Summary: An advent message based on Rev 16. The message: Keep building your anticipation for Christ's return!
"The Last Mountain"
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the best known theologians of the twentieth century. His book "The Cost of Discipleship" should be on every Christian's bookshelf. As most of you know, in 1943, Bonhoeffer found himself in prison. Eventually he would be executed for participating in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. But while he was in prison he had time to reflect on many things, including Christmas.
He wrote: "Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespectful hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them. Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting-that is, of hopefully doing without-will never experience the full blessing of fulfilment.
Those who do not know how it feels to struggle anxiously with the deepest questions of life, of their life, and to patiently look forward with anticipation until the truth is revealed, cannot even dream of the splendour of the moment in which clarity is illuminated for them. For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait."
Waiting is an art that we have long forgotten. No one values, let alone practices the art of waiting anymore!
We all prefer instant gratification. We all want the quick fix. We all want the immediate download, but at the same time, somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of our minds we sense that waiting, longing for, and anticipating, something does have its rewards. Think about it: without waiting there's no real appreciation. Without waiting, a precious gift is devalued. Without waiting we never fully focus on, or long for, the object we desire.
The difference between the Christmas experience of a five- year-old and the Christmas experience of a thirty, forty, or fifty-year-old is waiting. The five-year-olds' Christmas is magical because the waiting is so excruciating long. For a five-year-old there is no longer night in the year than Christmas Eve. For a thirty or forty or fifty-year-old, Christmas shows up before we know it. There is no waiting. There is only the anxiety of not being ready.
Today we finish our Mountain Moment series by looking at the Last Mountain.
Please turn with me to Revelation 16, p. 1043
As you turn there, let me give you a bit of background. Chapter 16 is about the final battle. It is about all the nations of the earth standing against God in one last cage-match. The climax of the chapter is found in verse 16: "Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon."
Interestingly enough, this is the only place in the Bible that we find the word Armageddon. Given how well-known and popular is this idea of Armageddon, you would think it would be more prevalent in Scripture, but it isn't. Everyone knows that Armageddon is connected with some catastrophic event that signals the end of the world. Unless Bruce Willis, saves the day, that is-NOT!
Now Armageddon is a Hebrew word that John transliterates into Greek and it means, "Mount of Megiddo." Megiddo is located in northern Israel. It is a city that held great strategic importance in the ancient world. It lay along one of the primary trade routes running between Egypt in the south, and Asia and Europe to the north. It was a place where news and ideas from all over the then known world were exchanged. It was, therefore, a place of great cultural influence.
Furthermore, Megiddo was situated on the edge of the "Plain of Jezreel" or the "Plain of Megiddo", which divided Israel from east to west. Whoever controlled the Plain of Megiddo controlled the trade routes and the whole country of Israel. For this reason, many important battles were fought in this area. In fact more than two hundred battles were fought there. But the thing you need to remember is that Armageddon, or Mount Megiddo is not a real place. There is no Mountain of Megiddo. It is a plain. So John is talking about a spiritual or a symbolic name here when he talks about Armageddon, he isn't talking about a real, geographical location. John's map is spiritual. That point is reinforced by the fact that John doesn't even translate Armageddon from the Hebrew.
This is something you have to keep in mind with Revelation. It is an apocalyptic book, meaning it is a specific kind of writing that involves lots of symbols and vivid pictures that are meant to illicit in us strong emotions that communicate the important nature of the message of the book. When you read Revelation you can't help being swept up in what is clearly a life and death drama and that is the point of all of the imagery in Revelation.