Remember the Beatitudes from Matthew’s gospel? Today we see the 2nd in the similar blessings of Jesus coming to us in Revelation. I didn’t recognize the first one in Revelation 1:3, “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.” In today’s passage, in verse 13, “Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!”
Why do we have more “beatitudes” (there will be a total of seven in Revelation)? Don’t you think Jesus knew his followers would need more encouragement all those years later? These new blessings were directed first to the seven churches we read about when we began our journey through Revelation. Jesus’ new blessings reinvigorate His followers to hold on and to realize that, while it’s not always easy to be a Christian, it would be worth it! In other words, “stay the course!”
As our reading starts today we see the Lamb with the 144,000. Remember, that number represents all of those who remain faithful. The reference to “virgin” would identify those who have not defiled themselves by believing in idols and false gods. Just imagine standing there with the Lamb of God! Doesn’t that erase the dread and release the importance of all the crazy things happening around us? Imagine singing a song of praise that only we, as redeemed of the Lord, can sing!? Revel in that image of this mighty choir (and don’t worry if you can’t carry a tune, it’s still beautiful music to the Lord)!
Next the scene changes, and we see angels making their particular announcements to people of this world. The first message is clear. “Fear God,” he shouted. “Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.” Do you think the people of the world will pay attention? We have seen their hard hearts and closed minds. God is being persistent in his message, isn’t he?
Then the second angel comes forth warning about the evils of immorality. “Babylon is fallen!” That fact doesn’t speak to me very much, but it is a big deal to Jews and the people living closer to the time when that empire existed. Babylon was the Jews’ worst enemy, just like the Roman Empire was to the early Christians. I’m sure John’s vision was meant to encapsulate all of God’s enemies in this announcement. God’s victory is sure!
The final angel speaks to the individual choosing the beast or even the statue. Their promise was also clear. They “must drink the wine of God’s anger. It has been poured full strength into God’s cup of wrath.” Fear of this destiny should be enough to keep God’s people faithful and true. When we feel like we are being threatened or coerced into believing something contrary to God, we need to stand firm in our faithfulness to Him.
God will remember us. This passage closes then with the blessing I spoke of at the start of this reflection. These warnings may disturb us, but we are also given the promises to cling to that should give us assurance. Both warnings and promises should encourage us to persevere in our walk of faith.
Let’s pray. Lord, I thank you for these messages of hope for those of us who stay the course and remain faithful to you. Help me to avoid negative thinking and focus on your goodness instead. Remove from me feelings of unworthiness and replace them with gratitude for all you have done for me. Use me God. May my words speak of your mercy and grace in a fresh way to draw others to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.