Survival kit: Fighting monsters

by | Mar 3, 2024

I’m a big fan of watching how-too YouTube videos that I usually find after asking Google search a how-to question.

In preparing for this week’s message on Revelation, I found another source that I haven’t used before. The site is called wikiHow. The platform’s mission is to create an extensive library of knowledge about how to do things.

I googled the word Armageddon, and the site was listed near the top of referrals with the summary of How to prepare for Armageddon? The site offered a list of items to have on hand.

The list included items I expected to find, like jugs of water and canned goods. But the list also included more disturbing items like a weapon, along with the warning to presume any other human you encounter is not your friend.

Mostly, Armageddon-like events are associated with natural disasters. But there are plenty of political confrontations that result in rumors and conspiracy theories of an Armageddon of a different sort on the horizon.

It’s a presidential election year and the airwaves are filled with messages intended to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt unless a particularly candidate is elected. Some messages resonate when heard among the news stories of wars, terrorism, mass shootings, nuclear weapons in space, and destructive weather.

Remember the 1998 movie Armageddon, where Bruce Willis plays an oil driller sent to drill a hole in an approaching asteroid threatening earth’s existence? Fifteen years after this movie was released, an asteroid named Chelyabinsk (chuhl·yaa·binsk) entered the earth’s atmosphere over Russia’s Ural region in February 2013. It was the second-largest asteroid to do damage to our planet in the last century, weighing approximately 12,000 tons and measuring 19 meters across.

When the asteroid entered the upper atmosphere at a shallow angle and high speed, it disintegrated, releasing a shockwave that injured over 1,500 people and damaging 7,300 buildings.

This month marks the tenth anniversary of two groups, one led by NASA, responsible for identifying, tracking and planning a response to asteroids heading our way. By a strange twist of fate, the Chelyabinsk asteroid struck on the same day that the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space Working Group on Near-Earth Objects met in Vienna to finalize a recommendation to the UN on how to defend Earth from possible asteroid impacts.

So what really is an Armageddon and why is it so often associated with the book we call Revelation, where the word appears only one time?

A book that doesn’t mention asteroids, but describes the sort of monsters that we hope to avoid both in life and in our nightmares. The images found in Revelation, for most of us, are reminiscent of marvel comic books. But the book is actually a beautifully w ritten composition that reveals God’s Word in Jesus Christ.

Written in the genre of apocalypse, with all the twists and turns of a must read classic, God reveals through the author, John, God’s will for humanity. Peace on earth as it is in heaven.

Salvation is not just individual transformation. Salvation includes the dismantling of oppressive empires and their capacity for war. And ultimately, salvation means the defeat of evil and death.

Church, we’ve met the monsters of Revelation up close and personal.

The spirits brought the kings together in the place called Armageddon. And when the seventh angel poured out his bowl in the air, a loud voice came from the throne in the temple, saying, “It is done!”
Revelation 16:16-17

Our text for this week is the culmination of a third cycle of prophecy, commonly known as the “seven bowls of wrath.” As chapter 16 begins, John once again hears a voice, but the voice is giving instructions to seven angels to “Pour out the seven bowls of God’s anger on the earth!”

The seven angels are introduced in the preceding chapter. Each angel is associated with a plague. Leading up to this third cycle of prophecy, we read about seven letters to seven churches, seven seals, and seven trumpets. There is a logical pattern here.

In Revelation chapter 11, verse 18, after the last trumpet sounds, we find a worship hymn that ends with the line: “The time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth!” The tension builds as John describes the characters appearing in this round of prophetic drama.

In chapter 12, a child is born and saved from a dragon. The dragon is thrown down to earth where he pursues the child’s mother to no avail. Two more monsters appear in chapter 13 — one from the sea and one from the land. The one from the land looks like a lamb, but sounds like a dragon. It is a counterfeit lamb that convinces people to worship the sea monster.

The sea monster is positioned as the anti-Jesus persona. This figure is more often referred to as the anti-Christ, even though this term is never used in Revelation. We read dramatic illustrations of what it looks like turning away from the Way of Christ. This is not a title but a functional role that applies to every one of us at one time or another.

The beast is the embodiment of empire and its systems of oppression that create privilege for some at the cost of others. And this beast is powerful. But its power comes from brute force and violence which are counter to the peace offered by Jesus.

All of this buildup prepares us for the pouring out of the seven bowls. And one by one, John describes chaos and mayhem. The build up leads us to a final showdown. The war to end all wars when all the military machinery on earth gathers for the final battle.

And then the last bowl of wrath is poured out. The seventh angel pours out his bowl in the air, and a loud voice is heard saying, “It is done!”

The end! No shots are fired! Roll the credits. Evil is defeated by the very Word of God.

We’ve met the monsters. The beast from the sea — our love of political power. The beast from the land — our religion turned sideways. And the figure who rides the beast — the prosperity that overtakes human flourishing.

In all these monstrous examples, Revelation lays bare the conspiracy that traps us—the resignation that there is no possibility greater than what we already know and experience. And we discover it is our collaboration with and benefit from the systems that oppress God’s creation is the remaining problem. A problem solved only by the Way of Jesus Christ.

Friends, our willing participation leaves its mark. We take part. We buy, sell and trade in ways that prosper ourselves. But the problem isn’t so much our shopping list. The problem arises when we slowly, but steadily, come to believe that our well-being is tied to the success of the empire.

God is victorious. And Jesus Christ shows us that the way to victory is self-giving nonviolence. The spiritual battle that remains is the practical experience of living out this truth in everyday life.

But if your politics serves you and not your neighbor, it is evil. If your religion hides the violence of your voting record from you, it is evil. If you don’t want to be marked with the beast, then push back against systems, even if they benefit you, whenever they oppress others.

The warnings of Revelation, while written in a different time, are relevant today. The symbols and metaphors stretch our imagination and expose our vulnerability with incredible lucidity.

Evil sneaks its way back into our story, disguising and transforming itself, again and again.

And its goal continues to be simple but threatening — evil hopes to make us think we can worship the Lamb without making hard choices. But the Lamb is life abundant — life eternal. Jesus Christ is the Way of salvation.

You can join us each Sunday in person or online by clicking the button on our website’s homepage – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at

A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.

Pastor Tommy


Parts of our series was inspired by Jeremy Duncan. Upside-Down Apocalypse:grounding revelation in the gospel of peace. Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2022.

A Community in Love with God, Each Other, and our Neighbors.