22–28 December 2019.
In 586 BC the Babylonian armies marched on Jerusalem and destroyed it. Years of suffering and centuries of rebuilding Jerusalem and its temple followed that. And then in the year 70 the Roman Empire marched on Jerusalem and destroyed it all over again. In the decades that followed believers suffered under Rome’s violence and military power. Believers were so afraid of Rome’s oppression that they met and worshipped in secret, literally underground, and they communicated with each other in secret ways. To avoid punishment they spoke about Rome in coded ways as the new Babylon, and they looked forward to the day when this “Babylon” and its power would finally meet its end.
We see that hope in Revelation 14, especially in the angel’s great shout across the heavens in v. 8: “Babylon is fallen—that great city is fallen—because she made all the nations of the world drink the wine of her immorality.” Great empires grow great by using violence to oppress and abuse others. They use violence to hurt those who are weak, devouring the resources and peoples of weaker countries, and controlling them for their own gain. That’s what Babylon did, what Rome did, and what the countless empires that have followed them have done throughout history. But the promise that Revelation gives us here is that that violence will end. In v. 7 the angel proclaims the good news in a loud shout, that the almighty and glorious God, the God who stands above all creation and above all empires, is coming as a judge. And God will judge all those empires that thought they were so grand, and that fooled themselves into thinking that they could use violence and oppression to rule the world. God will come in judgement, and God will put an end to that suffering and violence forever. And that truly is a reason, as v. 7 says, to “Give God glory!”
All through history so-called “great” nations and empires have used power and violence to kill and rob and oppress others. And all through history each of them has failed and been destroyed. Not one has lasted. In this Christmas season we remember the good news that only the kingdom that Christ brings – a kingdom built on love, not violence – continues to survive. In Jesus, God came to be with us and to be our Prince of Peace. In Jesus, God sets us free from the powers of violence and death. And as Revelation 14 promises us, Christ will always stand in judgement over any nation or people who think that violence and injustice are the best ways forward. Because Christ has come, we can be sure that one day the shout will go out over all the earth that Babylon has indeed fallen, that Rome has fallen, and that everything that causes us pain and suffering and sorrow will finally be put to an end. Because Christ is King, because he is the fair and true Judge, all evil and injustice will end and they will be done away with. And only his kingdom of love will last continue to last forever.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis