Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together…
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the LORD has them in derision.
Psalm 2:1-2, 4
Here it is in the news again today: Nations raging! Despots, demagogues and tyrants strutting across history’s stage! I would despair, but this leads me to think of the climactic scene from the movie “The Wizard of Oz”. Little Toto pulls back the curtain and the Great and Powerful Oz is exposed as a fraud! He’s bogus! He’s a fake! The gig is up!
In these troubling and dispiriting days I am drawn to the Bible’s pulling back of a curtain and revealing how things really are. The Greek title of the last book of the Bible is Apocalypse, the literal pulling back of a curtain, an unveiling, an expose (apo = “from”; calyptos = “curtain”) of what is really going on in heaven and earth. The Apocalypse gives us the rest of the story, the scoop on what is really going on behind the news. The book escorts us into the very “throne room” of heaven and earth (See Revelation 4).
I have found, both in reading and preaching the Apocalypse, that it is easy to get bogged down in detail and miss the forest for the trees. Yes, there are mysterious numbers and symbols, but the book’s message is unmistakably clear: the little Lamb wins!
Allow me for a moment to put aside the numbers and symbols because the action focuses on the battle of the ages: the little Lamb vs. the Beast, or in the Greek language, the Arnion vs. the Therion.
These players are easy enough to identify in the Apocalypse. Literally, the “little Lamb” (Greek Arnion) is Jesus Christ, who in seeming defeat was slaughtered but “ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation”. And it is the little Lamb who “made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).
The other leading figure of the Apocalypse is the arrogant, prancing Therion, the ferocious, monstrous Beast (Revelation 13, 4, 8, 12, 15) that deceives and devours the nations. The “followers of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4) are:
…part of a conflict of cosmic proportions, the eschatological war of good and evil, the conflict of sovereignty between God and the devil, in which they are called to take sides, to take a firm stand, and by faithful witness to the truth to play their part in resisting the pagan stage and pagan society. (R. J. Bauckham, The Book of Revelation as a Christian War Scroll)
From the first century, followers of the Lamb have been called to take their stand in the fierce battle between the Arnion and the Therion. For some this means following in the way of suffering, torture, even martyrdom. But victory is certain for the little Lamb and His followers! So the Apocalypse is filled with songs of praise and celebration for those who follow the Lamb. Won’t you join me today in pondering and praying this great song of celebration from the Apocalypse (Revelation 7:13-17):
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
The little Lamb wins!
Grace and peace,