Tuesday, December 13, 2016
The 9th chapter of the book of Revelation describes in horrific detail what the Bible calls “the first woe” (v.12). While this portion of scripture does not make for pleasant family devotional fare or popular elementary Sunday School curriculum, I assume there is a message here for me and all Christians.
Who is this “angel of the Abyss” (v.11)? From this fallen star’s eternal hole will rise mist “like the smoke of a gigantic furnace” that will darken “the sun and sky” (v.2). Nasty hairy flying locusts resembling “horses” (v.7) with “lion’s teeth” (v.8) will stream from their dark home stinging those those who do not bear “the seal of God on their foreheads” (v.4). Their sting will be “like that of a scorpion” (v.3). Victims will yearn for death yet destined to suffer their agony for five months (vv.5-6).
Is the awful imagery of Revelation 9 to be understood literally? Will stinging locusts actually appear in the future to torture all unbelievers who inhabit the earth? Or, is this the writer’s symbolic and creative description of 1st century political upheaval, the natural consequences of an addictive lifestyle, or a future without Christ? Regardless of the precise meaning, the text reminds me I must be ready. I want the protective “mark of God on my forehead,” whatever that means.
When my son Stanford was about eighteen years old, he casually informed me that he could catch a bee with his bare hands and easily endure its sting. I said he couldn’t do it. That’s all Stan needed we challenged each other to a bet. Stan and I approached the flowering Escallonia bush in my front yard. I watched spellbound while Stan cupped a honey bee and slowly opened his hands. As the bee’s stinger penetrated his skin, Stan remained motionless. He gently placed the bee back on the bush, removed the stinger from his palm, and proudly flaunted it before me. I lost the bet. Stan’s act of youthful machismo impressed me. He earned my respect.
When it comes to bee handling, Stanford’s a bigger man than me, and anyone else I know. But, without Jesus, no man or woman is a match for “the angel of the Abyss” (v.11). Not me. Not you. Not Stanford. The stinging locusts with their “power to torment people” would bring anyone to their knees in terror.
Stan became a follower of Jesus Christ when he was in high school, and now, “Because He who is in [Stanford] is greater than he [Satan, Abaddon, Apollyon, the angel of the Abyss, etc.] who is in the world” (1st John 4.4 NKJV), Stan, and any believer, can endure the sting of anything that may come their way.
"Get Thee Hence, Satan" is the work of Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890), the celebrated Danish painter, who is recognized by many as the greatest artist ever to interpret the life of Christ.