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 16 brings us to Armageddon.
Rev 16:16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
Rev 16:17 And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.
Rev 16:18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
Rev 16:19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
Rev 16:20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
Rev 16:21 And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
It is interesting that even after everything that has happened throughout this book, people are still not willing to acknowledge God. People are still going to curse God rather than recognize that they need to get themselves right with God.
From the beginning, sinfulness has been a human problem. Free will that was abused brought about a world that was fallen and plagued by sin. It created the separation between God and man, and Jesus Christ provided the bridge to bring people back to God if they are willing to again make the free decision to repent.
Even at the end, there are going to be people who will not make that decision. Obviously, that is a terrible thing, but with the gift of free will that we were given, there is the potential for people to turn away.
Revelation 12 begins with a picture of a woman and a dragon. The woman is about to give birth, and the dragon wants to devour that child. The dragon also has an army which is at war with Michael the Archangel after the woman is taken away to hide in the wilderness for 42 months.
Rev 12:7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
Rev 12:8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
Rev 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
I am choosing to highlight this passage because of the one phrase in verse nine that speaks about how Satan has deceived the entire world. This stands out to me because I think that sometimes we think we are above deception. We think that we have everything lined up, and that can lead to a sense of idolatry. We can make ourselves into idols and forget about God which is never a good thing.
I don’t remember who said it, but I have heard it said that the greatest deception Satan ever pulled off was convincing the world that he does not exist. In our society that is steadily losing a belief in the reality of good and evil, I have no doubt that Satan is thrilled. After all, now he is an acceptable alternative to God; he is simply just another choice. When people take away the idea that evil is wrong, evil is what wins.
Consequently, I know I did not talk much about the imagery of this chapter, but it seems highly significant to me to always keep in mind that we have an adversary who is smart. We have an adversary who has in fact deceived all of us; all of us have sinned at some point. We need to be careful that we are following God and make sure that that relationship is in the right place.
Revelation 8 demonstrates the power of the judgment of God. I know that people will debate over what this actually means and when it takes place, but I think there’s no doubt that is not fun to experience the judgment of God.
Rev 8:13 And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
This is a hard thing for many of us to put together. Yes, God is a God of love. There’s no doubt about that. As a matter of fact, God is love. We love because God first loved us. There is no doubt about that from the Biblical testimony.
On the other hand, God is also a God of judgment. We see that in Sodom and Gomorrah. We see that with the nation of Israel when they disobeyed. We see that with Ananias and Sapphira. We now see that in Revelation.
How do we reconcile these two images of God? Some people might think they are entirely different or at the very least inconsistent.
I don’t think it is particularly hard to reconcile these however. Think about your parents or your teacher in school. They certainly love you, but they also are in a position to discipline you. The discipline does not come out of a place of vengeance or hate. It comes out of a place for the just consequence that follows the action you committed.
The world as we know it has fallen away from God. There’s no doubt about that. It started with Adam and Eve. As a result, there are consequences, and God does need to exercise discipline. It does not mean that He does not love the world. This does not need to be inconsistent.
There is a lot has been said recently in the news about the importance of Christian conscience. 1 John 3 reminds us that conscience is important, but there is a higher authority than that.
1Jn 3:19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
1Jn 3:20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
1Jn 3:21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
I think that all of us have had that feeling that something is just wrong. We don’t know why, but our consciences start to work on us. We obviously have two options at that point. We can try to suppress it and continue anyway, or we can stop doing what we’re doing because we are not comfortable with it. The options are rather straightforward, but we all have decisions to make.
John makes a very good point here. If we intuitively know that something is wrong but continue doing it, how much more then does God know that we have done something wrong? Remember that sins are deliberate actions that we take against God. Therefore, if we feel like we are deliberately doing something that is going against God, the obvious question is why would we want to do that?
If we are truly living in such a way that we are following Christ trying to discern His will in all things, then these intuitions are powerful. This is not talking about justifying our sins. After all, there are many people in the world who say they are Christians, but they justify things which are totally contrary to the word of God. Drunkenness is a rather obvious example. Alcohol use for Christians is obviously a debate, and I don’t really want to go there. However, it seems rather straightforward that we are never to consume to an excess. We can justify our own behavior on that, but that is not what John is talking about here. Even though we might feel fine about it, we are simply suppressing condemnation.
We have been given a conscience for reason, and it seems that as Christians, we need to take our Christian convictions and consciences very seriously.
Nobody’s perfect. I know we say that all the time as a justification for some kind of shortcoming in our own lives, and on the surface, it is a true statement. 1 John 1 encourages us to go farther than that.
1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1Jn 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Confessing our sin is important. Acknowledging the fact that nobody, including ourselves, is perfect is an important part of the Christian worldview. After all, we believe that Jesus came to solve the problem of sin, so if we are not willing to open our eyes to the obvious and realize that everyone has made wrong decisions, you have to wonder why Jesus would have come. Why would he come to solve a problem that wasn’t really a problem?
However, after we confess our sins, something very important happens. God is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we are repentant of our sins, God is going to forgive us. That is not the question. Rather, the question is whether or not we are going to be willing to confess. From the time that we are small children who tried to avoid getting in trouble, we are very good at trying to dodge responsibility for what we have done wrong.
This chapter makes it pretty clear. Every person has sinned, and I am part of that group. Therefore, if I am part of that group, then I do need to confess if I want forgiveness. It is hard to admit where we have fallen, but the good news is that God will forgive.
Words hurt. People remember words for a long time, and I’m sure that we can all think of times during our lives where people said things that really hurt us. In light of those types of memories, James 3 seems incredibly appropriate.
Jas 3:7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
Jas 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
It is a valuable point here. We are able to control so many things. Think about something like an orca. It is a massive creature, but humans are able to train them to do all kinds of things. Elephants are much larger than us, but we can ride on them through training. How ironic is it then that we cannot even control our own mouths?
What does it really mean then to control our tongues? Obviously, we’re not in the business of hurting people, but we are also not in the business of flattering people. We are in the business of truth and love. We ought to use our words to communicate not only what people need to hear, but they also need to hear how much we care about them.
Isn’t that the heart of the Christian message and the testimony we see from Jesus Christ Himself? He certainly spoke the truth. He did not hold any punches. He called the Pharisees vipers for crying out loud. However, speaking the truth is loving.
If I see some people driving down the road towards a cliff, is it better for me to let them know that they are wrong truthfully, or is it better for me to let them feel good about their choice of direction that is leading towards disaster?
If I love them, I’m going to correct them from their wrong direction. They might not appreciate me telling them that they are wrong, but if I truly love them, I’m not going to let them drive off a cliff.
Keep this in mind then about controlling our tongues. We are called to be loving, and we are called to be truthful. Words are powerful, and they have a major impact. Let’s make sure we are working in the right direction.
Hebrews 12 encourages us to remember that as Christians, we need to continue on the trail because it will be worth it in the end.
Heb 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We’re supposed to run the race we are entered in. I used to go to track meets to watch my sister run, and when it was time for the 3000 m, most coaches were encouraging their athletes to “run your race.” In other words, they were encouraging these athletes to do their best and do what had to be done to finish the race effectively. Each runner had to run the race that was before him or her in obviously the best amount of time possible. It did not necessarily matter what the other runners around were doing.
Thinking about this then in the context of our Christian faith, it seems to me that we are a lot like that. We are all in the same race. We are all human after all, and as Christians, we are united in our desire to follow Jesus Christ. However, our individual race might vary slightly. Paul encourages us to lay aside the things that will hold us back like sin, and even though we all have a sin nature without a doubt, we do have personal weaknesses that may be slightly different.
That is why it is important to look at Jesus. Yes, we might have different experiences and life stories, and that is fine. However, we are looking at Jesus Christ and following Him wherever that leads during life because we know where it is going to lead after life.
Paul was writing to Titus in chapter 1 mostly about the qualifications of elders in the churches that Titus was supposed to appoint. However, after he lists out a variety of qualifications, we come to this verse.
Tit 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
First of all, it is wise to remember that no one is pure without the intervention of God. It seems clear that all have sinned, and we are all unbelieving to begin with. Therefore, we fit into the latter category without a doubt. We are defiled, so we cannot experience purity.
However, what about those of us who are Christians? Does this mean that we have absolute liberty to do whatever we want because everything becomes pure when we do it? I don’t think so. After all, it seems contradictory to say that I am able to sin yet it is pure.
Rather, it seems to me that we need to take a look at what happens to the people who are the pure. If we are pure, then first of all that has been imparted to us through Jesus Christ. Any righteousness we have comes from Him alone. Therefore, in order to call ourselves the pure, we need to be acting in accordance with the will of God.
If that is the case, then we’re not going to sin because we cannot be pure follow God and sin simultaneously. I am not saying that followers of Christ do not sin, but I am saying that when we do sin, we have deviated from following God. Clearly we can have forgiveness, but for that moment we have stumbled off the path.
To wrap all of this up, it seems to me that when we are following God, everything is pure. After all, following God cannot be anything but pure. However, if we were separated from God, then how can the experience this type of purity?
I certainly do not believe that salvation comes through our good works because if that was true, I think most of us would be in a lot of trouble. However, I do believe that good works are evidence of the Christian life. Therefore, it is not that works bring about salvation, but if someone claims to be a Christian, you would expect to see them moving in a direction of conforming to Jesus Christ. Paul speaks to that in Ephesians 5.
Eph 5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
Eph 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
Eph 5:10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
Eph 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
We’re supposed to walk as children of light. Walking involves action. We are not supposed to simply talk about being children of light, but it seems to be the case that we’re supposed to be doing what children of light do.
This is a very difficult thing for us to do naturally. We are still human, and we’re still going to make mistakes. Nevertheless, walking in the light is what we are called to do. As a result, we need to make sure that we are moving in direction that God would want us to be moving.
How do we know what direction that is?
I was reading in my devotional the other night about three relevant questions we can ask about any decision we face. Can I thank God for it? Can I do it in Jesus’ name? Can I glorify God through it? I think that is a pretty good outline. When you combine them with praying for discernment from God to make the right decision if there are multiple good decisions, our conduct will reflect our calling in a greater capacity which is definitely a better thing.