“Puzzling” is a good word for this scripture passage. We’re at the point where the final battle takes place. There’s fire and brimstone, and a lake of fire, and books opened, and judgment dispensed from a great white throne. It’s wild. I’m not a fan of action/adventure movies, or thriller/horror movies to begin with, so I can’t say I relish delving into this passage.
I go to my man Martin Luther for some clarity. He said a reader of scripture was a passive recipient of God’s true word, rather than someone imposing fanciful meaning upon scripture. I can agree with that, and it sure takes the pressure off. I don’t have to figure it out, because God has it figured out. He wouldn’t purposely puzzle us with His word, making us decipher the meaning of the imagery in John’s vision. So it’s okay for me to say that I’ve got nothing here.
But now I will say that I did dabble in a little research about the symbols. So here goes nothing: The dragon is the serpent we first met in the Garden of Eden. Babylon is Rome, the current oppressive government under the despot Caesar Nero. And his name in Hebrew alphanumerically adds up to “666”. Very interesting. But of course there have been many antichrists and Babylons throughout the centuries. The allegory is timeless in that it touches on the same theme found throughout the Bible: God loves His creation and makes a way to connect with the world. (Good old John 3:16). The world makes it hard for believers to remain faithful. God comforts His people and provides the power to endure the evils of the age they find themselves living in. We may feel like it’ll never end, that the “new normal” will be the new normal. But no, the truth is that we get Heaven, just hang in there and remain faithful.
This of course is the gospel message. If I don’t focus on the step by step events unfolding in these final chapters, but instead step back and view the whole thing at once, I see the overarching love of God.