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.
I think all of us can relate to the description of persecution in 1 Peter 4. This isn’t necessarily describing a life or death situation (although it would include that it seems), but it seems to be describing any time we have a situation where it is a challenge to be a Christian.
1Pe 4:14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
1Pe 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
1Pe 4:16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
Even when it is something as minor as someone making a sarcastic remark about Christianity, we have the opportunity to respond. We can respond in anger and try to get even. We can try to tear down the other person in return, or we can respond with happiness. It certainly seems counterintuitive to respond with happiness. After all, no one likes to do with anything unpleasant even if it is as seemingly insignificant as a passing remark.
Naturally, if it is a life or death situation, the challenge becomes even greater. In incredible physical and emotional pain, it would be even harder to respond to persecution with happiness. I don’t know what I would do in this situation. I know what I should do, but I also recognize that I am in imperfect human being, and like Peter, I can certainly have a moment of weakness.
Therefore, let’s think about how we respond to situations where it is not necessarily easy to be a Christian. It is probably nothing too serious for those of us in America. Persecution is much more serious in other places around the world. However, even for those of us who do have lesser degrees of persecution, we can still respond to it with happiness as Peter encourages us.
Well, we are pressing on to another book of the Bible. In 2 Timothy 1, Paul reminds Timothy that the life of a Christian is not a life that is characterized by fear.
2Ti 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2Ti 1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
There are three things that Paul mentions belong to a Christian in the place of the spirit of fear. Power is rather obvious. We have the power of God working through us, so why would we be afraid of anything? God is greater than whatever we might be facing.
However, we also have experience of love. People seem to fear things that they don’t like. As a kind of ridiculous example from my own life, I have never liked needles, so when I was young, I was afraid of them. However, when we move that to people, maybe we are afraid of people because we are intimidated or something like that, but when we recognize that we are called to love people, that fear is simply not necessary either.
Finally, having a sound mind drives away fear. Many of our fears are not logical. We might be afraid of something funny like the dark, but when we think about it logically, there is really not much to worry about. After all, when you are in your bedroom at home in the dark, it is not as if there is all of a sudden something terrifying in your bedroom. It is still your bedroom. That type of sound mind that ought to characterize the Christian helps drive away fear as well.
Overall, there is a lot of fear out there, and the Christian life simply does not need it. God is with us, so what could possibly stand against us?
As Paul wrote the beginning of his letter to the Colossians, he is encouraged by how well they’re doing. He has heard a good report of their faith, and he makes sure to let them know that. However, that doesn’t mean that he stopped praying for them.
Col 1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
Col 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
I know that we can get complacent. It has been said that the Christian life has “mountaintop experiences.” We have these experiences where we feel very close to God, and that is a great thing. I imagine we all have had them in some capacity.
However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need prayer. It doesn’t mean that we cannot remain vigilant. Paul was praying that the Colossians would continue to walk with the Lord. Even though they were currently doing it, he wanted them to remain steady.
It strikes me then that we need to be careful about this in our own lives. We might feel like everything is going great. Our friends and family are great, our job is great, our church is great and whatever else might be going extraordinarily well. However, we are still human, and we might lose our footing. We might start to trust in our own ability rather than our walk with God. We might forget where our strength comes from.
Paul knew that. He knew that we need the strength of God on a daily basis, so he prayed for the church that they would remain a force for good that they had been.
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?
Romans is a powerful book, and right away we get to some very foundational concepts of a Christian worldview.
Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Rom 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Rom 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Rom 1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
It is not hard to look at the universe and marvel about creation. We live in an amazing world, and I think there is something significant to the fact that it seems like every culture around the world had developed a type of creation story. Certainly, there are differences between the stories, but it seems that Paul was trying to get at the fact that people understood that there was some type of God out there who was made evident through creation.
They obviously would not have known the entire Hebrew Scripture that provides information on who God is. However, they could have seen that He was remarkably powerful, gigantic, artistic and intelligent among a variety of other characteristics.
However, that is not what these people did. They made idols. They created a god that they could control. They made a god that was small even though the evidence of nature would seem to indicate that God needed some of the characteristics I listed above. I think about the Greek pantheon. Sure, the gods had some supernatural powers, but they were also very human. They did not have half of the characteristics of our God.
It seems to me that it was really a control issue. We like to think that we important, and even though that tendency might be growing worse, I don’t think that it is a 21st-century development. People have always thought they were pretty important, and people have always liked to be in control. By recognizing the type of God I described above as evident in nature, it should be obvious that there is something far greater than us out there. Regardless, people made idols. They diminished the greatness of what they saw.
Paul and Barnabas were very successful, and in Acts 14, they were actually mistaken for Jupiter and Mercury. The priest of Jupiter in Lystra even brought oxen to sacrifice under the assumption that Paul and Barnabas were simply gods who came to earth. Understandably, Paul and Barnabas were not thrilled about this. They did not want to be the centerpiece.
Act 14:15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:
Act 14:16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.
Act 14:17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
Verse 16 and verse 17 stood out to me particularly because as you can see by the hundreds of religions around the world, many nations have wandered in their own ways. However, there is something significant about the fact that God left a witness for Himself by doing good. God made it clear that there was something beyond the earth. There was someone greater who was providing for people, and even though they might not have understood everything about God as revealed through the Old Testament, they understood some concepts through what they were able to see of that witness.
You can find missionaries who talk about this type of thing even today. They go to groups of people who have never heard the Gospel before. When they share it, the people are able to draw connections. They recognize where the things that they have always recognized and perhaps identified as different gods fit into the story of Christianity. They were on the right track, but once they heard the Gospel, they understood that there was a greater picture that they did not have before.
CS Lewis pointed this out very eloquently, but it simply makes sense. Christians talk about seeing the power of God at work around them, and we know to attribute it to God. Other people who may have never heard about the Christian God before would observe the same phenomena, so they would understand to attribute it to someone, but they might not understand who at first.
In Acts 8, we see the story of Simon the sorcerer. When Simon heard the gospel, he started following the disciples around because he was interested in what was going on. When he saw the disciples pray and give people the Holy Spirit, he wanted that power as well, so he offered the disciples money to show him how. Peter did not hold back.
Act 8:20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
Act 8:21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
Act 8:22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
Act 8:23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
Act 8:24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
There is an important truth here. We don’t really know the motivation of Simon. Maybe he was really sincere and wanted to be able to do good for God. Maybe he just wanted power. In either situation, he fundamentally misunderstood what God is about. God cannot be bought off.
How many times do we do something similar though? We think that we can earn our salvation by doing volunteer work. Maybe we can earn our salvation by doing more good things than bad things. We feel like the balance is in our favor.
Unfortunately, just like Simon, that really doesn’t make us any better in the sight of God. Yes, I do believe that good works are the natural consequence of a true Christian, and I am not saying that we should not do good works. However, I am saying that if we are trying to earn something like the Holy Spirit, it is not going to work. It is a free gift from God to all who believe in Him.
Welcome to Acts 1. Written as a sequel to the book of Luke, this book talks about everything that began to happen to the church after the ascension of Jesus Christ. This very important phase of ministry is kicked off by the Great Commission from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself.
Act 1:7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Two things were going to happen sequentially. They were going to receive power through the Holy Spirit, and they were going to become witnesses throughout the entire world. It seems to be the case that the first one was a necessary condition of the second. A short time before, the disciples had run away from the people arresting Jesus because they were afraid of suffering a similar fate. Obviously, at this point they had met the risen Jesus, so perhaps their courage was on the rebound, but I don’t know that human determination alone would have been enough to reach the entire world.
They surely needed the power and endurance that God was able to give to them. They were arrested, beaten and ultimately martyred with the exception of John who was given life in prison. There was a power there that did not seem to be present in the disciples on the night at the crucifixion, and Jesus says that they are going to receive power from the Holy Spirit within them. That was going to be the power that would propel them around the world.
As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit within us as well. We ought to have the same kind of power, and we ought to be just as committed to this mission. Just like the disciples did what they were able to do to spread the Gospel, the same commission applies to us as well.
In Luke 10, Jesus appoints other disciples to go out and spread the gospel, and they get really excited because they can command demons to go in the name of Jesus. Jesus has a slight correction for them.
Luk 10:18 And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
Luk 10:19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
Luk 10:20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
Jesus did not discount that power. However, it is more important for these people to have an eternity with God than it is for these people to cast out demons on earth.
I have often times thought about this kind of idea. An eternity with God is the ultimate good outcome. After all, think about being in a place forever with no pain, no suffering and the very presence of God surrounding you at all times. Since that would be the best, this passage makes a lot of sense. It is not a bad thing to be able to throw out demons, and Jesus affirms that He gave this power to these people. All good things come from God, so casting out demons would be a good thing by definition. However, the better reason for rejoicing is that they will be living with God forever.
It really makes me think about how great it must be to live in the presence of God. If that is the main reason for Christians to rejoice instead of being able to do awesome things like casting out demons, then living in the presence of God must be something incredibly special. It must be something that is beyond compare. I know we do not want to rush our lives here on earth, but it does make you kind of excited to see what it will be like to be in a perfect environment