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Revelation 19: The Beginning of the End

Revelation 19 is the beginning of the end. Evil is going to be thrown away forever.

Rev 19:20  And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

Rev 19:21  And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

Naturally, the problem of evil is a powerful argument against the Christian faith. Why does God allow evil to exist? Especially in the light of Revelation 19, it shows that God is certainly capable of throwing out evil. Evil is going to lose.

If God has that kind of power, why is God waiting?

On one hand, we certainly cannot absolutely know the mind of God. Perhaps God has a reason that we are not capable of comprehending. It doesn’t mean that God does not have a reason. This will naturally be unsatisfactory to many skeptics however, so I think it is wise to have at least a conception of a possible reason that God might be waiting.

It seems to me that verse 20 sums it up pretty well. It is not just the beast who is going to be separated from God forever. All those who followed him will also be separated from God forever. Perhaps then God is giving as much time as possible so that more have the opportunity to come to faith in Him.

Of course, this invites the rebuttal that since God is the judge, He could simply let everyone into heaven anyway and let it be done now. However, God is also a God of justice, so He cannot simply go against His character and not bring justice.

Evil has no place at the wedding ceremony of the Lamb, and Jesus Christ died so that we might have our sins covered over and forgotten. Accepting that gift gives you a ticket to the banquet.

Revelation 13: Choosing Your Side

Revelation 13 brings us to the beast. I know the interpretation of this can certainly vary depending on your eschatological views, but there is something that stands out to me about who the beast does not have control over.

Rev 13:7  And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

Rev 13:8  And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Rev 13:9  If any man have an ear, let him hear.

Rev 13:10  He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

The world is going to fall in love with the beast, but those were following the Lamb will not be following this beast. In other words, it is not possible to be committed to two masters here. If you are following the beast, that is where you are putting your hope. If you are following Jesus Christ, your hope is in a different place.

Spoiler alert. God wins. As we recognize that there is this ultimate divide between those who are following what is right and those who are following what is wrong, think ahead to the end of the story even though we had not read it yet together. God is going to ultimately triumph and it is not going to end so well for the beast.

Therefore, we are faced with a choice. If what the Bible says is true, it should be rather obvious what side we want to be on. Don’t we want to be on the one that leads to eternal joy rather than the one that leads to destruction? It seems rather clear to me.

1 Peter 5: Our Adversary

As we come to the end of another book in 1 Peter 5, Peter points out that it is very important for Christians to recognize that there is actually an active adversary who opposes us as we try to follow Jesus Christ.

1Pe 5:8  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

1Pe 5:9  Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

I have heard it said that the biggest success Satan ever accomplished was convincing the world that he did not exist. We live in a very sensitive world today which is good on some level. We ought to be considerate of each other. However, this has come to such an extreme that people are uncomfortable saying that anything is wrong. Everything is simply a matter of personal choice and opinion; there is no more recognition of right or wrong. Many people are simply in denial about the existence of evil.

Peter would tell us that this is a blatant lie. There is still an evil adversary, and he is trying to devour us. If we don’t believe that he even exists, then we are going to be caught unaware. That is the main problem here. How can we be on the defense and protect ourselves from the evil one if we don’t even recognize that he exists and is preparing to drive us away from a relationship with Jesus Christ?

Jesus has already defeated evil. We don’t need to worry that somehow Satan is going to overthrow God or anything like that. However, he likes nothing more than making the people of God ineffective and dragging as many people down with him as possible. We need to make sure that we are first of all aware that the attack is coming and then rely on the strength of God to drive away the attacks.

1 Timothy 5: In Secret

Paul reminds Timothy that even though he is the pastor of the congregation and he is by necessity involved in the lives of the people who attend, he certainly does not know everything good or bad about people, and in 1 Timothy 5, he might never learn some things about people.

1Ti 5:24  Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.

1Ti 5:25  Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.

We don’t know everything about all of those around us. I love it when you find out something great about someone that you never knew before. When you find out that someone spends every Saturday morning working at the food bank or visits all of the elderly people in the church, it is pretty exciting. However, we don’t always hear about all the good that people do because they don’t feel the need to publicize it. They are humble, and that is fine, but it just goes to show that there are good things that people do for the goodness of doing good rather than for the publicity.

On the other hand, there are also people who are very good at hiding what they’re doing wrong. Sin does have a way of coming out, but it does not always. The implication here however is that God knows what is happening, and we cannot hide that from God. Even though Timothy might not have known all the problems within his congregation, God would be able to handle that someday.

I then think about our lives. Some people know us very well. We have family or friends to know a lot about us, but they probably cannot practically know everything. God on the other hand knows everything good and bad. The most amazing part about that is that He loves us regardless.

Ephesians 6: The Armor of God

Ephesians 6 is obviously well known for telling us about putting on the whole armor of God.

Eph 6:10  Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Eph 6:11  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Eph 6:12  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Eph 6:13  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

There are a few important things that stand out about this prelude to the description of the actual armor.

Evil is not simply confined to one person. After World War II, evil did not die because Adolf Hitler was dead. There were plenty of ways that evil continued to exist. We do not wrestle with simply a person, but there is a spiritual dimension as well that we cannot remove from earth. There is never a shortage of bad news, and that is simply because we live in a fallen world. There are forces that are rulers of the darkness, and they do a very good job of spreading that darkness.

However, notice that when we put on the full armor of God, we will be able to stand. That is the important part of this passage. Yes, the darkness is powerful, and we cannot fight it on our own. However, by putting it on, we will be able to withstand the evil. We will not become victims, but we will triumph.

I think that we need to remember this conclusion that Paul gives us. If we are following the will of God, we are going to triumph. We on the winning side. Evil is going to pass away, and God will reign forever. Why do we always live like we are so afraid then?

Zechariah 14: The End

As we come to the end of another book, Zechariah 14 certainly seems to be the kind of thing that we could discuss eschatologically. It seems to be one of those passages that is primed for the discussion of the end times, and I know that there are a variety of used in Christian them as to how this and will come about. Obviously, I have my own perspective, and there are plenty of other brothers and sisters in Christ who have other perspectives, so my purpose today is to bring us together on something I believe we can agree on.

Zec 14:8  And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.

Zec 14:9  And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.

At the end of time, God alone will stand. Evil will be a relic of the past, and the people of God will live with Him for ever and ever. The end is not in doubt, and as a matter of fact the end has never been in doubt. Even from the Garden of Eden, it is obvious that the plan of God was to ultimately crush the serpent. Satan might have a certain degree of power in the world today, and evil runs rampant around the globe, but that doesn’t need to worry us about the end. It is not as if God is surprised by this.

I think about this in light of our imminent trek into the New Testament. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus Christ came to earth to pay the penalty that we could not pay. He took our sins upon himself and served as the Perfect Sacrifice. No one else could do what Jesus Christ did.

Therefore, when we read about the end times and talk about these issues that can create serious divisions, it is wise to remember that God is indeed going to handle evil once and for all; the outcome is going to come without a doubt.

Habakkuk 1: Why?

We have now made it to Habakkuk! That is pretty exciting. We’re almost done the Old Testament!

Habakkuk does not begin on a very happy note though.

Hab 1:1  The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.

Hab 1:2  O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!

Hab 1:3  Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.

Hab 1:4  Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.

This is still a relevant question for all of us. I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of things happen around me and around the world that I quite frankly wish never happened. I think about the attack in Paris. I don’t know why the people had to suffer because of that great evil. Habakkuk didn’t understand why his people were suffering either.

Why do these bad things happen, and why does it seem like God doesn’t answer?

I think about this kind of problem of evil quite a bit, but one thing that I always have to come back to is the fact that God did hear Habakkuk. It is not as if God would ignore him based on what we know of the character of God as shown through Scripture.

If it is true that God did hear Habakkuk, then it also must be true that God had a reason for not doing what Habakkuk desired. Does it matter that we do not know the reason? For some people, that is very hard to accept. We are uncomfortable with things that we don’t know. I know I am. However, our discomfort is not necessarily what is important here. It is more important that there exists a certain reason that God is not doing what Habakkuk, a fallen man as we all are, explicitly wanting to do. If it is possible that God has a reason that we simply do not understand, then it is not a problem logically.

That is also an interesting point. Habakkuk here is assuming that his solution would create the greatest good, but he is a limited man questioning the wisdom of the infinite God. It is kind of like Job in that case.

Overall, I totally understand the emotional problem here that we have here in Habakkuk. I’m sure it is a common experience for all of us today. However, it is important to remember that the problem of evil is an emotional problem, not a logical one. The logical problem largely falls apart, so while it doesn’t necessarily make our experience any easier, it does help when we keep in perspective that God does listen and God is still good.

Micah 7: The Atheist’s Problem of Evil

Here we are in Micah 7, and the people are in tough shape. It is not a time where you would necessarily believe in the innate goodness of humanity.

Mic 7:2  The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.

Mic 7:3  That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.

Mic 7:4  The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.

Mic 7:5  Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.

Mic 7:6  For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.

Mic 7:7  Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.

I was listening to a debate the other day, and there was a Christian and atheist guest. The host asked the atheist guest if he had any beliefs, and he said that one of his baseline beliefs was in the goodness of humanity.

I find that hard to process. I find that hard to process because of things like this from Micah. I think about the Holocaust. I think about Apartheid. I think about things that are clearly orchestrated by humans, and I think about how it makes a lot more sense to believe that humans are actually fallen creatures who can be redeemed through Jesus Christ.

I know the argument can be made that many Nazis for example were simply brainwashed. That might be true. However, there was someone doing the brainwashing. There was someone who devised a plan to bring all of those atrocities to the earth. Perhaps he was deceived himself, but you cannot have an infinite regression. The evil began with someone.

The problem of evil is as much of a problem for the atheist who believes in the goodness of humanity and the Christian who believes in sin nature. I know that we’ve talked about it from a Christian perspective, but I think the question I would ask this particular atheist is how he can defend the assertion that there is an innate goodness in Adolf Hitler. I think that it is just as great of a challenge as what Christians are normally handed about how God can allow evil.

Ezekiel 24: How Can God Allow That?

Ezekiel 24 must have been incredibly difficult. As we find out, Ezekiel has been called to tell the people of Jerusalem about the imminent siege of Nebuchadnezzar. However, right before he is to deliver this message, his wife passed away.

Eze 24:16  Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down.

Eze 24:17  Forbear to cry, make no mourning for the dead, bind the tire of thine head upon thee, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of men.

Eze 24:18  So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded.

This is a brutal situation. God obviously told him in verse 16 what was going to happen, but it is another to live through it. It is one thing to know that your spouse is going to pass away, but it is another to live through the reality of that happening.

Here is the question though. How can God do this? Ezekiel was doing exactly what God told him to do, and he was even loyal after the death of his wife. Why is it that we can be doing exactly what God tells us to do, but bad things still happen?

This is naturally a large question, and I don’t think I can answer it all in one short post. However, I think when thinking about situations like this, it is very important to remember that anytime we ask a question wondering how God can do or allow certain things happen, it presupposes that God must exist. If God does not exist, then obviously the question is not valid.

What the question does indicate is that we have a situation. We have the simultaneous existence of God and what we perceive as bad things in the world. That is the first step. From here, and maybe in a future post, we need to work on defining the relationship. However, at this point, it is certainly important to recognize the fact that it is possible to have the simultaneous existence. The existence of sadness, evil or simply bad things is not a logical problem; it is an emotional problem.

Jeremiah 17: Concerning Worldviews

Recently, I have been particularly interested in this idea of worldview studies. I have been thinking a lot about how we seriously ought to consider the presuppositions and assumptions that influence the way we interpret the world around us. Once we have established which way of interpreting the world is most valid, then we are able to move beyond that and think about how and why things happen the way that they do.

This came to mind again as I was reading Jeremiah 17. There are basically two alternative choices presented. You can put your trust in God, or you can put your trust in man.

Jer 17:5  Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

Jer 17:6  For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Jer 17:7  Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.

Jer 17:8  For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Again, this all comes back to a very basic level of human understanding. No one is arguing over global warming for example at this level. Your worldview is not based on your understanding of specific issues; your worldview defines your understanding of specific issues. When you are deciding whether to trust in God or trust in man, you are basically putting on a pair of glasses that influence the way that you view the world. This metaphor is not perfect though because I can choose to take off my literal glasses I am wearing right now, but I cannot take off a worldview. I might change my worldview, but I cannot be without one.

In Jeremiah, we hear from God, and not surprisingly, He did not think that is wise to put your trust in man. He compares it to being in the desert where you have no ability to grow. In other words, you have no potential, and you have no hope. You are as much as you are ever going to be.

That is one major area where the Christian worldview differentiates. It is expounded in verse eight, but in summary, the Christian worldview provides the opportunity for growth and hope. From a secular worldview, the world is evil, and that is about all there is to it. Our greatest hope is in the potential of humanity to become more moral. Maybe we can all learn to get along after all.

Christians have an understanding as to why the world is imperfect but also the assurance that everything will be made right in the end. The greatest hope in that worldview is found in God Himself. With the understanding that humanity has been evil for a very long time because of the fall and doesn’t seem to be getting any nearer to perfection as time advances, in order to find that moral improvement, it is best not to look into this human heart but rather look externally to One who actually is perfect. In other words, we have reason to hope that things can and will get better.

Worldviews are important. Everyone has one, and it is important for all of us to look at which one provides the most accurate depiction of the world as we know it. Does it appear that humanity is very good at acting morally? It does not seem so. Does it make sense to assume that humanity is going to become better at acting morally? Human nature doesn’t seem all that much different than ever has. The preferred violations have changed, but it seems that there has always been crime and evil throughout recorded history. Does human potential seem like a reasonable place to put our moral hope? It doesn’t