Thursday 29 September 2016

Bible Book:

Revelation 12:7-12 Thursday 29 September 2016

Psalm: Psalm 103


Today the Church celebrates the feast of St Michael and AllAngels.

The visions in the book of Revelation offer challenge andcomfort - not always in equal measure. They paint a picture usingimages drawn from the Old Testament (particularly the books ofDaniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah) of spiritual forces operating behindour earthly reality. Some passages offer a 'behind the scenes' tourof the present - others reveal the future, as disclosed to theauthor, John (which passages are which, of course, has been hotlycontested over the years). The visions are addressed tofirst-century churches under threat from persecution, falseteaching and complacency. They aim to warn the churches againstsuch dangers and to offer reassurance that Jesus Christ has alreadywon the decisive victory over sin and death and that, one day,suffering will be no more.

Dr Paula Gooder has made an extensive study of the biblicalthreads that have been woven together to make up our mentalpicture(s) of heaven and hell, including the figure of Satan (youcan listen to her rough guides to heaven and hell here). In thispassage, Satan appears as a dragon with "his angels" (v. 9, apossible link to the fallen angels in Genesis 6). Michael, theguardian of God's people (eg Daniel12:1) and an archangel (Jude9), defeats Satan and his angels - and all those who oppose Godare thrown out of heaven.

This passage raises a great many questions (you might like tolook back at the thoughts and suggestions given by Word in Timeauthors on the feast of St Michael and All Angels over recent years- the easiest way is to use the search facility for 29 September). In Luke10:18, Jesus rejoices in a glimpse of the same vision. For all itschallenging imagery, it offers the comfort of knowing that, after agreat many struggles, we will share in God's ultimate victory oversin and death. As they say in the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, "it will be allright in the end. And if it's not all right, it's not yet theend."

To Ponder

  • Some people interpret this vision of a battle in heaven aspurely figurative - a metaphor for the battle between forces ofgood and evil in our own lives. Do you think it is intended to beliteral, or figurative, or both?
  • What are the challenges facing the Church in the21st¬†century? Is the same message (of challenge and comfort)needed today? Why (or why not)?

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