As 2013 breaks in amongst us, we, along with the rest of humanity have to once again come to grips with this most vital of questions. What will our hearts and souls long for this year?
Cosmic and earthly history play out a dynamic, bellicose narrative of this worship wager.
An end of year reading has once again brought to me the delights of the book of “Revelation” and its wonderful unveiling of the person of Jesus, the Gospel and the Church. There is a lot of crazy stuff written nowadays concerning the so-called “end times”, and quick visit to the “God Channel” will take you into some very weird and scary realms of sensationalist and superficial scholarship. I’m still on my own awestruck pilgrimage through this tome, but I am indebted to Michael Wilcock and his book “The Meaning of Revelation”, for giving me a Christ centred Biblical pathway to follow.
The unfolding of Revelation leads us to the same challenge. Who will you worship? We see a whole horde of satanically inspired beasts and harlots craving worship. Icons, images (screens?), become animated snares to entrap the mind to Godless ideology. All of this “calls for patient endurance and faithfulness…and wisdom” from the Christian church.
The beginning of the book of Matthew 4:1-11, also recounts the way the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to face the twofold satanic challenge on his identity – “If you are the Son of God…”, and a brazen attack on His worship orientation – “If you will bow down and worship me.”
It always amazes – almost shocks me to think that Satan even had grounds to believe that Jesus might actually cave in and worship him. It says something about the “kenosis” of Christ, emptying himself to be tempted in every way.
Much has already been written on this event. We often equate Jesus overcoming the fleshly temptation with the “stones to bread”, the spiritual pride with the “temple miracle”, and the lust for power with the “world kingdoms.” I’ve always been intrigued that the Gospel of John does not mention the temptations – but instead gives parallel positives. Water to wine, temple cleaned out and a simple Samaritan woman worshipping in Spirit and truth!
However, let me bring a new angle on this passage by linking it to the symbolic battles of Revelation. Using Wilcock’s “Apocalypse Now”, amillennial approach, I will attempt to see the three temptations in the light of the two beasts and the harlot.
Wilcock’s sees the first beast as representing the challenge of the power of “the state” – the powers that be, to all the people of God throughout all the ages. The second best (and false prophet) is false religion and all Godless ideology. The harlot may be another way of seeing the second beast and represents the world’s seductive power and rule. “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” 1 John 2:15
Just like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, they too have been galloping over world history since the beginning. No doubt there will be a climax to all this, culminating in the ultimate return of Jesus, but He has already met and overcome their earthly challenges. This gives us hope, as we rest in Him, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to overcome in our own everyday lives as we face the temptations to give our hearts to other loves.
The Roman state controlled the people by giving them “bread and games.” Not much has really changed. In my country, France, the State sets itself up as some providential entity aiming to meet the needs of all. “L’Etat Providence” is a well-known slogan here. It’s materialistic, humanistic ideal of solving all mankind’s problems with more “bread” squeezes out God from the agenda. Its velvet glove of tolerance conceals an iron fist for all who would hold to the absolutes of God’s Word.
Jesus refused the identity of the first beast, knowing that “man does not live on bread (or games!) alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
He knew that the “Word” system was more vital that the world system. Do we?
State religion has always gone arm in arm with the powers that be. All sorts of monstrous wars and abuses have been sanctioned by the “temple.” Just throw yourself down, play the “miracle game” right and you will be popular, beautiful and rich. Even the radical “stateless” versions of the temple can still fall prey to the “ideology” of bloodless success. The second beast even called fire down from heaven!
Jesus again refused this cheap, worthless identity, preferring to lay a foundation of naked faith than build on the superficial sand of temple performance.
I’m pretty sure that Jesus’ mountain view of “the kingdoms of the world and their splendour” was not that different to the horrific whore that John saw in Revelation 17 & 18. A grotesque antithesis to the Bride of Christ she is greater than the cities of Rome, Babylon and Tyre, the ultimate ethos of materialism and humanistic society – the world. Who can resist a sip from her polluted golden cup?
If you, like so many of us, have been tempted to drink from “broken cisterns” take courage, and be empowered with the victorious words of Jesus who was the first (and last) to see Babylon sink like a stone.
“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
May it indeed be written for every one of your days in 2013…