It is so easy to create two categories of people: good and bad. The book of Revelation does it in today’s reading, the entire Old Testament is devoted to helping us understand through guilt, shame, and punishment that sin makes us bad. We can examine our lives in front of the Ten Commandments, and probably, most of the time, be thankful we haven’t done anything gravely wrong. Jesus steps into the picture and teaches us that a mere unguarded glance is the same thing – spiritually – as adultery. He teaches us that the bitter feelings and resentment we agree with are the same thing – spiritually – as murder. He teaches us that our desire to appear good to others is vanity and pride. If you can console yourself while reading the book of Revelation by thinking, “Whew, I’m glad I’m one of the good guys” – how are you any different from the Pharisees? If you truly think you can stand serenely before the judgment seat of God because you are “one of the good guys,” I still hope that God will have mercy on you.
We need to be saved. “All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.” We are not good on our own – we cannot make ourselves good by willing it or trying harder. “No one is good but God alone.” “You have been saved by the grace of God – and this is not from yourselves, so that no one can boast.” We need to escape judgment if we do not want to fear the end of the world and of our lives. We can’t just try to become “the best version of ourselves” – that is a lost cause.
There is one way to escape the categories of judgment for sin: be saved. Salvation happens when our lives are devoted to Jesus out of love by faith. He opens our hearts to Himself where He pours His merciful Love. If you come to Jesus asking to be judged on how good you’ve been – I hope He laughs at you: maybe that will inspire the humility you need to receive His loving embrace. “I have not come to save the righteous, I have come to save sinners.” “Woman, has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more.” We are not saved by our good behavior, by avoiding calling negative attention to ourselves. We are saved because our relationship with God has become a friendship with Jesus. If our relationship with God looks like the cold relationship between a judge and an accused criminal, let us befriend the Advocate: Jesus.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA:
Since creation begins to be changed and brings unendurable terrors on the inhabitants of earth, there will be a certain fearful tribulation. There will also be souls departing to death. The unendurable fear of those things that are coming will be sufficient for the destruction of many.1
Woe to those pregnant women, because they are heavy in body; they are too slow to escape danger. Woe to those for whom the yet unfelt pangs of future birth, by which every body is shaken, are the signs of future judgment, the beginnings of sorrows.2
If very many gaze on the rays of the worldly sun, the sun seems bright or pale in proportion to the capacity of the viewer, so the spiritual light is imparted to each according to the devotion of the believer. In its monthly courses, the moon, opposite the earth, wanes when it is in the sun’s quarter. When the vices of the flesh obstruct the heavenly Light, the holy church also cannot borrow the brightness of the divine Light from the rays of Christ. In the persecutions, love of this life alone certainly very often shuts out the light of God.3
For as those who hate humankind and are desirous of blood, these wicked demons search out places in which the blood of people killed in warfare or in some other manner has been shed, and as though rejoicing at what has happened, they make their abode in such places. Therefore, since most will be killed in the city, as we have said, it finally becomes the “dwelling place of demons and a haunt of every foul spirit,” since the place safeguards the hedonistic lifestyle of the demons in it. “And a haunt of every foul bird and every unclean beast,” it says. For such animals flee the abode of people and take possession of abandoned places, keeping them free from those who intend them harm and hunt wild animals.4
That iniquitous spirits can be symbolized by birds is indicated in that passage of the book of Genesis, which reports that Abraham drove away birds that were swooping down upon the carcasses [of sacrificial animals].5
CAESARIUS OF ARLES:
Whenever you hear the name Babylon, do not think of it as a city made of stones, for “Babylon” means “confusion.” Rather, understand that the name signifies those people who are arrogant, robbers, dissolute and impious, and who persevere in their wickednesses.… Whenever you hear the name Jerusalem, which refers to the vision of peace, understand that it refers to persons who are holy before God.6
It mentions two deeds of the harlot, namely, that she corrupted herself with evil deeds and that she persecuted those who are good. It seems to me that in these two acts every [type of] transgression is comprehended.7
- COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 139. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 321). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 10.26. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 321). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 10.36–37. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 322). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON THE APOCALYPSE 18.1-3. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 286). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON THE APOCALYPSE 18.2. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (pp. 286–287). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EXPOSITION ON THE APOCALYPSE 18.2, HOMILY 15–16. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 287). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EXPLANATION OF THE APOCALYPSE 19.2. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 298). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.