Once again, the final stage in the fall of Jerusalem is represented by the symbolism of the Exodus from Egypt. Seven more plagues come upon the city, in bringing about its final fall.
This symbolism represents the message of many of the Prophets, like Ezekiel, for example. He speaks of Jerusalem being Gog and Magog, coming against the weak and defenceless, the servants of God. We will speak of this more, when we look at Rev 20. The point here, is that when Jerusalem falls, it is portrayed by the city becoming the enemy of God’s people.
There is a strong message in this for us today. It is that if we claim some special exceptionalism with God, to claim we are God’s people, and that we have some special right to mistreat others and mistreat the world in which we live, then we ourselves become deceived. The message here is the same as we see in the Sermon on the Mount: that it is in judging ourselves, before we judge others, that we become the children of God.
So just as Israel had their Exodus from Egypt, now true Israel, the church, the 144,000, have their Exodus from symbolic Egypt, Jerusalem. Here, they sing the Song of Moses, exulting God for his justice and deliverance of his people and the world, from oppression and darkness. God is just, for he both judges Israel, and also keeps his promises to Israel, to redeem them through the gospel, in line with all his prophets.
The first Song and Moses was sung after the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea. It seems Israel didn’t get it. God had delivered the weak and oppressed nation. Instead of gloating over their enemies, Israel should have then realised that God had called them to be like him, to deliver the weak and oppressed people around them. They never understood this “enemy thing,” that God does not take delight in the death of a sinner. This was what the Prophets continually pressed home to Israel.
The Song of Moses in Revelation wasn’t to teach us to gloat in the demise of our enemies. Some Christians today use Revelation as an excuse to gloat. Some atheists ask, “If this what God is like?” The destruction of Jerusalem was so severe, with so much suffering, that it couldn’t have been the will of God, and God certainly didn’t rejoice in it. Jeremiah mourned bitterly when Jerusalem fell in his day, and the destruction caused by Rome was far worse. Jesus wept over Jerusalem’s coming fall. He did not call us to rejoice in it.
What we should learn from this apocalyptic narrative, is that we too should follow God is serving the weak, just as he delivered the church from the rule of oppressors in John’s day.
As stated in the previous section, the Song of Moses that Revelation seems to be referring to is the second one of Deuteronomy 32. Rev 15 quoted this second song, about God’s just and faithful works. The song then predicted Israel’s fall, but also that God would continue his faithfulness to them. From
Deuteronomy 30 we see God’s plan. That God would rescue his people by circumcising their heart. This was being fulfilled as John wrote the Revelation. Israel had become apostate from God, but God’s compassion rescued them through his gospel. This was why they were singing the song in Revelation, not to gloat in the fall of Jerusalem, but in the redemption of God in the face of our own unfaithfulness.
Rejoicing in the destruction of our enemies is one of the most unfortunate characteristics of our fallen humanity. It perpetuates the cycle of violence. We should mourn for them, as we would mourn for ourselves. If we delight in the death of a sinner, how can say we are children of God? Israel were commanded to rescue the Edomites, when they were refugees, even though they were Israel’s enemy and a security risk. (Isaiah 16)
Revelation, as an apocalyptic text, was written in a war narrative, because that is the language the brutal understand. The message was, that what Israel did to others, was coming back upon ourselves. That is what happens in war. Those who live by the sword, bring the sword back upon themselves. But the language of the apocalyptic text does not depict God’s nature, nor the character of his church. It was “revealing God” to Israel, in the language they “revealed him” to others.