June has been declared “Pride Month,” when a lifestyle condemned by God is celebrated by many Western nations as evidenced by the rainbow banners and signs declaring that “hate has no home here.” In such light, Christians are called “haters” and “homophobes.” The laws of Western nations, the shrill messages from the broadcasters and the suppressive powers of social media align to mute and even outlaw the message of Christ.
Is the Church losing the battle? Will the Word be eclipsed in the West? While it may be that the Church could be doing more in this struggle, the outcome is sure: the Lamb and his Church wins.
There are diverse approaches to interpreting Revelation, particularly the many details in chapter 17, but the primary message of the chapter is clear: worldly governments in their splendour and power oppress and persecute us, but they will never conquer Jesus and his Church.
Late in the first century A.D., when John was granted his revelation, it was Rome who seemed to be conquering the Church. How could those believers, widely scattered and with many poor, survive against the organization, power, and majesty of the Roman empire?
In Revelation 17, an angel of God shows John what majestic and powerful Rome looks like to God, and what her end would be. In his vision, he sees a woman riding a beast. The woman is alluring and wealthy, “arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with jewels and pearls” (v4). She is tremendously influential, having dominion over all the kings of the earth (v18). Her mount is a powerful beast with many heads and many horns (v3). And this frightening duo are fierce persecutors of the Church, with the woman being “drunk with the blood of the saints” (v6).
There is suffering for the Church in this chapter. There is even martyrdom for the name of Jesus. But defeat? Never.
God reveals the reality of this powerful pair. The woman is influential, but she is the “Great Prostitute” and the “mother of prostitutes” (v1, 5). The beast is powerful, but its time is limited and almost over, since five of its seven kings have already fallen and the last set of kings will reign for only an hour (v10-12). Soon the beast will turn on the woman and destroy her (v16).
That’s the end of the woman. What about the beast itself? John in his vision sees the fearsome beast attacking a … lamb. A ravenous fury attacking an image of helplessness. But this is THE Lamb, the Lord of lords and King of kings (v14), along with his people. And the Lamb will conquer the beast.
Rome is no more, but the Church is all over the world: the Lamb conquered Rome. The Lamb will indeed conquer the “post-Christian” West. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. But until then, let us stand fast, resist the temptations of the world and the fear of its might, and show ourselves as those who are “called and chosen and faithful.” (v14).
Father, you know the fearsome powers arrayed against us. You know what the days ahead will hold for the church in Canada and the West. Strengthen our faith, that we will trust you come what may. Strengthen our courage, that we may continue to speak about your gospel, your goodness and your ultimate justice. Preserve your Church, and may she be a beacon of transcendent hope and dauntless faith because of her glorious King. In the name of the all-conquering Lamb, we pray. Amen!