1 Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion. With him were one hundred forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 I heard a sound from heaven that was like the sound of rushing water and loud thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3 They sing a new song in front of the throne, the four living creatures, and the elders. And no one could learn the song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. 4 They weren’t defiled with women, for these people who follow the Lamb wherever he goes are virgins. They were purchased from among humankind as early produce for God and the Lamb. 5 No lie came from their mouths; they are blameless.
6 Then I saw another angel flying high overhead with eternal good news to proclaim to those who live on earth, and to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
8 Another angel, a second one, followed and said, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She made all the nations drink the wine of her lustful passion.”
9 Then another angel, a third one, followed them and said in a loud voice, “If any worship the beast and its image, and receive a mark on their foreheads or their hands, 10 they themselves will also drink the wine of God’s passionate anger, poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will suffer the pain of fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. 11 The smoke of their painful suffering goes up forever and always. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, and those who receive the mark of its name.” (Common English Bible)
As I read this passage, the first thing I have to remind myself is that this part of Scripture was written to the church as an encouragement. I have to remind myself that this is written to the church, because the passage sounds downright scary. I believe what Jonathan Edwards said about fearsomness of being under God's wrath. I don't want to experience this kind of judgment, and it is only a confidence in God's saving grace that can hear even this passage as good news.
What I think is happening through this passage is that God is encouraging believers to stay strong and endure in their faith. He is challenging us to not put our faith in the powers of this world, because they are in fact temporary. Babylon may seem strong, but she will fall in God's good time. As will the kingdoms of this world, including the American kingdom. Will our faith endure in the midst of this hardship? This seems to be what God is asking.
He is doing more than asking or encouraging though. He is pleading with us. Stay strong. Remember where your victory is. Trust in God's power, not in earthly power. Ultimately, your life and eternity is in his hands. Endure!
(this post is part of the Common English Blog Tour)