How Can I Overcome Loneliness (Video)

This is the fourth video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles for overcoming loneliness.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from FreeBibleimages.org, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org or they are creative common licenses.

Revelation 18 – Part 3

“Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.’” Revelation 18:21

The third angelic announcement of Rome’s (“Babylon”) judgment in Revelation 18 is now recorded by the apostle John (18:21-24). The first two announcements depicted the rapidity of God’s judgment of Rome (18:1-19) whereas this last announcement describes its finality. 1 “Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.’” (Revelation 18:21). The “violence” and finality of Rome’s destructionis graphically portrayed by “a mighty angel” throwing “a great millstone… into the sea.”

In John’s day, millstones often measured four to five feet in diameter, were one foot thick, and weighed thousands of pounds (cf. Mark 9:42). 2 As it would be impossible for such a huge stone to float to the surface of the ocean, so certainly the religious and economic system of Rome that had deceived and misled this world throughout human history, will sink to the bottom of the sea never to rise again. 3 The phrase and shall not be found anymore” contains two doubt negatives in the Greek text (ou mē), emphasizing the finality of Rome’s judgment.  

The mighty angel then lists all of Rome’s worldly luxuries and pleasures that will vanish with its destruction never to be found again. 22 The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore. 23 The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore.” (Revelation 18:22-23a). Not one of these material things listed here is evil in and of itself. But in the Babylonian world system, these every day things drew people away from the true God to glorify humanity. Their sudden disappearance represents the total and final destruction of every facet of society, from fine arts (“the sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters”)to night life (“the light of a lamp”), from expert craftsmanship (“craftsman of any craft”) to common labor (“the sound of a millstone”), 4 not even the sound of joyful celebration (“the voice of bridegroom and bride”)will “be heard in” her “anymore.” In a flash, all of Rome’s worldly luxuries and pleasures will be removed permanently. Where there had once been hustle and bustle, there will be silence. 5

The prophet Jeremiah announced a similar kind of judgment against Judah for her disobedience: 8 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Because you have not heard My words, 9 behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ says the Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations. 10 Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.” (Jeremiah 25:8-10).

Instead of focusing on the Giver, Rome and all its followers had focused on the gift. Instead of worshiping the Creator, they worshiped the creation. In case you think such a sudden and violent judgment is unfair or too harsh, the mighty angel gives two reasons for Rome’s judgment. 23b For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” (Revelation 18:23b-24). Through Rome’s businessmen (“merchants”) she will cast a materialistic spell (“sorcery”) over humankind so that “all the nations were deceived.” 6 The word “sorcery” (pharmakeia) is where the English word “pharmacy” comes from.

“If one is puzzled over the connection between medicine and sorcery as illustrated by this word (our pharmacy), he has only to recall the quackery today in medicine (patent medicines and cure-alls), witch doctors, professional faith-healers, medicine-men in Africa. True medical science has had a hard fight to shake off chicanery and charlatanry.” 7

Rome’s worldly luxuries and pleasures had deceived the nations of the world into believing that joy, security, and meaning in life come through the accumulation of material wealth instead of through their Creator God. Papal Rome has also grown wealthy with its focus on paying money for forgiveness (indulgences). For a fee, parishioners could get a deceased family member out of Purgatory and save up for their own future sins. 8 Selling forgiveness is what sparked the Protestant Reformation. 9

The second reason for Rome’s severe and final judgment is because “in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth” (18:24).

Not surprisingly, worship of the wrong object (wealth) is accompanied by wrath misdirected at the improper target (Christians). In the Antichrist’s kingdom, as with other godless societies, throughout history, the blood of prophets and saints testifies to the slaughter of those who stand for God’s values in opposition to the religion of materialism.” 10

When people worship the creation instead of the Creator, they no longer value human life as God does. We see this in America as our educational institutions have taught evolution for decades now which leaves God out of the picture and worships His creation. As a result, this country has murdered an estimated 62 million unborn babies through abortion since legalizing abortion on demand in 1973. 11 Even now state legislatures are about to vote on bills sponsored by Planned Parenthood that could legalize the killing of newborn babies up to 28 days after birth. 12

Rome’s sudden and violent destruction is also due to her killing God’s people, including “prophets and saints” (18:24). For centuries, pagan and papal Rome has seduced people away from the true God with her rituals and superstitions and has persecuted those who proclaim the truth exposing her materialistic and idolatrous false religion. History shows that the Roman Catholic Church has shed the blood of many believers and victims of the Crusades and Roman Inquisition. 13But the height of Rome’s hostility toward God’s people will take place during the Tribulation period when she vehemently opposes God’s prophets and saints on the earth. Because Rome has shed the blood of God’s children, and led others to do the same, she “will receive the death penalty from God’s hand. She will not be found anymore!” 14

How can we reach materialistic people with the gospel of Jesus Christ before it is too late for them? We look to Jesus’ example. After Jesus had miraculously fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two sardine-sized fish (John 6:1-14), He crossed over to the other side of the lake only to encounter the same crowd again (John 6:15-25). These people were like most materialistic people today. Like the beneficiaries of Rome, they were more interested in satisfying their physical appetites than their spiritual appetites, so Jesus confronts their selfish desires. “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” (John 6:26). Christ is saying, “You came not because you understand Me to be the Messiah-God but because you wanted another free meal.” To this crowd, life was all about keeping alive, being healthy and well fed, and economically sufficient.

In an essay written by George Orwell, he describes a wasp that (as he puts it) “was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him.”  15

This wasp and people without Jesus have much in common. Severed from their souls, but greedy and unaware, people continue to consume life’s sweetness. Only when it is time to fly away will they grasp their dreadful condition. Jesus encourages the materialist to seek after something better. To seek after bread which lasts and produces life which never ends.

Jesus tells the materialist how to satisfy his spiritual hunger and thirst forever, and it is not through the accumulation of wealth or buying your forgiveness as Rome taught. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). The materialist hungers and thirsts for power… possessions… and popularity! But the greatest hunger and thirst of all is for immortality. Jesus says to look to Him in faith to satisfy our hunger for immortality. Look to Him in faith to quench our thirst for eternal life.

What do you do when you are hungry? You eat. What do you do when you are thirsty? You drink. Jesus says that if we come to Him in faith, we will never hunger for eternal life again. If we believe in Him, we will never thirst for eternal life again. One bite of the bread that Jesus’ offers, one drink of the water that Jesus offers, satisfies our spiritual hunger and thirst forever. This is difficult for the materialist to do. He has always provided for his own needs, and now he is being challenged to trust Someone outside of himself for his most important need.

What if a person stops believing in Christ? Will he hunger or thirst for eternal life again? No. Because the spiritual need which Jesus meets can never reoccur. Once you receive eternal life, you have it forever. After all, how long is “never” (John 6:35)? It is forever, right? If a person could hunger or thirst for eternal life again after believing in Jesus, then Christ just told a lie. Jesus says one bite… one drink satisfies for eternity. The results of believing in Christ are permanent even if we don’t keep on believing.

Has your hunger or thirst for immortality been satisfied forever? Do you know for sure that you have eternal life? If not, why not take Jesus Christ at His word right now? Place your trust solely in Him to save you. Give up confidence in anything else: your prayers, giving of money, church attendance, baptism, obedience, commitment, or the reformation of your life. Jesus Christ guarantees eternal life to all who believe in Him alone for it.

Let us share this message gladly and often. It is glorious news! It is the greatest news! Tell people eternal life is a free gift and that the sole condition for receiving it is believing in Christ alone. Leave the results to God. After all, eternal life is the gift of God. He is the One giving the gift.

Prayer: Father God, give us a love for the self-reliant religious people of this world. Increase our burden for the materialistic people of our community. Give us the courage to confront their selfish desires, to correct their misconceptions about salvation, and to challenge them to believe in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life so that they can discover the joy of everlasting security in Him. Security that cannot be lost or taken away. Lord, I pray that those of us who know You will seek satisfaction in our relationship with You and not the things of this world. Enable us to live in light of eternity. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1.Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1570.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pp. 200-201 cites Alan Johnson, “Revelation,” In Hebrews-Revelation Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pg. 568.

3. Constable, pg. 200.

4. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament

Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 329.

5. Constable, pg. 201.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1571.

7. Constable, pg. 201 quotes Alan Johnson, Vol. 6, pg. 445.

8. See Randy Petersen’s article entitled “Selling Forgiveness: How Money Sparked the Protestant Reformation,” at christianhistoryinstitute.org.

9. Ibid.

10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2413.

11. See the January 22, 2021, Foxnew’s article entitled, “An Estimated 62 million abortions have occurred since Roe v. Wade decision in 1973” at www.foxnews.com.

12. Taken from an email on April 21, 2022, from American Center for Law and Justice’s Executive Director, Jordan Sekulow.

13. “Bill Salus on Mystery Babylon video on the August 26, 2018, Christ in Prophecy show.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1571.

15. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/76254-a-wasp-was-sucking-jam-on-my-plate-and-i .

Revelation 18 – Part 1

“And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!’” Revelation 18:2

In Revelation 17 we discovered that the woman riding on the scarlet beast represents the worldwide false religion that will exist during the first half of the Tribulation period whose headquarters is in the city of Rome, the city on seven hills or “mountains” (17:1-9). The fact that this woman is “sitting” on the beast suggests that Rome will initially control the beast and benefit from his expanding kingdom represented by the “seven heads and ten horns” during the Tribulation period (17:3). At the mid-point of the Tribulation when the beast rises to power claiming to be God (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) and demands to be worshiped as such (13:1-18), Rome will refuse to comply and will be destroyed by the leaders of the world under the authority of the beast (17:10-17).

At the end of Revelation 17, we are told that “Babylon,” the code name for Rome (cf. 14:8; 16:19-21; 17:1, 9, 18; cf. I Peter 5:13), is the “great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth” (17:18). In the first century context when John wrote the book of Revelation, this could only refer to the city of Rome which ruled the world at that time. 1 Just as Rome relentlessly persecuted believers in Jesus when John wrote in the first century, the revived Roman Empire in the Tribulation period will also persecute believers who refuse to submit to her evil and idolatrous practices (17:6).

Regarding this end-times capital city, Swindoll writes, “That future Mecca of me-theism and Vegas vanity will be the mother of evil and all forms of false religion. Like Paris, she represents a lifestyle of high culture. Like Jerusalem, she’s a crossroads of world religion. Like Washington, she’s teeming with political power. In fact, if you were to take the powerful cities of the world and merge them into one grand megalopolis, you’d have ‘Babylon.’” 2

The belief that salvation is by works originated with the original Babylon in Genesis 11:4 when the people of the world led by Nimrod, Noah’s grandson (Genesis 9:8-12), said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” To avoid spreading over the face of the whole earth as God originally commanded (Genesis 1:28; 9:1), the people wanted to make a name for themselves by building a city and a tower that reached to the heavens. The desire to glorify self (“let us make a name for ourselves”), rather than God, is the foundation of religious /economic “Babylon” or Rome during the Tribulation period. 3

The apostle John now receives a new vision providing more details about why Babylon (Rome) will be destroyed during the Tribulation. “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory.” (Revelation 18:1). This “angel” of the same kind (“another”) as the previous angel in 17:1 possessed “great authority” and “glory” indicative of the importance of the announcement of judgment he was about to make. 4 This is the only “angel” in the book of Revelation which is said to exude “glory,” 5 which suggests he just came from God’s presence (cf. Exodus 34:29-35; Ezekiel 43:2). 6

The presence of this angel once again emphasizes the importance of angels in the book of Revelation. They are present and active in the church age as well (Revelation 1-3), and some believers in Jesus “have unwittingly entertained angels” who are disguised as humans (Hebrews 13:2). But after the church is removed from the earth (Revelation 4:1-4), angels will assume a more visible role to fill the spiritual void in the church’s absence. 7

“And he cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!’” (Revelation 18:2). The repetition of the word “fallen” (epesen), which means to “be destroyed,” 8 indicates that God guarantees this future judgment and that it will happen swiftly. 9 The tense of this verb describes this future judgment as already having taken place to underscore its certainty. 10

When the beast and ten kings destroy Rome (17:16-17), it will “become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” This is a very appropriate description of Rome after its destruction because she was a city given over to idolatry, leading people away from the true God. Throughout history, demons have attached themselves to idols so that when people worship an idol, the demons can receive the adoration and worship they long for (cf. Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:16-17; 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:36-38; Revelation 9:20). Since Rome’s character was demonic spiritually, God will bring the same character on her physically. 11

Next several reasons are given for Rome’s destruction. “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.” (Revelation 18:3).

The first reason for Rome’s judgment is because she corrupted the nations of the world – “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” The wealthy and sensual lifestyle of Rome was like a fine wine that other nations drank of and became intoxicated (cf. 17:2; 18:23; 19:2). 12 Her mixture of religion with wealth and sensuality misled nations to commit spiritual “fornication” or immorality by embracing various false gods.

The second reason for Rome’s judgment is due to her seducing foreign leaders to participate in her materialistic practices – “the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her.” Rome is pictured as a “great harlot” (17:1, 5, 15-16) who enticed foreign leaders into her worldly practices by offering them many financial advantages. 13

The third reason for Rome’s judgment is because she enticed merchants to share in her excessive wealth – “the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.” The word “merchants” (emporoi) refers to “one who travels by ship for business reasons.” 14 These businessmen are becoming wealthy by selling religious paraphernalia and by engaging in slave trade for the “bodies and souls of men” (18:12-13). 15 Notice that human trafficking will likely become more pervasive during the Tribulation period.

It is important to notice in these verses that wealth does not always come as a blessing from God. Satan can also give wealth, as is demonstrated from his promise to give Jesus worldly kingdoms in exchange for worship. 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’” (Matthew 4:8-9). Many Christians can make the mistake of assuming that the presence of wealth in a particular church or individual’s life indicates God’s blessing and His approval upon that church or individual.16

It is possible for Satan to bless a church financially when that church compromises the gospel to entice people to be a part of that church. Satan does not want people to hear a clear and simple gospel message (“believe and be saved” – Luke 8:12), so he will deceive people into thinking God’s blessing is on a church that does not preach and teach belief in Christ as the only condition for eternal life.

Jesus warned in Matthew 7:13-14 that the size or prosperity of a church is not always an indication of God’s blessing. He said, 13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads [in]to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 How narrow is the gate and confined is the way which leads [in]to life, and there are few who find it.” The “narrow gate” that “leads into life” is faith alone in Christ alone as the only way into God’s heaven (John 3:15-16; 10:9; 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-5). Jesus prophesied that “there are few who find it” because there will be fewer and fewer messengers who preach such a message. The “wide… gate” that leads “into destruction” is any message that does not say faith alone in Christ alone is all that is required to enter God’s heaven. Jesus prophesied that “there are many who go in by it.”

This is why there are many prosperous churches in America that are not preaching faith alone in Christ alone as the only condition for entering God’s heaven. Likewise, there are also many fast-growing world religions standing in front of the wide gate proclaiming some other way to God that is not faith alone in Christ alone. How does God want believers in Jesus to respond to such wide-gate false religions? He tells us in the next verse in Revelation 18.

“And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.’” (Revelation 18:4). John “heard another voice from heaven” that may belong to the Lord Jesus. This voice calls God’s “people” to “come out” of Rome and her worldly lifestyle “lest” they “share” the same judgment for “her sins, and… receive of her plagues.” Some people living in Rome will hear the gospel preaching of the Two Witnesses during the first half of the Tribulation (11:1-12) or the 144,000 Jewish evangelists during the last half of the Tribulation (7:1-8; 14:1-5) and will believe in Christ for eternal life. To avoid Rome’s impending judgment, they will need to flee from the city.

This reminds us of Lot who warned his sons-in-laws to get out of Sodom before the Lord destroys it, but they refused, and died as a result (Genesis 19:14-25). This will also happen to God’s people who ignore His command to get out of Rome before He destroys it. 17 They will suffer physical death, but they will still enter God’s heaven because of their belief in Jesus for His gift of salvation.

If you are part of a church or religion that does not preach faith alone in Christ alone to enter God’s heaven, you are advised to flee from that church or religion. The apostle Paul warned the Galatian believers in Jesus not to support or join those who do not preach a “believe / faith alone” gospel (cf. Galatians 1:6-9; 4:12, 21-30; 5:1-12; 6:17). It does not matter how wealthy or kind a person or church is that teaches a different gospel. They are “accursed” by God if they preach a different way to heaven other than faith alone in Christ alone (Galatians 1:8-9).  

If they are believers in Jesus, they will lose rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ and could even experience God’s discipline here on earth (Galatians 1:6-9; 5:19-21; 6:7-8; I Corinthians 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; I Timothy 1:18-20; 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:23-26). If they are not believers in Jesus, they will experience a greater degree of punishment in the lake of fire for misleading people away from faith alone in Christ alone (Matthew 18:6-14; 23:13-15; 2 Peter 2:4-17; Jude 1:4-13; Revelation 19:20; 20:11-15).

The fourth reason for Rome’s judgment is seen in verse 5. “For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Revelation 18:5). Rome’s “sins have reached to heaven” and triggered God’s remembrance of “her iniquities” of trying to make a name for herself.This is reminiscent of the Tower of Babel when humankind tried to build a city with a tower “whose top is in the heavens” to “make a name” for themselves instead of for God (Genesis 11:4). Those who emphasize human effort and self-reliance to get to heaven like the original Babylon, will eventually deplete God’s patience. Because He is just and righteous, God must give Rome her just recompense.

“Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her.” (Revelation 18:6). God is commanding the beast and ten kings (17:16-17) to give Rome a double portion of judgment for her sins. For centuries Rome has misled people away from the true God and put to death His people (cf. 17:6; 18:24; 19:2). The “cup” she had used to entice others will now become the instrument of her own punishment.

Two more reasons for Rome’s judgment are given in the next verse. “In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’” (Revelation 18:7). Rome’s sinful pride (“she glorified herself”) and self-reliance (“she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow’”)led her to believe she was invincible and immune to disaster. 19 God hates such shameless pride and self-reliance that leads to the rejection of His ways accompanied by viewing oneself as indestructible 20 and accountable to no one.

The reality is that such pride and self-reliance will be severely judged by God. “Therefore her plagues will come in one day – death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.” (Revelation 18:8). “In one day” God will give Rome “death and mourning and famine.” Vacendak suggests that Rome’s destruction in Revelation 18:8-11 “will be by means of a nuclear warhead… Kings, merchants, and shipmasters will all stand ‘at a distance’ when they see ‘the smoke of her burning.’ The desire to keep a certain distance between themselves and the mushroom cloud of smoke billowing up to heaven may indicate their fear of the nuclear radiation that now envelops the city.” 21

Instead of slowly declining, Rome will collapse suddenly in the Tribulation, much like the World Trade Center towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. 22

Throughout history, people have been deceived into believing their joy, peace, and meaning in life are found through the accumulation of wealth as represented by “Babylon the Great” or Rome whose materialistic and religious system will be swiftly destroyed before the Lord Jesus returns to earth (Revelation 18:1-8).

Rather than invest in the things of the earth which will soon disappear forever, believers in Jesus are to invest in heavenly treasure which lasts forever. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs His disciples to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20a) which cannot be lost (“where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” – 6:20b). We may miss those words “for yourselves.” It is not selfish to seek eternal rewards now because Jesus commands us to do this. In fact, to not lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven is disobedience to Christ.

Why is it important to lay up treasures in heaven for ourselves now? Jesus explains in the next verse. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Our hearts follow what we value. The more we invest in Christ’s coming Kingdom now, the more our hearts will be focused on Christ and His coming Kingdom now, and the more glory and honor Jesus will receive in eternity (cf. Revelation 4:9-11; 21:24, 26).

How can we lay up treasures in heaven for ourselves? Jesus explained how earlier in Matthew 6. By doing “charitable deeds” (6:1-4), praying (6:5-6), and fasting (6:16-18) “in secret.” When we do these things for God alone (“in secret”) and not for public applause or recognition like the religious hypocrites did (6:2, 5, 16), Jesus promises that “your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (6:4, 6, 18).

Prayer: Father God, we thank You for Your penetrating Word that reveals the deception of our hearts. Many of us have been duped into believing that wealth is always a blessing from God. But Your Word today reminds us that Satan can also give wealth to those who fulfill his purpose of leading people away from the true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ, as demonstrated by the worldwide false religion that will exist during the first half of the Tribulation period whose headquarters is in the city of Rome. Like Rome in the future Tribulation, many churches and religions today possess wealth, but they are not preaching belief in Christ as the only condition for eternal life. Instead, they preach human effort and self-reliance as the way to heaven. Please help those who are blinded by the allurement of these false religions today to discover the truth about Jesus Christ. He alone can give them eternal life as a free gift the moment they believe in Him because He alone paid for it all through His death and resurrection. Use those of us who believe in Jesus to rescue others from the snare of religion before it is too late for them. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1568.

2. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 325.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 193.

4. Ibid., pg. 194.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1568.

6. Constable, pg. 194.

7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2411.

8. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 815.

9. Constable, pg. 195.

10. The Greek verb translated “fallen” is piptō and it is in the aorist tense (epesen), suggesting a prophetic use which emphasizes the certainty of this future action by stating it as if it has already happened.  

11. Vacendak, pg. 1568.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., pg. 1569.

14. BDAG, pg. 325.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1569.

16. Evans, pg. 2411.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1569.

18. Constable, pg. 196.  

19. Vacendak, pg. 1569.

20. Evans, pg. 2411.

21. Vacendak, pg. 1568.

22. Constable, pg. 197.

Come Home

“But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” Luke 15:20b

Do you ever have a disconnect from the way God is portrayed in the Bible and your perception of God based on your own experiences or feelings? We may think that God will resemble our parents or authority figures from our childhood (cf. Psalm 50:21). For example, if you had a rigid and perfectionistic father or father figure, you could never measure up to his demands no matter how hard you tried. Because of this, you view God as Someone who is impossible to please. He does not forgive nor forget sins. And when you mess up!?! Watch out! His cruel side is manifested. He seems to delight in sending financial disaster or physical disease to emphasize His intolerance of your spiritual failures. Understandably, it is difficult for you to approach God and experience His forgiveness and love when you have this kind of distorted view of Him.

The Bible gives us a beautiful picture of God the Father in Luke 15. When “all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to” Jesus to listen to His teaching, the religious leaders of Israel were critical of Christ for associating with spiritual outcasts (Luke 15:1-2). Christ responds by telling three parables (parable = an earthly story that teaches spiritual truth) to teach these religious leaders that when a sinner returns to God it is reason for celebrating instead of complaining (15:3-32).

After telling parables about a lost sheep and a lost coin, Jesus tells a parable about the love of a father toward his two sons (Luke 15:11-32). The youngest son asked for his “portion” of his father’s inheritance, and the father graciously gave both sons theirs (15:12). Normally in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, the inheritance did not pass to the heirs until the death of the father. To request it prior to the father’s death, was like wishing for the father to die. The youngest son then “journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living” (15:13). When a “severe famine” came to that land, the son “began to be in want” because of his wasteful living (15:14). He got a job in the fields feeding “swine,” which is something any self-respecting Jew would only do out of desperation (15:14-15). The son had sunk so low that he longed to eat pig’s food because “no one gave him anything” to eat (15:16).

Have you ever wasted the resources God has given you? Just as the youngest son “wasted his possessions with prodigal living” (15:13), so also when we stray away from God, we waste the the resources God has placed in our possession. Time spent out of touch with God is an enormous waste of time, energy, strength, ability, and opportunity. When we are restored to the Lord, we may experience profound regret for what has been wasted during our time of separation from God. This is especially true when the separation has lasted for years, as it sometimes does.

I wonder how many of us have ever wandered so far away from God that we were willing to do anything just to survive? But no matter where we turned, we could not find one person on earth who showed us any compassion. We were all alone and destitute. Our stomach and our soul were empty. We may cry out, “Where are you God!?! Why have you abandoned me!?!” This is the place the youngest son had come to. Thankfully the story does not end there.

At this point of absolute brokenness, the son “came to himself” (15:17). He repented or changed his mind and decided to “go” back to his father (15:18a). He planned to confess his sin and his unworthiness to be his father’s son (15:18a-19a), and then ask to be one of his father’s “hired servants” because he knew his father paid his servants well (15:19b; cf. 15:17). This son thought he would have to work for His father’s love and acceptance.

How many of us perceive our Father in heaven to be this way? We think that when we fail God spiritually, the only way He could ever accept us and love us is to pay for our own sins with self-hatred and condemnation? We may rehearse in our minds what we will do for God before we approach Him. We assume that the only way God will ever accept us and forgive us is to work so hard or punish ourselves so much, God will eventually have compassion for us and forgive us.

This kind of thinking fails to understand the heart of our heavenly Father. Nor is this thinking from the Lord. It is from the father of lies (John 8:44) who delights in accusing God’s children (Revelation 12:10). When we fail, Satan whispers in our ear, “This is how God thinks of you. He thinks you are unloveable and unforgivable. He thinks you are worthless and pathetic. The only way He could possibly ever forgive you or love you is for you to do this and this and this and this…” These lies drive us deeper into a pit of shame, isolating us from God.

But let’s take a look at the father’s response when his son returns home. “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (15:20). When the father “saw” his prodigal son coming home from “a great way off,” it suggests he was continually watching and waiting for his son’s return. He longed for his son to come home. This is the way God is with us when we wander away from Him. He leaves the porch light on every night, looking for our return.

The father did not reject his son by running into the house and locking the doors. He did not scold or condemn his repentant wayward son. Instead, he “had compassion” on his son. This shows that the father had some knowledge of his son’s immorality and misfortunes – probably from reports about him (cf. 15:13, 30). He empathized with his son’s brokenness and need for acceptance and love after his wayward journey. God is also this way with us. He is not quick to criticize or condemn us because He knows our weaknesses and how much we need His mercy and grace when we have failed (cf. Psalm 103:11-14).

When the father “ran” out toward his son, this was very unusual for any Jewish father to do. It was not acceptable for him to run out like that in the Jewish culture of that day. But in the father’s eagerness to restore his son to fellowship, the father ran to him while he was “still a great way off.” This was the father’s way of preserving his son’s dignity. By this time, all the neighbors knew how the son had wasted his inheritance on prostitutes (15:13, 30). So instead of letting his son walk by these gossiping neighbors by himself when he was most vulnerable to discouragement, the father runs out to his son to walk beside him as a show of his love and acceptance of him. Surely, no one would speak poorly of his son if he were to walk with him all the way home.

God is that way with us. He is not apathetic and cold toward us when we fail. He does not abandon us when we return home to Him. He is not bound by culturally acceptable expressions of love and forgiveness. He is eager to forgive us and restore us to fellowship or closeness with Him. He wants to restore our dignity which had been lost by our shameful choices and actions. While Christian peers or churches may shun us or speak down to us after we have failed the Lord, God is the first to run out to us and shoulder our brokenness and restore our closeness with Him. He will protect us from the accusations and condemnation of others.

When the father “fell on his neck” he embraces and hugs his repentant son. Then the father “kissed him” which was a friendly sign of greeting like a warm handshake in American culture. This is a very affectionate reception from the father. Imagine how this young man must have felt?! Before he could begin his rehearsed speech, he already had his father’s total unconditional love and acceptance. Likewise, God is not cold and calculating toward his repentant children. He embraces us and welcomes us home when we repent. But it does not stop there.

When the son began his rehearsed speech, he could not even get to the part about becoming a hired servant of his father (15:21). His father interrupted him and said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry” (15:22-23). What is the father doing here? I believe the father knew his son’s heart. He was not focused on all the immoral and shameful living of his son. He was not uptight about his son’s sin and shame. He saw the heart of his son which longed to be connected to his father’s heart. Instead of making his son a hired servant, the father bestowed the symbols of honor (“best robe”), authority (“ring”), and freedom (“sandals”) on him. Sandals were marks of a free man, but slaves went barefooted.

The forgiveness from the father is complete and his son does not need to feel as if he is a forever second-class Christian, as if he now served God as a mere hired servant. He is now able to enjoy all the privileges of sonship, symbolized by the robe, the ring, and the sandals.

Then his father prepared a banquet for his son because his “son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found” (15:24). The father felt the absence of his son as deeply as if he had died (“dead”), because he had totally lost contact with him. So, the death he is referring to is a separation from the father. Their reunion is like a glorious coming to life and a joyful rediscovery of the shared father-son experience. Any father who has long been separated from a son whom he loves dearly can fully relate to these words.

Years ago, a young man had a verbal argument with his father and left home. He continued to keep in touch with his mother, and wanted very badly to come home for Christmas, but he was afraid his father would not allow him. His mother wrote to him and urged him to come home, but he didn’t feel he could until he knew his father had forgiven him. Finally, there was no time for any more letters. His mother wrote and said she would talk with the father, and if he had forgiven him, she would tie a white rag on the tree which grew right alongside the railroad tracks near their home, which he could see before the train reached the station. If there was no rag, it would be better if he went on.

So, the young man started home. As the train drew near his home; he was so nervous he said to his friend who was traveling with him, “I can’t bear to look. Sit in my place and look out the window. I’ll tell you what the tree looks like, and you tell me whether there is a rag on it or not.” So, his friend changed places with him and looked out the window. After a bit the friend said, “Oh yes, I see the tree.” The son asked, “Is there a white rag tied to it?” For a moment, the friend did not say anything. Then he turned, and in a very gentle voice said, “There is a white rag tied to every limb of that tree!”

That, in a sense, is what God is saying to us in Luke 15. The truth is all of us are like the prodigal son. He can represent a non-Christian whose repentance or change of mind about his sinful lifestyle leads him to come home to His Creator God and believe in Jesus for complete forgiveness of sins, much like Cornelius in Acts 10. You may be seeking God by going to church and giving money to it, or by trying to clean up your life. But you are not saved from your sins by any of those things you do in your search for God (Isaiah 64:6). You are saved by believing or trusting in Jesus alone for His gift of salvation (John 3:16; Ephes. 2:8-9). God is inviting you to come home to Him just as you are. He is waiting to welcome you into His family and make you His beloved son or daughter forever the moment you believe in Jesus alone to save you (John 1:12; 10:28-29).

But the prodigal son can also represent a Christian who has drifted away from fellowship with God to explore the pleasures of the world. Being dissatisfied with the world’s empty pleasures, he decides to “come home” to God by confessing his sin to the Lord and claiming His cleansing forgiveness (I John 1:9). We do not have to work for this restoration. There are no hoops to jump through or obligations to fulfill. Simply come home to your Father in heaven and He will lovingly welcome you and restore your fellowship or closeness to Him.

Whether we are coming home to God for the first time for salvation from hell through faith in Jesus or for the hundredth time as a believer to restore our fellowship with God, the Father is waiting with open arms and an open heart. Will you come home to Him now?

Prayer: Oh, gracious Father in heaven, how I have longed to hear these truths about You. Much of my understanding about You has been based on my own experiences and feelings as a child and as an adult with unavailable Christians. I have thought of You as a mean old man sitting up in heaven with a big hammer waiting to strike me the moment I say, think, or do something wrong. But Your Word tells me that You are not a mean-out-of-control man. You are a tender loving Father who eagerly waits and watches for His wayward child to come home so You can run out to him and wrap Your loving arms around him and tell him he is loved and safe in Your arms. Please, Father God, heal the holes in my heart so I may experience Your love more fully and begin to see myself as You see me. I am Your beloved child who has access to all that You possess because of my relationship with Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ. I am so glad to know that You are much more concerned about my heart than my past. My past is gone now. I am totally forgiven and loved by You. I am not a second-class Christian. I am a beloved child of God who can now enjoy all the privileges of sonship. And I am with You forever, never to be alone again. Thank You for restoring the joy of my salvation. Thank You that I am no longer defined by the darkness, but by the light of Your love. Please help me to walk in Your light and love. Please transform individual Christians and churches to respond to broken and wayward people with Your compassion and love so more people will come to Jesus in faith for His gift of salvation. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.

The Darkness is Gone because the Son is Risen!

“Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” John 20:1

As early as she could get up on Sunday while “it was still dark,” Mary Magdalene went down to the tomb where Jesus’ corpse had been laid on Friday. This reference to it being “dark” may refer to both the physical darkness of the morning and the emotional and spiritual darkness that Mary was probably experiencing. Mary no doubt was stricken with grief by Jesus’ sufferings and death. After all, this was the Messiah-God who had healed her from demon possession (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). He wasn’t supposed to die like this! Mary had no idea what had already happened that Sunday morning. So, this was a very dark morning for her emotionally and spiritually.

What about you? Is this a dark day for you? Is your life filled with doubt and uncertainty considering the coronavirus? Are you struggling with negative attitudes this week? You may not admit it to anyone else, but you may be thinking, “Where is God amid all this chaos and pain in my life? I hear other people talk about faith and how great faith can be and how it makes a difference in their lives but if I was really being honest, I’d have a lot of question marks about it. I’m not a very trusting person.”

As Mary arrived at the tomb “she saw that the stone had been taken away.” The word for “taken away” (ērmenon) means “to lift up and carry away.” 1 It conveys the idea of being “tossed aside.” It was not slowly rolled away. It was thrown aside by the angel of God when he arrived (cf. Matthew 28:2). The power of God tossed this stone aside! This is probably why Matthew tells us the Roman guards shook with fear and became like dead men (cf. Matthew 28:4). I would have done the same!

When the stone was thrown aside, it was not so Jesus could come out of the tomb. I believe Jesus had already come out of the tomb before the stone was tossed aside. The stone was removed so the disciples could come into the tomb and see that it was empty. This is what makes Christianity distinct from all other religions. The founders of all other religions are still dead in their graves, but Christians worship a Jesus Christ that left an empty tomb behind Him! We worship a Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and remains alive today! A Jesus Christ who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).

If we are struggling in the dark with bad attitudes, doubts, or our faith – the resurrection power of Jesus Christ can change all of that. The same power that brought Jesus back to life can also resurrect a joyful attitude in us and replace our doubts with an unwavering confidence in Jesus and His promises. His resurrection power can revitalize our faith so that all fear is gone, and His joy can overflow in our lives once again. The darkness is gone because the Son is risen indeed!

If part of your struggle in the dark is with sin and shame, please know that Jesus’ resurrection power guarantees unlimited forgiveness in Christ to all who believe in Him. You may think your sin is too great for God to forgive. You may believe shame-based lies that say no one could accept or love you as you are. This is not true. Listen to God’s voice of truth: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved you so much He sent His Son to die in your place when you were still an ungodly sinner. God loved you at your worst. He did not wait for you to clean up your life. He loved you just as you are. God loves you regardless of what you have done or what others say or think of you.

The risen Lord Jesus now invites you to come to Him just as you are to receive His forgiveness. The Bible says, “Everyone who puts his trust in Christ will have his sins forgiven through His name” (Acts 10:43). The word “everyone” includes the worst and the best of people. It includes people of all faiths. It does not matter if you are a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, or Universalist, Jesus invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to receive His unlimited forgiveness.

The Bible says the moment we believed in Jesus alone, “He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). No one can successfully condemn you now because Christ was condemned to death for your sins, removing your guilt (Romans 8:34b). Jesus was raised to life, satisfying God’s demand to punish your sins (Romans 8:34c). Jesus is now at the right hand of God the Father defending you against all accusations (Romans 8:34d). And Jesus intercedes for you that your faith won’t fail, you won’t give up, so that you can encourage others (Romans 8:34e; cf. Luke 22:32).

Hallelujah! Jesus is alive, and we who believe in Him are forgiven of all our sins – past, present, and future! The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! Oh, let us worship our risen Savior together!!!

Prayer: My risen Lord Jesus, I worship You this day because You have conquered sin, death, and the devil through Your death and resurrection. The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! You alone are my risen Savior, Lord Jesus! There is none like You. Even when I have dark days filled with doubt, fear, and shame, You are still alive and You are with me and love me more than I could ask or imagine. Thank You for dispelling the darkness on that first Sunday after Your death and burial. And thank You for continuing to dispel the darkness in this world through Your gospel of grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 28.  

Revelation 17 – Part 4

“Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” Revelation 17:15

After the angel explained the interpretation of “the mystery” about “the beast” (17:7-14), he addressed the meaning of “the woman” riding on the beast (17:15-18). “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” (Revelation 17:15). The angel interprets “the waters which” John “saw, where the harlot sits” (17:1) to be “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” indicating the worldwide evil influence Rome will have during the Tribulation period. During the Tribulation “there will be one ecumenical world religious system, embracing all nations and languages.” 1

So, the woman riding on the scarlet beast represents a worldwide religious system in the Tribulation period whose headquarters is in Rome, the city on seven hills (17:1-9, 15). Rome will be the center of the Revived Roman Empire during the Tribulation period. Rome is also home to the Vatican, the Roman papal authority whose influence reaches across the world to “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” This worldwide false religion will be brought to a sudden stop around the mid-point of the Tribulation period.

“And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” (Revelation 17:16). The “ten horns” John “saw on the beast” (17:7) represent ten kings (17:12) who will assist the beast in his worldwide kingdom during the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 7:23-24). These ten kings “will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” This complete destruction of the city of Rome will most likely take place after the beast assumes his position in the rebuilt Jewish temple and claims to be God, demanding that everyone worship him or be killed (cf. Daniel 11:36-38; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:8, 15). 2 The Roman papacy will not agree to embrace this so it will be brought to an abrupt end.

The reason (“For…”) for Rome’s destruction is because God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” (Revelation 17:17). God in His sovereignty uses the sinful actions of people, in this case the ten kings and the beast, “to fulfill His purpose… until the words of God” about Rome’s destruction “are fulfilled.” 3 God has used evil people before to accomplish His purposes (cf. Judges 2:14-15; 3:7-8, 12-14; Ezra 1:1ff; Jeremiah 25:9-11; Ezekiel 38:21; Daniel 2:20-21; Haggai 2:22; Zechariah 14:13). Yet, individual sinners remain responsible for his or her own actions (cf. Ezekiel 18). 4

“And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:18). The angel interprets “the woman” whom John saw to be “that great city which reigns [present tense] over the kings of the earth.” In the first century context when John wrote the book of Revelation, this could only refer to the city of Rome which ruled the world at that time. 5 Just as Rome relentlessly persecuted believers in Jesus when John wrote in the first century, the revived Roman Empire in the Tribulation period will also persecute believers who refuse to submit to her evil and idolatrous practices. But this persecution will be short lived because God will use the beast and his allies to bring about the swift destruction of this evil worldwide false religion.

These events in Revelation 17 could begin to take place at any time once the church of Christ is removed via the Rapture (I Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4:1-4). Jesus said, 32 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” (Mark 13:32-33). Christ said no one knows the “day and hour” of His coming, yet as we see conflict between Russia and Ukraine and chaos increasing around the world, the stage is being set for the beast to arise out of the chaos. Christians are to “watch and pray,” devoting their full attention, while there is still time, to God’s agenda for themselves, their families, their churches, and their communities. 6

Nonbelievers would be wise to come to Jesus Christ in faith soon before they are left behind to face a world that will experience unprecedented judgments as never before seen. If you are not sure you will go to heaven in the future, listen to what missionaries said to a prison guard who thought he only had a short amount of time to live. They told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

The reason a person must believe or trust in the Lord Jesus alone is because we all have a problem called sin (Romans 3:23) that separates us from God (Romans 6:23). All of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions. And we all deserve to pay the penalty for our own sins by dying forever in a terrible place of eternal suffering called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15) or hell (Mark 9:43-48). But God does not want any of us to die forever in hell!

So, He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to earth two thousand years ago. Jesus lived a perfect life on earth (Hebrews 4:15), and then He died on the cross in our place to pay the penalty for all our sins (I Corinthians 15:3; John 19:30). The proof that He died is that He was buried (I Corinthians 15:4a). We do not bury a living person; we bury a dead person. Jesus then rose from the dead three days after He died (I Corinthians 15:4b) just as He promised He would (Matthew 16:21), proving that He is God (John 3:16; Romans 1:3-4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead is that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8). This is more than enough evidence to stand up in a court of law.

Jesus is alive today and He has the power to save us from hell forever and give us eternal life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He now invites everyone to believe in Him alone to save them from hell forever (Acts 16:31). To “believe” in Jesus means to trust or depend upon Him alone.

Trusting in Jesus is a lot like riding on an airplane. When you ride as a passenger on an airplane, do you need to push the airplane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you need to flap your arms to keep the plane in the air? No. All you must do is trust a person, your pilot, to take you to your destination.

In the same way, Jesus does not need us to help Him save us from hell forever. No amount of our good works can save us from the lake of fire because they are all stained with sin before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). All Jesus asks is that we believe or trust in Him alone to save us from hell forever (Acts 16:31) and give us everlasting life (John 3:16). Only Jesus can take away our sins because He paid the penalty of our sins in full (John 19:30) and rose from the dead. Believe in Him and the Bible guarantees “you will be saved” forever from hell (Acts 16:31).

If you just believed or trusted in Jesus Christ alone to save you from hell forever, you may tell God this through prayer. But praying this prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Christ alone gets you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now believing in His Son to save you.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to You now as a sinner. I cannot save myself from hell. I believe You died for all my sins on the cross and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in You Jesus (not my good life, my religion, nor my prayers), to save me from hell forever and give me everlasting life. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the gifts of Your salvation and everlasting life that I now have. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus…

– He saved you from hell forever (Acts 16:31).

– He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29).

– He came to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20) and He promises never to abandon or leave you (Hebrews 13:5).

Jesus wants to be your best Friend. You can get to know Him by talking to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) and listening to Him as you read and apply the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17) together with other Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25).

– He now wants you to follow Him so He can show you how to tell other people the good news of going to heaven through faith in Him alone (Matthew 4:19; Mark 16:15).

Because of your faith in Christ alone to save you from hell forever, I will not say good-bye to you. Instead, I will say, “See you in heaven!”

ENDNOTES:

1. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6133.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 191.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1568.

4. Constable, pg. 191.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1568.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pp. 2410-2411.

Revelation 17 – Part 1

1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.’” Revelation 17:1

Swindoll writes, “In 1844 Karl Marx famously described religion as ‘opium of the people.’” 1 Marx viewed “all religion as man-made – a crutch that helped people escape the hardships of this world system by resting their hopes, confidence, and comfort on something other than the heartless world around them. The cure for humanity’s need for religion, Marx argued, was to overcome the conditions of oppression and inequality that had forced people to seek psychological succor from outside themselves. Marx’s solution? Communism – an atheistic system that invoked as much religious zeal in the twentieth century as any of the man-made ‘religious’ systems Marx had criticized…

“Marx was right that all man-made religion is useless – merely a deceptive psychological crutch to distract people from the real conditions of the world. However, his unforgivable errors were to lump Christianity into the same category as a man-made religion and to propose atheistic communism to replace it.” 2

In Genesis 11:1-9, God gives us a picture of man-made religion that provides us with a heavenly perspective on the topic. After the global flood and Noah’s death, we travel to the land of Shinar which is the birthplace of man-made religion. Instead of the descendants of Noah obeying God’s command to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1), they moved east away from God to the land of Shinar. The people made a declaration of independence from God Himself, saying, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4). To avoid spreading over the face of the whole earth as God commanded, the people wanted to make a name for themselves by building a city and a tower that reached to the heavens.

The ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, observes that the people built the tower out of “burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.” 3 Swindoll concludes that the people must have disbelieved God’s promise to never flood the whole world again (Genesis 9:11-17), so they made their tower waterproof to keep from drowning. Plus, the entire building project was focused on constructing a physical way to gain access to heaven – something only God could freely grant to them. 4 From this we learn three fundamentals of man-made religion:

  • “Rejection of God’s promises – faithlessness.
  • Rebellion against God’s commands – disobedience.
  • Refusal of God’s grace – legalism.” 5

God judged these people who were united by one language by dividing them into different languages so they would be “scattered … abroad from there over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:8-9) which is what the Lord originally commanded them to do (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). So, the city was called “Babel,” which means confused (Genesis 11:9a).

Walvoord writes, “Later the name was applied to the city of Babylon which itself has a long history dating back to as early as 3,000 years before Christ. One of its famous rulers was Hammurabi (1728-1686 B.C.). After a period of decline Babylon again rose to great heights under Nebuchadnezzar about 600 years before Christ. Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (605-562 B.C.) and the subsequent history of Babylon is the background of the Book of Daniel.

“Babylon was important not only politically but also religiously. Nimrod… had a wife known as Semiramis who founded the secret religious rites of the Babylonian mysteries, according to accounts outside the Bible. Semiramis had a son with an alleged miraculous conception who was given the name Tammuz and in effect was a false fulfillment of the promise of the seed of the woman given to Eve (Genesis 3:15).

“Various religious practices were observed in connection with this false Babylonian religion, including recognition of the mother and child as God and of creating an order of virgins who became religious prostitutes. Tammuz, according to tradition, was killed by a wild animal and then restored to life, a satanic anticipation and counterfeit of Christ’s resurrection. Scripture condemns this false religion repeatedly (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-19, 25; Ezekiel 8:14). The worship of Baal is related to the worship of Tammuz.

“After the Persians took over Babylon in 539 B.C., they discouraged the continuation of the mystery religions of Babylon. Subsequently the Babylonian cultists moved to Pergamum (or Pergamos) where one of the seven churches of Asia Minor was located (cf. Revelation 2:12-17). Crowns in the shape of a fish head were worn by the chief priests of the Babylonian cult to honor the fish god. The crowns bore the words ‘Keeper of the Bridge,’ symbolic of the ‘bridge’ between man and Satan. This handle was adopted by the Roman emperors, who used the Latin title Pontifex Maximus, which means ‘Major Keeper of the Bridge.’ And the same title was later used by the bishop of Rome. The pope today is often called the pontiff, which comes from pontifex. When the teachers of the Babylonian mystery religions later moved from Pergamum to Rome, they were influential in paganizing Christianity and were the source of many so-called religious rites which have crept into ritualistic churches. Babylon then is the symbol of apostasy and blasphemous substitution of idol-worship for the worship of God in Christ.” 9

With this background in mind, let’s return to our study of the book of Revelation. Revelation 16 recorded the seven bowl judgments leading to the battle at Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation. But before Armageddon is described in detail and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ takes place, one final event must be addressed – the destruction of Babylon the Great (Revelation 17-18). In the book of Revelation, one of out of every ten verses deals with Babylon. Two whole chapters address this city and its demise. It it clear that Babylon holds an important place in God’s final plan for the ages. 7

In the final climatic section of the book of Revelation (17:1-22:5), two cities will be contrasted, both being depicted as women. The first is evil and temporary: the city of Rome is referred to as “the great harlot” (17:1) or “MYSTERY BABYLON” (17:5). The second city is holy and eternal: the New Jerusalem which is described as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (21:9). For John’s original readers, seeing the judgment of the corrupt city that ruled over them as well as the splendor of the city they would one day experience as home would motivate them to remain faithful to God amid the difficult trials they would face. 8

Much has been written about the identity of Babylon. Some believe it refers to the literal city of Babylon on the Euphrates River in modern Iraq that will be rebuilt in the last days. 9 But this is not possible because God said Babylon would become like Sodom and Gomorrah due to the conquest of the Medes (in 539 BC) and become an everlasting desolation never to be inhabited again (Isaiah 13:17-20; Jeremiah 25:11). 10

I understand “Babylon” in the book of Revelation to refer to the city of Rome (17:1-18:21; cf. 14:8; 16:19). That “Babylon” is to be taken symbolically is the use of the qualifying word “mystery” (Revelation 17:5). Compare this with Revelation 11:8 where Jerusalem is referred to as “the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Likewise, since the apostle Peter was writing from Rome, he refers to the city using the common code name “Babylon” in I Peter 5:13. 11

Since the apostle John wrote Revelation while a Roman prisoner on the island of Patmos, he could not make any derogatory remarks about Rome in his writings, so he used the name “Babylon,” emphasizing that it was a code name by referring to it as “Mystery Babylon” (Revelation 17:5). 12

That John had Rome in mind when he wrote about “Babylon” is his reference to it as the city of “seven mountains” or hills 13 (Revelation 17:9). In the context of the first century, this could only refer to Rome which was known as “the city of the seven hills.” 14

Beginning in Chapter 17, John receives an invitation from one of the seven angels of the bowl judgments.  “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.” Revelation 17:1 The apostle John is invited by “one of the seven angels” that executed the bowl judgments, to “come” and see “the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.” As discussed earlier, this “great harlot” refers to “Babylon” (16:19), another name for the city of Rome. When John wrote the book of Revelation, the Roman Empire ruled the world, and the great harlot represents the capital city of that empire – Rome. This is confirmed in Revelation 17:18 which says “the woman whom you saw is that great city [Rome] which reigns [present tense] over the kings of the earth” at the time John wrote this book.

This great harlot “sits on many waters” which the angel interprets in 17:15 to mean “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” (17:1b; cf. 17:15). The fact that she “sits” suggests enthronement. 15 This great harlot will lead the world in the pursuit of false, man-made religion. Rome is a lot like Hollywood – it represents both a city and an industry or lifestyle that has impacted the whole world throughout history with its evil influence, but the peak of its influence will be during the Tribulation period (cf. 17:16; 18:11-19). 15

Next the angel says of the great harlot, “with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” (Revelation 17:2). Because of Rome’s affluence and beauty, “the kings of the earth committed” spiritual “fornication” or immorality with Rome by adopting her sensual, materialistic, and idolatrous lifestyle (17:2a). From the Lord’s viewpoint, Rome’s influence was tragic, causing “the inhabitants of the earth” to be “made drunk” or controlled “with the wine of her fornication.” Rome’spagan and idolatrous false religion caused the world to sink deeply into its decadence and unbiblical views of a relationship with God. 17

“This will be a satanic spiritual ‘high’ like nothing Karl Marx could have imagined when he called man-made religion ‘the opium of the people.’ For this reason, judgment of demonic false religion will mean judgment of its devoted practitioners.” 18

One of the primary reasons the Lord will have this great harlot wiped out by the ten kings near the end of the Tribulation is because she had insistently “corrupted the earth” (19:2) in a variety of ways. 19

Like the first man-made religion that tried to access heaven through self-reliance and human effort (Genesis 11:1-9), all man-made religions continue to attempt to do the same today, though unsuccessfully like their predecessor. The culmination of such attempts will take place in the future Tribulation when “the great harlot” (Rome) will mislead the entire world away from the true God with its decadent false religion.

Considering man-made religions today, I must ask you, “What are you trusting to get you to heaven?” 20 Some people are trusting their works to get them to heaven. Non-Christian religions comprise this group such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism. They believe that through human effort and/or self-reliance they can access heaven. Others trust in Christ plus their works to get them to heaven. This group consists of those who front-load the gospel with works such as Roman Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and Seventh Day Adventists. It also includes those who back-load the gospel with works such as Calvinistic or Reformed churches. Both groups say faith in Christ is necessary, but such faith must be accompanied by works either at the beginning of your profession of faith or at the end of your Christian life to have eternal life.

However, some people are trusting Christ alone to get them to heaven. They believe Jesus’ promise when He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). This is biblical Christianity, not man-made religion.Christ never said,“He who does good works has everlasting life.” Nor did Jesus say, “He who believes in Me and produces good works has everlasting life.” Christ did all the work when He died in our place on the cross for all our sins and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). All Jesus asks of us is to believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of eternal life.

When a person trusts his works to get him to heaven, he is telling God that His Son’s death was unnecessary. If I can trust my works alone to get me to heaven, then there was no need for Jesus Christ to die on a cross for my sins. In other words, Jesus failed to pay for my sins, so I must pay for my own sins.

When a person trusts Christ plus his works to get him to heaven, he is telling God that His Son’s death was disappointing. That is, Jesus died for some of my sins, but I must pay for the rest of my sins. Both responses are saying that Jesus Christ did not finish paying the penalty for all my sins so I must pay for some or all my sins.

But when a person trusts Christ alone to get him to heaven, he is telling God that His Son’s death was sufficient. It was enough. When Jesus was dying on the cross, He shouted, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Greek word that is translated “finished” is tetelestai. Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full.

All people have sinned against God with their thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 3:23) and deserve to be separated from Him forever (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). But God so loved the world that He gave His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for our sin when He was crucified in our place on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 5:8) and rose from the dead, proving He is God and had finished the work of paying our sin debt in full (Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:1-8; I John 2:2).

No amount of our good works can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:1-20, 23; 4:5; Galatians 2:16). Christ did not make a down payment for our sin when He died on the cross so that we must pay the remainder of our sin debt to God. God does not accept us based on our good life, our keeping of His commandments, our religion, our prayers, our self-discipline, our knowledge, our water baptism, or the sacraments we have taken. We are accepted by God based on the full payment for our sin debt to God when Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf. God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin. The verb tetelestai is in the perfect tense. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present.

When we communicate the gospel with non-Christians, we must be clear that all people have sinned against God and deserve to die forever in the lake of fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). No amount of our good thoughts, words, or actions can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). Because Jesus finished paying the penalty for our sins when He died in our place, that means we do not have to work for our salvation (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). All God asks of us is to believe in Jesus and His finished work on the cross as sufficient payment for our sins (John 3:14-15; 19:30). When we do, He gives us everlasting life and forgives all our sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14). And then we can have the assurance that “It is finished!” Our sin debt is paid in full.

Will you believe or trust in Jesus alone to do for you what you could never do on your own? He is waiting for you to come to Him in faith just as you are and then He will forgive all your sins and give you life that never ends (Acts 10:43; John 3:15-16; 11:25-26).

Prayer: Lord God, some of us have been entrenched in man-made religion trying to gain access to heaven through our own efforts and self-reliance. Thank You for exposing us to the origin of this deceptive religion which leads people away from You. Thank You for sending the Lord Jesus Christ to earth to die in our place for all our sins and rise from the dead. Thank You that Jesus is alive today to give us eternal life and forgive all our sins the moment we believe in Him alone. Please open the eyes and hearts of those blinded by man-made religion so they may see their need for our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Persuade them to believe in Christ alone to give them eternal life and a future home in heaven so they can help others find the same freedom in Christ. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 308 cites Karl Marx, “Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechts-Philosophie,” Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher 1 (1844): 72.

2. Swindoll, pg. 308.

3. Ibid., pg. 309 cites Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 1.116.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 6075 to 6097.

7. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 361.

8. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1562.

9. Hitchcock, pp. 362-366; Charles H. Dyer, The Rise of Babylon: Sign of the End Times (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1991), pg. 182; Henry M. Morris, Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Prophetic Book of the End Times (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1983), pp. 348-349; J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Vol. 5 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 1, 039.

10. Dr. David R. Reagan’s article, “Mystery Babylon” at www.christinprophecy.org.

11. Gary Derickson; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; Bob Vacendak, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1370, 1400; cf. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 223503. 

12. Reagan’s “Mystery Babylon.”

13. The Greek word for “mountains” is orē which can also mean “hills” – see Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 724.

14. Reagan’s “Mystery Babylon”; cf. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2410.

15. Constable, pg. 183 cites David E. Aune, Revelation 17—22, Word Biblical Commentary series (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), pg. 930.

16. Vacendak, pg. 1563.

17. Ibid.

18. Swindoll, pg. 313.

19. Vacendak, pg. 1563.

20. Adapted from EvanTell’s 3-circle illustration.

Revelation 16 – Part 4

“And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” Revelation 16:16

As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues and the various challenges of a global pandemic linger, many people may wonder who is in control of planet earth. But those of us who believe in Jesus Christ must remember that God remains in control no matter what takes places or what others may think. The Lord is bringing events to their appointed end, and one of the important events that crowns the Tribulation period is identified by one menacing word – Armageddon! 1

When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, General Douglas MacArthur uttered these formidable words: “We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at the door.” 2 In 1971, then California governor, Ronald Reagan, told a fellow politician, “For the first time ever, everything is in place for the battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.” 3

“Again in 1983, President Reagan said, ‘You know, I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if – if we’re the generation that is going to see that come about. I don’t know if you’ve noted any of those prophecies lately, but, believe me, they certainly describe the time.” 4

Billy Graham in his book, Till Armageddon, writes, “There is no doubt that global events are preparing the way for the final great war of history – the great Armageddon!” 5

The word “Armageddon” is found only one time in the Bible (Revelation 16:16), but it is probably one of the most familiar biblical terms associated with end times prophecy. Most people have heard of Armageddon, but like many other terms, the real meaning of the word often is lost by overuse or misuse. To help us understand end times prophecy, we are going to look at a passage that involves events leading up to Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16).

In our study of the book of Revelation, we have been looking at the bowl judgments which will take place in rapid succession near the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 16:1-21). So far, we have looked at the first five bowl plagues that have included malignant sores (16:2), the sea becomes blood (16:3), fresh water supply becomes blood (16:4-7), people are scorched by the sun (16:8-9), and global darkness causes intense emotional anguish (16:10-11). Instead of blaming their own sinful ways for these plagues, followers of the Beast blamed God for them (16:9, 11).

The sixth bowl judgment does not involve an immediate plague inflicted upon humanity but serves instead as a preparation for the final war of the Tribulation period. “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.” (Revelation 16:12). The “Euphrates” River has been an important part of world events since the time of Creation. It was one of four rivers that irrigated the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord (Genesis 2:14). It was designated as the northeastern boundary of the land God promised to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 15:18; Joshua 1:4). The Greek word translated “Euphrates” (Euphratēs) means “sweet water.” 6 Now we see this great river that had previously turned into blood (cf. 16:4) is “dried up so that… the kings from the east” (i.e., India, China, Japan, Korea, etc.) can cross with their armies to converge on the Middle East to join the Beast’s army and other world armies. 7

“It is very likely that the coagulation of the ocean waters (see comments on vv 3-4) will make the transport of foreign troops into the Middle East impossible by sea. When the Man of Sin sees that this 1,780-mile-long river (stretching from the mountains of Turkey to the environs of the Persian Gulf) is now dry ground, he will set out to secure the military might of the countries to the east of the Euphrates… to join him in annihilating the God of these agonizing plagues. The transport of troops by land is now a possibility.” 8

There is no reason to understand the drying up of the Euphrates River as figurative. Previously, God had dried up the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross over from the west on dry land to go to the Promised Land (Exodus 14:21-22). The Lord had also dried up the Jordan River, so His people could cross over from the east (Joshua 3:13-17; 4:23). Elijah, too, divided the waters of the Jordan (2 Kings 2:8). All these previous crossings should teach us to understand a literal fulfillment of this prophecy in Revelation 16. 9

The convergence of the world’s armies for the final war of the Tribulation was not merely a geopolitical maneuver but also a supernatural event. 10 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” (Revelation 16:13-14). The apostle John “saw three unclean spirits” or “demons” that looked like “frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon… the beast, and… the false prophet” to deceive “the kings of the earth and …the whole world” using miraculous “signs” so that they gather together “to the battle of that great day of God Almighty,” known as the Battle of Armageddon (cf. 16:16; 19:19; Psalm 2:1-3), when they will think they can defeat this cruel Deity that caused all these terrible plagues.

Something proceeding from the mouths of this unholy Trinity suggests a proclamation of some kind.  The demons are “like frogs” in that they are unclean and repugnant (cf. Leviticus 11:10-11, 41). 11 These world leaders will probably be reminded that the Beast or Man of Sin was victorious over this Deity’s two witnesses who plagued the earth (cf. 11:7-10) and that with their help, victory over God Himself is attainable. 12

This unholy Trinity of Satan (“the dragon”), the World Ruler (“the beast”), and “the false prophet,” know that the return of King Jesus to earth is near, so they will gather the military powers of the world into the Holy Land to resist the coming of Christ Who will return to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:14). Although these nations will be deceived in entering this war in hope of gaining world political power, the satanic purpose is to defeat the armies from heaven at the Second Coming of Christ. 13

Next the Lord Jesus warns believers: “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” (Revelation 16:15). Christ is “coming” quickly and unexpectedly like “a thief” to remove believers from this church age (Matthew 24:42-44). Jesus says “blessed” at His coming “is he who watches” by remaining alert “and keeps his garments” by continuing to live a holy life. If a believer is unfaithful at the soon coming of Christ, it will be very embarrassing, like standing in Jesus’ presence “naked.” Others will “see his shame” (aschēmosynēn)which “is a euphemism for a person’s private parts” (cf. Isaiah 47:3; Revelation 3:18). 14

“The Lord wants His children to be ready for His return by holding tight to their robes of holiness no matter how difficult the circumstances may be. The only alternative is to be ashamed at His coming (I John 2:28).” 15

 “And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:16). Using deception, the demons (16:13-14) will gather the armies of the entire world “to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” to fight against the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “Armageddon” comes from the Greek word Harmagedōn which transliterates the Hebrew phrase “Har Megiddo,” meaning “Mount of Megiddo.” 16 This mountain is about forty miles northwest of Jerusalem and was the site of many Old Testament battles, 17 including Deborah and Barak’s defeat of the Canaanites (Judges 4-5), Gideon’s triumph over the Midianites (Judges 7), Saul’s death in the battle with the Philistines (I Samuel 31:8), Jehu’s slaying of Ahaziah (2 Kings 9:27), and Josiah’s death in the battle with the Egyptians (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:22). 18 Mount Megiddo overlooks a large valley known as the Plain of Esdraelon which is twenty miles long and fourteen miles wide. 19

Some Bible interpreters have argued that the Plain of Megiddo is not large enough to contain armies from all around the world, so they conclude it must be an assembly area for a much larger deployment of troops that covers a two-hundred-mile distance from north to south and the width of Palestine from east to west. 20 However, we must also take into consideration that the many judgments of the Tribulation will have greatly reduced the world’s population by this time (Revelation 6:1-16:16) so a much smaller gathering of troops is likely.

Armageddon will be the site where the armies of the world will gather to fight against the King of kings at the end of the Tribulation period. The final outcome of this battle is recorded in Revelation 19:19-21 when the armies of Satan meet their doom against King Jesus: 19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.” (Revelation 19:19-21). The Lord Jesus Christ will utterly defeat His enemies gathered at Armageddon and leave their dead bodies to be eaten by “birds” of prey. “The beast” and “false prophet” will be taken captive and and “cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” to suffer torment forever (Revelation 20:10). The devil and all those who rejected Christ will meet the same fate a thousand years later at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:10-15).

Now you know how this battle between God and Satan will end. Would you like to be saved from this horrible judgment? If so, you must have your name written in the Book of Life by believing in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life (Revelation 20:15). If you have not yet believed in Christ alone, then hear and believe God’s promise: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). Please understand that your works do not determine your eternal destiny. Your response to God’s Son, Jesus Christ, determines where you will be in eternity. Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life will face Him as their Judge at the Great White Throne Judgment to determine the degree of their punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Those who do believe in Christ alone, will face Him as their Judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ to determine the degree of their rewards in heaven (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12).

To believe in Jesus means to trust or depend on Him alone to give you everlasting life. For example, trusting in Jesus is a lot like trusting in an airplane. When you ride in an airplane, do you have to push it to get it off the ground? No. Do you have to flap your arms to keep it in the air? No, of course not. All you must do is trust a person, your pilot, to take you to your destination. In the same way, God invites you to trust in a Person, His Son Jesus Christ, to take you to your eternal destination in heaven (John 3:36). No amount of your good works can help Jesus take you to heaven because they are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). And since God is holy and perfect, He cannot be around our sin. 

But God loves you so much that He does not want you to die forever in the Lake of Fire (John 3:16; Matthew 18:14; I Timothy 2:3-4), so He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for all our sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus Christ is alive today and He now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of everlasting life.

Let me ask you a very important question. What are you trusting to get you to heaven? 21 Some people trust in their works to get them to heaven. Some people trust in Christ plus their works to get them to heaven. And some people trust in Christ alone to get them to heaven. Those who trust in their works are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was unnecessary.” There was no need for Jesus to die for my sins if I can get to heaven trusting in my works alone. Those who trust in Christ plus their works are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was disappointing.” That is, Jesus paid for some of my sins, and I must pay for the rest. In other words, Jesus did not get the job done. Those who trust in Christ alone are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was sufficient.” Jesus did not say on the cross, “I will help you get to heaven.” No. He said in John 19:30, “It is finished!” Christ did not make the down payment for our sins. He made the full payment for all our sins. Therefore, I can trust in Him alone to get me to heaven because He has paid for my admission there.

If you have never understood this before and you are now trusting in Christ alone to get you to heaven, you may tell Jesus this through prayer. But remember, praying a prayer does not get you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus for everlasting life will get you to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling Jesus you are now trusting in Him alone. You may now pray this prayer to Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself. I believe You died for me on the cross and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You, Jesus, alone (not my good life, my religion, or my prayers) to save me from the lake of fire forever and give me everlasting life. Thank You Jesus for the salvation and the everlasting life I now have. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus, He gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He promises that you will never perish in the lake of fire (John 3:16). He wants to use you now to tell others the good news of His salvation so they also may trust in Him alone to get them to heaven.

Please share this article with those you want to see in heaven because we do not have much time left. Thank you, and may King Jesus richly bless you.

ENDNOTES:

1. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 371.

2. Ibid., pg. 372.

3. Ibid., cites Daniel Schorr, “Reagan Recants: His Path from Armageddon to Détente,” Los Angeles Times, January 3, 1988, articles.latimes.com/1988-01-03/opinion/op-32475_1_president-reagan.

4. Ibid., cites “Reagan: Is Apocalypse Now?” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 29, 1983, www.ramsheadpress.com/messiah/PDF/CHAPTER26.pdf.

5. Ibid., cites Billy Graham, Till Armageddon (Minneapolis: World Wide, 1981), pg. 15.

6. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 300 cites M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), see “Euphrates.”

7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2407.

8. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1560.

9. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 174.

10. Evans, pg. 2407.

11. Constable, pg. 175.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1560.

13. Adapted from John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 6009 to 6014.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1560.

15. Ibid.

16. Evans, pg. 2408.

17. Vacendak, pg. 1561.

18. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 337.

19. Hitchcock, pp. 372-374.

20. Constable, pg. 177 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 270-271; John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pp. 238-239; and William Sanford Lasor, The Truth about Armageddon (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982), pg. 146.

21. Adapted from EvanTell’s three circle illustration.  

Revelation 15 – Part 3

“And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.” Revelation 15:6

After the apostle John saw believers who were martyred during the last half of the Tribulation standing victoriously on a sea of glass before God’s throne in heaven praising the Lord for His awe-inspiring Person and works (15:1-4), he sees preparations in heaven for the upcoming horrific bowl judgments (15:5-8). 

“After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.” (Revelation 15:5). While martyred believes praised the Lord God in heaven, preparations were being made to severely judge rebellious people on the earth. John “looked” and saw the heavenly “temple of the tabernacle of the testimony.” In the Old Testament, God’s Law was often called the “Testimony” (cf. Exodus 25:16-22; et al.) and was stored in the ark of the covenant in the room called the Holy of Holies (cf. Hebrews 9:2-4). During the Tribulation, people on earth had rejected God’s law and thus His judgments will proceed from the very place where His Law was stored. 1 God’s Law will now judge these rebellious earth-dwellers.

For believers in Jesus, the heavenly temple is open for them to access God’s presence, but for nonbelievers on earth, that same heavenly temple will be the source of terrible judgments. As John’s vision continues, he writes, “And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.” (Revelation 15:6). John sees a procession of “seven angels” coming out of the heavenly “temple” from God’s presence. Each angel had received a “plague” or judgment from God (16:6a). 2

The ”golden bands” girding “their chests” represent the majesty of God. As agents of God’s wrath, their attire is like Christ’s (cf. 1:13). Their clothing is “pure” and “bright” because God was perfectly holy and just (15:3-4) in these final judgments which will purify the world of lawless humanity (15:6). 3 Hence, the attire of these seven angels fits their purpose which was to purify the earth. 4

“Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.” (Revelation 15:7). Remember that “the four living creatures” of Revelation 4:6-9 are angelic beings who offer constant worship to God and assist Him in the outpouring of His wrath.One” of these angelic “creatures” gave each of the seven angels a golden bowl “full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever” (15:7).

The Greek word translated “bowls” (phialē) “refers to a shallow, saucer-like dish used for boiling liquids as well as for ‘drinking or pouring libations.’” 5 It is interesting that God also described the “prayers of the saints” as being held in“golden bowls” in Revelation 5:8. Those prayers may relate to the outpouring of these judgments, that is, the prayers of the saints are being answered through these bowl judgments. 6 This cause-and-effect relationship between the prayers of God’s people and these coming bowl judgments begins “to answer the age-old question of why the wicked seem to go unpunished while the righteous suffer injustice. The truth is that God’s mercy during the Tribulation delayed the full measure of judgment to give people an opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3:9)” 7 or change their mind about whatever is keeping them from believing in Jesus, so they may believe in Him for His gift of eternal life.

While the Mosaic Law was given to humankind from God through angels (cf. Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19), now God’s judgments for lawbreakers are poured out on humankind through angelic messengers. The fact that God is described as One “who lives forever and ever” emphasizes the seriousness of these bowl judgments. 8 These judgments are from the one true God who has no beginning and no end.” 9

“The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.” (Revelation 15:8). As John continued to look into the opened heavenly temple, he saw it “filled with smoke” because the bowl judgments represent the intense wrath of God burning fiercely against the rebellion of humanity on the earth (15:8a). When the Lord descended on Mount Sinai at the giving of the Law (Ex. 19:18), it was “completely in smoke.” The smoke in the heavenly temple is “from the glory of God and His power,” signifying that God is present manifesting His glorious power. 10

Why does John tell us, “No one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed” (15:8b)? Because this is God’s work and His alone. Just as God wanted to be alone when His wrath burned hot against the nation of Israel on Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:10), during the outpouring of His wrath during the bowl judgments God will be alone in the heavenly temple until the bowl judgments are finished. 11

What this tells us is that God alone is worthy to carry out these terrible judgments on humankind who violated His holy Word (15:5-8). Hence, Christians must not be judgmental of nonbelievers or fellow believers, but merciful toward them as God has been merciful to them (cf. Titus 3:4-7; James 2:12-12; 5:7-9).

There are three important contrasts from this scene involving God’s heavenly temple: 12

1. As the temple in heaven is filled with God’s glory and power the earth is filled with God’s wrath. Believers in Jesus can enjoy God’s glorious presence (John 3:36a; 14:1-3), but nonbelievers will suffer from His wrath both temporarily on earth and eternally in the lake of fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14: 16:1-21; 19:15-21; 20:15).

2. In the past, God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus Christ when He hung on the cross to save sinners (Mark 15:33-34; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Timothy 1:15; I Peter 3:18), but in the future God’s wrath will be poured out on unbelieving sinners to judge them (John 3:36b; Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14: 16:1-21; 19:15-21; 20:15).

3. While believers in heaven celebrate the triumph of good (Revelation 15:1-4), nonbelievers on earth will agonize with the destruction of evil (Revelation 15:5-16:21).

Of which of these two groups will you be a member? Believers in Christ who will be in heaven enjoying the presence of God or nonbelievers who will be subject to the agonizing wrath of God? Please understand that God loves you and wants you to live with Him forever in His heaven (John 14:1-3; I Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). But the Bible tells us we all have a problem that separates us from God called sin (Romans 3:23; 6:23a). Because all of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions, we deserve to be separated from Him forever in the lake of fire (Isaiah 59:2; Revelation 20:15).

Thankfully, since God does not want us to suffer under His wrath forever, He sent His one-of-a-kind Son, Jesus Christ to earth to live a perfect life and then die on a cross for our sins and rise from the dead three days later (I Corinthians 15:3-6), proving His claims to be God are true (Romans 1:3-4; 9:5). Jesus Christ is alive today and He has the power to save you from the lake of fire and give you everlasting life so you can live forever in God’s heaven.

The Bible tells us, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). According to this verse we see two very different eternal destinies. Those who “believe in the Son” have “everlasting life” both now and forever with God in His heaven. Those who do “not believe the Son shall not see life.”

What does it mean to believe? It means to be persuaded that Jesus’ death for your sins and resurrection from the dead are true, and then believe or trust in Christ alone to give you everlasting life. What Jesus is asking us to do is trust Him alone so we can experience “life” with Him both now and forever.

A while back, I spoke with a friend’s neighbor. He told me that several months ago they discovered a massive tumor attached to his heart and the doctor recommended surgery. Did he accept as true that the doctor could remove the tumor? Yes. But he did not trust the doctor to remove the tumor until he climbed up on the operating table. Christ is asking us to come to Him as sinners, recognizing that He died for our sins and rose again, and believing or trusting in Him alone to get us to heaven. Christ is not asking us to depend upon our good life… our prayers … or our religion to get us to heaven, but in Him alone for eternal life.

Think about this incredible gift that Christ wants to give us – this eternal life. This is life with God that never ends. What makes eternal life so amazing is that it is absolutely free because Jesus Christ paid the full price for it when He died in our place on a cross and declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Trusting Christ, we are forever accepted by God, not based on what we have done or will do for Him but based on what He has done for us. This concept of a free gift is often compromised today. Some say God only gives eternal life to those who obey God or promise to obey. Others say eternal life is given only to those who prove they are Christians by their works. These faulty concepts about eternal life rob God of all the glory because if we can get to heaven based on our obedience or works, then we have something to boast about. But if eternal life is absolutely free (and it is), then all the glory goes to God, which is where it belongs.

This gift is eternal, and it is absolutely free. So, if my wife, children, close friends, co-workers, and neighbors have believed in Christ, we are going to live together forever! What could be a better message than the one surrounding this gift!?!

The Bible is telling us that Jesus Christ is the only One Who has the ability to give us the greatest gift imaginable – eternal life. Therefore, we must do whatever it takes to tell others about Christ and what He has done for them so they can believe in Him to get them to heaven and escape God’s coming wrath on the earth. After all, since eternal life is the greatest gift, why not pass it on to others?

According to John 3:36b, what happens to those who do not believe in Jesus? They “shall not see life.” They won’t be with Jesus in heaven because the wrath of God abides on“ them foreverin a terrible place of suffering called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). 

If you had the cure for cancer and didn’t share it, would that be criminal? Yes! If you had the cure for COVID and didn’t share it, would that be criminal? Yes! If you knew the only way to get to heaven and you didn’t tell it to the people in your life, would that be criminal? Yes!

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all.” Circle “Christ’s love.” God has never made a person that He didn’t love. Everybody matters to God. And because God cares about people, we must care, too. Doesn’t this compel you to tell others? It does me. How much more should we want to share the greatest gift of all with others? But you may say, “Well I don’t know how or I’m afraid.”

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” About a year after believing in Jesus (cf. Matthew 4:12; John 1:35-4:35), Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, are casting their fishing net into the sea when Jesus approaches them (Matthew 4:18). Christ invites them to follow Him and promises that He will make them fishers of men. How could Jesus use these men with no formal education or ministry experience to make a difference for eternity? Simple. Their responsibility was to follow Jesus. Christ’s responsibility was to make them fishers of men.

Do you feel inadequate to evangelize the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus.

When we examine the gospels, we see that Jesus did not have one standard approach to evangelism. He simply started wherever people were at. When He was with the Samaritan woman at the well, He talked about living waters (John 4:1-26). When He was with the fishermen, He talked about fishing for men (Matt. 4:18-20). When He was with farmers, He talked about sowing seed (Luke 8:4-15). In other words, Jesus was being relevant to the people He was with. He used methods and words they would understand and value.

If you have ever fished for an entire day, you know that sometimes you must change bait as the day progresses. What bait worked in the morning may not attract the same fish in the afternoon or evening. Likewise, some Christians and churches are failing to reach the unsaved in the twenty-first century because they are using the same bait that worked in the 1950s and 1960s. The problem is the unbelievers are not biting on that bait any longer. We cannot expect to reach the lost if we are not using methods that best ministers to their needs.

God wants to see all people escape His coming wrath. He wants to see more people believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. God may be placing something on your heart right now that He wants to use to expose more people around the world to His gospel message. Your first response may be, “Lord, I can’t do that.” You are right, you cannot, but God can do it through you if you will respond in faith instead of fear. Remember, with God, all things are possible.

Prayer: Lord God, thank Youfor the contrast between believers in heaven and nonbelievers on earth in Revelation 15. Thank You for reminding us that this world is not all there is. The day is coming when those of us who believe in Jesus will be enjoying Your incredible presence in heaven while nonbelievers on earth will be agonizing with the destruction of evil. Use us Almighty God to expose more people on earth to Your life-giving gospel before it is too late for them to escape Your coming wrath during the Tribulation period and eventually in the lake of fire forever. Thank You for hearing our prayers. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition  

(Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1556.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 168.

3. Vacendak, pg. 1556.

4. Constable, pg. 168 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 242-243.

5. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 285 cites H. G. Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), pg. 861.

6. Constable, pg. 168.

7. Swindoll, pg. 285.

8. Vacendak, pp. 1556-1557.

9. Ibid., pg. 1557.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Adapted from Swindoll, pg. 286.

Revelation 14 – Part 4

Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘11… And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’” Revelation 14:9, 11

I learned in the last two years that some of my family’s ancestors rejected the clear teachings of the Bible that hell is a real place of eternal torment and suffering for those who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ for His gift of salvation. Like many people today, including some Christians, they reasoned that since God is love, He would never punish someone for eternity.  

However, this teaching ignores the clear teachings of the book of Revelation (Revelation 14:9-11; 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8) and Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 13:37-42, 49-50, 18:8-9; 23:15, 33; 25:41, 46; Mark 3:29; 9:43-48; Luke 12:5; John 3:18, 36). And not only that, it also neglects to realize that God is also a holy God (Hebrews 1:8-9; I Peter 1:15-16; Revelation 3:7; 4:8; 6:10; 15:4) Who hates sin (Hebrews 1:8-9; Proverbs 6:16-19; Psalm 5:4-5; Zechariah 8:17), and therefore, He will punish forever those who reject His provision for sin in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18; 19:30; I Corinthians 15:1-8; Revelation 20:14-15; Romans 6:23a).  

We do not have the freedom to change the truth of God’s Word just because we do not like it or fully understand it. 1 As Hitchcock quotes Walvoord, saying, “There either is or is not a future of eternal punishment. Whether we agree with it or not has very little bearing on the issue. The vote against it could be unanimous, and still hell might be a reality. God did not consult us when planning His righteous judgment of the sinful human race. The ultimate question is whether the Bible, which is our only source of information about what happens after death, teaches a doctrine of eternal conscious punishment.” 2

In our study of the book of Revelation, we are looking at a stark contrast between the Lamb of God and His 144,000 faithful followers who will be triumphant at the end of the Tribulation period (14:1-5), and those who will bow to the Beast and take his mark (14:6-20; cf. 13:11-18).

After recording the announcements of the first two angels, John writes, 9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:9-10). This “third angel” warns nonbelievers who have not yet bowed to the beast nor taken his mark during the last half of the Tribulation period, that “if anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand,” he or she will experience “the wrath of God” in “full strength” during the bowl judgments just before Jesus returns to the earth (14:9-10a; cf. 16:1-21).

Receiving the mark of the beast (“666”) may seem like a harmless requirement to enable someone to participate in commerce during the last half of the Tribulation period (cf. 13:16-18), but God is warning those who receive this mark that it designates them as the recipients of the “full strength… of His indignation” 3during the upcoming bowl judgments (14:9-10a) and forever in the lake of fire (14:10b-11). 4 Normally people added water to wine to dilute it, but God will not weaken “the wine” of His “wrath,” He will give beast-worshippers the “full strength” 5 of it in time and eternity.

That God’s judgment of beast-worshippers is eternal is seen next: 10 He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:10b-11). God’s Word clearly tells us that beast-worshippers will “be tormented with fire and brimstone… forever and ever” and will “have no rest day or night.”  The Greek word for “tormented” (basanizō) means “to subject to punitive judicial procedure, torture, severe distress, torment, harass.” 6 Hell will not be a pleasant place of existence for those who have rejected God’s mercy through faith in Jesus Christ. Nonbelievers will not just die and pass into unconsciousness. They will not be partying with their unsaved family or friends in the lake of fire as some suggest.

They will experience excruciating pain, being consciously tortured “forever and ever.” The endless trail of ascending “smoke” will be the constant reminder of the permanent agony of beast-worshippers 7 and anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ. They will “have no rest day or night.” Remember, the lake of fire is separation from God, and God is the One who gives eternal rest to people (Matthew 11:28). 8 Evans writes, “So picture the unpleasantness of battling insomnia for a week. Then extend that into eternity. Then contrast that potential future with heaven, which is depicted in Scripture as a place of eternal rest (Hebrews 3:7-4:11). Consignment to hell is a free choice, a penalty men and women bring on themselves, as when they elect to receive ‘the mark of’ the beast (14:11). 9

No one in hell will want others to join them there. In fact, Jesus tells us that the inhabitants of hell will want to warn others who are still alive on earth not to share in their agonizing fate (cf. Luke 16:27-28).

The phrase, “in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (14:10) simply means that the eternal suffering of nonbelievers will be in the view of the Lord Jesus (“the Lamb”) and God’s “holy angels.” 10 The Lord Jesus does not desire that any human being suffer or perish eternally in the lake of fire (John 3:16-18; I Timothy 3:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus tells us, For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). God does not want anyone to experience eternal condemnation in the lake of fire. So, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die in our place on the cross and rise from the dead, “that the world” (including you and me), could “be saved” from hell by believing in Jesus. Please understand, however, that God does not send anyone to hell. People send themselves to hell by refusing to believe in Jesus.

God’s love allows people to choose between heaven and hell. Christ goes on to say, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18). When a person refuses to believe in Jesus Christ, they are rejecting God’s offer. They are condemning themselves. When a person refuses to believe in Christ alone for the gift of eternal life, they are in essence saying to God, “I reject what Jesus Christ did in my place as my Substitute.” Therefore, God has no choice but to let us pay for our own sin, through eternal separation from Him in hell. Those who go to hell are going there of their own choosing because they have rejected Christ and His free offer. God has not rejected them; instead, they have rejected God.

For example, suppose God blessed you and your spouse with a little boy. You love that little boy so much that you would do anything for him. Forbid the thought, but suppose that when your little boy is 21, he begins a wayward life and eventually murders someone. Your state sentences him to die by lethal injection. Suppose that you could walk into his cell the morning he is to be executed and offer to take his place. That is how great your love is for him. In so doing, you explain that he can be a free and forgiven man. Much to your surprise, he pushes you aside, walks to the table, and receives the punishment for his horrible crime himself. Did you not love him enough? Would you accept the accusation, “If you really loved your son, you wouldn’t have allowed that to happen”? Hardly! You did not reject him; he rejected you.

Therefore, the Bible puts the responsibility where it belongs when it says, “he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18). Why would someone reject Christ’s free offer of everlasting life? Why would someone choose hell instead of heaven?

The answer is in John 3:19-20: “19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” People reject Christ because they love their sin more than the Savior. The presence of God’s “light” – His truth – forces people to make a choice – to either believe in Christ or reject Him. The reason people reject Christ’s free offer of eternal life is because they love their sin more, and they want to stay in the darkness because it hides their sinfulness (3:19).

Whether you are a Christian or non-Christian, we all (“everyone”) dislike being shown that we are wrong (3:20a). We don’t want to be around the “light” of God’s Wordbecause it exposes our sinful “deeds” (3:20b; cf. Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:22-24). I feel that way myself. I don’t like to admit I am wrong. This verse is saying that this normal human reaction is part of our sinful nature. That is why nobody wants to change. Nobody wants to admit he is wrong. When the Republicans are in power, they try to convince the Democrats they have been wrong, but they won’t admit it. When the Democrats are in power, they try to convince the Republicans they have made the wrong choices, but they won’t admit it either. Nobody wants to admit they are wrong. That is why it is so hard to change.

For those of you who do not believe in Jesus, God is inviting you right now to come out of the darkness into the light and admit your need for the Savior, Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The word “wages” refers to what we receive for the work we have done.  In other words, wages are earned. The Bible is telling us that eternal “death” in hell is earned (6:23a). Because all of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 3:23), we deserve to be separated from God forever in the lake of fire.

But notice that heaven is not earned. It is “the gift of God… in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23b). Eternal life is not found in your religion or good works. It is found “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Why? Because only Jesus Christ can give you everlasting life since He is God, and He finished paying for eternal life through His perfect sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the dead (John 1:1; 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

All Jesus asks of you is to believe in Him for His free gift. Christ said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). The moment you believe in Jesus, He guarantees you shall “not perish” in hell, “but have everlasting life” both now and forever. Do you believe this? If you do, Christ promises you will “not perish” in hell, “but have everlasting life,” which can never be lost (John 10:28-29).

How would knowing the eternal destiny of unbelievers who worship the beast and take up his mark motivate believers during the Tribulation period? The apostle John writes, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12). The reality of eternal punishment for nonbelievers (14:9-11) is intended to motivate believers (“saints”) during the last half of the Tribulation period to have “patience” or endurance so they may “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”The faith” refers to the New Testament (cf. Jude 1:3).

This verse is not saying that Tribulation believers who fail to keep God’s commandments and the faith will lose their salvation and perish in the lake of fire. This would contradict John’s other writings which assure the believer in Jesus that he or she “shall never perish” in hell (John 10:28a) nor ever be snatched out of the hands of God the Son and God the Father (John 10:28b-29). By God’s grace, all believers in Jesus will be supernaturally enabled to resist worshiping the beast and taking his mark during the Tribulation period (cf. I Corinthians 10:13). 11 I agree with Vacendak when he writes, “Should a believer somehow fail to take advantage of God’s grace in this matter, God may remove him from the temptation or even take his life. But no believer will succumb to worshiping the Beast and receiving his mark! Only the lost destined for the lake of fire will yield to this deception.” 12

How does knowing the eternal destiny of unbelievers impact your life today? The more Christians in this Church Age believe in the reality of heaven and hell (i.e. the lake of fire), the more eager they will be to go wherever Jesus goes to share the gospel message with the lost, namely that whoever believes in Jesus Christ, the God-Man who died for their sins and rose from the dead, has everlasting life (John 3:15-16; 20:31; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Sadly, the less Christians believe in the reality of heaven and hell, the less they will share Jesus’ gospel with the lost.

This reminds me of something Charles Peace once said. Charles was sentenced to die for being a career criminal. On the morning of his execution, a group of prison officials met at Charles’s cell to take him on his final walk to the gallows. Among them was a sleepy prison chaplain whose job it was to prepare the condemned man’s soul for the hereafter. But the chaplain didn’t say a word to Charles. He just yawned and mumbled as he read a religious book. Charles then tapped him on the shoulder and asked him, “What are you reading?” “The Consolations of Religion,” the chaplain replied. Charles said, “Do you believe what you are reading?” Hesitantly he said, “Well, yes, I guess I do.” Charles stared at the chaplain stunned. Here Charles was going to his death, knowing that his earthly deeds utterly condemned him before God, and this chaplain was mouthing words about heaven and hell as if they were a boring chore.

Charles said to the chaplain, “Sir, I do not share your faith. But if I did – if I believed what you say you believe – then although England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would crawl the length and breadth of it on hand and knee and think the pain worthwhile just to save a single soul from this eternal hell of which you speak.” 13

If we believe what the Bible says about heaven and hell, what are we willing to do to take the good news of Jesus to a lost world that is perishing without Christ? Are we willing to do whatever it takes to enable the unsaved to hear Christ’s promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:15-18)?

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for this graphic description of the eternal destiny of all who reject Your Son, Jesus Christ. Please make us willing to do whatever it takes to get the gospel of Christ to those who don’t know You yet so they can enjoy eternity in Your presence forever and escape the horrible eternal punishment reserved for those who do not believe in Jesus. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 442.

2. Ibid., pg. 442 cites John F. Walvoord in “Literal,” in Four Views on Hell, gen. ed William Crockett (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), pg. 167.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2403.

4. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1552.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 159.

6. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 168.

7. Constable, pg. 160.

8. Evans, pg. 2403.

9. Ibid.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1552.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Roy B. Zuck, The Speaker’s Quote Book (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), pg. 251.