In the book of Revelation the Church is not called to react to the End or the antichrist by moralistic, militaristic, or political means. The Church is called to return to Messiah Jesus, remembering that those who continue faithful to the End will receive the “crown of life.” The way of resistance of evil, is the way of Christ. That is, loving Christ Jesus, and loving others. Taking up our crosses and following Jesus and loving others, even when it hurts, is a sure sign that we don’t and won’t have the “mark of the beast.”
What if the clearest mark of the beast is the mark of hatred and hostility? Many have thought it stood for Nero (the numerical value of 666), and perhaps it did in a way. He was, as history showed, marked by the beast. He was, as history showed, like his father the devil. He was proud and unloving, destructive and devilish.
Is not the mark of the Messiah, the mark of beatific love?1 Do not His followers, follow Him? If Jesus is love, should not His followers be loving?!2
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (Corinthians 13:4-7).
And would it not make sense that the converse also follows? If the mark of the Messiah is true sacrificial love, is not the mark of the antichrist hatred? And what if the serpent of old, the father of lies, the great deceiver, is adept at what he does? And what if he wants to destroy and divide even what Messiah Jesus died to bring together? And what if he even uses the means of media and the marketplace and various views on certain medical opinions regarding COVID-19? What if?…
And what if the worst thing that can happen to Christians is not that they’d lose earthly freedom(s), but that they’d lose heavenly crowns? not that their earthly country would be divided, but that their heavenly one would be? not that they’d have to wear a mask, but that they’d have a mask put over their eyes? What if Satan’s not primarily trying to destroy a country, but what if he desires to destroy Christians and Christian witness? What if Satan doesn’t want the nation to descend into debauchery, but wants Christians to be desensitized to their hatred and fear?
Revelation also talks a lot about Babylon. Babylon was what a lot of people cared about and had their hopes fixed on. However, Christians, are marked by and are members of a different city. Christians have their hope wrapped up in a city, but it’s a different city, a city that comes down from heaven, a city that couldn’t be built here. It’s beyond and better than here.
Christians live, labor, and love in Babylon, but they’re waiting for something better. They’re waiting for Jerusalem to come down.
Christian brothers and sisters, are you showing the mark of your Savior? The characteristics of Christ? The mark of your true city? Or, are you too wrapped up here? Are you betting on Babylon3 or are you “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”?!
We, as Christians, are sojourners here in Babylon. Our time is short. Let’s be a blessing as Scripture exhorts us (Jeremiah 29:7). But, let’s remember, any castle we build with our hoarded cash, will soon wash away with the tide of time. Let’s not lay up hoards here or place our hope here. But in heaven.
1 Ephesians 1:13 tells us that all who are in Messiah Jesus have been sealed (or marked?!) with the promised Holy Spirit. Notice also that it is the Holy Spirit in Jesus followers who produces the fruits of the Spirit, one of those fruits being love.
2 God alone provides access to the Garden of Eden and the pathway there is through the Golgotha of sacrificial love.
3 If politics has you overly down, perhaps it’s because you placed your hope in a ship that must inevitably sink.
“My steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
Our focus and our faith matter.
Wrong Focus = Destruction
It was when the psalmist was envious of people that had stuff that he didn’t have that he nearly fell. When we see a representation of the “good life” that we don’t have, it can make us discontent and even angry at God.
It makes me think of Instagram. Instagram is notorious at giving a very false lens on life. Not only are pictures edited and filtered, they’re staged. They’re set up beforehand so everything is just right. The pictures are also specifically picked to portray the perfect picture behind the perfect life.
If we focus on other people’s lives, or pictures of their “perfect” lives, it will often lead to discontentment. We will think they have it all. And we will think our life stinks.
That’s essentially what happened to the psalmist. “[Their] steps had nearly slipped.” Why? Because they were “envious of the arrogant when [they] saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:2-3).
Faltering faith can be a result of focus. The psalmist nearly slipped not because they began to doubt the existence of God. Nope. That’s not what it was. They began to doubt the goodness of God because someone else was apparently living the “good life;” living the life they themselves wanted to live.
There was no logical argument. The issue was “kardialogical,” from desire of the heart. The psalmist was envious, jealous of someone else’s prosperity, and upset that others have “no pangs until death” (v.4). That is what nearly caused the downfall. He thought, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean” (v. 13). It’s pointless because I don’t get the enjoyment I desire but only suffering (v. 14).
Right Focus = Delight
The psalmist couldn’t understand and was tiring of considering what he thought was unfairness on God’s part (v. 16), until something happened. The psalmist “went into the sanctuary of God” (v. 17). Then his perspective radically shifted. That was when he “discerned their end” (v. 17). He saw things differently from the viewpoint of the coming Judgment. The wicked may enjoy life now but they will be “destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors” (v. 19).
The psalmist realized that though there may be suffering in this life, what is of utmost importance is the next life. The psalmist knew that after this life God would receive him to glory (v. 24). We have to have faith that that is true and focus on that truth or it will be our destruction. If we do have right focus, however, it will be our delight. The psalmist said, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (v. 25).
If we just focus on Instagram we’re going to want insta satisfaction. But there is a life that comes after this life. And it is eternal. As Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” We need to have the right focus, a focus on eternity.
Let’s have focus on that truth. Let’s remember that our flesh and our heart will fail, but God is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever (v. 26). And let’s make the Lord God our refuge and let’s tell of His works (v. 28).
A reader of my previous post objected to some of what I wrote. Which of course is fine. I remain grateful that we have the freedom to do that. I’m also grateful for the opportunity it provides me to interact with some of his thoughts and critiques. So, here’s my response…
First, he said he didn’t know what “canceled Christians” means. It is a reference to the “popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures… after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming” (dictionary.com). Christians are being shut down from sharing their biblically informed views (especially moral issues on sexuality) on social media and often in general conversation as well.
He said that “we are to invest much energy into this world.” I, of course, agree with that. The Bible is replete with examples calling us to do just that. One of the reasons it calls us to invest in this world is actually because of the coming of the next. Our eschatology (study of last things) is a goad to our ethics (e.g. Matt. 24:36ff; 25:13; Col. 3:1ff; 1 Thess. 5:1-2).
He also said that this world is not a “stinky tent. It’s God’s handiwork.” This world is not literally a stinky tent. The Bible doesn’t say that exactly. The Bible does, however, say that “in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling… For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened… we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:2, 4, 8). It says, “the creation was subjected to futility… the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption… For we know that the whole creation has been groaning…” (Rom. 8:20, 21, 22 see also 2 Cor. 4:16-18). It thus seems to me that the world is a metaphorical “stinky tent.” It is not our final home. We should have a certain amount of longing for our “lasting city” (Heb. 13:14 cf. 2 Cor. 5:1; Jn. 14:2-3).
God’s creation does show His handiwork and it is an “expression of His creativity.” The first chapter of Genesis says six times that God’s creation is “good” and in the seventh and final announcement God says it’s “very good” (Gen. 1:31). That, however, is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning. Something sinister happens. The Fall (Gen. 3). And because of sin all manner of curse and chaos.
We live in a post-Genesis-3 world. So, while creation still attests to the goodness and creativity of God, it is also riddled with ruin because of sin. Jesus as promised in Genesis 3:15 is the one who finally remakes it. And He is the hope of the world.
I really appreciate that he says, “we are called to imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.” That is very true. I am not sure why but it seems like he was led to believe that I would disagree with that truth. I am not sure why, however. No writing of any length can say everything, but especially a blog. Yes, we are to “imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.”
I actually believe it’s true that unless Christians live as the campers and exiles they are, they won’t participate, they won’t invest, and they won’t forgive as God would have them. It’s being focused on the Kingdom that makes us effective in whatever kingdom we find ourselves in. It’s the person who realizes the value of the treasure (i.e. all the goodness of the new creation) that will sacrifice all to gain it (Matt. 13:44); even if it means loving those who are sometimes unlovely.
That is why we must “set [our] hope fully on the grace that will be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). That, as Peter explains, will help us “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (v. 22). It will help us “imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.” It will help us with creation care and the Golden Rule.
As C.S. Lewis said,
If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.
We can be so earthy minded that we’re no earthly good. And we won’t rightly love our neighbor if we only love ourselves. As we look to Christ and the heaven He’s purchased us we will more and more be drawn to live like Christ, to love and sacrifice ourselves for others (See e.g. 2 Cor. 3:18; 5:14-15; 2 Pet. 3:11-14).
Regarding his comment that “most [my] assertions are not contextualized or elaborated” and that what I wrote is “gobbledegook,” I would say that the assertions in his response are also not “contextualized or elaborated.” And had they been his response would have been much longer. I would not say though that as a result what he wrote was “gobbledygook.” I looked up the definition of “gobbledygook” and apparently it means “language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of abstruse technical terms.” I’m not sure where my post earned the term “gobbledygook” but that is not a noun I want associated with anything I write. I actually wanted my post to be simple and thought provoking. Ironically, it seems to me that writings that are most contextualized and elaborated are the very writings that have the most likelihood of being gobbledygook.
I want to be clear, instructive, and helpful. And this gentleman’s comments are a spur to encourage me in that pursuit. For that I am thankful.
 Of course, I don’t expect the gentlemen’s brief response to be perfectly nuanced either. Covering every facet is not possible in a brief comment, blog post, or even a book-length treatment. We are both fallible and temporal. Scripture itself, if the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) is not rightly considered, can seem lopsided. Matthew and Luke, James and Paul, however, are not at odds even if they are emphasizing different things and coming at issues from a different perspective.
Dennis E. Johnson’s book, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, has a lot of important and relevant things to teach us. Here are a few highlights from the introduction…
1. Revelation Is Given to Reveal.
2. Revelation Is a Book to Be Seen.
“One of the key themes of the book is that things are not what they seem. The church in Smyrna appears poor but is rich… What appear to the naked eye, on the plane of human history, to be weak, helpless, hunted, poor, defeated congregations of Jesus’ faithful servants prove to be the true overcomers who participate in the triumph of the Lion who conquered as a slain Lamb. What appear to be the invincible forces controlling history—the military-political-religious-economic complex that is Rome and its less lustrous successors—is a system sown with the seeds of its self-destruction” (p. 9).
3. Revelation Makes Sense Only in Light of the Old Testament.
“The ancient serpent whose murderous lie seduced the woman and plunged the world into floods of misery (Gen. 3:1) is seen again, waging war against the woman, her son, and her other children—but this time his doom is sure and his time is short (Rev. 12; 20)” (p, 13).
4. Numbers Count in Revelation.
For example, “The number seven symbolizes the Spirit’s fullness and completeness” (p. 15).
5. Revelation Is for a Church under Attack.
“Our interpretation of Revelation must be driven by the difference God intends it to make in the life of his people. If we could explain every phrase, identify every allusion to Old Testament Scripture or Greco-Roman society, trace every interconnection, and illumine every mystery in this book and yet were silenced by the intimidation of public opinion, terrorized by the prospect of suffering, enticed by affluent Western culture’s promise of ‘security, comfort, and pleasure,’ then we would not have begun to understand the Book of Revelation as God wants us to… Always, in every age and place, the church is under attack. Our only safety lies in seeing the ugly hostility of the enemy clearly and clinging fast to our Champion and King, Jesus” (19).
6. Revelation Concerns “What Must Soon Take Place.”
7. The Victory Belongs to God and to His Christ.
“Revelation is pervaded with worship songs and scenes because its pervasive theme—despite its gruesome portrait of evil’s powers—is the triumph of God through the Lamb. We read this book to hear the King’s call to courage and to fall down in adoring worship before him” (p. 23).
I was just thinking about the phrase, “it’s not meant to be this way.” I recently did a funeral and said those words. And I think right now, with so much that is sad going on, “It’s not meant to be this way.”
There is no such thing, however, as “meant to be” unless there is a “meant.” That is, purpose and meaning. If the world just happened randomly and will likewise run down and dissolve randomly, it doesn’t truly make sense to say something like, “it wasn’t meant to be.” Nothing and everything wasn’t meant to be. It’s all chaotic, random, and meaningless.
I believe that we sense, deep down past our bones, that many things we see and face—even in our own hearts and lives—is not what was meant to be. This world, and we ourselves, our bent.
I believe that is one of the things that points to the reality of purpose. And I’m thankful for that. I believe we can honestly say, “it wasn’t meant to be this way” because there is a way that it was meant to be but isn’t because of rebellion and hate in the human heart.
O’ for what is broken and bent to be mended. For hearts and lives to be whole.
I’m thankful for the Savior, Messiah Jesus, who though whole, bled for this bent world. I’m thankful that He came with healing and promise of wholeness and will soon come with His host to fix every wrong.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Some times people paint with colors and at other times they paint with words. Isaiah here is painting with words and what a wonderful picture he paints.
He starts by saying that “the wilderness and the dry land shall be glad” (Is. 35:1). The groaning world, the world bent with the Fall, shall be made right. Even the earth shall be glad. The barren desert, filled with dust and sand, shall beautifully blossom. It shall “rejoice with joy and singing” (v. 2). The whole of the world will unfurl and be in a state of spring. Yes, the desert shall blossom like the crocus (v. 1).
The redeemed shall see the majesty and “the glory of the LORD” (v. 2). Our eyes as of now have a shutter over them, we see through a fog, or as through dirty glass dimly, but then we shall see. We shall see the full wonder of the LORD’s glory and beauty. We know the whisper but we shall hear the wondrous roar!
As we saw in the previous post on the resurrection, Peter looked at Psalm 16 and showed how Jesus’ resurrection was foretold. In Acts 2 Peter goes on to show that Jesus is now at God’s right hand, as Psalm 110 foretold. Jesus Himself had quoted from Psalm 110 and stomped His critics (see e.g. Matt. 22:41-46). And when you look at 110:1 it’s not surprising that they were stomped.
So, we see that Jesus is at God’s right hand until… Until He makes His enemies His footstool. That means that Jesus is coming back—and the New Testament repeatedly says soon—to bring judgment, and pervasive peace through that judgment.
Jesus’ death and resurrection shows that He is indeed the Lord and Messiah. As the Lord and Messiah, He is coming back soon to vanquish every foe and establish His forever reign of peace. In His second coming, He will bring the Kingdom that was expected at His first coming. Read More…
“Even if your life plays out in precisely the way you imagine for yourself in your wildest dreams, death will steal away everything you have and destroy everything you accomplish. As long as we’re consumed by the quest for more out of this life, Jesus’s promise will always seem otherworldly to us. He doesn’t offer more of what death will only steal from us in the end. He offers us righteousness, adoption, God honoring purpose, eternal life—things that taste sweet to us only when death is a regular companion” (Matthew McCullough, Remember Death, p. 25)
“If we want to live with resilient joy—a joy that’s tethered not to shifting circumstances but to the rock-solid accomplishments of Jesus—we must look honestly at the problem of death. That may be ironic, but it’s biblical, and it’s true” (McCullough, Remember Death, p. 27).
“If death tells us we’re not too important to die, the gospel tells us we’re so important that Christ died for us” (p. 28).
McCullough quotes Ernest Becker from his book The Denial of Death: “Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever.” McCullough goes on to say, “There is a massive disconnect between what we feel about ourselves and what death implies about who we are” (p. 68).
“Death says your less important than you’ve ever allowed yourself to believe. The gospel says you’re more loved than you’ve ever imagined” (p. 74).
“Wisdom never pretends things are better than they are. Never shrinks back from acknowledging the harsh realities of life” (p. 87).
“Death has an unmatched ability to expose the flimsiness of the things we believe give substance to our lives” (p. 99).
“Death exposes our idols for what they are: false gods with no power to save” (p. 107).
“It is Resurrection or vanity” (p. 110).
“The God who made us has come to us, entered the darkness we have chosen for ourselves, absorbed the just punishment for our sin in his death, and made new life possible in his resurrection” (p. 113).
“Loss is universal, not exceptional. It’s guaranteed, not unexpected. Every relationship is lost to time. So is every penny of everyone’s wealth, and ultimately so is every life. Loss isn’t surprising. It is basic to the course of every life” (p. 122).
“Life works like a savings account in reverse. Zoomed out to the span of an entire life cycle, you see that no one is actually stockpiling anything… Everything you have—your healthy body, your marketable skills, your sharp mind, your treasured possessions, your loving relationships—will one day be everything you’ve lost” (p. 122-23).
“It’s useful to practice paying careful attention to the experiences of people who have lived before you” (p. 123).
“We need to recognize that our problem is far worse that we’ve admitted so that we can recognize that Jesus is a far greater Savior than we’ve known… Honesty about death is the only sure path to living hope—hope that can weather the problems of life under the sun, that doesn’t depend on lies for credibility” (p. 150).
“The Bible never asks us to pretend life isn’t hard… The Bible never asks us to lighten up about the problems of life” (p. 153).
“Death-awareness resets my baseline expectation about life in the world” (p. 160).
“The brokenness I experience—the frustration, disappointments, dissatisfaction, pain—is not a sign of God’s absence. It is the reason for his presence in Christ” (p. 160).
Some have claimed that all people will be finally saved, even after torment in hell. However, there are all sorts of inherent problems with that view. Here’s a brief list of problems to consider.
1. There Is No (Clear) Scripture That Teaches Universalism
The doctrine of universalism goes against the clear teaching of Scripture and finds no clear teaching supporting what it argues. Yes, I understand that there are a few passages that if you pull out of context and place into a certain system of thought, can seem to support the doctrine but it is not the texts natural meaning in context.