Revelation 20 – Part 2

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for the thousand years.” Revelation 20:4

There is a lot of confusion about heaven today. Ask the average Christian and you will get a variety of answers. Yet the Bible clears up a lot of this confusion when we take time to study it. For example, did you know that the Bible says believers in Jesus will experience heaven in three stages?

First, believers will experience heaven with Christ after the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth before the Tribulation starts (I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11). At any moment the Lord Jesus could come for His church to snatch it off the earth to be with Him in the third heaven where God now dwells (Revelation 4:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). Following the removal of the church, there will be seven years of terrible tribulation on the earth (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6-19).

Second, following the seven-year Tribulation period, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth and establish His thousand-year earthly kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6).

Third, at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth, there will be a new heaven and new earth where believers in Jesus will be with Christ for eternity (Revelation 21-22).

By far, the most is said in the Bible about the second stage, the earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ that precedes the new heaven and new earth. We call this earthly reign of Christ the Millennial Kingdom.

In our study of the book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus Christ returned to earth from heaven with His heavenly armies to cast the beast and false prophet into the lake of fire and destroy all His human enemies who had gathered to war against Him at Armageddon (19:19-21). Then a mighty angel bound Satan in the bottomless pit so he could not deceive the nations “till the thousand years were finished” (20:1-3).

Next the apostle John writes, “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for the thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4). Once His enemies have been defeated and Satan has been bound, King Jesus finishes His descent to the earth with His heavenly armies to reign on the earth. The “they” (20:4a) refers to the only ones left after John’s vision of the beast, false prophet, and human armies being defeated and Satan being bound – King Jesus and His heavenly armies who accompanied Him from heaven to earth (19:19). 1

The King of kings and Lord of lords is now sitting on His throne in Jerusalem (cf. Psalm 2:6-9; Zechariah 14:1-21). But the Lord Jesus will not be reigning alone for these thousand years. Two groups of people are mentioned reigning with Him in Revelation 20:4. The heavenly armies accompanying Christ to earth (19:14) consisted of angels (Matthew 16:27; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) and faithful church age saints (19:7-8; cf. 2:10, 17, 25-27; 3:5, 10-11; 17:14). These church age believers comprise the first group seated on “thrones” to whom “judgment was committed” (20:4a; cf. I Corinthians 6:2). They have already been resurrected and glorified at the Rapture of the Church (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; I Thessalonians 4:15-17). 2

Jesus told His original disciples, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28). Notice Christ says, “you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones.” Following Christ was necessary for Christ’s disciples to rule with Him in His kingdom. Believing in Jesus for eternal life was necessary to enter Christ’s kingdom (John 3:5-6, 15-16), but following Jesus was necessary to reign with Him in His kingdom.

John expands this idea further in the book of Revelation to include all faithful followers of Christ from the church age. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— 27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’— as I also have received from My Father.” (Revelation 2:25-27). Remaining faithful to Jesus till He comes or “until the end” of one’s Christian life is necessary to reign with Him in His kingdom (cf. 2:25-27; 3:21; 2 Timothy 2:12).

Not all true believers in Jesus keep Christ’s works till the end of their lives, including Jacob’s sons (Genesis 37:20-35), the 250 well-known community leaders (Numbers 1:16; 7:1-9:14; 16:2-3, 11, 30-32; Deuteronomy 1:11-15; Exodus 14:31), King Saul (I Samuel 10:1, 6-11, 24; 116; 12:14, 25; 13:13-14; 15:24-25; 18:21, 29; 19:9; 22:17-18; 24:16-21; 26:21, 25; 28:3, 6, 15; I Chronicles 10:13-14), King Solomon (I Kings 1:1-12:33), the kings of Israel and Judah (Rehoboam – I Kings 12:6-14:24; 2 Chronicles 11:13-17; 12:1-14; 13:7; Jehu – 2 Kings 9:1-10:36; Joash – 2 Kings 12:2; 2 Chronicles 24:1-24; Amaziah – 2 Kings 14:3-4; 2 Chronicles 25:2-27; Azariah – 2 Kings 15:3-5; Uzziah – 2 Chronicles 26:4-20; Asa – 2 Chronicles 14:1-16:12), Balaam (Numbers 22:7-24:16; 31:16; Deuteronomy 23:4-5; Joshua 13:12; Micah 6:5; Nehemiah 13:2; 2 Peter 2:14-16; Jude 1:5-12), the carnal wilderness generation of Israelites (Deuteronomy 1:35; Exodus 4:31; 14:31; Jeremiah 2:1-3; Psalm 78:8; I Corinthians 10:1-11; Hebrews 3:7-11), Lot (2 Peter 2:7-9; cf. Genesis 13:12-13; 18:23-32; 19:8, 33), Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24), the carnal Corinthian believers (I Corinthians 1:1-11:30), the carnal Christian readers of Hebrews (Hebrews 5:11-6:8), and the carnal Christian readers of James (James 1:1-5:20). 3 They will be “in” Christ’s kingdom, but they will be “the least” in His kingdom (Matthew 5:19) 4 in that they forfeited ruling with Christ (cf. Matthew 22:1-14; 24:45-50; 25:18-19, 24-30; Luke 19:20-26; 2 Timothy 2:12).

The apostle Paul refers to carnal Christians as those who practice “the works of the flesh” and “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). The New Testament distinguishes “entering” the kingdom from “inheriting” the kingdom. We “enter” the kingdom of God by faith alone in Christ alone (Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:15; John 3:5, 15), but we “inherit” the kingdom of God through faithful, sacrificial service and suffering for Christ (Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 1:2, 5, 9, 13-14; 6:12, 17; 9:15).

For example, “entering” my house is different than “inheriting” my house. Entrance into my house is free. But if you want to inherit or possess my house, you must pay for it. When you pay for it, then you are entitled to certain privileges or authority. When you inherit my house, you can decide how to arrange the furniture and what colors to paint on the walls. But if you just enter my house, you don’t have those privileges. The same is true in the spiritual realm. You enter the kingdom of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But you will not have all the privileges or authority that come with inheriting the kingdom. You must earn those privileges through faithful service to Jesus.

Just because Christians have eternal life now which can never be lost (cf. John 3:16; 10:28-29), does not mean they can live however they want on earth without facing any consequences. God wants believers to live like the “saints” that they are (I Corinthians 1:2) by virtue of their position in Christ lest they experience grief and shame because of the loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. Matthew 25:24-30; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 6:9-10; I John 2:28).

The second group of believers in Revelation 20:4 consists of martyred Tribulation saints “who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands” (20:4b). During the Tribulation period, these believers were not afraid to confess Christ before the beast and his followers (cf. Matthew 10:32-33) and therefore they lost their lives because of “their witness to Jesus and for the word of God” which they obeyed rather than men (cf. Acts 5:29; Revelation 15:2). 5

They obeyed God by refusing to worship “the beast or his image” or by not receiving “his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.” Their devotion to Christ “will be so great that they will choose death over disobedience.” 6 When Jesus returns to earth, these Tribulation martyrs will be resurrected (“they lived”), and because they kept Christ’s works until the end (cf. 2:26-28), they will receive authority over the nations and will “reign with Christ for a thousand years” (20:4 c). The Bible clearly teaches that bodily resurrection and kingdom entrance will be experienced by all Old Testament, Church-Age, and Tribulation believers in Christ (both faithful and unfaithful) according to John 6:39-40. But the Bible is also clear that only faithful believers in Jesus will reign with Christ 7 (Revelation 2:25-28; 3:5, 21; cf. Matthew 24:45; 25:16-17, 20-23, 31, 33a, 34; Luke 19:15-19; Romans 8:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:12).

These faithful followers of Christ will be the only rulers over the earth with King Jesus. None of them will be corrupted by deception, “money, greed, pride, or power. Imagine what that would be like. No more political conspiracies in the headlines! No more scandals exposed on the news! No more bribery, quid pro quo, filibustering, waffling, or broken campaign promises!

“The corruption of all earthly governmental systems will be gone forever… The righteous, not the wicked, will be in the majority, and a holy Leader will be in authority.” 8

Those who are subject to their rulership will be unfaithful believers from all periods of history leading up to the Millennium Kingdom along with the offspring of the mortal Tribulation saints who did not die in the Tribulation (Matthew 25:31-46).

“But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” (Revelation 20:5). This verse implies that all who have not been resurrected physically by the time the Tribulation martyrs are resurrected physically, will “not live again until the thousand years” are over. Jesus’ words in John 5:28-29 demonstrate that by this time all who have died possessing eternal life through faith alone in Christ alone are now resurrected bodily and physically. When John states, “This is the first resurrection,” he is explaining what the first resurrection is about without going into specifics. 9

“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6). The phrase “has part in” (ho echōn meros en) can mean “possesses a portion in” and refers to an inheritance reward in the first resurrection that is conditioned on obedience (Revelation 20:4; cf. Colossians 3:23-24), as the remainder of verse 6 attests. 10 

The phrase “the second death has no power” or authority over them is best taken as a litotes (an understatement in which a positive affirmation is expressed by negating the opposite) and is clarified by the statement that “they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” 11 These resurrected co-rulers with Christ “are as far from being under the authority of the second death as they could possibly be since they themselves have authority as king-priests with Christ.” 12

The thousand-year reign of King Jesus with His faithful followers will be the paradise for which the world longs. There will be no war (Isaiah 2:3-4). The lion will lie down with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6-9). There will be topological changes to the earth. Jerusalem will be changed with new mountains and valleys. A river will flow from Jerusalem to both the Mediterranean and Dead Seas (Zechariah 14:3-9). Deserts will be transformed into gardens; the territory of Israel will be transformed into a place of remarkable beauty reflecting God’s glory (Isaiah 35:1-7). The lifespan of people will increase exponentially as in the early years of the Old Testament (Isaiah 65:20). 13

There will be industry and development (Isaiah 65:21-22). After the terrible Tribulation and Armageddon, much rebuilding will need to be done. There will be time to do things you have wanted to do: other careers, exploring, developing relationships. A renewed earth will more than adequately provide for the world’s population. There will be perfect government and swift justice as King Jesus rules with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:6-9), making no allowance for rebellion. Faithful believers from all ages will have many opportunities to rule with Christ. Since they will have glorified bodies, each person will be perfectly suited to carry out his or her responsibilities. 14 Some will hold positions of authority like Presidents, Governors, Mayors, City Council Members, Judges, Senators, Representative, and the like. There may also be transportation companies, publishers, developers, utilities, entertainment, and sports companies, etc. All these businesses will need people in various levels of management. We can have one of those positions of authority if we live faithfully for the Lord Jesus until we go to be with Him.

The Christian life is like a long, grueling race (Hebrews 12:1-2). You may be running that race God has set before you now. But what about 10 or 20 years from now? Will you keep living for the Lord even when life gets tough? Will you finish strong for Him? Knowing what God has in store for us in the Millennial Kingdom, should motivate us to live for Him until we go to heaven to be with Him. Together, we can finish our Christians lives well for Jesus if we keep our eyes on Him.

Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, thank You that Jesus Christ is coming back for His church at any moment to snatch us off the earth to be with Him in Your heavenly house. Following the removal of the church, many more people will be saved during the terrible Tribulation period. Together, church age believers and Tribulation believers in Jesus will reign with King Jesus for a thousand years on earth following His return to at the end of the seven-year Tribulation. With great anticipation, we pray and live for Your coming Kingdom on earth when much of the curse will be lifted and life on earth will be what the world has longed for. Please use us to share Your gospel of grace so many more people can enter Christ’s kingdom through childlike faith in Him. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 355.

2. 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. 1578.

3. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 503-536.

4. Ibid., pg. 520.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1579.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Swindoll, pg. 356.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1579.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid., pp. 1579-1580.

12. Ibid., pg. 1580.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2418.

14. Ibid.

Revelation 19 – Part 4

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.” Revelation 19:11

In our study of the book of Revelation, we are now ready for the final section which centers around the reign of the coming King of kings, Jesus Christ (19:11-22:21). After Jesus and His church return to earth to defeat His enemies gathered at Armageddon (19:11-21), Christ will rule the earth from Jerusalem with His faithful followers while Satan is bound during those thousand years (20:1-6). At the end of His Jesus’ thousand- year-reign, Satan will be released and lead a final rebellion only to be defeated and cast into the lake of fire forever (20:7-10). Then all those who did not believe in Jesus will stand before the Great White Throne Judgment to determine the degree of their punishment in the lake of fire and then they will be cast into it (20:11-15). Following this, God will destroy the old heavens and earth with fire (21:1a; cf. 2 Peter 3:10-13) and create a new heaven and new earth which will be perfect. Believers in Jesus will live with Him forever on the new earth, with Jesus and His church reigning from the New Jerusalem (21:1b-22:21).

For centuries believers have prayed for Christ’s return (cf. Matthew 6:10; Revelation 6:10; 22:20) and now the apostle John records the answer to their prayers beginning in Revelation 19:11. Following the four outbursts of praise for God in heaven (19:1-10), John writes, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.” (Revelation 19:11). Twice in the book of Revelation the door to “heaven” was “opened” (4:1; 19:11). The first time was so the church, represented by the “twenty-four elders,” could be received into heaven at the time of the Rapture (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:11).

Keep in mind, that the church has been in heaven during the terrible judgments of the Tribulation on the earth. While in heaven, the church, the Bride of Christ (cf. Revelation 3:20; 21:2, 9; 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32), was being prepared to return to earth with King Jesus. This preparation involved every Christian standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10-12) to determine their eternal rewards, one of which was receiving a “white garment” or “fine linen” for one’s “righteous acts” (Revelation 3:5; 19:7-8; cf. Matthew 22:1-14; 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-26). After being properly clothed, faithful believers in the church will be escorted to earth by King Jesus for their marriage celebration which will last one thousand years on earth (Revelation 19:7a; 20:4-6; cf. Isaiah 25:6-9; 35:1-10; 55:12).

In Revelation 19:11, we see the second time the door to “heaven” is “opened.” This time it is so Christ can leave heaven with His Bride, the Church, to return to earth (Revelation 19:7-8, 11). John sees a “white horse” which is a symbol of victory and triumph over one’s enemies. 1 A Roman conqueror typically rode a white horse in a triumphant procession. 2 At His first coming, Jesus is portrayed as a humble Servant riding into to Jerusalem on the back of a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11). But in 19:11, Jesus is described as a victorious Warrior-King riding on the back of a white stallion. 3

The Rider on this white horse is “called Faithful and True,” a clear reference to Jesus Christ. 4 Christ is “Faithful,” in that He is loyal and reliable; and He is “True,” in that He is authentic and trustworthy. This is a stark contrast with the “beast” or Antichrist who was unfaithful, in that he broke his covenant with Israel (Daniel 9:27), and he was untrue, in that he deceived the nations to worship and follow him (Revelation 13:1-18; 16:13-14; 19:20). At His second coming, Jesus will be “Faithful” and “True” to His promises about His second coming, especially as they relate to the Messiah as He “judges and makes war” against the beast and his armies. Imagine what the world will be like as King Jesus “judges and makes war” in “righteousness.” No longer will we have a political leader who tells us what he thinks we want to hear. Instead, we will have a Ruler who tells us what we need to hear. No longer will there be injustice or partiality in government. No longer will there be unjust wars and abuse of power. No longer will promises be broken or lies constantly told. Under King Jesus, all that is corrupt, unrighteous, unfaithful, and untrue will be gone. The world will finally have a Ruler who is perfect in all His ways and completely trustworthy and faithful! Oh, how my heart longs for our King of kings and Lord of lords to come to earth and make things right!!!

We also need to realize Jesus is just as “Faithful” and “True” today as a Savior to the world as He will be in the future. As our Savior, He is “Faithful” to His promise of eternal life (John 3:15-16; 4:10, 14; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; et al.) and “True” in all He says and does, so we can trust Him with our eternal lives.Christ has the perfect ability to tell us the awful “Truth” about ourselves (we are undeserving sinners – Romans 3:23; 5:8), while holding us up because He is “Faithful” to His promises (Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 12:20). Because He is “True,” He was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for all our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18; John 19:30). Because He is “Faithful,” we can come to Him just as we are, without having to clean up our lives first (John 6:37; Matthew 11:28). And because He is full of “Truth,” we can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to grant us eternal life the moment we believe or trust in Him for it. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47b).

After we receive Jesus’ gift of everlasting life, we may stumble and fall many times. But even if we are unfaithful to Jesus after He saves gives us eternal life, He remains “Faithful” to His promise. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13). Did you understand what you just read? Even if we stop believing in Christ or being faithful to Him, He remains faithful to us because He cannot deny Himself, which includes His body – you and me – and His promises. Our eternal security is not based on our faithfulness to Jesus, but His faithfulness to Himself.

Some of you may doubt you are saved because you have been told if you don’t change a certain amount or grow spiritually to a certain degree, you are not saved. Jesus is not like that. He remains “Faithful” to His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him whether you are faithful to Him or not. He did not say, “He who remains faithful or believes in Me and remains faithful has everlasting life.” No, He simply said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” What is our responsibility in going to heaven? “Believe in Jesus.” What is Jesus’ responsibility? To give us “everlasting life.” Christ’s faithfulness is not based on ours. It is because He is “Faithful” and “True.” If He broke His promise of eternal life to all who simply believe in Him, He would be neither “Faithful” nor “True.”

Remaining faithful to Christ is necessary for eternal rewards in heaven, not entrance into heaven (Revelation 2:10, 25-27; 17:14; cf. Galatians 5:21-22 – “inherit” refers to inheritance rewards – Colossians 3:23-24). As we learn to set our minds on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:1-39) and rely on Jesus through His Holy Spirit to produce His faithfulness (Galatians 5:15-22), we can finish our Christians lives faithful to Christ and receive His eternal rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Prayer: Father God, we praise You for the day when Your Son will return to earth to defeat His enemies and reign in righteousness. Only Jesus is Faithful and True to judge the world in righteousness. Thank You Lord Jesus for being Faithful to Your promises and True in all Your ways. We are forever grateful for Your grace that delivered us from the judgment we deserved. Your sacrifice for all our sins made it possible for us to receive eternal life the moment we believed in You. Please enable us to remain faithful to You until the end of our lives on earth so we may honor You more with the rewards You give us for all eternity. In Your precious name, we pray Lord Jesus. 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. 1574.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 84 cites Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 340); cf. 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 6276.

3. Vacendak, pg. 1574.

4. Ibid.; Constable, pg. 210.

Must I work to get to heaven?

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12

Recently I was asked what Philippians 2:12 says about working out our salvation. Some students of the Bible have referred to this verse as proof that you must work to get to heaven. However, we do not want to overlook the fact that the apostle Paul is writing to Christians as demonstrated by his reference to them as “saints” (1:1), “brethren” (1:12, 14;3:1, 13, 17; 4:1, 8, 21), and “beloved” (2:12). These are all terms that the apostle reserved for genuine Christians. Since his readers have already been saved from hell, he cannot be telling them how to get saved again.

The Greek word for “salvation” (sōtērian/sōterias) means “deliverance.” 1 What a person is delivered from is determined by the context.Paul uses this word three times in Philippians (1:19, 28; 2:12). In chapter 1 Paul spoke of his “deliverance” (sōtērian) through the Philippians’ “prayer and the supply of the Spirit” (1:19). Since Paul was in prison (1:12-14) he could be referring to his deliverance from prison. In verse 20, he spoke of Christ being “magnified in” his “body, whether by life or by death.” In 1:28 Paul explains to his readers that a lack of fear toward their “adversaries” by boldly preaching Christ to them would be to their adversaries “proof of perdition,” but to these believers it would be proof “of salvation [sōterias]. In the context, this means it would be proof of God delivering them from failing to magnify Christ amid difficulties by bolding preaching Christ.

When Paul writes, Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), clearly, he says that obedient “works” are necessary for this kind of “salvation [sōtērian].” Paul is not saying to work “for” our salvation. We are to work “out” our salvation. He has clearly taught that salvation from hell is a free gift from God that is received by faith alone (Ephes. 2:8-9). Deliverance from hell has nothing to do with our works.

But this kind of salvation must be “worked out.” It involves obedience even under the most difficult circumstances. Since Paul already said this kind of deliverance involves Christians magnifying Christ (1:19-20, 28), Paul has the same meaning in mind here. The word “therefore” (2:12) points us back to the humble and obedient example of Jesus Christ (2:6-11). Christ’s glorious exaltation was preceded by His humble obedience which led to suffering on the cross.

In a very graphic way, Jesus Christ “worked out” his salvation and we must learn to think of salvation as something more than simply getting to heaven. In Philippians 2:6-8, Christ illustrated One who “saved” His life by “loosing” it (cf. Matthew 16:25). If we live our lives according to our natural, selfish desires, then we are guaranteed to “lose” it. That kind of life will have no eternal or enduring value and it will be utterly ended as soon as it is finished. If, however, we do with our lives what Christ did with His (lose it), then we are guaranteed that it will endure for eternity and there will be eternal “reward” (exaltation) for that life (Matthew 16:27). Hence, we end up saving our life from being wasted on our natural desires and lusts.

No wonder we should “work out” this salvation with “fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). To “fear” God means to take Him seriously. We are to magnify Jesus Christ in living and in dying (1:19-20). The stakes are eternally high and once our life has been lived on earth, there is no reversing of what has been done. Every day we live for the wrong thing is a day lost in eternity.

God wants us to humbly and unselfishly serve one another like Christ served us. But there are two things that work against us from fulfilling God’s desire. First, we don’t want to and second, we cannot. Christians by nature have neither the desire nor the ability to humbly consider others as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3-4) because their sinful hearts are selfish. Hence, Paul says, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Our responsibility is to “work out” this salvation with “fear and trembling” (2:12) because God is at work in us to give us the desire and power to do His will (2:13).

There is an important balance between Philippians 2:12 and 2:13. Our responsibility is to “work out” while verse 13 emphasizes God’s role which is to “work in” and “through” us. If we only focus on verse 12, we will become legalistic or ascetic, relying on our own strength for spiritual power. If we dwell on verse 13 only, we can become passive and complacent. We are to live a life of “discipline / dependence” – fully cooperating with God’s Spirit to work in and through us to humbly serve one another.

Philippians 2:12 is not talking about salvation from hell, but about salvation from failing to magnify Christ in any circumstance. As Christians, we are to continue to magnify Christ in any circumstance by obeying Him as humble servants as He works in and through us.

Prayer: Father God, thank You confronting us with the importance of working out our salvation from failing to magnify Jesus in any circumstance. Unlike salvation from hell which is by Your grace through faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works, this kind of salvation involves obedient works so Christ is magnified in our Christian lives. We need You to work in our hearts to make us willing and able to obey You especially when we face challenging circumstances, so Christ is magnified whether we live or die. Just as Christ’s glorious exaltation was preceded by His humble obedience which led to suffering on the cross, so our eternal rewards will be preceded by humble obedience to Christ which may lead to suffering and physical death. Oh Father, help us magnify Jesus in any circumstance by obeying Him as You work in and through us. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. 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), pp. 985-986.

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 19 – Part 2

“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For our Lord God Omnipotent reigns!’” Revelation 19:6

Following the first three outbursts of praise toward God in heaven for the destruction of Rome (19:1-4; cf. 18:1-24), the apostle John now records a fourth outburst of praise for the coming rule of God on the earth (19:5-6). “Then a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!’” (Revelation 19:5). John hears an authoritative “voice,” probably an angel’s, “from the throne” in heaven calling “all” God’s “servants,” both angelic and human, to “praise our God,” including the “small and great” saints and prophets (cf. 18:20, 24; 19:2). 1

As a result of this call to praise, John writes, “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For our Lord God Omnipotent reigns!’” (Revelation 19:6). Together “a great multitude” of all God’s servants in heaven, angelic and human, praise the Lord God with “the voice” that sounded like both the roar of huge waterfalls (“many waters”)and loud cracks of “mighty thunderings” announcing the soon arrival of the all-powerful Messiah’s reign(“our Lord God Omnipotent reigns”) on the earth. 2 This praise is not for the judgment of Rome that just took place (18:1-24) but is prophetic for what is about to happen. 3 The eternal reign of the Lord Jesus Christ is about to replace the rule of sinful humankind on earth. 4

“There are two ways in which God can reign: in blessing and in judgment. Either way, it is an awesome thing when the Lord manifests His presence and establishes His rule in an open and visible way.” 5

We can join with that heavenly multitude in anticipation of what God will do in the future. As believers in Jesus, we do not have to wait until the events of Revelation 19 come to pass to praise God for His coming kingdom on earth. Until Jesus Christ returns to earth and defeats His enemies and establishes His rule on the earth, God will permit people the freedom to live their own way. But at any moment, God could begin to take back the kingdoms of the world. One day the dominion that Adam surrendered to Satan through sin will be returned to the perfect Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then all people around the world can sing together the lyrics of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” not in anticipation of what God will do one day but in celebration of its arrival: “Hallelujah for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!” 6

During His earthly ministry, Jesus encouraged His disciples to pray, 9 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10). Although Christians have faithfully prayed this prayer since the first century, most of this ancient prayer has not been answered literally. If we are honest with ourselves when we look at world affairs, none of us would conclude that God’s kingdom has literally come to earth where His will is “done on earth as it is in heaven.” As a matter of fact, when we turn on the news, it seems more like Satan’s kingdom has come and his will is done around the globe. 7

Jesus not only wants us to pray for His coming kingdom on earth, but to live for it as well when He said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33). Christ wants us to live for His coming kingdom by putting Him first in our lives. When we do, He promises to take care of all our needs.

During this church age, believers in Jesus are commanded to make disciples of Jesus by preaching the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection to a lost world (Mark 16:15; I Corinthians 15:3-6), followed by baptizing those who believe the gospel as the first step of discipleship, and then teaching them obedience to all Christ’s commands (Matthew 28:19-20). But the day when King Jesus rules on the earth so that the Father’s will is “done on earth as it is in heaven” will not take place until at the end of the seven-year Tribulation when Jesus returns to earth (Revelation 11:15-19; 19:11-20:6).

What a glorious day that will be when King Jesus sits on His throne in Jerusalem and rules with a rod of iron so that all His subjects will obey Him, and universal peace will be established (Isaiah 2:4; 9:6-7; 11:6-9; Psalm 2). Do you know for sure you will be in Jesus’ glorious kingdom on earth? If not, you can be certain if you hear and believe Jesus’ invitation when He said:

 5 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit… 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:5-6, 14-15). Christ tells us we must have two birthdays to enter His kingdom: physical birth (“born of water… that which is born of the flesh is flesh”) and spiritual birth (“born of… the Spirit… that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”). If you are reading this article, you have the first birth. But if you do not know you have eternal life and a future home in heaven, then you need the second birth which is spiritual.

Why do we need to be born of the Spirit? Because the Bible tells us that all of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, our words, and our actions (Romans 3:23). The penalty for our sins is “death” or separation from God (Romans 6:23a). The final punishment for sin is death in a terrible place of torment and suffering called hell (Mark 9:43-48) or the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

God does not want any human being to suffer forever in the lake of fire, so He provided the solution to our sin problem when He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to earth over two thousand years ago to live a perfect life, die for our sins on the cross, and rise from the dead three days later as He promised (John 3:16a; I Corinthians 15:3-6; Hebrews 4:15), proving His claims to be God are true (Romans 1:3-4).

Jesus is alive today and He has the power to save us from hell and give us eternal life so we may enter His kingdom when He returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation period. All we need to do to be born of God’s Spirit and enter His kingdom is believe in Jesus. Christ said to a religious leader named Nicodemus who was trusting his good life to get to heaven, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15).

In Numbers 21, the people of Israel were on the way to the Promised Land. They were complaining against God and were dissatisfied with the manna He sent them. To discipline them, God sent poisonous snakes among the people, resulting in many physical deaths (Numbers 21:4-6). Moses then asked God to remove the snakes. God told Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten when he looks at it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8).

In a similar fashion, all of humankind has been struck down by sin. Sin has sunk its fangs in our spiritual souls and the venom has made its way to our hearts and we are dying in our sins. But God saw our hopelessness and “lifted up” His Son on the cross to die for our sins. To be born of the Spirt and enter God’s kingdom, we must simply “look and live,” just as in Numbers 21 one had to “look and live.”Jesus explained their “look” as simply believing in Him when He said, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” We must look to Jesus alone for entrance into His kingdom, not our own righteousness or human efforts.

I think we underestimate Satan’s strategy. Satan is a deceiver. You won’t recognize him by his dress or conduct. He might even wear the suit of a preacher. He will probably encourage you to be as much like God as possible without being related to God. Satan is on the side of religion; he is not opposed to it if religion leaves out a Christ-alone salvation. That way, he can deceive people into an eternal hell.

God takes us to heaven based on His Son’s performance on the cross, not ours. He offers eternal life only based on His grace – favor we do not deserve. Grace with anything added to it ceases to be grace (Romans 11:6). If we trust in anything in addition to Christ for salvation, then we have fallen victim to Satan’s deception. Christ and Christ alone saves us from an eternity in hell and grants us entrance into His eternal kingdom.

Do you have religion without Christ? Why not turn from religion to a relationship with Jesus? Jesus invites you to believe in Him for eternal life. The word “believe” in the New Testament means to be convinced that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead and then trust or depend upon Christ.

Several years ago, a friend of mine visited the Houston Astrodome. Suspended three hundred feet above the playing field was a twenty-seven-thousand-pound gondola. That gondola was held in place by five cables which are each 5/8 of an inch thick. When a newscaster sat in that gondola, he was trusting the cables to hold him. Everything he has done and everything he is means nothing. He must depend on those cables to hold him.

Christ paid for all our sins by dying on the cross in our place. God now comes to you and asks you to depend upon Christ as your only way to heaven. It doesn’t matter if you are a child who is nine or an adult who is ninety. It matters not if you are a morally good person or if you have spent more time inside a jail than outside, you must trust in Christ alone to save you. Perhaps you can identify with Nicodemus – you have always believed the way to heaven was by living a good life or by believing in Christ plus something else. But now you understand you were mistaken, and you want to trust Christ alone to get you to heaven. Again, the promise is “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:15). The moment you believe this, Christ guarantees you will enter His eternal kingdom on earth in the future. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, for centuries Christians have prayed for Jesus’ kingdom to come to earth. Thank You for reminding us today that all of heaven praises You for Your coming kingdom. May each of us pray for this coming kingdom and live for it by putting You first in our lives (Matthew 6:9-10, 33). For anyone who has been deceived by Satan’s lies to think they can enter Christ’s coming kingdom by living a good life or by believing in Christ plus something else, please persuade them to know and believe the truth that Jesus Christ alone grants entrance into His eternal kingdom to those who believe in Him alone. Thank You Father for hearing our prayers. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 205.

2. Ibid.

3. 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 6212.

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. 1572.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2414.

6. Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 331.

7. Swindoll, pg. 224.  

Revelation 19 – Part 1

“After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!’” Revelation 19:1

“The classic science-fiction adventure Star Wars ends with the dazzling destruction of the Death Star – a moon-sized space station that had terrorized the galaxy as a symbol of evil and tyranny. The epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings climaxes with the cataclysmic destruction of the dark tower of Mordor – the center of the demonic Dark Lord Sauron’s evil oppression.” 1

In a similar way, the obliteration of Rome (“Babylon”) represents the destruction of everything that is evil and demonic in the current world system. So, it should not surprise us when something as decadent as Rome and its religious/economic system comes to an end, all of heaven will celebrate with a jubilant chorus of hallelujahs. Even in the fictional realms of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, the victory over evil causes great rejoicing among those who are triumphant. 2

Following the destruction of the great harlot (Rome) which caused the people of the world to grieve deeply and be distressed (18:1-24), we see a much different response to Rome’s destruction in heaven (19:1-10). All the inhabitants of heaven are praising God for what He has done to Rome. As the Tribulation period is coming to an end, the focus in heaven is on God and the nearness of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to earth.

The apostle John writes, “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!’” (Revelation 19:1). The phrase “After these things” (Meta tauta) refers to the events of chapter 18 and marks a new chronological development in the book of Revelation. 3 In this new vision John “heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven.” Think of a large stadium filled with enthusiastic football fans screaming at the top of their lungs when their team scores the go-ahead touchdown. In heaven, a “great multitude” of heaven’s inhabitants (possibly believers and angels) are roaring with praise toward God’s judgment of Rome.

This heavenly choir is saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!” The word transliterated “Alleluia” is from the Hebrew compound word: “hallal” (praise) and “Yah” (an abbreviated form of Yahweh). 4 Hence, the word means “praise Yahweh” or “praise the Lord.” The only four occurrences of “Alleluia” in the New Testament are in this section (19:1, 3, 4, 6) although it does occur often in the Psalms. 5This is the biblical Hallelujah Chorus! 6

“Praise” “is the declaration of the glory, greatness, power, and majesty of God, and there is no such thing as silent praise. Unlike worship, which can occur quietly within a believer’s heart, praise in Scripture often is tied to our lips (e.g., Ps. 34:1; 51:15; 119:171). God is not untoward in demanding praise because He is worthy of it. Hundreds of thousands of people attend parades to celebrate championship sports teams, yet God is infinitely more worthy of celebration than any athlete.” 7

This is why we see the inhabitants of heaven crying out, “Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to our God!” Barclay notes, “The salvation of God should awaken the gratitude of man. The glory of God should awaken the reverence of man. The power of God is always exercised in the love of God, and should, therefore, awaken the trust of man. Gratitude, reverence, trust – these are the constituent elements of real praise.” 8

There are two reasons why heaven praises God. “For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.” (Revelation 19:2). The first reason heaven praises God is because “His judgments,” including His annihilation of “the great harlot,” are “true and righteous” (19:2a). The word “true” (alēthinai) conveys that God’s judgments are totally in line with the truth of His Word. The Lord did what His Word said He would do. 9

In addition, God’s judgments are also “righteous” (dikaiai) which carries the idea that God is fair and just in carrying out these judgments. 10 For centuries, pagan and papal Rome seduced people away from the true God with her rituals and superstitions to worship false gods (“fornication”). Her 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. God was just to judge her severely for these decadent things.

The second reason God is to be praised for these judgments is because “He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her” (19:2b). Thousands of years ago, the Lordsaid He would judge those who shed the blood of His servants (cf. Deuteronomy 32:42-43), 11 and now He has fulfilled His promise by judging Rome (“her”) for killing His “servants.” For centuries, pagan and papal Rome 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. 12But the height of Rome’s hostility toward God’s people will take place during the Tribulation period when she vehemently opposes God’s people on the earth. Rebellious humankind who witnessed God’s judgments blasphemed His name (cf. Revelation 16:9, 11, 21); but the heavenly multitude praised Him because His wrath was “true and righteous.” 13

Another burst of praise breaks forth from the heavenly multitude. “Again they said, ‘Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!’” (Revelation 19:3). This encore heightens the first burst of praise.14All of heaven praises God a second time for the finality (“rises up forever and ever”)of Rome’s destruction (“her smoke”). Never again will Rome be able to shed the blood of God’s people.

A third burst of praise for God takes place next in heaven. “And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, ‘Amen! Alleluia!’” (Revelation 19:4). The “twenty-four elders” representing the church in heaven (see comments on 4:1-4) and “the four living creatures” representing angelic beings (see comments of 4:6-8), “fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne,” which is evidently God the Father. Both these groups were crying out, “Amen! Alleluia!” In saying “Amen” (lit., “so be it”), they were giving their wholehearted agreement to the praise already given to God. 15 By shouting “Alleluia,” they were giving God their own praise for His “true and righteous” judgments.

As we have looked at the great mourning that will take place on the earth for Rome’s (“Babylon”) destruction (Revelation 18:9-24) and then the great celebration that will take place in heaven (Revelation 19:1-4), we are reminded that God is still worthy of praise no matter what we face in life.

All God’s decisions are “true and righteous” even when a romance does not blossom as we had hoped, or a job interview does not turn out the way we thought it would. It is important to remember that God is worthy of our admiration and trust even when the effects of sin endanger our families, when pain drives us to our wits’ end, or when misfortune is about to push us over the edge. God gives and He takes away (Job 1:21). 16 He is honored when we return to Him, when we release our worries to Him, and when we rest in Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, what a contrast You have shown us between the mourning of the people on earth after Rome’s destruction and the celebration of the inhabitants of heaven. The difference is on each group’s focus. Those on the earth were paying attention to what was lost. But those in heaven were focused on what they had – a God Who is worthy of all praise. Father, whether our lives are filled with grief or gladness, You alone deserve our praise. Thank You for reminding us of this today. May we live our lives focused on who You are and what You have done. In the mighty name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, 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. 330.  

2. Ibid.

3. 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 6190.

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

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 203.

6. Walvoord, location 6200.

7. Evans, pg. 2413.

8. Constable, pg. 203 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible Series, 2nd Ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 218.

9. 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. 1571.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

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

13. Vacendak, pg. 1571.

14. Constable, pg. 203.

15. Vacendak, pg. 1571.

16. Swindoll, pg. 333.

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 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 5

“And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.” Revelation 16:21

As the sixth bowl judgment made it possible for the armies around the world to gather at Armageddon for the final battle of the Tribulation period (16:12-16), a seventh angel arrived with the seventh bowl of God’s wrath. “Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’” (Revelation 16:17). This angel pours “out his bowl into the air” we breathe, making its impact the greatest of all.The “loud voice” coming “out of the temple of heaven” probably belonged to God and announced that with this last bowl this series of judgments “is done!” Since people would not receive the Savior’s, “It is finished!” on the cross (John 19:30), they must now receive the horrific, “It is done!” from the “Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25) 1 to finish the outpouring of His wrath on humankind and begin the final phase of His coming back to earth. 2

“And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.” (Revelation 16:18). The destruction that followed was accompanied by “noises and thunderings and lightnings” that are like the manifestation of God’s holy presence on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19; Psalm 68:8). What got the apostle John’s attention was not the armies of the world gathering at Armageddon, but the mighty acts of God as He begins to convulse nature in opposition to His enemies, 3 beginning with the greatest “earthquake” the world has ever experienced.

This unprecedented earthquake will bring worldwide destruction. “Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.” (Revelation 16:19). This earthquake will divide “the great city” of Jerusalem(cf. 11:8)4 “into three parts” and destroy virtually all “the cities of the nations,” with Rome, the ”great Babylon,” being given an additional judgment of the “fierceness of His wrath” because of all the suffering she had inflicted upon God’s people and other nations (16:19; cf. 18:20, 24; 19:2). 5 Details of Rome’s judgment are given in Chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation.  

Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.” (Revelation 16:20). This great earthquake will cause a supernatural shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates so that “every island” disappears and “mountains” will be leveled. “As the Flood produced global topographical changes, so will this megaquake.” 6

“And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.” (Revelation 16:21). This seventh bowl judgment will also cause “great hail” to fall “upon men” and crush them since “each hailstone” weighs about one hundred pounds (“a talent”). Hail was often an instrument of God’s judgment in biblical history (cf. Joshua 10:11; Job 38:22-23; Isaiah 28:2, 17; Ezekiel 13:11-13; 28:22-23). 7

“It is as though the creation, formed as an expression of God’s love, is being undone as an expression of His wrath. As in 6:16-17, people know the source of their judgment, yet they refuse to repent or honor God… Their response is as irrational as it is immoral.” 8

Just as Pharoah’s heart remained hard during the plague of hail in Egypt (cf. Exodus 9:24), so the hearts of earth-dwellers will remain hard and blaspheme God instead of humbly believing in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life.

The GOOD NEWS is you and I do not have to go through this time of horrific judgments upon the earth. The Bible says of those who believe in Jesus during this church age: 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet Him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.” (I Thessalonians 4:14-17 NLT). The Bible assures those who believe in Jesus that they will be reunited with other believers who have died. Christ’s death, resurrection, and victorious ascension to heaven guarantees our own future resurrection and victorious ascension to heaven prior to the Tribulation wrath of God (I Thessalonians 1:9-10) if we have believed or trusted in Christ alone for His gift of salvation.

The Bible tells us, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). This one verse is written to “you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” Do you believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who died for all your sins and rose from the dead, proving His claims to be God are true (cf. John 20:31; Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6)? If you do, the Bible guarantees “you may know that you have eternal life.” It does not say you may “think” or “hope” you have eternal life. It says you may “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours. Because Jesus Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), we can be confident He will keep His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 3:15-16).

The choice is yours. Will you believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, for His gift of everlasting life and escape God’s temporal wrath on earth during the Tribulation and His eternal wrath in the lake of fire for eternity? Or will you shake your fist at God and reject His gracious and loving provision for your sin and experience His wrath both now and forever? I pray you will receive God’s free offer of salvation now before it is too late.

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank You for giving us a preview of the outpouring of Your wrath through these horrific bowl judgments near the end of the future Tribulation period. One reason You have done this is to encourage us to prepare for the future by placing our trust in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life so we may live with Him forever in His heaven and escape Your coming wrath on the earth. Those who do not believe in Christ will not be able to escape Your judgment in the future, whether they be alive on the earth during the Tribulation period (Revelation 6-16) or whether they have already died without Christ and will face Him at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). As world events are rapidly moving toward the fulfillment of end times Bible prophecy, please enable us to bring glory to Your name Lord God by pointing the lost to the One who cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” Open their hearts and minds so they may believe in Christ alone to give them a future home in heaven. To You, Father God, be all the glory both now and forevermore! In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 178 cites William R. Newell, The Book of the Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1935), pg. 262.

2. 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. 1561.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2408.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1561; Constable, pg. 179.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1562.

6. Constable, pp. 179-180.

7. Ibid., pg. 180.

8. Evans, pg. 2408.