Reaping the Consequences (Revelation 14.14–20)

We sometimes speak of “reaping the consequences” of our decisions, especially of our bad decisions. The phrase itself is an agricultural metaphor, describing the action of a farmer who is harvesting his crops. Unsurprisingly—give that it was written in an agricultural society—the Bible uses the metaphor of reaping to describe God’s judgment of the earth’s inhabitants.   Take, for example, Joel 3.12–13, the Old Testament passage that lies in the background of Revelation 14.14–20. God says: “Let the nations stir themselves up and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. … Continue reading Reaping the Consequences (Revelation 14.14–20)

“An Eternal Gospel to Proclaim” (Revelation 14.6–13)

What is the gospel?   The Greek word that we translate as gospel is euaggelion. The Old English word from which gospel derives is godspel. Both terms mean the same thing. The gospel is “good news.”   In John’s vision (Rev. 14:6-13), an angel flies in midair, loudly proclaiming “an eternal gospel…to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” Whatever else the gospel is, it is not the exclusive property of a select group of people. It is God’s good news, which he communicates to all people, to the entire human creation he … Continue reading “An Eternal Gospel to Proclaim” (Revelation 14.6–13)

They Follow the Lamb Wherever He Goes (Revelation 14.1–5)

Christianity is not a negative religion. Or rather, it is not merely a negative religion. There are, of course, some actions Christians should not perform, some ideas Christians should not believe, some feelings Christians should not experience, and some words Christians should not speak. The Ten Commandments memorably summarize the Christian’s negative duties with regards to actions, ideas, feelings, and words.   Revelation 14.1–5 also speak of the Christian’s negative duties. It describes believers has “the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins….and in their … Continue reading They Follow the Lamb Wherever He Goes (Revelation 14.1–5)

Does Romney’s Mormonism Matter?

On the editorial page of today’s Wall Street Journal, John Fund asks, "Does it matter that Mitt Romney is a Mormon?" and answers, "To some extent–but it shouldn’t." Funny, but I haven’t heard anyone asking the same thing about Harry Reid, who’s also a Mormon. One wonders if faith-questions only matter when the believer in question is Republican or conservative. Indeed, if I remember correctly, Joe Lieberman’s Jewishness was considered an asset during the 2000 Presidential election campaign. Is there a double standard at work here? Could the fact that reporters lean to the left (for an example of which, … Continue reading Does Romney’s Mormonism Matter?

False Prophet: The Second Beast (Revelation 13.11–18)

Readers of Revelation 13.11–18 feel their attention immediately drawn to the last words of the passage: “let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” They speculate endlessly on what that number means. And few public figures of any consequence have escaped being identified as the beast, including Nero Caesar in the first century and Ronald Reagan in the last. (The latter’s full name is Ronald Wilson Reagan—a supposedly ominous six letters in each name.)   We will, for the moment, resist the attention-drawing … Continue reading False Prophet: The Second Beast (Revelation 13.11–18)

A Disingenuous and Hypocritical Critique

The Associated Press carries the following story under the headline, "Obama Says Some Have `hijacked’ Faith": HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Sen. Barack Obama told a church convention Saturday that some right- wing evangelical leaders have exploited and politicized religious beliefs in an effort to sow division. "Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked," the Democratic presidential candidate said in remarks prepared for delivery before the national meeting of the United Church of Christ. "Part of it’s because of the so-called leaders of the … Continue reading A Disingenuous and Hypocritical Critique

Antichrist: The First Beast (Revelation 13.1–10)

The defeat of the devil is a future but certain event.   In the mean time, John’s Revelation teaches us, we should expect ongoing spiritual conflict. It is important to understand that spiritual conflict is not merely spiritual. It is not just a matter of prayer, meditation, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines. Nor is it just a matter of miracles and exorcism. It is, of course, all these things. But it is also—for lack of a better term—political, i.e., pertaining to everyday life in the city (polis). Spiritual conflict takes place in the routines of life, as we struggle to … Continue reading Antichrist: The First Beast (Revelation 13.1–10)

War In Heaven and On Earth (Revelation 12.7–17)

Revelation 12.7–17 narrates a war that begins in heaven and continues on earth.   In heaven, the archangel Michael and his heavenly host initiate hostilities against the devil and his minions, who return fire but are nonetheless defeated and “thrown down” to earth. “It is crucial to note,” comments Grant R. Osborne, “that the two adversaries are not the dragon and God but the dragon and Michael. There is no true dualism in the book between Satan and God, for there is no equality. The dragon’s adversary is the archangel Michael, and he is the more powerful.”   The devil’s … Continue reading War In Heaven and On Earth (Revelation 12.7–17)

Michael Novak Rebuts Progressive Religious Critiques of Capitalism

Over the past three weeks, on the First Things website, Michael Novak has posted an impressive series of rebuttals to progressive religious critiques of the American economy. "Christian Socialism Is Dead! Long Live Christian Anti-Capitalism!" makes the supply-side economic case for low taxes. "Religion and Economics, Again" examines the claim that the top 1% of American have increased their income. "Religion and Economics III: The Hoary Objections to Capitalism" rebuts recycled criticisms of capitalism based on energy consumption, income inequality, and globalization. Each of these rebuttals is well worth reading. Continue reading Michael Novak Rebuts Progressive Religious Critiques of Capitalism

A Woman, Her Son, and a Dragon (Revelation 12.1–6)

“A gulf has opened up in our culture between the visibility of evil and the intellectual resources available for coping with it,” writes Columbia University professor Andrew Delbanco.[i] Tellingly, the title of his book is The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil. But Satan is not dead—not yet, anyway. (See Revelation 20.7–10 for that happy event.) And John’s Revelation certainly has not lost its sense. So, to it we must turn if we are to find again, or perhaps sharpen anew, our sense of evil. In this important task, chapters 12–14 provide invaluable help.   … Continue reading A Woman, Her Son, and a Dragon (Revelation 12.1–6)