Reflections of a Broken Man


A Man is Coming in Thirteen-one by StephenMac
October 29, 2008, 7:26 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

Since posting the lyrics of Miserabile Visu (Ex Malo Bonum), there have been a number of people who like me, have google-searched the meaning of the phrase “A Man is Coming in Thirteen-One”. There are quite a few thoughts out there, and there is one in particular where the person has gone through and referenced nearly every line. There are some thoughts on that interpretation that I am still unsure about, but have a look if you want. I thought I might post some thoughts on this lyric, from a most awesome song.

**NOTE** As an afterthought, this appears to be a long and detailed post. For those who hate details, scroll down to the **IMPORTANT SECTION**

The Context: Here’s the bridge, repeated twice.

A man is coming in thirteen-one
To charm the daughters and the sons
Scared for our lives, I turned to your hand
Hold this tight while we run, if we still can

It’s actually best if you see this in context. On both occasions, “a man” is mentioned in the line before. The first time, the phrase is “A man who was raised up in the sea”, the second being “a man from the seven hills”.

The Reference: Thirteen-One by online consensus seems to be Revelation 13:1. This fits with the general tone of the song, being about the end, and so the assumption for the moment bears out. Revelation 13:1 is this:

Revelation 13:1  And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. He had 10 horns and seven heads. On his horns were 10 diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.

anberlin2_1280x1024 So where is the man? In light of the first use of this stanza, in the context of “a man who was raised up in the sea” we could speculate that Anberlin are drawing the two images together. But that’s just guess work isn’t it? Well, Revelation is what is called an “apocalypse”. The word means a revelation or viewing of some previously unknown information. Revelation is therefore an unveiling of previously unknown things. The content is quite mindblowing though, it’s the end of history, the big Finale. And so that we can understand it a bit better, God reveals the information through imagery. So we could make the case for the beast being an image that represents some reality. We must be wary however of being too allegorical and saying that for every image, there is a corresponding “reality”. This is the limit that keeps our interpretation in check.

Revelation 13 in its wider context is about a series of characters who come to persecute the Church, the Christians who hold Jesus Christ as Lord. They blaspheme or mock/misuse the name of God, they kill people and they “deceive” people (Rev. 13:14). Perhaps from this idea, we can see the second line of the stanza – “To charm the daughters and the sons”. This would probably also fit in with the “fear” aspect: “Scared for our lives, I turned to your hand; Hold this tight while we run, if we still can”

At this point, we look at the second time this stanza is mentioned, in the context of the man from “Seven Hills”. While we could see that because the number seven recurs, the seven hills is the same as the seven heads of the beast, this is not a good enough reason. Seven Hills is another way for referring to Rome, which was founded on seven hills. This is significant, as Revelation can be seen through a political lens. As such, Revelation also could be interpreted as a political treatise against “Babylon”. If you were being persecuted, it’s not wise to draw attention to yourself by attacking the persecutor with a political letter against them. Anti-language is used, and as such, it is common for “Babylon” to be used for “Rome”. Hence, the man from seven hills could be a direct reference to the persecution from Rome. “Coincidentally” there is a passage in Daniel where the image of a beast is again thought of to be “Rome”. Drawing on these thoughts, it is more than possible that the seven-headed beast is Rome.

What does this mean for the man? What does Rome have to do with the man mentioned earlier? Well, Rome is the epitome of evil, everything that God would hate, and which hates God in turn. The two are polar opposites. As such, Rome could be described as an instrument of Satan, the one who fights against God. However, we are not talking about a dualistic eternal struggle between “good” and “bad”. God tells us that this war is won, but not yet over: there are residual conflicts even though the outcome is already decided. Back to topic however, as the man is now the reality behind the image of the beast. He is the one who deceiving people, who is killing people, who putting people to flight. Identity? Perhaps Satan himself, perhaps his agent the Anti-Christ, I’m not sure which. new_surrender_wallpaper copy

**IMPORTANT PART**

“A man is coming in thirteen-one” is a reference to the one who in the end times will persecute and deceive mankind, particularly Christians. Most probably the antichrist. But don’t leave it there. Because whatever Anberlin meant (I give my opinion, but it is by no means certain), they make a clear plea in their chorus.

What disasters may come
Whatever it may be
At the end of the age
It will land you and me
What tragedy may bring
Whatever may fall
The end of the world
You’ll still belong

Yes, the end times will be more than a tragedy, it will be a nightmarish hell. Filled with fear and suffering. Yet there is a hope. Whatever happens, you’ll still belong. Belong to what? The other part of the chorus is this

Look children to the eastern sky
When you hear the voice say your last goodbyes
Look there to the eastern skies
When the ghosts take hold of the men who died
Look children to the eastern sky
When your fathers weep and your mothers cry
Look children to the eastern sky

Children is a term often used by the author of Revelation as a way to refer to the family of believers in Christ. This is their hope: look to the eastern sky (where the sun rises). Look to the dawning of a new day. The day when Christ will return, and finally defeat the man in thirteen one. The day when suffering and horror of this life will end. I now ask you a personal question. Will you belong? Where do you stand on that last day?

EBHG



Miserabile Visu (Ex Malo Bonum) by StephenMac
October 13, 2008, 8:55 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

The final song off “New Surrender” by Anberlin. Online consensus is Rev. 13:1 is the driving image behind the song. Not too bad for a band who has just gone mainstream. IMG_0477 - CopyAwesome musically, and the content is an important reminder of what we are moving towards. Our sermon last night was on God’s guidance, finishing off a series on Listening to God Speak. The message was last night, keep your eyes on the prize, and your feet on the path. It was a strong reminder that as Christians, we are moving towards a goal – heaven – and that every choice we make must be aiding our journey there. “A man is coming in thirteen-one“. He’s gonna try and sway us from this goal. Keep your feet on the path. Keep your eyes on the goal – Christ. “Look children to the eastern sky” because that’s where the sun (Son) comes from each morning.

I was just reading the online community discussing the meaning of this song. The lead singer of this band Anberlin, Stephen Christian, is a man with nothing short of sheer lyrical brilliance. Someone made a comment that that final song of their last album (*Fin) made much of the motif of the “Patron Saint of Lost Causes”, which is supposedly Jude’s (author of the book of Jude) title. Supposedly. But interesting that Christian’s last song has made the progression from Jude to Revelation – well I think it’s cool, layers upon layers of meaning. Great to see it in the mainstream music media.

new_surrender_wallpaper copy

A red priest broke into our classroom
Caught us children by attention
“Listen closely to the words I speak
Lord knows if we’ll ever, ever again meet”

Spoke such words never spoken before
On the way he declared there were
Miracles like you’ve never seen
From a man who was raised up in the sea

A man is coming in thirteen-one
To charm the daughters and the sons
Scared for our lives, I turned to your hand
Hold this tight while we run, if we still can

What disasters may come
Whatever it may be
At the end of the age
It will land you and me
What tragedy may bring
Whatever may fall
The end of the world
You’ll still belong

Before the red priest took his last breath
He told me, “Child, now don’t forget
The sun will turn dark very soon
Your days are numbered when there’s blood on the moon

“The earth will shake and the sky will fall
The eyes will open of those involved
Don’t take this son, but you’ll be killed
By the man from seven hills”

A man is coming in thirteen-one
To charm the daughters and the sons
Scared for our lives, I turned to your hand
Hold this tight while we run, if we still can

What disasters may come
Whatever it may be
At the end of the age
It will land you and me
What tragedy may bring
Whatever may fall
At the end of the world
You’ll still belong

Look children to the eastern sky
When you hear the voice say your last goodbyes
Look there to the eastern skies
When the ghosts take hold of the men who died
Look children to the eastern sky
When your fathers weep and your mothers cry
Look children to the eastern sky

What disasters may come
Whatever it may be
At the end of the age
It will land you and me
What tragedy may bring
Whatever may fall
At the end of the world
You’ll still belong

Look children to the eastern sky
When you hear the voice say your last goodbyes
Look there to the eastern skies
When the ghosts take hold of the men who died
Look children to the eastern sky
When your fathers weep and your mothers cry
Look children to the eastern sky
Look children to the eastern sky



Inner Circles and Church Politics: Against Factionalism REDUX by StephenMac
October 8, 2008, 3:19 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , ,

**currently listening to “New Surrender” by Anberlin! Came in the post today! Joy upon joys**

Thanks to Jax for his comment on my previous article:

Historically, the organisation to which you refer has been one of the reasons why Sydney didn’t go the way of Melbourne. It would seem that this is dirty work but someone’s got to do it.

And the diocese is probably not the only arena in which this kind of political battle, for want of a better way of referring to it, is going on in. There’s lots of other organisations in which orthodoxy and politics have gotten mixed up. Sigh.

bishop I don’t deny the great work this org has done. I think that I am bemoaning the need for someone to do the “dirty work” in the first place. Jax also points out that in lots of other organisations outside the diocese “orthodoxy and politics have gotten mixed up”. This too I don’t deny. It is the current reality of living in a sinful world, I think, that when sinful people come together, they compete against each other for power, and as such band together in various ways to ensure that they get it. As a student of politics, I think I can make a good case for politics being the product of living in a fallen world. We find politics in more than government, we find it wherever sinful, prideful, selfish people come together and interact with each other: in business, in sport, in social groups, virtually everywhere. Politics in this very general sense is the interactions of individuals with regards to power (the ability to affect decisions).

In this way, does politics have a place in the church? On the level that the church is meant to be discordant with society, to be a light in a darkened world, should church be political? Not in the governmental sense (should church affect policy) but intrinsically? And if non-evangelicals (“them”, and already we have made a division in the body of Christ) play the realpolitik should we? Do we fight fire with fire? Where do we draw the line?

Speaking from personal experience, I have seen how politics within church has caused division. My one year on a parish council (albeit in the year we were without a permanent minister) ended with divisions within the council. With the coming of the new minister, the first thing he notices is that our church has great rifts within it. The forming of groups within the council in order to ensure the “correct” (as we saw it) running of the church led to divisions within the church.

Politics is inherently divisive, and as such, I am still reluctant to call it a necessary evil. Just because “they” play it doesn’t mean that I should! So how do we deal with this?

EBHG



Inner Circles and Church Politics: Against Factionalism by StephenMac
October 2, 2008, 4:59 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , ,

Not sure if this blog fits here, or in my politics one… we’ll see.

The Context: I heard a talk today at college about the politics within our diocese. I’m a politics student… I’m a theological student… could you think of a better mix? But as I listened, I became aware of how anti-diocesan-politics I am. The reason is twofold:

  1. Church/diocesan politics by its very nature is divisive. The concept of politics is inherently tied to competition, almost always for power. In short, politics does not cause division, but rather is symptomatic of and continues to maintain division.

    As I listened to this talk, I realised that despite the great work that one particular organisation did in maintaining orthodoxy behind the scenes, this organisation seemed to be incredibly political, and therefore incredibly divisive. The question is, where is the balance – where is the middle road between church unity, and maintaining of orthodoxy. The line of this organisation was that they were determined to  keep certain other factions out of power in order to maintain the reformed evangelical nature of the diocese. But even that is divisive… so what is the solution?
    cslewis

  2. When listening to this talk, I noticed the great number of names that were being dropped – archbishops, deans, principals, and so on – who were part, or had been part, of this organisation. Personally, it sounded pretty cool, to be part of an org from which the greats had hailed. Then a thought hit me… this is exactly what C.S. Lewis wrote against. Cameron writes:

    I refer to our passion to belong to some ‘inner circle’ of people that hovers temptingly beyond our reach. When gripped by this passion, to be excluded from these circles drives us slightly mad, and to enter them leaves us smugly exultant… C.S. Lewis called it ‘the quest for the Inner Ring’.
    Politics, in this sense, is divisive. It sets up an ‘in’ crowd (those who have power) and creates an outsider crowd (those without power).

I’m still unsure on how to deal with this issue. The idealist in me says: THIS SHOULD NOT BE… The realist in me says: DO IT FOR THE GOOD OF THE DIOCESE. If humanity is inextricably political, should we use all means necessary to work for orthodoxy?

EBHG