Liar Liar Pants on Fire: H.C. Lord’s Day 43

 Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 43

Q 112. What is the aim of the ninth commandment? 
A 112. That I never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone rashly or without a hearing.

Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are the very devices the devil uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense wrath.  I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it.  And I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.
 
Yikes!  That’s all I can say after reading the commentary on this commandment.  While I know that I’ve lied here and there in my life, the number of things that are covered under this doesn’t just render me kind of guilty, I’ve apparently blown this commandment out of the water.  It’s hard to read this commandment and the explanation that the catechism gives without feeling a bit convicted.
 
How often have we embellished a story or changed a small fact here or there to make it better?  Maybe the facts have changed to cast your role in a much better light, making everyone else look rather pathetic.  Gossip is one of those things that can suck us in without our even knowing.  Whether we are sharing untrue things about people maliciously or sharing true things about people unnecessarily, we are participating in gossip, and it is something that runs rampant in church circles as well.
 
Sadly, though, when we participate in the giving of “false testimonies,” we are only feeding the arsenal of the enemy.  Satan is the “father of lies” and deceit is the primary tool that he uses against the people of God.  We’ve all experienced lies in our lives that are placed in our hearts by the enemy.  They often have to do with our self-worth and identity.  Satan also uses other people to put lies into our lives, standing readily by to expose and convict us of our participation in them.
 
Like many of the other commandments, this too points us to the reality of sin in our lives.  If sin is indeed disordered love, then what we find ourselves doing is, in fact, loving ourselves and our desires above those of God and our neighbor.  Participating in things like this show our lack of respect and love for those around us, whether we are consciously or unconsciously bringing our neighbor into a lie about someone else, or if we are slandering our neighbor.  Either way, we are not showing love to them.
 
If indeed we were to love our neighbor as ourselves, we would work hard to protect and advance their good name at every twist and turn.  Recently, our physical neighbors moved and a new family moved in.  Those who lived there before had been there a long time and are well known in our town.  The new neighbors have come in from the “outside” and it is very interesting how many questions I’ve received regarding them.  “How are the new neighbors?” people will say, “Do you like your new neighbors?”  The emphasis on the new is not an accident either.  Whether people are hoping that they are nice people or are looking for some nice juicy dirt on some new people in town, I don’t know.  But really, if people want to know about our new neighbors, wouldn’t we just take a moment to go meet them rather than asking everyone around them for their opinion?  The questioning seems more like gossip to me.
 
Finally, this commandment gets at something that seems to also be running rampant in our society: condemnation without a hearing.  Especially in today’s charged political climate, we are quick to jump on any news story that accuses, convicts, and tries to sentence those who do not necessarily think like us.  Individuals from both policial parties are actively involved in political assassination attempts almost daily… and it’s not even an election year.
 
How quick are we to judge those who do not necessarily think the same way we do, agree with our political affiliations, or even practice the same religion as us?  Whereas one of the founding notions of this country was the premise of “innocent until proven guilty,” which is arguably also a Biblical model of justice and judgment, America seems to have succumbed to a media-driven judicial system that topples people and parties for the sake of its own ratings.  Truth, sadly enough, is no longer a yes or a no, but rather a stream of grey haze that happily interpret to our own liking when it is convenient for us and ignore when it isn’t.
 
What would it look like for us to apply the teaching of the ninth commandment to all of our “neighbors?”  We are called to love God above all and love our neighbor as ourselves which, when Biblically applied, refers to all of those made in God’s image.  How can we love each other as Jesus loves us, willingly laying down our lives so that in God’s sight, our name would be protected and made good?  It is only through His power, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, that we can begin to see others in this way, especially our enemies, and show them His love in our lives.


Why Can't I Do It Myself? H.C. Question 62

Why can’t our good works be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of our righteousness?

1 Corinthians 1:30-31 – It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Romans 10:10 – For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

1 John 5:10-12 – Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

 



Judgment Seat: H.C. Lord's Day 19

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 19

Q 50. Why the next words: “and is seated at the right hand of God”?
A 50. Because Christ ascended to heaven to show there that he is head of his church, the one through whom the Father rules all things.

Q 51. How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?
A 51. First, through his Holy Spirit he pours out gifts from heaven upon us his members.

Second, by his power he defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.

Q 52. How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?
A 52. In all distress and persecution, with uplifted head I confidently await the very judge who has already offered himself to the judgment of God in my place and removed the whole curse from me. Christ will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven.

It is a rare day indeed when the prospect of being judged, especially when it’s something as seemingly final as the last judgment, is actually comforting.  I can’t say that I ever found any of my final exams, tests, or even quizzes in school to be even the least be comforting; even when I knew I would do well.  However, the Catechism here seems to take a different approach to this judgment.

To really have a true understanding about this, though, we have to draw on all that we have talked about for the past couple of weeks regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ.  After His resurrection and ascension, we read in Scripture that Jesus “sits down” at the right hand of the Father.  This “being seated,” as Paul writes at the beginning of the book of Ephesians, is a symbol of Christ’s work being finished.

Imagine, if you will, a lawyer making his closing arguments in a trial.  He eloquently defends the accused person that he represents and then says “your honor, I rest my case,” sitting down next to the defendant.  There’s nothing else to do, there’s nothing else to say; it is in the hands of the judge now.  The same is true here with Christ; He sits down at the right hand of the Father because the work is finished.  He doesn’t have to do more, He did it all when He died on the cross and rose from the dead.

Adding to this image, what would it look like if the lawyer defending the accused, which in this case is you and me, was also the judge?  He rests His case and then sits down in the judge’s place, rendering the verdict that He Himself has fought for.  The accuser has no say in anything because our defender is also our judge and He has paid the price for us.

Now that, my friends, is comforting.

It goes far beyond that as well.  There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return and a final judgment of all people will come to pass.  For those who are in Christ, there is nothing to worry about because the one who will judge the world is also the one who paid our debt.  But for those who do not know Christ, whose sins are not forgiven, this may be cause for considerable angst.  Without Christ, the verdict is guilty… no matter how good a life we have lived… and the punishment is eternal.

Enter the idea of hell: eternal punishment and separation from God.  How is this comforting?  For many, especially in the insulated western world is the United States, the notion of Hell is repulsive and horrifying, something we are very quick to shy away from.  We don’t understand what it means to have real enemies.  Our greatest enemies are more likely our in-laws, or the guy that cut of off on the road the other day.  They certainly annoy us, but we would not wish eternal punishment on them… the definitely aren’t the enemies of God.

In other parts of the world, however, there is a different feel.  The enemies of God, those who actively oppose the Gospel and all who follow Christ, are real, dangerous, and deadly.  They behead Christians with swords, burn them alive in cages, and even sell Christian women and children into slavery and forced sexual servitude in the name of their god (who is not the same as the Christian God, mind you).  These are the enemies of God and they are ruthless; justice in these situations looks a lot different.

Now, I’m not saying that we should wish Hell on anyone.  We are called to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us.  However, we cannot argue that there is a comfort associated with knowing that, no matter how bad the world gets, Christ wins in the end and the enemies of God will be brought to true justice as well.  It is hard for us to fathom here in the U.S.  We experience only a micro-fraction of what Christians in other parts of the world live with daily… but for them and for us one thing is very clear: the battle has been won, the work has been finished, and judgment has been rendered, and as Job so eloquently states:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!  Job 19:25-27



Escape Plan: H.C. Question 12

Heidelberg Catechism Question 12

According to God’s righteous judgment, we deserve punishment both now and in eternity: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

Exodus 23:7 – Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.

Romans 2:1-11 – You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.

Isaiah 53:11 – After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Romans 8:3-4 – For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.



Punishment: H.C. Question 10

Heidelberg Catechism Question 10

Does God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

Exodus 34:7 – maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

Psalm 5:4-6 – For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome.  The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.  You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies.  The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest.

Nahum 1:2 – The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.  The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.

Romans 1:18 – The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

Ephesians 5:6 – Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

Hebrews 9:27 – Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

Galatians 3:10 – For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.”  Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”



Revelation 14 – The Harvest

Read Revelation 14

Continuing in the interlude between the first two sets of judgments, the seals, and the trumpets, and the coming bowl judgment, John records a final “harvest” of those who believe in Jesus Christ and are seals with God’s name on their foreheads.  We first saw the image of the lamb back in chapter five which is a reference to Jesus and talked about the number of people sealed, that being 144,000, as being symbolic of the full number of the people of God.  John hears them learning and singing a new song, something other than the worship that we had witnessed in chapters prior to this.  This new song, perhaps, is one of deliverance for the people of God.  We see that only those who are among the 144,000, those who are God’s  people, can learn the song which creates a distinction between God’s people and “the inhabitants of the earth.”  The distinction here is, in many ways, the theme of this chapter.

John points out the fact that those standing with the lamb “did not defile themselves with women.”  Some have argued, and we actually see a living testimony to this in the leadership of the Catholic church, that true obedience to God means sexual abstinence.  This, however, is not necessarily what is being referenced here.  Paul speaks to this in his letters pointing out that there are some advantages to being single, but also saying that those who are married have not sinned.  In fact, it is better, Paul writes, to be married than to succumb to lust, which could be what John is referencing here.  The reference to defiling oneself could also be a direct reference to the idolatry committed by the people of Israel in the Old Testament which is often mentioned in terms of the people “prostituting themselves” before other idols.  Those who stand with God here are those who have Him and Him only.

Following this, John sees three angels who are heralding the coming of the final set of judgments known as the “seven bowls of God’s wrath.”  Interestingly, the message of these three angels are intimately linked together: The Gospel, the defeat of Babylon (sin and evil), and the wrath of God.  This is an interesting dichotomy of themes, but all flow within the same line of thought.

People often talk about the difference between God in the Old Testament and God in the New Testament.  In the New Testament, God shows love and grace whereas in the Old Testament God is a God of killing and wrath.  How is it possible that those things are linked?  The answer is that God’s wrath and God’s love are meant for the same thing, to bring people to God.  If we think about God as a loving Father, we recognize that loving parents do discipline their children in an effort to raise them up correctly.  Similarly, you may remember us talking about the fact that the judgments on the earth that we have seen so far, as well as those to come, are all meant to draw the people’s attention to God.  Scripture says that it is not God’s desire that any should perish; it also says that as a loving father disciplines his children, so God disciplines those He loves.  We know that God loves the whole world, every human that has ever and will ever live.  The purpose, then, of God’s actions both then and now, is to draw people to Himself.

When we think about this we have to be careful about how we approach the subject, especially as it pertains to human suffering.  Some people call earthquakes and hurricanes a “judgment” from God for people’s sins.  However, we must take great caution in thinking this way because those references are toward God’s willful killing of people to prove a point or to punish; this is not the God of Scripture… even though it could seem that way here in Revelation.  God did punish sin in the death of Jesus Christ, and sin has been defeated.  This is the message of the Gospel and of the first angel.  At that same point, the ultimate defeat of sin and evil (as symbolized by the city of Babylon) was sealed as well.

The third angel’s warning, then, is that while the invitation to turn and place our faith in Jesus Christ is always open now, there will come a time when that decision, or its opposite, will become a permanent part of our lives.  God offers grace to all people, willingly accepting and forgiving those who turn and place their faith in Him.  However, there will come a day when our allegiance, wherever it lies, will become permanent.  Those who chose the beast or any part of the opposition to God will be eternally separated from Him.

This thought line brings us to the topic of hell.  Many have asked the question of whether or not hell, a place of eternal separation from God and suffering actually exists.  Others have asked the question of how a loving God can condemn people to eternal suffering.  Perhaps those people just cease to exist when they die (doctrine of annihilation) or at the final judgment?  Scripture offers no support to that.  In fact, there is much more support offered to the notion of an eternal trajectory for all people, whether in the presence of God or not.  It’s a hard reality, but it is a reality that the Bible supports.  One thing that Scripture does not say, however, is that this is a place where the devil gets to torment people forever (implying that he will get what he wants).  This place, as imaged by a pit of fire and sulfur and other such awful images, is a place where he too will be punished for his rebellion against God.

And so, like Jesus talks about in Matthew with the parable of the sheep and the goats, there will come a time when everyone’s fate will be decided.  This is the harvest that John speaks to at the end of this chapter.  Remember the theme that Jesus often brought up in the Gospel of John: they will be known by their fruit.  John picks up on that theme here with the harvest metaphor.

How does this work?  I’m not necessarily sure.  What about the people that never heard?  I don’t necessarily know though Scripture does point to the fact that all of creation points toward God which then put everyone on the line and leave no one with an excuse.  Like much of what we are reading here, there is a lot that is still a mystery.  We don’t necessarily know how this all fits together.  One thing, however, is for sure, in this image the spread of the Gospel is an intimate part of the series of events.  The Gospel message comes first before anything else because of God’s love and desire to see all people come back to Him.  We, as followers of Christ, are called to participate in the bringing of that message to the world so that as many as possible can hear and come to know God’s love for them.



Revelation 9 – Trumpets (Part 2)

Read Revelation 9

Trumpet judgments five and six introduce some new and downright disturbing imagery into the mix of things we’ve already seen.  John is able to describe the agents of both judgments in vivid detail.  It is important, looking toward the end of this chapter, to keep in mind the ultimate purpose of these judgments.  We easily see the pain and suffering that is taking place here, however, Scripture indicates the strong desire to see repentance and turning toward God as the primary goal of these happenings.  In fact, Scripture testifies to that as well in 2 Peter, indicating that it is God’s desire that all will turn to Him and that none would perish.

The fifth trumpet judgment sees the star that had fallen become a sort of divine agent, possibly a reference to the devil himself, having fallen from heaven and creating bitterness on the earth.  He releases a demonic army that is sent to torture the people of the earth who are not sealed by God.  This judgment draws its imagery again from the plagues of Egypt, particularly the plague of locusts.

Describing the locusts that he sees, John shows us a very scary image of these demons.  Each aspect, though, represents a part of these demons.  They have human faces representing cunning and intelligence, not just a mindless rabble.  Their crowns represent a given power, not something weak or helpless.  Having women’s hair could represent a sort of false beauty that might be present, and the lion’s teeth the cruel and inhuman ability to devour.  Having armor may represent a strength that these demons have; iron armor was the strongest armor present at the time.  In and with their tails they have the ability to torment, perhaps representing the sting of sin and the resulting pain it always causes.

The head of these demons is called “Appolyon,” which means destruction; a fitting name for the devil and his demonic hordes.  Even with all this ability, though, their power is limited as is the time that they have to carry out their task as represented by the 5-month time limit.

Moving on to the sixth trumpet judgment we see a new entity, an army of horses and riders with eerily similar powers except that this time they could actually kill.  The number of these riders is beyond counting, and their appearance is equally as frightening as that of the locusts.  Much of the imagery is the same, the tails having the head of a snake on them confirms their demonic origin.

Contained in these verses is something that could easily be missed but is quite important to what we have been experiencing.  Verse 15 states that these 4 angels had been kept for the very hour, day, month, and year that this was happening.  The exact nature of this action, along with all the rest is important.  In the midst of the chaos that we are reading through here, it is important to note that God is still very much in control.  In fact, what He is working out here in the book of Revelation is all part of the plan, even if it doesn’t seem so to us.

What may not be readily evident here is what this all represents.  Certainly, it would be much easier for us to look at these things happening in some cataclysmic period way in the future and be ok with it.  In fact, that is how many people tend to look at the book of Revelation.  However, that is not necessarily how we have been looking at this book nor is it how we look at prophetic Scripture in general.

Remember that all of Scripture is living and active, that the main thrust of prophetic literature was to communicate what God was doing at the time it was written.  We also believe that Scripture speaks to our situation here and now.  John was writing in the midst of extreme persecution against the Christian community but ultimately their hope and ours rests in the strength and protection that is found in Jesus Christ who has and who will be victorious over all the evil and activity of the enemy.



Romans 14 – Consider Others

Read Romans 14

Throughout the New Testament, Paul teaches about the grace and subsequent freedom that we have in Jesus Christ.  Those teachings are almost always followed by a discourse regarding what to do with that freedom, and what not to do as well.  All of it, however, is ultimately related to Jesus’ command to love one another and Jesus Christ loved them.

Here Paul addresses one of the major themes of freedom and love as it pertains to other believers.  He recognizes the fact that not everyone is in the same place when it comes to the strength and maturity of their faith.  It would be very easy for those who have fully embraced the freedom they received in Christ to tout it in a way that could be harmful to those who are not in the same place and whom the Holy Spirit is still working on.  Wielding our faith and our freedom in this way can be quite dangerous.

While the notion of freedom releases us from the bondage of sin and the law, it is not a license to run roughshod over those in our lives, whether Christian or not.  Paul says very clearly here and in the previous chapter that loving the other is the primary lens through which we act on our freedom.  We are not to judge each other.  Instead, we are called to live in a way that leads to the building up of our brothers and sisters so that together we will become stronger!

At the end of the day, Paul reminds us that our accountability is not to each other, but to the Lord before whom we are all equal.  Therefore, since we are free, let us use that freedom to love and edify each other to the glory of God.



Day 365: Revelation 20-22; The New Heaven and The New Earth

As we close this journey that we began a year ago, we come also to the final scenes of John’s vision in Revelation, and the final goal of what God has been working towards since the very beginning of this story.  This vision, this end purpose, the final will of God which we see in Revelation chapter 21, is that which we are told about in both our reading today and also that which we have heard about for for the past 364 days.  God’s ultimate goal, God’s overall will for creation has always been reconciliation… and that is what we see here today, reconciliation and restoration… a return to Eden, to paradise, to a time when all of creation lives in the presence of God for all time.

You see, what we read here today is the second high point of salvation history, the first being the salvation brought through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  To think, though, that the scope of this salvation is limited simply to humans would be a gross understatement.  Sadly, however, this understanding of salvation is that which runs rampant in the church today and is perhaps a symptom some of the greatest misunderstandings of discussions about the end times and all that will take place.  For too often we’ve pared down Jesus’ salvation work to the saving of human souls so that they can go to heaven when they die.  Again, this is a sad understatement of God’s plan of salvation throughout the Bible.

This thinking, as I said, is held by many people and often leads to an “escapist” mentality of the end times.  Whether it be from natural death or the second coming of Christ, the prevailing opinion that seems to have taken mainstream Christianity by storm is that of the hope of “getting out of here” to be with Jesus.  Thinking like this has become rather prevalent in the idea of the rapture, the idea that Christian’s somehow get to be taken away from the earth in these last years so that they don’t have to endure the awful judgments and trials that are described in Revelation.  While one can understand the desire to not be around destruction of that magnitude, if indeed these are literal things that are going to happen on earth.

However, what is very clear here at the end of Revelation is that this escapist mentality is not what is described in the vision that is given to John.  In fact, it is not what has been shown for us throughout the whole of Scripture.  When sin entered the world, all of creation was affected, and the effect was systemic.  From that point on, God has been working His will through the people that He has called, to bring about the restoration of all creation, so that all things would be reconciled to Him.  How do we see this?  Because what is described to us in these final chapters is that of Heaven coming to a renewed and restored creation.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

There are several characteristics of this New Heaven and New Earth that we see here.  We hear the voice from heaven saying that “The dwelling of God is with men.”  More than this, in the words that follow John describes the New Jerusalem as being without a Temple.  This is interesting because the Temple was THE center of Jerusalem and the center of all religious life for the Hebrew people.  However, when the New Heaven and the New Earth are present, and God is dwelling with people, there is no need for a center of Worship because God will be the center of worship.  Jesus is the light and there is no need for the sun.  In short, God is the source of everything, the sustaining force of all that will be present in this new Eden.  I think this is even more interesting because this has been the Hebrew view of reality all along.  God is the center, the source, the completion of all being.  As John writes, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

From the beginning to the end, all things have been and continue to be through God.  He is the sustaining force of all creation and at the same time is working to redeem it, restore it, and reconcile it back to Himself.  This is the end of the story, the true end of all things… the conclusion of our journey both through Scripture and in life.  This is the fulfillment of the Covenant, the completion of the people being God’s people and He being their God.  This too is the truest and fullest realization of the Kingdom of Heaven as it comes to earth when the true King comes in all of His glory, splendor, and majesty on the day that only the Father knows.  Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

(I would like to mention, that the articles that I am referencing as “related” are those that have been suggested by wordpress and do not necessarily support of coincide with the beliefs that I hold or write about.  I neither cast my unknowing support to them nor do I say that they are wrong, simply conversational partners in this journey through the Scriptures.)



Day 364: Revelation 17-19; The Fall of Babylon and the Marriage Supper

In many ways, today’s reading has a lot to do about sex.  At first glance this seems rather odd to us as we have been talking about the end times and all that is to come, and suddenly we are talking about a prostitute and a great beast and all the sexual immorality of the earth.  But, if we think back over the course of our reading of Scripture again we will remember that God and the prophets often refer to Israel’s idolatry as a form of spiritual prostitution, and God often relates their running after God to the same idea as adultery.  The vision we get of Israel is of a young woman that the Lord saved from her misery, pulled her out of the proverbial mud, cleaned her up and adorned her with white robes as a bride.  However, this bride was unfaithful to Him, going off and prostituting herself to other gods.  At times the prophets said that she would welcome in anyone that she encountered on the street corner.  This is how bad things had gotten in Israel, yet even in that God still welcomed her back.

We get a lot of this same vision today, however we see it on a much grander scale applying to the people of the world.  They have gone off and prostituted themselves to the beast, to the antichrist and opened themselves to him.  The reason that sexual imagery is used here, I think, is to communicate the depth of personal giving that is taking place in the hearts of those who follow the antichrist.  Not only do they sin by not listening to  God and not living in the way that He would have them live, they have given their whole selves up to the antichrist in the way that God so desires them to turn to Him.  It is this depth of knowing, this depth of giving that conjures up images of marriage and sex, the deepest self giving that we know as humans.  It is important to note here too that, as detestable as this sounds, even John marveled at the beast and the prostitute which I think goes to show how incredibly enticing this will be.  While I don’t know about what this is or could be actually pointing to, but I know that there is a sinful lifestyle out there that, though we may condemn, we also often stop to take a second look.  We too must be careful because the beast is out there seeking whom he may devour.

So from here we see an angel that is calling out and declaring the fall of Babylon.  Now, in Hebrew literature, Babylon is the symbol of all evil, idolatry, and eternally the enemy of God.  This started being true in the Exile, when the Babylonian army destroy the Temple in Jerusalem.  From then on, they were labeled as the enemies of God.  Some have taken these references to Babylon to mean that, in the last days, the antichrist will actually seek to rebuild the city of Babylon and will rule from there.  I don’t necessarily agree with this notion, though I don’t see it as being out of the realm of possibility either.  Remember that this whole time we have been talking about the fact that these Scriptures do not necessarily denote a series of events, but rather a broad brush stroke of what is to take place before all things come to their already given conclusion.  Babylon, like the beasts and much of the other vivid imagery may just be an image, a grouping of the enemies of God.  In this instance, the angel is communicating to us that the enemies of God have fallen, no longer to rise.  This could mean spiritually there is no turning back for them, or it could mean that in this instance they are truly defeated.  In any case, what we see is that “Babylon,” despite all of her good looks, fine clothing and jewelry, and all that she offers to entice the people of the earth, at some point this will come to an end, that she will not do business anymore, and that the true lie of all she does will be exposed.

For this, all those in heaven rejoice!  Not simply because the truth of Babylon has been exposed to the whole world, but because God has judged her accordingly and she is indeed fallen.  Later we see Jesus coming on a white horse and throwing down Satan, the beast, and capturing him.  All of heaven rejoices at this happening!

Finally today, we get a chance to talk about the marriage supper of the Lamb.  This is an image of a great feast that will take place in heaven with all believers, those whose names are written in the book of life.  Jesus invites everyone to His table, all those who believe in His name are welcome there.  When we celebrate communion together as a church, not only “do this in remembrance” of Jesus’ last supper, but we do it in anticipation of this event that will take place in the future as well!  There will be a time when Satan is defeated and sin is no more and all those who believe in the name of Jesus and have been saved by grace, through faith in Him, will sit down at His table and feast with Him!  What an exciting prospect to be a part of this some day!  This is what we look forward to at the end of time, being in the presence of our Savior and Lord, sitting and eating at His table, being free from sin, death and persecution forever and ever, amen!

(I would like to mention, that the articles that I am referencing as “related” are those that have been suggested by wordpress and do not necessarily support of coincide with the beliefs that I hold or write about.  I neither cast my unknowing support to them nor do I say that they are wrong, simply conversational partners in this journey through the Scriptures.)