Apocalyptic Hallelujahs (Part 1 of 2)

  1. Uncommon Scriptures 

Sometimes a common scripture pops up with an uncommon sense that appears to question common perspectives.  I recall Martin Luther’s revolutionary revelation on “The just shall live by faith.”

In Revelation 18, God judges a “great city,” bringing it to an abrupt end in an atomic plume of smoke that announces the disaster distances away.  It is such a global catastrophe that people express their grief visibly with “dust on their heads” and audibly in triple terrible mournful outbursts as they “cried, weeping and wailing” (v. 19).  The sight is so fearful that terrified mourners keep a safe distance – “afar off” (v.10).

In one swift moment, in one blink of an hour, precious stones, pearls, rare perfumes, horses and chariots, gold and silver, the best of purple and scarlet garments as well as other inestimable “great riches” end in unexpected and unprecedented cataclysmic smoke.  It is an environmental and especially economic apocalypse for which “the kings of the earth” and “the merchants of the world” bewail the city and lament their loss.

  1. A Paradoxical Panorama 

The apocalyptic report is a paradoxical panorama.  While the cameras of Earth are focused on the smoking city, on the dismal costumes of dust, and on the sounds of sadness from wailers worldwide, the celestial cameras pick a Heavenly announcer making a rather insensitive proclamation loudly over the mournful cries.  He calls his supposedly ‘holy’ community to a great celebration at the terrible destruction of the “mighty city” with its countless goods and many lives.  It is a panorama of counterpoints.  On one side, the sight of smoke and dust and inconsolable mourners; on the other side, the sight of an apparently mindless multitude in celebration.  Again, on the earthly side, the sounds of terrible destruction and lamentation, but on the opposite side, the contrastive sounds of universal jubilation.

The Heavenly Broadcaster doesn’t even try to pretend about what is said; doesn’t try to be modest or ‘politically correct,’ as we would say.  He tells those whose ears are tuned to his frequency not just to rejoice (which would have been bad enough), but to “rejoice over her” (v.20), as if to dance over her grave.  What could be more heartless!  How could anyone claim to be heavenly yet be so insensitive to the widespread sorrow of others!  How could anyone claim to be the voice of God yet so callously call upon their community to mock numberless unfortunate victims, because they happen to be on the opposite side of morality and spirituality!

19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate. 

20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her (Revelation 18:19-20).

  1. Something I do not Understand 

The Heavenly voice calls a thunderous party of God’s select people.  It calls not just apostle and prophets but “HOLY apostles and prophets.”  To my mind, those are leaders who should know better than to rejoice at the misfortune of others, even if the unfortunate victims had been such merciless enemies.  Where then is the love of Christ?  If ordinary folks should commit such perfidy, we could excuse it on their immaturity.  If other apostles and prophets should do it, we could question their titles; but when holy priests of God, whom Heaven itself verily accords the title of “Holiness,” are called to an open jubilation in apparent defiance of a fallen foe, then there may be something I do not understand.

  1. Unscriptural Scriptures  

Is it morally justified of anyone, especially holy men and women, to rejoice at the misfortune unleashed by their God upon those that oppose them?  Is it OK for respected apostolic and prophetic leaders to do so?  Does not the Bible say that we should mourn with those that mourn and rejoice with those that rejoice (Romans 12:15)?  Did not Solomon warn that if we rejoiced at the misfortune of our enemy, God could take off His hands from judging them and turn against us (Proverbs 24:17)?  Is this apocalyptic case of Lady Babylon an exception?  Should a “holy” people rightly so called rejoice when God so publicly judges the wicked – their resolute terrorists?

  1. Radical Holiness 

Well, Revelation 18 seems to be one more Bible passage about which some of us will ask questions when we get to heaven.  Meanwhile, it will appear from that passage that some folks will be no less holy in their private souls and no less deserving of their public Holy titles for celebrating the divine termination of an infamous foe.  In fact, to so celebrate will be to obey a heavenly call, but not everyone hears that call, not especially those so focused on the purple and pearls of their Babylon in smoke (like Lot’s wife) that they become unmindful of the cautions from angels; folks so focused on ephemeral earthly sights as to miss eternal heavenly sounds.

From The Preacher’s diary,
September 4, 2022.

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