Follow The Lamb, Part 15: Empire and the Lamb

http://renewedheartministries.com/presentation/Follow-the-Lamb I’m paraphrasing (and analyzing in part) this series of lectures on Revelation by Herb Montgomery because it relates to the kingdom of God. My Bible study is discussing this series and I just now decided to start posting about it so I will be following along with them for the rest of the series on parts 12-17. I will post a summary during the week before we have Bible study Friday night and will update it after Bible study to account for anything else learned there. I will finish parts 1-11 on my own after 12-17. Hopefully I will be able to get the others to comment on those as well. Herb argues that there is a change in teaching in the new testament to pacifism–from the Tanahk (or Old Testament)–and argues that Revelation fits with this. This also interests me because our paper “Unless He Gives up All His Possessions” argues for a change in teaching in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) with regards to possessions but only due to a different situation arising after Christ. The TNIV translation is used unless otherwise noted. Links to the paraphrased material, lecture:  https://renewedheartministries.com/presentation/Follow-the-Lamb?msds_pif_cat=empireandthelamb
handout: https://renewedheartministries.com/sermons/followthelamb/outlines/15empireandthelamb.pdf

This building is not the church this is just a building the church meets in. Herb thanks everyone in the church and the Bliss family whom he stayed with. The Book of Revelation is not as many have taken it to be. It is not about an angry God come back to take vengence but a lamb. The Lamb takes vengeance but it is of a different nature. The way a lamb takes vengeance on it’s enemies is through the non-cooperative principles of non-violence but with the aim of destroying his enemies by making them his friends. The early church would have seen this violent imagery of the old testament that John turns on its head and gives it new meaning.

Revelation 18.1-8–After this I saw another angel coming down from
heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendor. He called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! . . .

This is imagery has been stolen from the Tanahk. In the same way that Israel was going to brought of captivity to Babylon we see in Revelation that every nation tribe and tongue will be brought out of captivity to Babylon. Likewise he is using the exodus imagery to talk about all nations being brought out of slavery to Babylon.

. . . It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird, a haunt of every foul and hateful beast. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury.”

The Lamb of God is an itinerant teacher announcing that there is a new kingdom being established which is a radical new way of structuring society and life in general.

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in HER PLAGUES; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed. As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so give her a like measure of torment and grief.

Ezekiel 16 The sins of Sodom were that they were overfed and unconcerned.

Since in her heart she says, `I rule as a queen; I am no widow, and I will never see grief,’ therefore HER PLAGUES will come in a single day–pestilence and mourning and famine– and she will be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.”

Revelation 18.9-10–And THE KINGS OF THE EARTH, . . .

This is who were are told in Rev 21 will leave Babylon and bring all their glory into the new Jerusalem.

. . . who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas, alas, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.”

Response to the fall of Babylon is mourning because the kings of this earth are invested in the way of life. Luke 6 sermon on the plane, blessed are you who poor, mourn, are hungry, but What Jesus would accomplish would take the downtrodden and the marginalized of this world. Woe to you who are benefiting by their abuse. Those who are benefiting from creating poverty.

Merchants of the earth were benefiting from the luxury of Rome.

Revelation 18.11-16–And THE MERCHANTS OF THE EARTH weep
and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves–HUMAN LIVES. ” . . .

What John is doing here is not critiquing Rome or the killing of the Lamb’s followers. He is engaging in an economic critique that the luxury wealthy people live in perpetrates abuse on the rest of the world.

. . .The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your dainties and your splendor are lost to you, never to be found again!” The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, “Alas, alas, the great city, clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! For in one hour all this wealth has been laid waste!”

Herb reads from “Climax of Prophecy” by Richard Bauckham. Gold: Rome imported gold especially from Spain where most of the mines had become state property during the first century. Sometimes by highly dubious means of confiscation. The use of gold was one of the commonly noticed features of the growth of extravagant luxury among the wealthy families of Rome during the first century. In one of the periodic attempts to curb this they had a law against the use solid gold plates at private diner parties. Pliny complains that even the ceilings of private houses are covered in Gold . . . With the place of gold at the head of John’s list it is worth noting the Eumolpus. . . If there were any land that promised a yield of gold, that place was Rome’s enemy. Fate stood ready for the sorrows of war and the quest of wealth went on. Herb asks if there are parallels between that today.

The case of silver was similar to that of gold. Pliny associated silver with the luxury of the Roman rich remarking on the fashions of silver plated couches, baths made of pure silver, the common use of silver for serving food. . .  Precious stones in John’s day came from India so people in Rome were pillaging so that they could live in extravagance. The emperor Tiberius in his letter to the senate about Roman extravagance in 22 AD referred to that special feature of Roman extravagance that transfer of currency for jewels to often hostile nations but Rome owed it to her empire that she could afford those expensive imports from beyond the empire.

Under the lamb we have to question is our pursuit of happiness coming at the price of human lives around the globe? Maybe John was more green than we thought, maybe John was more concerned economically than we thought. One thing in Rome was to dissolve a pearl in vinegar or alcohol and then drink it for the thrill of wasting so much money. The merchants of the earth will weep. This is John’s critique of empire in the first century. God hated the bricks of Egypt not because he’s against mortar but because he is against the cost of human lives. He hated the empire of Babylon and the stonework of Babylon not because he hates stone but because of the cost of human lives. There have been Christians in the last 100 years that have realized that every purchasing decision I make is a moral decision.

Revelation 18.17-19–And ALL SHIPMASTERS AND SEAFARERS,
SAILORS AND ALL WHOSE TRADE IS ON THE SEA, stood far off
and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the GREAT CITY?” And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, the great city, where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in one hour she has been laid waste.

What is John doing here? Who are the mourners? The ship captains the ship owners and the kings of this earth. Remember they are invested in the way Babylon is doing life.

Revelation 18.20–Rejoice over her, O heaven, you saints and apostles
and prophets! For God has given judgment for you against her.” Then
a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into
the sea, saying, “With such violence Babylon THE GREAT CITY will be
thrown down, and will be found no more; and the sound of harpists and minstrels and of flutists and trumpeters will be heard in you no more; and an artisan of any trade will be found in you no more; and the sound of the millstone will be heard in you no more; and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more; and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more; for your MERCHANTS were the MAGNATES of the earth, and ALL NATIONS were deceived by your sorcery. And in you was found THE BLOOD OF PROPHETS AND OF SAINTS, and of ALL who have been slaughtered on earth.”

Revelation 19:1-10—After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God, for his judgments are true and just; he has judged the GREAT WHORE who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has vindicated on her the blood of his servants.” Once more they said, “Hallelujah! The smoke goes up from her forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, and all who fear him, small and great.” Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of THE LAMB has come, and his bride has made her-
self ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”– for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of THE LAMB.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades who hold THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS. Worship God! For the testimony of JESUS is the spirit of prophecy.”

If your interpretation of the Book of Revelation gives you different picture of God than the one Jesus gives on the sermon on the mount: the God who causes the sun to shine on the wicked and the God, the God who sends rain on the unkind and the just. Who kind to the unthankful and seeks to win them not destroy them. . . I know some of you need to die somewhere, but what about the book of Jonah? Would you be ticked off if God did not decide to destroy them? Jonah didn’t want the Ninevites in the kingdom with him. Herb suggests that if you are like Jonah and see something very different in Revelation than in the teachings of Jesus that you are misinterpreting the metaphorical Revelation. Some did indeed view it as complex to interpret (suggesting an allegorical interpretation) http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/ecf/201/2010243.htm  also see: http://global.oup.com/obso/focus/focus_on_revelation/ It’s interesting that the main debate among scholars is about whether the beast represents Rome or Israel and not about if there’s some literal future fulfillment of these things: https://blog.adw.org/2012/11/why-the-modern-view-of-the-book-of-revelation-may-be-flawed/

Herb Montgomery asserts that in the Psalms the word used in “break” for “break them with a rod of iron” while in Revelation it is “tend” or “shepherd.” It is true that the Greek word can have that meaning and the Hebrew is certainly translated as “break”

“Thou shalt break H7489 them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psa 2:9 KJV)

However, in the Septuagint the same word is used to translate the Hebrew as is used in Revelation:

“You shall tend G4165 them with a rod of iron; as vessels of a potter you shall break them.” (Psalms 2:9 ABP)

https://studybible.info/interlinear/Psalm%202:9
https://www.stepbible.org/?q=version=AB

Rev 2:27 And he shall tend G4165 them with a rod of iron, as the vessels made of clay shall be broken; as I also have received from my father; (Rev 2:27 ABP)

https://studybible.info/interlinear/Revelation%202:27
https://www.stepbible.org/?q=version=ABP|reference=Rev.2.27&options=VNHUG

This shows that John is most likely not trying to modify the original meaning of the verse. He is either quoting the Septuagint or (if it was written in Hebrew) he is most likely quoting the same Hebrew word in Psalms which got translated the exact same way. I think Herb’s point  still stands in that breaking the nations could simply not refer to the people but to the power structure they serve.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV)

Herb goes on to say “if your interpretation of the book of revelation gives you a different picture of God than the picture of God you see in Jesus then choose Jesus and allow Jesus to recast and reframe how the book of Revelation is interpreted.”

John purposely lists the mourning of those invested in a way of life that is coming to an end and he purposely contrasts that with the rejoicing of the following of the lamb. Herb asks us which side we would be on if a great empire supporting our luxurious way of life falls. For instance, for Americans, who would you sympathize with? the fall of America (which is ultimately necessary for the Lamb’s kingdom to reign in the end) or will you rejoice because the Lamb’s kingdom has come?

Herb says we’ve started saying that the exceptions are the rule and that it’s not possible for most Christians to care for the poor and be pacifists because the teachings of Jesus are too radical and it’s only those who are called that are required.

 

 

 

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