Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.
And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
King of the nations!
Lord, who will not fear
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your judgments have been revealed.”
Psalm 98:1-3AB, 7-9
O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
In our readings today, we are presented with an interesting picture of past, present, and future, and the roles the judgments of God and men will play in this picture. In the Psalm, the king praises God for His victory and rejoices that God’s just judgments are coming; God has done great things in the past despite challenges, and the future is bright. In Revelation, in John’s vision God’s judgments have been revealed and the beast has been conquered. This is a future vision of struggle that God has overcome, and the future beyond that struggle is bright. And in the gospel, Jesus tells His disciples what their future will be; He promises them struggle, and foretells that the judgments they face will be the judgments of men. In His prophecy, we don’t see the bright vision of victory that the Psalm and Revelation describe, but we catch a glimpse of how these will play out on the individual level. Jesus promises that the judgments of God will triumph, as He will give words and wisdom that will prevail, and those who endure will secure their souls.
Like the disciples, we find ourselves standing between praise and prophecy, in the present, wondering where we go from here. We have seen Christians on trial for their beliefs in the ancient past and in the recent past. We see our own Christianity on trial on a more mundane daily basis, when people and circumstances in our lives test our faith whether we will remember God’s righteousness in the past and trust in His victory in the future and testify to them or not. Specifically in these more mundane circumstances, there is no preparing our defense ahead of time; there is only facing each circumstance, each judgment, as it arises. Our lives demand that we stay close to Jesus and testify to His closeness and His righteousness constantly. We may not prepare our words before being put on trial for our faith; we must prepare our hearts instead.
Today, especially if the things we see happening in the world and the predictions of metaphorical and literal trials make us worry, let’s cast our cares on Jesus and pray for a greater trust in Him. We know that He has and He will overcome. And if we give Him permission, He will safeguard our souls and bring us triumphantly through our little trials and our great ones and give us opportunities to testify to His name.