Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Revelation

Soldiers of Christ, Arise!

How does God deal with evil in this world?

In biblical history, God dealt with evildoers in a variety of ways. God brought Pharoah and Egypt to their knees with the plagues. God defeated the Philistines with the judges and King David. God defeated 185,000 Assyrians in one night by his angel. God made Nebuchadnezzar eat grass like a cow. God struck Herod Agrippa I with disease. God has used many methods to punish evildoers in the world. 

But there’s one other approach. God most often uses his people to address evil in the world.

In Revelation 19, Christ appears as a general mounted on a white horse, followed by a great army. He’s preparing to destroy the beast who’s been persecuting Christians in the Roman province of Asia in the first century. John has already revealed that Satan is behind this persecution. But he’s enlisted some to carry it out in real time: a best from the sea, a beast on land, a false prophet, and a harlot. In my opinion, they represent the Roman Empire, the Roman culture and economy, Roman religion, and the city of Rome herself. 

One-by-one these characters are introduced. And one-by-one, they’re destroyed. In Revelation 19, Christ is preparing to defeat the Roman political machine. With him is a sizeable army from heaven. It’s tempting to interpret this as an angelic army, but one detail suggests otherwise: the army is clothed in clean white linen (v. 14). Elsewhere in Revelation white clothing is applied to Christians. Here, this army is the faithful, redeemed, and victorious people of God. 

When John wrote this book, Christians in Asia lacked influence, prestige, money, and clout. Everyone was against them: the Romans, the Jews, the courts, and the pagans. Still, Christ used this ragtag army to defeat the most powerful entity on earth. 

This helps us in three ways. First, it gives us hope that our efforts are effective. We do the will of God, and the Lord Jesus uses us to accomplish his purposes in this wicked world. We may look like a T-ball team playing in the World Series. To God, we’re his agents of righteousness.

Second, it helps us remember our job on earth. We’re soldiers of Christ, fighting a cosmic battle against evil. We may suffer, we may even die, but we won’t be defeated. In the Lord’s army, we fight against evil every day.

Finally, it helps us trust the power of God. We have the armor of God. We wear the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

So then, every day, we hear and answer the battle cry, “Soldiers of Christ, arise!”

The Bright & Morning Star

Early this morning, as my wife and I were walking, we saw the moon and the morning star. The temperature was in the forties, and the sky was clear. The moon was in its waning crescent, so we saw just a sliver of it. But above it were two stars (planets, actually): above it and to the left was the planet Jupiter, and just above it and to the right was the planet Venus. 

The planet Venus was named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. It’s called both the “morning star” and “evening star” because it can appear in the early morning and early evening hours. It’s the second brightest object in the nighttime sky besides the moon. About once a month, it appears in the nighttime sky in close proximity to the moon. On a clear morning, they’re a beautiful sight when seen together. 

In Revelation 22.6, Jesus said, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” What did he mean, and how does that affect us?

First, I think Jesus was alluding to an ancient prophecy from the Old Testament Book of Numbers. The prophet Balaam saw a star coming forth from Jacob and a scepter arising in Israel (Numbers 24.17). He was talking about the Messiah’s future dominion over all of Israel’s enemies. Readers of the Book of Revelation were suffering intense persecution, and John’s allusion to Balaam’s prophecy would assure them that Christ was, even then, in the process of fulfilling his role. He would be victorious over the enemies of God’s people.

Second, Jesus was reminding us that he’s King of Kings and Lord of Lords. From the earliest times, the Roman emperors believed they were descended from the gods. Julius Caesar believed he was descended from the goddess Venus. The emperor Domitian (who may have been emperor when Revelation was written) believed he was descended from the god Jupiter. Around the time that John wrote the Book of Revelation, the Roman poet Martial honored the emperor Domitian, saying, “Thou morning star, Bring on the Day! Come and expel our fears, Rome begs that Caesar may soon appear.” So, when Jesus called himself the “bright morning star,” he was countering the notion that any human leader could be his equal.

Third, Jesus was reminding us that he’s our ultimate reference point. When we see the morning star rising above the horizon, we know that daylight is near. Jesus was assuring his disciples that despite their suffering and persecution, they could look to him as the dawning of a new day, the arrival of a new era. That promise holds true for us as well.

So, the next time you’re awake before dawn, take a moment to look at the eastern horizon, and look for Venus, the morning star. Then take a moment to remember that Jesus is the ultimate bright morning star. He’s our king and our hope. Because of that we can rejoice at the dawning of each day.