in the lifetime of those who first heard this writing. History shows that in the 100 years that followed, Christians had filled the Roman Empire. Tertullian writes “We have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods.” Christianity was illegal in the Empire, this large presence of Christians led to great persecution. But for some reason, the movement expanded.
How in the face of all of this persecution did the Christians endure? What inspired them?
Revelation. Revelation inspired them.
Revelation is a call for Christians throughout history to believe that good will always win. It should inspire us to face any and all persecution for the sake of the Kingdom. The hope of everything placed right. The hope of the renewal of all things. That we, like Christ, absorb the evil of the world onto ourselves. And that we never forsake what is right, and true, and good. Because we have a mighty God. Because we believe in love.
And we believe in justice.
Endure my brothers.
Endure till the end.
Come, Lord Jesus.