Breaking Open the Word: Revelation Ch. 19-20
Sunday, December 30th, 2018 – Revelation Chapters 19-20
The final four chapters of Revelation are dedicated to the glorious victory of God over evil, the revelation of the New Jerusalem, and the climactic “wedding of the Lamb.” Near the start of these chapters, John writes of what is often called the “millennium” – a thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. While many have tried to interpret this as a literal period of time when Jesus will establish an earthly political kingdom, the Church Fathers saw it as a symbol for the age of the Church, with ”1,000 years” standing for “fullness of time.” This age began with the Ascension of Christ into Heaven, and it will continue until the Second Coming, when Satan will be defeated decisively and God will create the new heavens and the new earth.
In reading about these final battles with the Evil One, a Sister was struck by the way they show just how confident we can be in Divine Providence. For instance, in 20:9 the pagan forces of “Gog and Magog” seem to have the holy ones surrounded . . . “but fire came down from heaven and devoured them!” Though God does not always work as directly in our lives as He does in this passage, with the virtue of simplicity a faithful heart can take all things, as St. Paul of the Cross says, “without intermediary, straight from the loving Heart of God.”
We also discussed the beautiful image in 19:7-8: “His [the Lamb’s] bride has prepared herself for the wedding. She has been given a dress to wear made of finest linen, brilliant white.” A Sister was struck by the difference between this passage and others that relate to the great Wedding of the Lamb. While the work of the Divine Bridegroom in making His bride ready is usually emphasized, here it is the work that the bride herself does that receives attention. This reminds us that, while God takes the initiative in saving us, we ourselves are still responsible for receiving Him worthily!
The image of the linen dress, in particular, gave rise to some interesting reflections. Why linen and not some other white material? Well, the obvious answer is that linen is very fine and highly valued, and it is thus an image of the priceless gift of salvation that Christ wins for us. However, linen is also very resistant to decay and disintegration – an image of the eternal life to which we are called. Furthermore, it was used in the priestly garments of the Old Testament, thus calling to mind our Baptismal priesthood. And who wears this linen? Not only the Bride, but also the “armies of heaven” and their Captain, the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (19:14,16). While the Bride and the heavenly host wear clean linen, it is only because their Leader’s cloak “had been dipped in blood,” (19:13) the blood that He shed to redeem us. Furthermore, this mysterious linen is worn in place of armor, because those who fight in the army of Christ have no fear of death. In fact, suffering and death are their gates to Heaven as martyrs in the footsteps of the King of Martyrs Himself!
We will be back next week with Chapters 21-22, the final installment of this series on the Book of Revelation. It’s been great to have you with us for the journey – we hope you’ll join us in studying the powerful conclusion to this book and the whole of Scripture!