Today is the completion of the second woe – the end of the period of witnessing (half of the fullness of time)
Can you still remember back to the opening of the abyss (chapter 9 this week – the 5th trumpet, opening the way – smoke and pestilent locusts swarmed out??) Now there’s a beast – or perhaps better, Beast.
This is not one of the four beasts in the celestial vision, nor one of the four horses and horsemen of apocalypse. Here we don’t have a description of the beast, we focus instead on its actions: killing the witnesses, leaving them in the street of the great city, their bodies abandoned for 3 ½ days (half a smaller fullness of time)
The image of bodies in a street, left as a warning in a war are familiar to our TV age – Mogadishu’s Black Hawk Down got a movie, bt you can list dozens of cities, once begun.
Sure, the image is based on Jerusalem, named as Sodom and Egypt, (and later Babylon) the type of the Great City, though, was already applicable to Rome, and in an a millenialist reading to any great city.
How do people react when insurrectionists rot in the street? As the Warsaw Ghetto burns, or Krystallnacht before? During the Great Leap Forward, or in Tienamin Square, in Nicaragua, or Bishop Romero’s church?
Some are shocked – and some celebrate – The ‘problem’ is solved!
Gloating, exchanges of gifts. Many see a return to business as usual, without the negativity of the prophets, and with relief from their biblical plagues which kept demanding our attention but after these 3 ½ days of hopeless despair for some and exultant partying for others… God breathes life back into the 2 bodies – They are resurrected and raised up in to heaven.
Have you ever heard of such a thing? Yes, you have. This time, as in Matthew’s passion, there’s an earthquake wrecking parts of the city and killing many people. As I noted yesterday, people have long construed conflicts in this shape, consciously or indirectly influenced by this scripture.
Our a-millenial tradition does not tie the text to one historic event, but uses it to make sense of disorienting apocalyptic times, trying to sort out who reminds us of whom in the images.
Why give glory to God for killing 7000 in an earthquake? Does it help if they were in the midst of partying over corpses? Do people still argue on Hiroshima Day, or VE day?
Next week, those with CDs from the church will start the 2nd of 2 CDs We are at the middle, the centre of the onion, The weird and wild stuff with the Beast is not over – yet.
We are close to the ‘heart of darkness’ now… Don’t give up
7 When they have completed their witnessing, the beast that comes out of the Abyss is going to make war on them and overcome them and kill them.
8 Their corpses lie in the main street of the great city known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt, in which their Lord was crucified.
9 People of every race, tribe, language and nation stare at their corpses, for three and a half days, not letting them be buried,
10 and the people of the world are glad about it and celebrate the event by giving presents to each other, because these two prophets have been a plague to the people of the world.'
11 After the three and a half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up on their feet, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified;
12 then I heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, 'Come up here,' and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud.
13 Immediately, there was a violent earthquake, and a tenth of the city collapsed; seven thousand persons were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors, overcome with fear, could only praise the God of heaven.
14 That was the second of the disasters; the third is to come quickly after it.
7 When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them,
8and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that is prophetically called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
9For three and a half days members of the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb;
10and the inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to the inhabitants of the earth.
11 But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and those who saw them were terrified.
12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here!’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies watched them.
13At that moment there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14 The second woe has passed. The third woe is coming very soon.