Rabbit Trail#18 – Watery Writings

Graph showing all the water references in the bible (N=694)

As part of the processing of my float through the bible I have been ruminating on why some books of the bible have more water imagery. So I decided to write this Rabbit Trail about it. By my reckoning the top 5 books of the bible, based on the number of water references, are:

Top 5 Books of the Bible based on Water References

What do these watery writings have in common? Similarly why do 11 Books of the bible have no water references at all (mainly Paul’s letters)? Is there a deeper meaning to these patterns? This is a bit like trying to understand the form and flow of a river. What makes rapids in certain areas and quiet water in others? Let see where this Rabbit Trail, and God, leads.

The most obvious common thread among these books is that all of them are in the old testament. When I started my float I would have said that the new testament would have used more figurative water images, but the old testament has 544 to the new testament’s 150. If I were to have chosen the top 10 more of the new testaments books would have shown up. For example, Revelation just missed the top 5 with 26 water references.

What else do these five books have in common? There was certainly a physicality to the relationship between God and His people in the old testament that lends itself to figurative water language. They were constantly looking for a tangible form of God and water was often the metaphor used. For example, for much of the old testament God appears in the form of a cloud. A cloud in the temple, clouds high above, and clouds speaking to the people.

This familiar form of water was both tangible and ephemeral at the same time. God appeared in many forms, just like water. Perhaps God chose this so that the people could relate to Him better. I do not know. Clouds occupy the realm between the earth and space – the atmosphere. God also dwells in a place in between the spiritual and secular realms. He once limited Himself and became a window between these two worlds when He came as Jesus.

I also think there was also a dependence on water for the desert people of the old testament in the dry environment where they lived. This made them value and seek after water in a way that those who have water in abundance might not – making it a good analogue for the dependence and seeking that God wants from us. He wants to pant for Him like water, but at the same time He offers to at no cost to ourselves except commitment and faith.

Prayer: God You have used images of water throughout the bible to describe yourself. Help us to understand how You want us to understand you better through these images.

Posted in Jesus, New Testament, Rabbit Trails, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm | Tagged | Leave a comment

Eddying Out after the Journey

Well I have finished with my journey and compilations of all the water-related bible verses I could find (694 by my count). The comprehensive list of all the verses and posts can be found on the Posts by Books of the Bible Page. It has been an amazing journey and I am sad to reach the end, but I am confident that God has a plan for where to go next. My current plan is to portage back up the river and read through all the posts I have made looking for common themes and connections. I may create posts about this retrospective.

My hope and prayer is that God will make clear His plan for these reflections. If anyone of those reading these posts have ideas for me I am open to suggestions. I am planning to spend a few weeks praying and seeking God’s guidance.

I am confident He will show up, just as He has for the last 7 years as I have slogged through hard passages and wondered at God’s grace and goodness.

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Water Without Cost

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. – Revelation 21:1‭-‬6

Wow this is it the last water-related passage in the bible. I am sure I have missed some, but by my reckoning there are over 700 water related passages, and I have completed 754 posts since I started this blog back in June of 2014. It is hard to believe it has been seven years. So much has happened during that time; pandemics, presidents coming and going, earthquakes, and all manner of earthly events. What has remained constant amidst all of this change is God. He is truly the Beginning, the End, and everything in between.

It is appropriate that this passage begins with the new heaven and earth. Yesterday’s post explored some of this theologically turbulent water, but the added detail that I find really interesting here is the statement that “there was no longer any sea”. This could of course be describing a physical reality where the oceans disappear for some reason, but given the metaphorical meaning of the seas in my float so far I wonder if there is deeper meaning. The sea has many times been used metaphorically to refer to the spiritual ocean that surrounds us, but which we have difficulty seeing or experiencing while we are here on earth in our bodies.

The statement “there was no longer any sea” could mean that we will no longer view it as a different place that is bounded by a beach and boundary we cannot cross without help. Our souls will be in their native habitat and they will be home, a home that is also God’s home, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.” This fellowship with God will be unlike anything we can even imagine, perhaps even different than Adam and Eve and their walks with the master gardener in Eden.

In this place there will be none of the secular things that seem to ensnare us here on earth “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” This will not be just a lack of pain and suffering but those concepts will not apply anymore as our souls will be submersed in this new spiritual sea, so much so in fact that we will not even know that we are in it. Everything will be new and different, not in a harp plucking Hollywood sort way but in way we cannot even imagine.

The passage ends, and my journey exploring water passages in the bible ends, with what feels like a wink from God, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” This is so powerful and so true. God is everything, and He is the only one that can truly satisfy our spiritual thirst.

God has given me “water without cost” for the last seven years. I hope and pray that some of the words I have tried to faithfully share have benefited those reading them and will continue to do so. I also hope and pray that I will continue to seek out my water supply from the Spring of Living Water that God has been showing me and teaching me about. I pray that I will have the opportunity to share this “water walk” with others. I am not sure what that looks like but God does.

Prayer: God thank You for walking with me so I could walk on water for a time. Help me to know where You need me to walk next.

Posted in Born again, Christianity, Death and Dying, Discernment, Discipleship, Following God, God's Love for Us, Gospel, Jesus, Obedience, Sharing the Gospel, Trusting God | Tagged | 1 Comment

Only the Unshakable Remains

The marriage of Heaven & Hell
William Blake

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11‭-‬15

Here at the end of all things the author sees a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. While Satan, and his co-conspirators, are swimming in a lake of molten sulfur those who have attended to their souls and the One who leads them are celebrating this new reality. It then says that the heavens and earth “fled” from His presence and “there was no place for them”. This is both interesting and confusing. How could the earth and heaven “flee”? How could there be no room for them?

This reminds me of the way C.S. envisioned heaven in his book the Great Divorce. In this fictional account of heaven souls travel on a mystical bus from the “grey town” (hell if you will), a place with no substance and reality, to a place of extreme substance and reality, heaven. On these “field trips” the ghosts or souls get to meet loved ones and others with whom they discuss this new place and what it would take to stay there. Here is a snippet of one conversation about the meaning of heaven and hell between the character intended to represent Lewis and his “intercessor” George MacDonald :

“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.” – C.S. Lewis from the Great Divorce

My take on this description of the future heaven and earth is that these physical realities as we have known them will cease to have any meaning for us because we will be spiritual beings inhabiting a different plane of existence. We will no longer be bound by the bodies we used to bump about on Earth. This would be a bit like a fish travelling to live on the land and losing its ability breath in the way it did while it lived in the water. This new reality will require our spiritual senses that we have hopefully developed though lifelong soul seeking and learning about God.

I do not think the souls looking on this surreal scene are animated corpses, but rather luminous beings finally free of their earthly vessels and all the disease, death, decay, and distraction that those bodies experienced. This is one of the reasons I could never really understand an obsession with visiting loved ones at a cemetery, where their bodies or remains are interned. In my view the part of that person that I knew and loved, their soul, does not reside in ashes or coffins. Their soul is either rejoicing or mourning, but it is not hanging out in a cemetery waiting for me to visit.

The “books” described are some sort of account of our lives and all the choices we have made that led to this moment of judgment. Those present are both great and small, making it clear that there will be no “favorites” in heaven. Those invited on not done so based human lists. The Pope and a poor pauper will stand next to one another, and in all likelihood they will not event know that one soul was seen as “great” while the other was seen as “small” from an earthly vantage point. Apparently all those who have passed from this earth are judged at the metaphysical meeting, “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them”. It does not matter if you went down Titanic or were eaten by a bear.

The passage says “each person was judged according to what they had done”. I feel like it would be more accurate to say “each soul” is judged by what they have done and the choices they have made. One could understand this passage to mean that good works are what is written in these books and that get us into the “book of life”. I think this would be a misreading of the deeper meaning here. Actions taken by our bodies, i.e. good works, are an important part of our journey home, but they are only an outward manifestation of what is happening with our souls. If we ignore our spiritual muscles we will not make the important and hard choices that are needed to keep us from a swim in the “lake of fire” described here. One more great quote from The Great Divorce then I will leave this reach of river. This is again the conversation between Lewis and George MacDonald:

“Son,’he said,’ ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, : and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.” – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

We must tend to our souls to make them unshakable so that when the inevitable spiritual squalls come our way, both here on Earth and perhaps after we cross over the great river, we can stand with confidence at the great white throne.

Prayer: God help us to make our souls unshakable and prepared for this day when we will meet You face to face and soul to soul.

Posted in Angels, atonement, Christianity, Covenant, Death and Dying, Discernment, eternal life, Following God, Forgiveness, Free Will, God's Love for Us, Heaven, Hell, Jesus, Judgement, Obedience, Prophecy, reconciliation, Revelation, Satan, Sin, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm | Tagged | 1 Comment

Lake of Burning Sulfur

The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia

Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. – Revelation 20:6‭-‬10

We are nearing the end of the journey here in Revelation and those who have focused on soul strength get to share in the “first resurrection”. These faithful followers will get to be priests of God and Jesus and rule for a thousand years. This seems like a return to the linear time that is part of our earthly existence. It seemed in previous passages that once we joined God we would be in some sense outside of time. I am a bit confused.

Leaving the temporal turbulence for the moment let’s move on and see if later parts of the passage are less confusing. At the end of this strangely specific thousand years Satan will be given free reign on earth to decieve and stir up trouble with two worldly powers Gog and Magog. This would seem to be describing two well equipped superpowers that will be goaded into attacking one another or someone else. These two adversaries have troops as numerous as “sand on the seashore”.

The two superpowers appear to work together to attack the people of God in the “city He loves”. This sounds like Jerusalem, the city of David. God comes to the rescue by raining fire on these attacking armies. The leader of this attack, Satan, is given special “treatment” and is thrown into “the lake of burning sulfur”. Satan and the others who have been causing mayhem and mishaps on earth will be tormented day and night in this place which sounds a lot like Hollywood depictions of hell.

The choice of a lake of burning sulfur is interesting for several reasons: 1) sulfur is a relatively common element that is found in many volcanic terrains and hot springs, where there is perpetual heat and fire; 2) sulfur has a very distinctive look (yellow) and smell (rotten eggs); 3) sulfur is one of the main ingredients in gun powder, arguably one of the most evil inventions of mankind; and 4) sulfur has a relatively low melting temperature (about 235 F).

Choosing a scene of fire and sulfur that is familiar probably makes this imagery more powerful and relatable, especially to anyone who has visited a place of perpetual fire like Yellowstone Park. The color and smell are definitely distinctive and memorable. The fact that sulfur has been used for great evil in the form of gunpowder, taking countless lives in bombs and bullets, only lends a layer of irony to this tale. The melting temp means one can create a lake of sulfur with relatively low temperatures only makes it easier to create this “swimming hole” for Satan and his buddies.

I am struggling to wring any deeper meaning from this passage. Perhaps there isn’t really any deeper meaning except that the Satan’s ultimate reward will come in a common and familiar form. It will be perpetual and the tormenting will come from the very tools he used to wreak havoc on earth.

Prayer: God help us to be confident in our place with You and the consequences that the deceiver will reap in the end.

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Great and Small

Jesus Blessing the Children
Gustave Dore

Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.” – Revelation 19:5‭-‬10

It is hard to believe that there are only 4 more verses to complete my “float” through the bible examining water references in the bible. I started on this journey seven years ago and I have been continually amazed at the eddies of understanding hidden in plain sight throughout the bible. I was really apprehensive when I entered the reach of river that is Revelation. Although it has been hard at times and difficult to understand, I can honestly say that it has been exhilarating and enlightening so far.

Today’s passage is a welcome break from the wrath of the previous passages in Revelation to focus on rejoicing. This shift began with a few posts ago when I considered whether these events would bring mourning or rejoicing. The focus in this passage is on those who “fear him, both great small”. This is a very apt description of all those who follow the Lamb. We are both like little children in God’s presence and exalted to the position of being His children. What could be smaller or greater than that?

The God-followers, great and small, are described here as a making quite a racket. They apparently sounded like a “a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder”. This crowd was not cheering for a Superbowl, the world series, or any earthly event. They were cheering for the reign of the “Lord god almighty”. In end God won and they chose the right side in the war of the worlds.

All the preparations have been made, the bride and groom are ready, and the wedding day of the Lamb has come for all those who have have faithfully persevered in their pursuit of God. The preparations for this day are both secular and spiritual “his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) There is both the loving sacrifice made by God and our sacrifice to immerse our souls in Him.

The “righteous acts” equated with the “fine linen” of the bride could be interpreted to mean good deeds and acts of service. Based on my float through the bible I would interpret this more broadly to mean both secular “good deeds” and conscious decisions to care for our souls and our spiritual relationship with God. All are invited to the wedding of the Lamb, but not everyone chooses to make preparations that will allow them to attend. This is not because God wishes to exclude anyone. He loves and believes in us, but He also has given us the freedom to choose.

The passage finishes with the author getting a lesson in humility about who is great and who is small. The angel sharing this prophecy is viewed by the author as “great”, the angel makes it clear that we are all fellow servants and equal in the eyes of God, “I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus.” Gender, race, color, economic status, nationality, wealth , or any other earthly measure we can think about do not matter. We are all on same team as long as we have the same end zone in mind – the testimony of Jesus.

Prayer: God remind us that we are all equal in your eyes and it our job to help one another reach You through our actions, both internally and externally.

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Spiritual Submersion

Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of harpists and musicians, pipers and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No worker of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s important people. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people, of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.” – Revelation 18:21‭-‬24

Angels tossing millstones into the sea? Clearly this angel is different than the delicate looking winged creatures of popular culture.  Also different than the bumbling Clarence in it’s a wonderful life.

This angel is more like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jason Momoa grabbing a boulder the size of a millstone, weighing perhaps a ton or more, and tossing it into the sea.

Apparently this boulder is intended to be a metaphor for the “great city” that is collapsing in ruin and fire that is visible for miles out to sea.  If this passage is prophetic then we can add inundation by the sea to the list.

Changes in the elevation of the Earth’s surface after earthquakes is part of the dynamic equilibrium that exists on earth.  The balance of great forces as tectonic plates move around the earth at a timescale we have difficulty perceiving and sometimes understanding.

My sense is that the spiritual sea that surrounds us, and where God resides, is a bit like the moving tectonic plates.  Changes and movements can be both sudden and surreal like an earthquake and slow and steady like the plate movement.  The judgement being described here for the “great city” is clearly a sudden earth event with dire earthly consequences like death, injury, fire, damage to buildings, etc.  I think it also represents the end result of thousands of years of spiritual slipping that culminates in this spiritual squall.

All the activities that this city is used to engaging in will cease as a result of the seismic and spiritual shift that is to come. Although this destruction seems to be a discrete future event at a specific geographic location I wonder if it intended to be understood more broadly to represent the passing away of our earthly existence. We will all be submerged in a spiritual sea at some point.

It sounds like the spiritual submersion to come can be a grace-filled dismount and river crossing or it can be a frantic drowning as we seek to hold onto all the things we imagine we need to take with us. The difference may be how much luggage we are hauling along.

Prayer: God prepare our hearts and spirits for the transition to come.

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Mourning or Rejoicing

“They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out: “ ‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: “ ‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!’ “Rejoice over her, you heavens! Rejoice, you people of God! Rejoice, apostles and prophets! For God has judged her with the judgment she imposed on you.” – Revelation 18:14‭-‬20

Well the challenging water continues today as those with empty souls look on as the fruit of investing in the world’s wealth is harvested through the torment of this woman in the wilderness and the “great city”. All the chasing after the treasures of this world, “The fruit you longed for” have come to nothing in the end. These soul-sick onlookers are amazed that all the worldly things they have valued, and invested their lives chasing after, has “been brought to ruin!”, and in one hour it seems.

The speed with which this “great city” is brought to ruin is certainly consistent with the impact of a very large earthquake as alluded to earlier in revelation. This passage also makes it sound like wherever this “great city” is it is within sight of a sea that is used for shipping and commerce. The most logical body of water would be the Mediterranean, which would make the location of the “great city” somewhere along its shores. Perhaps in the strip of land occupied by Israel and other middle eastern countries.

The captains are standing off at sea observing the destruction of this great city that was apparently a place of commerce and trade for them to accumulate great worldly wealth. These sea captains are also amazed this great city has been laid low on only one hour. If this is in fact describing an earthquake the “smoke rising” is probably a combination of dust and smoke from the widespread destruction. The heavens, on the other hand, are rejoicing that God’s judgement has been imposed on this city.

Presumably “the heavens”, described here as the apostles and prophets, is referring all those who follow the Lamb and have been willing to sacrifice earthly existence and treasures for a place in heaven with God. The world has been judging these faithful followers with imprisonment, persecution, and even death. I confess I do not fully understand why this judgement by the ruler of this world was allowed to happen, but the real answer to this question is probably above “my pay grade” as a follower of Christ. Christ felt the sacrifice of His own life was “worth it” so I am willing to follow in sacrificing things I might deem as comforts in this world.

There seems to be a recurring theme as I make my way through these rapids that we know as the book of revelation. The emerging theme is that judgement to the world will come at some point in “the future” as we measure time. Our job here on earth is to allow God to prepare our souls for this time. Of course once our souls are outside of the temporal tethers imposed by our physical existence the meaning of “the future” is less clear. It could be that once we leave this world “the future” and the “the present” will be one and the same and we will find ourselves experiencing the events described here in revelation. I do not know.

Regardless of the confusing eschatological eddies of meaning here in revelations the take home message for me seems pretty clear. Attend to the care and feeding of our souls at least as diligently, or probably more diligently, than we care for our bodies. Soul size matters, and if we find ourselves with poorly cared for souls we may be looking on with weeping and mourning rather than rejoicing.

Prayer: God remind of the importance of caring for our souls as diligently as we care for your earthly bodies.

Posted in Angels, Christianity, Conflict, Death and Dying, Discernment, Discipleship, eternal life, Following God, Heaven, Prophecy, Revelation, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm | Tagged | 3 Comments

Infighting and Empty Souls

Yasuo Kuniyoshi

“This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of Lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” – Revelation 17:9‭-‬18

This passage is really a continuation of yesterday’s passage about abominations and soul skirmishes.  It provides an explanation of the odd imagery and some of the fantastic creatures.  I am not sure it really helps me understand that passage any better but lets run this reach and see if there is more to this explanation than meets to the eye.  Paddles up….paddle.

So the seven heads of the strange beast the woman is riding are seven hills.  What immediately comes to my mind when I read this is the seven hills of Rome.  Apparently these hills were the location of small settlements that merged to become the great city of Rome and eventually home to the Roman empire. There are many who think this reference refers to these seven hills around Rome.  I think this has led to the interpretation or understanding that revelations was referring to events that took place in the Roman empire after the time of this prophecy. That is possible, although I think there is also the possibility that this account has layers of meaning that may refer to more than one set of events.

One could argue that many of the Roman cultural practices, political structures, and conquering colonial mindset is alive and well in many countries today.  The U.S. has coliseums for armed combat (football); a senate; and we still approach many international relations with a colonial mindset.  So perhaps the “fall of Rome” was more a dispersal than an actual destruction –  kings without a kingdom?

The ten horns are described as kings without a kingdom.  I am not sure what this would look like.  Perhaps leaders of some international body like the United Nations?  I do not know.  They will be given power as a king, but oddly for only one hour.  Their only reason for existence is apparently to cede their power and authority to the beast so it can fight the Lamb.  Those who belong to the Lamb will fight along side Him and ultimately defeat the beast in this war between worlds.

The angel goes on to explain the many waters where the prostitute is residing “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages”. This is somewhat different than my interpretation of the “many waters” from yesterday.  I guess the list provided could be read to mean all the earthly constructs we as humans have created, many of which separate us from God and one another.

It seems there will be infighting in the beast’s camp with the ten horns and the beast rejecting the prostitute.  This sounds to me like the hopelessness and despair that will fill all the empty souls that are willingly following and marked by the beast.

Prayer: God this coming time of conflict will be hard. Help us to prepare our hearts and souls.

Posted in Angels, Christianity, Conflict, Death and Dying, Following God, Free Will, Heaven, Hell, Judgement, Satan, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm | Tagged | 1 Comment

Abominations and Soul Skirmishes

Ernst Fuchs

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery: babylon the great the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. – Revelation 17:1‭-‬6

Well the wrath is waning but there is still some tricky water to navigate in today’s passage. I have scouted ahead and I believe there are only seven more water-related passages in the bible. But we have to run this rapid so here goes.

Abominations and adulteries, are not exactly uplifting and encouraging topics. One of the main characters engaged in these abominations and adulteries is “a great prostitute, who sits by many waters.” When I first read this I immediately thought the reference to “many waters” was a geographic reference. A place of multiple rivers perhaps like the area of northern Iraq. This would not be the first reference to a geographic location for these dramatic end times events.

As I have pondered and prayed about this perplexing passage I wonder if there is also a metaphorical meaning intended here. God, who is in many ways like water, has said pretty much throughout the entire braided river that is the bible that He, and He alone, is to be our water source. There are so many references in the old testament to planting oneself by the river or water source so that our thirst can be satisfied. Jesus described Himself with as Spring of Living Water that was the only way to satisfy our thirsty souls.

This prostitute in a way represents all the things and ways we use to replace God in our lives, in the same way a prostitute is a replacement for a loving wife in a committed marriage. Both the words abomination and adulteries imply a replacement, or a willful rejection, of the natural order that God has created. Abomination implies using something in a way different than the way it was intended, and adultery has a connotation of spoiling something by misuse or violating a sacred covenant.

The other character in this story, who seems to have some things in common with the prostitute, is the this woman in the wilderness described as “a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls.” This fantastic image may be an attempt by the author to describe the indescribable. I do not know. In any case this woman seems to represent the myriad of ways we can be distracted and deceived.

The creature is covered with blasphemous names. I am not sure what these names would be but they seem to be ways to refer to God that are disrespectful or demeaning. Just the sort of thing that the deceiver of this world would encourage us to do to facilitate the disconnection of our souls from their water source, God. I am not sure what to make of the many heads and horns. Perhaps this is a reference to earthly kingdoms and rulers, but it could also have a metaphorical meaning. I wonder if it may be a reference to the many ways that our deception on this earth is tailored to our souls. This idea was explored in a book I am re-reading at moment by C.S. Lewis called The Screwtape Letters.

In this fictional account of the invisible battle being waged for our souls junior tempters are given “lessons” in tailoring their temptations to several individuals. Each of these people has different weaknesses and tendencies which these junior tempters are encouraged to exploit. The woman being describe here represents a leader of this multi-faceted effort to win our souls from God’s loving arms. God is not absent from these soul skirmishes, but we must actively choose Him over the enticing temptations described here metaphorically as “gold, precious stones and pearls.” All the “abominable things” that are in the woman’s cup are the bag of tricks to ensnare our souls, but God has broken the snare for all those willing to be freed.

The passage alludes to the fact that this journey home will be hard and require sacrifice on our part if we are make it to the undiscovered country, “the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” We may have to give up our very lives to make this journey complete, but the destination is worth the difficult road. It is reassuring that if we are faithful and continue to seek out God amidst spiritual squalls we will find Him and in the end God wins.

Prayer: God help us to fix our eyes on You and our ultimate destination so we are not distracted and ensnared by the things of this world.

Posted in Angels, Christianity, Conflict, Death and Dying, Discernment, eternal life, Following God, Heaven, Hell, Impure spirits, Revelation, Satan, The Earthly Realm, The Nature of God, The Spiritual Realm | Tagged | 1 Comment