One of my favorite teachers was Professor Bob Reid at Baylor. Not only did I take an Intro to Western Civilization with him, but I also took every other course he taught if I could fit it into my schedule. So I learned about Greece and Rome from a brilliant teacher and lecturer. He was smart and animated, which served to keep us all interested. In our course on Rome, he lamented the destruction of Rome by the Barbarians in 476 A. D. The Barbarians received their collective name because their language sounded like “barbarbar” to the refined Roman ears.
John foresaw that fall some four hundred years before in the late first century. Shortly after John’s prediction the Emperor Trajan would expand Rome’s hegemony to include current day Spain, France and England. Trajan also followed the examples of Domitian and Vespasian in persecuting Christians relentlessly. John caught a glimpse of heaven when Rome fell. All of the empire’s substantial commercial power vanished. Those who had been harmed by the Roman Emperors rejoiced at the defeat of their persecutors. This is the background for this chapter of Revelation.
Heaven pays attention to the happenings on earth. Once again Revelation reveals something about the way Christians relate to the world around us. As we give thanks for good government and the benefits that accrue to people who live in a free nation, we also remain circumspect about the sins of the world around us. The angel in heaven called Christians to come out of Rome so as not to share in her sins. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Discernment drives us to prayer.” With eyes open, citizens of heaven always hold our citizenship on earth loosely. We celebrate righteousness and confront sin. Only one Kingdom is eternal, so we set our hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. We seek his Kingdom first above all else and trust that the things we need will be given to us.
Our faith frees us from an “end justifies the means” way of thinking. Christians care about means as well as ends. Rome believed that Rome itself was the ultimate good. In their minds, this justified their violence against others. So because they were the best butchers, they controlled the world with an iron fist. In their minds, not even the Christian God could get in their way. It did not end well for them. Rome lived and died by the sword.
As we pray for our world today, we exercise discernment in the Spirit. Give thanks for all that is good today. Reject every kind of evil. Live with hope that Evil loses and God wins in the end. Pray for God’s shalom to fill his people and overflow into a broken world. Give your heart to Christ alone.