November 19, 2007

Revelation 12.7-12

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon.

And the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called The Devil, and Satan--the deceiver of the whole world--He was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

And I heard a loud voice in Heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the reign of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their own lives even unto death. Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows his time is short!"


At 9:39 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

So I was "wrong" about that dragon; I mean Rome etc are examples of this power in action, but something more is meant.

For a thorough examination of what is meant by "Satan," Walter Wink has a highly perceptive (and fascinating!) chapter in _Unmasking the Powers_.

For my own brief version... Consider that God's revelation to the human species has been an ongoing, ever-changing and developing process. By the time of Jesus, earlier Jewish ideas of Satan as God's investigative & prosecuting angel (See Job. Consider also Malina's explanation of the Persian word "satan": an undercover agent-provocateur for combatting disloyalty to the Persian Empire) have been diluted by the Zoroastrian idea of a separate-&-nearly-equal evil rival to God.

Although later Christians will wonder "Just who was that unidentified serpent in the Garden?" this passage was not necessarily intended as an allusion to Eden. However... Our discovery of "The Knowledge of Good and Evil" is not just an inconvenient accomplishment (as many Jewish interpreters see it), or (as churchy interpreters see it) an ancient crime in which we are implicated... As Raymond Smullyan put it, "The fruit in question is poisonous, and the effects last for many generations."

Jesus is traditionally seen as "the New Adam," as the cure for the effects of that fruit. And he said things like "Judge not, lest you be judged!" He spoke of God as doing good to people, whether they were good or bad, and called on us to do likewise. That is, we are not to be too sure of our knowledge of Good or Evil--not to blame, condemn, or punish, because the guiltiest party, if we want to make a Divine criminal case of it, just might turn out to be us!

So in the synoptic gospels we have Jesus running around announcing God's forgiveness and love for people whom the respectable authorities see as "sinners," suffering because (unlike the respectable authorites) it serves them right! And Jesus is quoted, speaking of the Devil, as saying "He was always a liar!" That is, the spirit of accusation (of blame, condemnation, & punishment) in which the secular world is governed does not know the real truth about us, or about any other human being.

& while that spirit still reigns in all the governments & businesses (& most of the churches!) on earth, it does not have the final say. The Accuser's view of us has been disproved, says "John", by the willingness of Jesus and his followers to "not love" (ie, relinquish) their lives for the sake of God's rule. But those who see the world in that false light will behave more viciously than ever, because that witness threatens the basis of their power.

At 11:36 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

This first paragraph is going back to The Fall i think. So this book says what has been as well as what will be. I suppose what will be only makes sense within the context of what has already happened. Maybe this is happening all the time. Hhhmm. Still thinking.

More latter.


At 11:43 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

"defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony,"

Still pondering.

"defeated him by the blood of the Lamb". That's Jesus died and attoned for the sin that was Adams fall from Grace. So the devils macinations in Eden have been defeated and come to nothing.

"by the word of their testimony". I'm reading about Martin Luther at the moment and his idea of Justification by faith. If by, "their testimony" it means 'belivers faith' could this be an example of what Luther was saying about someone only really needing faith to be saved and that good actions alone are not sufficiant?


At 11:46 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your idea of ongoing revelation and linking it to Zoastrianism.

When was this book writen? Was their allot of dualism about at that time that this book might, in part, be a reaction against?


At 4:03 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Sorry to have been remiss in responding... One weird, but possible interpretation of "no longer any place for them in heaven" goes: In the mind of God all notions of moralistic guilt or punitive consequences for their own sake have lost their power due to the life of Jesus, so that spirits which had served that function were now in opposition to God's will... for whatever that's worth.

Does "war in Heaven" mean "a conflict in the mind of God"? Hmmmm!!!

I don't have much use for theories of 'atonement' via death-as-compensation-for-sin; I just can't imagine God operating that way (although the minds of human beings are something else!) The only function I can see for the crucifixion is God's demonstration that He does not intend to impose His will by superior force, that His children can be led to accept suffering, death, failure and utter humiliation rather than any illusion of victory through violence. Jesus did not die to placate God's wrath, but rather to allay the guilty fears of human beings.

And so, no, I don't believe that human actions or even human "faith" are "necessary to salvation," but rather that they are given to us in the course of salvation (which is our destiny, not due to any virtue of ours but to unlimited divine grace.

No, I don't think this book was "a reaction against dualism." Consciously, at least, the author was right in there cheering for the Good Guys to stomp the Bad Guys. But the source of his inspiration was deeper...

In Jesus' time, & soon after (when the bulk of this material was probably written) there was a widespread tormented dualistic understanding of the Roman occupation as 1) an affront to God in the land He had claimed for His people 2) a direct source of widespread suffering and 3) an affliction which they could understand as punishment for some sin of the Jewish people, hence renewal movements like Jesus', John the Baptist's, the Pharisees. The basic hope was roughly ~"Live like a kingdom of priests and they (Romans) will go away!" But there's been more blood under the bridge when "John" here is writing his book, and while he expects "Babylon" (aka Rome) to fall, he expects that to happen as God's response and vindication for the death of His martyrs.

More later...(?)

At 2:31 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

'More Latter' means I'm still thinking.

You said, 'don't have much use for theories of 'atonement' via death-as-compensation-for-sin; I just can't imagine God operating that way'. I've been speaking with a Jewish friend about this and she has introduced me to the idea that Gods justice is utterly inscruitable (must learn to spell)to humans. I find that re-asuring; God knows what's going on, just try and trust him.

At 6:54 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

"more later" might mean "still thinking," but in this case it in fact means "distracted, negligent & lazy." Maybe another interested person will come along, feeling called to do more here?

I think God's justice is simply too simple for humans.

Human "justice" is a culturally-evolved response to the fact that people often don't treat one another right... Researchers have run simulations of what are called "Prisoner's Dilemma" situations, ie those in which both parties benefit from cooperation, but one of them can seemingly do better, for itself, by stiffing the other. Virtural creatures test out various strategies for long series of interactions, and one of the most successful such strategies turns out to be the one called "Tit for Tat." That is, what people call: "retributive justice." Even better is "Tit for Tat with With Offers of Forgiveness," which is more like "justice and mercy..."

God doesn't need justice. God can't be cheated. It is only as God cares for human beings that He becomes vulnerable... But we, being continually vulnerable, continually call for justice to protect us... and mercy lest we unknowingly "deserve" destruction!

Kids in a big family need justice, so the biggest one won't just grab all the goodies and punch her brothers out. But the object is not to punish children for being imperfect; the object is to keep the beloved little creeps sufficiently undamaged to eventually grow up! The purpose of God's justice is much the same...


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