Most Christians come to the table with one of two predispositions: either “Of course God loves me” or “How could God love me?” One attitude is rooted in pride, the other in shame. Both in some way assume an incomplete picture of the Lord. The former attitude fails to recognize the inherently (and inherited) depraved nature of humans, without which there would be no need for a sacrificially loving God. The latter denies that such a sacrifice is sufficient. I fall into the former category, though over the course of the last year I have been daily convinced of the truth about myself. Going through the entire Bible this year has lifted the veil, so to speak, and today’s reading struck me like an arrow through the heart.
Revelation 17 gives us an incredible description of “the great prostitute” (a.k.a. Babylon), ornately dressed and perched atop her ally, the beast, like a queen:
[Above: “The Whore of Babylon” from Fritz Lang’s classic silent film, Metropolis, c. 1927]
She is raising a goblet filled with the filth of her immorality as if to make a toast, apparently unaware that she is about to be abandoned. What a scene. The beast represents the Antichrist, and the harlot represents the epitome of depravity: pride, idolatry, and religious apostasy:
“As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’ For this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her” (Rev. 18:7-8).
Her ally betrays her, just as anything we elevate to the status of God in our lives will ultimately betray us. This is a picture of total destruction for those who have turned their backs on the Lord to go their own way.
Proverbs 29 has a good word for us regarding pride: “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (Prov. 29:23). Elsewhere in Proverbs: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).
Notice how humility is completely absent from the picture painted in Revelation 17 and 18? Jesus himself gives us a perfect picture of humility before honor (first the cross, then the crown). This is the only attitude we can have before our Heavenly Father—we are not worthy.
So my adjusted attitude is “How could God love me?” and only when I look at his answer hanging there on the cross can I then declare, “Of course God loves me!” Though the world might continually try to shove that goblet in my hand and give me a leg up to ride that beast, I can rest in my identity as an adopted child of God and remain firmly planted in his kingdom. What a gift.
(A wonderful resource for unpacking the last five chapters of Revelation is Gil Kracke’s Spring 2014 series The End of the Book, linked here.)