She had not been to Manna House in months. I could not remember her name. She came into the quiet of a slow Tuesday morning loudly going on about the anti-Christ and an accompanying gleeful anticipation of, as she put it over and over again, “The fall of the fall of Babylon.” Finally, a guest irritated by the commotion asked, “Who is that?”
Her name, we learned from Ashley, was “Angela.”
Angela, that is, “angel, messenger of God.” Suddenly John’s vision recorded in the Book of Revelation rushed into the living room of Manna House.
“After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with the angel’s splendor. The angel called out with a mighty voice,
‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
It has become a dwelling place of demons,
a haunt of every foul spirit,
a haunt of every foul bird,
a haunt of every foul and hateful beast.
For all the nations have drunk
of the wine of the wrath of her fornication,
and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her
luxury.’” (Revelation 18:1-3)
“Babylon is going down, and I couldn’t be happier,” Angela said, “It deserves nothing but destruction.”
“Is Trump the anti-Christ?” a guest asked.
“His first name does have six letters,” I responded, knowing this way of seeking connection between biblical text and contemporary character. “But does anyone know his middle name? His last name only has five letters.”
We were aiming for 666, but with “Trump” we were at least one digit short. And none of us knew his middle name. I looked it up later. His middle name is “John.” No easy figuring here like with Ronald (6) Wilson (6) Reagan (6). No doubt someone will come up with a way to figure that Trump translates into 666. But this was missing Angela’s point and the seriousness of the next question.
“Is this really the end?” another guest asked, “Things out here look bad.”
Angela responded, “Babylon is falling, the falling of Babylon will be great. Great will be Babylon’s fall.”
It is an interesting fact that neither Luther nor Calvin thought highly of the Book of Revelation. Luther thought it should be excluded from the Scripture. He wrote, “My spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book. For me this is reason enough not to think highly of it: Christ is neither taught nor known in it.” Calvin wrote commentaries on all of the books of the Bible, except Revelation. Revelation makes scant appearances in the lectionary, the ordered readings of mainline churches.
Angela’s cry was a reminder: Revelation is dangerous. Apocalypse rejects the reigning order. There is no compromise possible. We are to give our all to a different vision of human life, where “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more” … and where, there flows the river of life with nearby trees producing abundant fruit and leaves that “are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 21:4, 22:2-3).
Revelation is a book favored by those with little or no investment in the present order, like Angela coming in from the streets. It is favored in store front churches that have long names like “Apostolic and Spirit Anointed Church of the Holy People of God,” and by wild-eyed street preachers carrying banners and handing out tracts about the end times.
Such social locations for Revelation sometimes leads to a disdainful dismissal by sophisticated liberal Christians. Revelation gets safely placed within “apocalyptic literature” that dealt with the Roman Empire, a passing moment in Church history before a more rational Christianity emerged reconciled to the existing order. Equally trivializing is the reduction of Revelation to a divine bus schedule in which those who do not know the proper turn of events will be “left behind.”
Angela’s announcement came from a deeper place, of wound and hurt and disgust known on the streets of Babylon. “This will not last. This is not God’s way,” as she said.
I wondered as Angela wandered down the street, where do I put my hope?
Revelation repeats several times, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus” (Rev 14:12, see also 13:10, 1:9, 2:2, 2:10, 3:10-11) along with this call, “Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins” (Rev 18:4). Patient persistence in faithful resistance. And as another angel(a) put it not that long ago at Christmastime, “Do not be afraid” (Luke 1:30, 2:10, Matthew 1:20).