Finishing the calendar year in Advent also brings my reading into Revelation. (NOTE: While it is the end of the “calendar year”, it is the beginning of the Church Year.) Over my lifetime I have gone through a lot of changed thinking when it comes to the Book of Revelation. It has become to me a book of HOPE. But that hope is tempered. It’s a great book for Advent, quite honestly.
The reading today was Revelation 6. It is bleak. It is beyond bleak. The first four seals are broke and what becomes known as “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” are released. It’s bloody. It’s horrid. Here is what attacks our fine sensibilities as 21st Century Americans: it just doesn’t get better. What’s more… believers are going through this mess.
When we get to the fifth seal being broken we get a glimpse of the martyrs and they are crying out to God for mercy on those who are still going through the horrible situations on earth. The only promise they received was this: “It’s still going to be awhile longer. HOLD ON.”
Friends, that is Advent. This isn’t a dream about things simply getting progressively better in the world. This isn’t a pipe dream of, “Come to Jesus and you’re life gets better.” Advent is reality. It is to understand the place of the believer in a world opposed to Christ and not asking to be “taken out”… but to hold on and in that holding, go to war. It’s not war on this world. It’s war against principalities and powers.
Advent is war. It is struggle. It is hope.
“The sing of life in the Time Between (Advent) — make no mistake — is suffering. How can it be otherwise? The Christian church is the vanguard of God’s conquering future, inserted into ‘this present evil age’ (Gal. 1:4). ‘We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against principalities, agains the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places’ (Eph. 6:12).
“We, the church, are the paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines.” — Fleming Rutledge, Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ
Advent is a reminder that life isn’t about how we want to feel about the situation of the world. It is a reminder of the true situation of the world and our calling in that situation. But it IS a calling of hope. It is to know that our King is coming. We can indeed hold on. We can indeed keep fighting. Even if it’s behind enemy lines.