Communities in Conflict


Chapter 14 again issues a call to endurance, vs. 12. This indicates that there is a severe continuing conflict that the faithful must endure. Seven angels appear in this chapter, with a series of messages addressed to one or another of these two communities in conflict. John begins by identifying the community of the redeemed, numbering 144,000 undefiled and chasteĀ bearing the mark of God, that is baptism, in contrast to the mark of the beast. An angelic voice sings a new song that only the redeemed know. This may indicate that John is giving a coded message to his churches, a message that only they can understand. A second angel proclaims the gospel, and call people to faith in God to avoid the coming judgment. John does not tire in trying to bring people under the protection of the church. From another point of view, if this refers to conflict within the church because of different beliefs, John is urging the dissidents to adopt the orthodox viewpoint and to be one with the rest. The third angel announces the fall of Babylon, that is, Rome has come under judgment because of her indulgence in impure passions, in contrast to the redeemed who are chaste. “Chaste” and “impure passions,” may refer to idolatry rather than sexual matters. Again, there is that idea that the internal conflict mimics the external conflict, that one group within the church is being accused of idolatry. They, like Rome, are condemned and will suffer the consequence of the judgment, that is, they have already inherited hell. The fourth angel makes it clear that what is at issue is idolatry, and this is immediately followed by the call to endurance, based on keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Moving back to the external conflict, those who suffer and die are given a promise from the Lord, that their eternity is blessed, and they will find rest from their labors. The next three angels, two from the temple and one from the altar, announce the harvesting of the earth. The son of man oversees the harvest, that is, the gathering and the pressing of the grapes. This indicates the judgment of God upon the earth. Grapes are put into the wine press, but blood issues forth, outside the sacred city, that is, outside Zion identified in vs. 1. The city itself is not judged, it remains pure and holy, the seat of the divine. It appears that John continues to issue a warning to a dissenting group within the church that will come under judgment just as the empire will. He is encouraging the dissenters to return to the community of the redeemed. At the same time he is demonstrating how complete the judgment of God is upon the earth, that it is drenched in blood. While the redeemed are saved by the blood of the Lamb, the dissenters and the empire will be condemned by it.

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