Revelation 17 shows us what evil looks like, and we actually get some interpretation from one of the angels about what this vision means. While this obviously is not an attractive image, there is one thing that stands out that ought to be particularly troubling for Christians.
Rev 17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
When people become drunk, it seems that there are a few general reasons why they might do that. They might really enjoy the beverage. Some people really enjoy the taste of alcohol, and they consume it to excess. If the woman portrayed here has that kind of appetite for the blood of the followers of Christ, it is naturally troubling.
Some people become drunk because they are addicted. They simply have become hooked on the consumption of alcohol, and it has become a habit for them. Similarly then in this situation, if this woman is addicted to the blood of martyrs, it is similarly tragic.
Why do I point both of these things out when there are interesting prophecies that we can talk about in this chapter?
No matter which of my thoughts above is accurate, or if neither one is accurate, an easy conclusion to draw is that there is an adversary, and this adversary has consumed plenty of the blood of the followers of Jesus Christ. We need to be aware. Jesus promised that those who followed Him would be hated that for His sake. From the first martyr, Stephen, to the final martyr who has not yet been challenged for his or her faith, there is an enemy who wants nothing more than the destruction of the people of God.
The good news however is that even though the adversary certainly can end lives here on earth, itcannot take us out of the hand of God, and Christians know that one of the rewards of the Christian faith is that to be absent from the body is to be present with God. Even with that knowledge though, thinking about all of those who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of Christ is difficult, and it does challenge me to think about what I would do in some of these situations.
Revelation 14 begins speaking about Babylon. I know that some people view Babylon as being literally rebuilt and fallen, and some people will not take it as the literal city but more as a symbol. However, regardless of your perspective, look at what we learn about it.
Rev 14:8 And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
Let’s try to get a picture of the imagery here. Babylon has a cup full of wine. The wine is incredibly evil. Babylon has made other nations drink from that cup. Babylon is being punished.
This makes me think of the Garden of Eden. Satan convinced Eve to take the fruit from the tree. Eve and later Adam should not have done that. They should not have taken a drink from the cup to extend the metaphor. Obviously, they were punished for breaking the law of God, but Satan was punished as well for his role in the activity kind of like the way that Babylon is being punished here.
This of course raises questions about responsibility. It is wrong to lead someone to do something wrong even if you do not do it yourself. Babylon we know whether literal or metaphorical is a symbol of wickedness. However, in this particular passage, they are not being condemned for their own wickedness specifically. They are being condemned here specifically because they also corrupted those around them. Satan was evil before Adam and Eve fell, but he was specifically condemned in the relevant passage in Genesis for causing the corruption of Adam and Eve.
Of course, that raises questions for you and I as well. Are we helping those around us or are we driving them farther away? Through our actions and our speech, could we possibly be causing damage? We need to be careful here. Every person is certainly responsible for his or her own actions, but as followers of Jesus Christ, we would not want to do anything that would drive people away from Him. God does seem to appreciate that given these two examples.
Christianity is often attacked as a religion that was developed hundreds of years after the life of Jesus Christ. The obvious problem with that hypothetical situation is that hundreds of years is a long time for doctrine to be modified. However, in 2 John 1, it struck me that even early in the life of the church, there was the idea that doctrine was something worth preserving.
2Jn 1:4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.
2Jn 1:5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
The evidence seems to point towards the fact that John was legitimately the author of this letter, and if that is the case, then this was written at some point around 95 A.D. I point this out because John is referring back to a tradition here. I do not have a new commandment for you, but I want you to remember what we talked from the beginning.
This message of love came from Jesus Christ Himself. The rest of the book speaks about avoiding people who are coming and teaching misleading doctrine. As a result, it is easy to see here that there was a very strict commitment to doctrine in the early church. They cared about following Jesus Christ, and they wanted to remain faithful to that which was taught.
It is also significant that John refers to the idea that these people were walking in truth. Again, this is an affirmation of the Christian idea that Jesus is truth. John did not refer to Jesus as one of many truths. Rather, this exclusivity and even seen here.
Early in the history of the church doctrine mattered. Doctrine matters today. We need to make sure that we are faithful to what has been taught from the beginning and not how modern interpretations want to twist certain passages to make political points.
Romans 6 makes me think about the position that God ought to occupy in our lives.
Rom 6:17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Rom 6:18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
A servant does the bidding of his or her master. Once we have been freed from our bondage in sin, we serve God. The chief end of humanity is to glorify God. If we are going to glorify God, then it seems to make sense that we would serve Him. Part of worshiping God is obedience.
This doesn’t sit well with a lot of us however. We like to be the captain of our own ship. We like to call the shots. It seems to be the case that we were rescued from the chains of sin. That is an excellent thing. However, I don’t know how we always feel about then becoming servants of God. We prefer to have God be our servant. We want God to do what we want Him to do exactly when we want it done.
However, should we feel that way?
I don’t think so.
God, as He is revealed through the Bible, is perfect. He is wise, just, honest, powerful and loving. In fact, He is the perfection of all of those characteristics. You and I might be somewhat honest. However, God is the top of the scale. We might be wise to some degree, but God is the most wise being in the universe.
If this is true, then does it makes sense that we should call the shots? Does it make sense that limited humans ought to be the ones making the decisions? It seems to me that it is much more beneficial to have the more capable master in charge, and in this situation, I don’t think there is very much doubt
“It’s not my fault. I am a victim of my circumstances.” I don’t know how many times I have heard that phrase. Jesus did not seem to have much time for that type of thought in Mark 7.
Mar 7:14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
Mar 7:15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
Mar 7:16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
In context, the religious leaders were upset that Jesus’ disciples were not following the handwashing rules prior to eating. That made the disciples defiled in their minds.
However, Jesus, in what seems to be a precursor of what God showed Peter later, indicated that it is not what you eat or put in your body that is the problem, but the real problem is the human heart itself. As he typically did, Jesus elaborated to the disciples later on.
Mar 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Mar 7:22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
Mar 7:23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
I was thinking about how today we put a lot of weight on society to produce the kind of people that we want produced. However, I don’t believe that anyone can be conditioned to give up evil by a better society. In fact, all it takes is looking at what happened when society entirely eliminated religion from their culture (Soviet Union, China) to see what happens when secular society operates without restraint.
The problem with the world is the problem of sin, and sin comes directly from human beings like you and me. We do things that are wrong, and that is why Jesus came to earth. He came to redeem. Even though we are fallen, He came to transform people through the renewing of their minds.
The answer is not to make rules. The answer is not to make laws of man like the Pharisees were doing. The answer is to come back to Jesus and live by His teaching. Through transformation, one person at a time, society can change.
In Jonah 3, we are met with one of the greatest revivals of all time. Nineveh was such a wicked city that God was going to destroy it, but when they heard the words of Jonah, they immediately came to repentance.
Jon 3:4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
Jon 3:5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
Jon 3:6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
I find it interesting that even the king repented. Before the prophecy came from Jonah, the king would have at least silently approved what was going on with his people. It wasn’t as if he was actively policing the city and trying to straighten out his people.
However, as soon as he heard about God, he realized that things had to change. I don’t know if perhaps the change was largely self-serving. Obviously, it would have been important to all of the people of Nineveh not to be destroyed. However, it seems as if there was a genuine repentance there. The people recognized that they were not doing what God needed them to do and that included the king.
Revival is something that people like to talk about, but here is a time where it actually worked. It worked because first of all Jonah was obedient to God. He was called to be a leader, and, eventually, he did what he had to do. Second, the people understood that they were not living in line with the will of God. As we see with the king, even people who previously had evidently no problem with what was going on recognized that it was important to do what God told them to do.
Both of these elements are important if we want revival to happen.
After the illustration in the first three chapters of Hosea of the prophet and his unfaithful wife, we are now moving to a discussion of God and the unfaithfulness of Israel and Judah in Hosea 4.
Hos 4:1 Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
Hos 4:2 By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.
Hos 4:3 Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.
Hos 4:4 Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.
Hos 4:5 Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.
Because of the symptoms in the first two verses, they are going to fall. Because there is no knowledge of God and a blatant disregard for the commandments of God, the people are heading for destruction. However, I have to assume that they did not have any idea where they were going.
Most of these problems came up because of the lack of knowledge of God. That is why people didn’t know where they were heading, and if you take away the knowledge of God, you take away the prohibitions on all of these other issues.
That is why it is so important to make sure that we are actively reading the Bible and learning about God. If we don’t have that baseline, then we will continue going down the wrong path. If we don’t have anything to ground truth on, then all things are potentially okay for us to do.
That leads to the problems in verse two. We can morally permit doing bad things because we don’t have any reason to argue that they are wrong without objective truth. God provides that basis, and I think it is one of the most powerful argument for believing that there is a God.
In Ezekiel 27 we get to consider the city of Tyre a little bit more. It had been a blessed city. The majority of the beginning of this chapter is a list of all of the merchants who came from many other countries around the region to do business. It was a marketplace, and it was a valuable city in terms of economics.
However, even that value for the world was not going to be enough to protect it from judgment.
Eze 27:32 And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and lament over thee, saying, What city is like Tyrus, like the destroyed in the midst of the sea?
Eze 27:33 When thy wares went forth out of the seas, thou filledst many people; thou didst enrich the kings of the earth with the multitude of thy riches and of thy merchandise.
Eze 27:34 In the time when thou shalt be broken by the seas in the depths of the waters thy merchandise and all thy company in the midst of thee shall fall.
Eze 27:35 All the inhabitants of the isles shall be astonished at thee, and their kings shall be sore afraid, they shall be troubled in their countenance.
Eze 27:36 The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more.
We have two different perspectives here. On one hand, we have the perspective of all the people of the world. They are getting rich off of the city of the city of Tyre, so when the imminent judgment was going to come, they were obviously going to be very upset.
On the other hand, God is the one who has orchestrated the destruction and is perfectly just by definition. Therefore, it is not really consistent with the business interests of the world. God has something in mind that is higher than whether or not the people are going to be able to continue doing business.
This can apply to our lives as well. There are some things that can be so important for us. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but we all have something that we value, and those items might not be the things that God values.
Therefore, we need to be mindful. As best we can, we want to try to set our priorities in the way that God would view them. We are not trying to play God, but it will be easier to live our lives in the way God wants us to if we try to be sensitive to what He values. The Christian journey is about following God, so we need to keep our eyes on Him and see what He does.
Ezekiel 19 is written to the princes of Israel. It is a lamentation, and it speaks about how their motherland had become desolated.
Eze 19:10 Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.
Eze 19:11 And she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bare rule, and her stature was exalted among the thick branches, and she appeared in her height with the multitude of her branches.
Eze 19:12 But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried up her fruit: her strong rods were broken and withered; the fire consumed them.
Eze 19:13 And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground.
Eze 19:14 And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.
The nation of Israel had gone from a group of people who were thriving and secure to a group of people who were entirely dried up and devoured.
I think that we can draw a strong comparison here to our Christian lives. When we are firmly rooted in the identity of Christ, we are going to thrive. We are going to be developing spiritual fruit, and we are going to be strong.
On the other hand, if we don’t have a foundation in a good place, we are going to be cast down and dried out. We won’t make a productive member of the church, and that is not what God wants from us.
I guess the challenge for me and for you is that we need to find out what group we are in. Are we firmly rooted in, or are we going to be blown over and trampled?
It is always interesting to me when the people of Israel would decide that they did not want to listen to God anymore. In Ezekiel 12, they are called rebellious and are simply not using the faculties that they have to understand.
Eze 12:1 The word of the LORD also came unto me, saying,
Eze 12:2 Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.
This made me think about how we all can be at times. As you know, I read my Bible every day. This is the second time in my life I am going through the Bible cover to cover. I point this out because I certainly have eyes to see the Bible, and my eyes have passed over every (electronic) page at least one time. I certainly have read the truth, but I don’t know that I always see it. I don’t know that I always listen to everything that is being told to me through the text.
I point this out because it is very easy for us to criticize the people of Jerusalem. The criticism is certainly deserved in my opinion. They should have been listening to God. I’m not going to discount that. However, I am trying to point out the fact that we have many of the same human propensities. How many times do we know what we need to do, but we are more than happy to go and do the opposite?
How many times have we read that we should not bear false witness and then immediately turned around and told a little white lie?
I’m not trying to get the people of Jerusalem off the hook or justify what they did. However, for those of us to have the privilege to read this historical account, we ought to learn from them and improve our own character. We do have eyes, and we want to train them to see what God sees. That will begin to transform us into the people who God wants us to be.