Word for Today Archive


Pastoral Commentary for Revelation 16
Author: Pastor Zach

I am not a very competitive person, often to the chagrin of my wife, Melody. For example, if we are playing a game of Scrabble one evening, Melody will glance at her tiles and then study the board with steely eyed resolve, determined to use her "Q" and "X" in one word while also landing on a "Triple Word Score" space. But then, there's me. "THE," I'll say in a monotone drone. "T-H-E." "You're not even trying!" Melody will respond. "It's no fun to play with you unless you try to beat me!" But I'm just not a very competitive person. The thrill of a win feels muted to me while the pain of a loss feels blunted to me.

I am not a very competitive person. That is, unless I'm playing 42. This Texas domino classic captured my heart in seminary and has held it ever since. I'm not sure what it is about this one game that brings out my competitive edge, but I am fierce and focused when I play. I intensely study each and every domino, carefully strategizing my victory. And if I lose... well, let's just say I can be less than a gracious loser, especially when I lose after betting on what I was certain was a winning hand. But sometimes, no matter what I do, no matter how carefully I strategize, and no matter how hard I try, the dominoes do not fall properly. And I lose. And I am not happy about it.

In Revelation 16, we are introduced to some very competitive people. But these people are not trying to compete at a game of Scrabble or even at a game of 42. No, these people are trying to compete against God. They stubbornly, unabashedly, and wildly defy God's commands, trying to defeat God's righteousness and usurp his authority. But no matter how hard they try, they keep on losing. And they are not happy about it. John writes, "They cursed the name of God... but they refused to repent and glorify him" (verse 9). They refused to admit, "I have lost at my game wickedness. God is the winner. And I should declare him as such through repentance and worship."

Finally, in one last ditch effort to defeat God, the wicked gather "together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon" (verse 16). Without a doubt, much ink has been spilled over the famed Mountain of Megiddo and the impending gloomy and gory battle that will one day take place there. But even before this final cosmic war, because of its location at a strategic point along the Via Maris, an important ancient trade route, Armageddon has already served as the unfortunate site for countless monumental battles. As the biblical scholar Robert Mounce writes, "Armageddon is one of history's famous battlefields, having witnessed major conflicts all the way 'from one fought by Thuthmosis III in 1468 BC to that of Lord Allenby of Megiddo in 1917" (Revelation, 301). Indeed, this site is substantially stained with the blood of the fallen. Biblically, this is the same site on which Elijah competed with the prophets of Baal in a contest to see whose God was the true God (cf. 1 Kings 18:16-40). Elijah won handily.

For all the battles which have taken place at Armageddon, this final eschatological one is of a different sort. The wicked gather for war against God. Their swords are drawn, their bows are strung, their catapults are mounted, and their intentions are clear: To defeat the Lord and his righteous ones. But then, before a single arrow is fired and before a single sword is wielded, God announces, "It is done" (verse 17)! The battle ends before it can even begin. John's description of the battle at Armageddon, then, is a far cry from the depictions of bloody carnage given to us in many popular Christian, which turn out also to be fictional, descriptions of this war. For no matter how hard they try, the wicked do not even have a chance at winning this war. They lose. And it is done.

The battle at Armageddon should offer us, as Christians, great comfort and hope because technically, it's not even a battle. Rather, it's a simple declaration of victory: "Christ has won over wickedness! It is done!" So when you face wickedness which harangues your morale and stresses your soul, remember that the battle has already been won. Wickedness doesn't stand a chance. For our God has competed and won. And that's a victory we can all be happy about.



Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.



2019-11-15 09:46:40