Sunday, August 26, 2012

Day 87: It gets Worse

...and weirder, too.

This section of scripture is filled with strange, and fearsome images.  We're no longer talking about famines and wars and plagues, but both worship and wars in heaven.  There are beasts and dragons.  So it's obvious that all of this is symbolic, not literal.  What are these visions about?

In chapter eleven a temple is being measured, and there are prophets.  Many people think that this refers to the literal rebuilding of the temple.  Others believe that the measuring and rebuilding of the temple refers to the growth of the church, until the end of the age.  Prophets will come who will testify to the truth of Christ's victory over sin and death, and ultimately, no one will be able to stop the prophets' witness, even though terrible things happen.

The scene shifts to heaven, where the heavenly throng worships and sings "the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ..."  (see how this keeps happening?  reminding beleaguered people of the ultimate victory).

Even though we think of the beast and the dragon as future enemies, it's very possible that the early Christians read them as powerful people who were actively persecuting them then.  Emperors of the Roman Empire and other leaders opposed to the church were waging war against Christians, and the dragon and the beast might be those leaders.

Some people consider that the woman being pursued is the ideal church (remember that sometimes the church is compared to a bride.)

It's worth mentioning that number "666", since so many people refer to it.  Some people try to read it as a code, and think that it might refer to a specific evil person.  Others point out that in Hebrew, numbers have meaning (for example 7 is the number of perfection,  3 represents completeness, and 4 is the number of the earth).  So 6 is one short of a perfect 7, and 666 might just mean "perfect evil.'

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