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.
“Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2).
I quoted this verse to my daughter today and she looked at me with a confused look and said, “What does that mean?”
That’s always a good question. I explained to her that in the Church we are all one big family and so we need to stay together and get along. We need to make sure that even when we’re mad and hurt by each other we work at still forgiving each other.
It is very necessary that we read this verse and heed its exhortation. It will inevitably be a verse we have to apply in our own lives. So, as my daughter asked, “what does it mean?” And I would add, “how do we do it?” and “what motivation are we given to obey?”
What does this verse mean?
It says to be “eager”? That means to want to do or have something very much. What do you do when you want something really bad? You pursue it. You work to get it. Even if there are obstacles you keep at it. That needs to be us. We need to be zealous in our pursuit of unity.
Notice also that we are to want to “maintain” the unity. Unity is not just important at one point in one situation. We should desire and work towards maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace at all times and through all situations.
“Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:2-5).
If we are to rightly praise the LORD then we must know the LORD. We must know things about Him. We must know things about what He has done. We must know and not forget all His benefits.
“All His benefits.” I like that phrase.
When someone is thinking about taking a job they consider what the benefits of the job are. “Will I get enough vacation? Is the health insurance good enough?”
Yet the Lord gives “all His benefits” for free! Not as payment for work. The LORD heaps benefits on all those “who fear Him” (v. 11) because God is a God of “steadfast love and mercy” (v. 4).
God does not pay us for our sins as we deserve (v. 10). If He did that would be bad news and we certainly wouldn’t get all the benefits we enjoy. Just like a good Father, however, God shows great compassion and care to all who fear Him (v. 13).
The LORD forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies, and strengthens (v. 3-5). The LORD is merciful and gracious and slow to anger (v. 6). The LORD’s love is vast beyond comprehension. It is high—higher than the heavens, it is vast—further than the east is from the west, and it is long—from everlasting to everlasting (v. 11, 12, 17).
So, praise the LORD! Praise the LORD because He shows mercy and withholds the punishment we deserve. Praise the LORD because He shows grace and heaps on all sorts of blessings we don’t deserve. Praise the LORD because of who He is and all He has done.
Our starting points have big consequences, good or bad. Even when buttoning our shirt. If we get the first button wrong we’re going to be misaligned all the way down. And hopefully we catch the problem before we walk out of the house.
It is the same way with sex. It is crucial that we understand from the beginning what God, the designer, intended. We must consider what the Bible, God’s Word, says on the subject.
God’s Good Creation: Designer Sex
What is “Designer Sex”? It is sex the way God intended it to be. It’s not cheap, disrespectful, or damaging. Sex the way God designed it is very good.
“It is tremendously moving to think of God’s original one-flesh companionship. Adam and Eve, before the fall of Eden, had the marvelous capacity of being totally naked, physically and emotionally, with no shame or fear. They reveled in a childlike trust and curiosity—laughing, instinctual honesty, respect and zest for life. It was naked and unashamed with no performance anxiety, inhibitions, pain, or selfish skill deficits. What a relationship and sex life they were able to have as they truly ‘knew’ each other, inside and out!”
God designed man and woman to be together and enjoy each other in harmony with each other and Himself (cf. Gen. 2:18, 24-25). Designer sex, sex the way God intended it to be, is beautiful and God-glorifying.
God lovingly, brilliantly, creatively designed sex. “Doesn’t that tell you a lot about who God really is? Among other things, it tells you that He is ingenious.” God is not trying to keep us from fun when He tells us about the intended design for sex.
Sex, as it was created to be enjoyed, was very good. There was nothing wrong or shameful about it. However, that’s not always the way it is anymore. Something happened.
The Fall: Romance Ruined
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed, and were able to enjoy unhindered wedded bliss. After the Fall, however, all sorts of problems erupted. Adam and Eve hid from God and each other, as they clothed themselves in shame. They had relational disharmony as they blamed each other.
Men and women today still feel the effects of the Fall. The world is now broken. It is not how it was intended to be.
As a result of the Fall people, even political candidates, say such terrible and disrespectful things as: “when you’re a star… you can do anything… Grab ’em by the @*$#!.” God created all people with worth, not as objects to be groped and used.
Pornography is a cogent example of the broken world of sin that we all now face.
“Porn is unbelievably devastating. It holds out an ever-increasing promise of satisfaction while simultaneously, gradually removing the ability to be intimate. Porn makes sex purely physical, and when it becomes purely physical, it loses the glory God has designed it to have. You lose that glory even in marriage when sex becomes purely about the physical act of intercourse.”
This is not “designer sex.” It is sad and leads to all sorts of brokenness.
What we face today represents unique pressures and challenges unprecedented in the history of man. When the author of Ecclesiastes said there is “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9) he didn’t mean literally. The technology and social media we have today are new but it brings to light the same problems humanity has always had. So, in that sense, there is “nothing new under the sun.” We are fallen. Our hearts need fixed. The external pressures may change but the inner reality of sin remains.
Pornography is not just bad from a biblical perspective it is empirically bad as well. A recent article says, “After 40 years of peer-reviewed research, scholars can say with confidence that porn is an industrial product that shapes how we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence and gender equality—for the worse.” The article goes on to say that “Extensive scientific research reveals that exposure to and consumption of porn threaten the social, emotional and physical health of individuals, families and communities, and highlights the degree to which porn is a public health crisis rather than a private matter.”
Sexual malpractice and malfunction is a result of the Fall. Pornography zooms in on the effects of the Fall and shows its full despicable form. It is the debasement of what God created to be intimately enjoyed by two covenant partners.
When it comes to sex the Bible is not prudish. It “is fully aware of desire, seduction, rape, polygamy, homosexuality, adultery, and sex after age ninety. And that’s just Genesis.” The Bible does not ignore sex. The Bible does not say it’s not a problem. The Bible doesn’t try to fix the problem by saying, “All desire is demonic.”
Yet, as we will see the Bible does instruct us when it comes to sex. Partly because the author of the Bible, ultimately God, knows that “Sexuality is… a powerful force in our lives, with tremendous potential for intimate bonding or harmful behaviors.”
Desires are not innately demonic but they are dangerous. “Ask Tiger Woods. Ask Bill Clinton. Ask Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Ted Haggard.” Ask the first two pastors I had as a kid.
A healthy view of sex understands that it is not bad. Indeed, God created sex as good and it is good when enjoyed as God, the Creator, intended. However, we live in a fallen world and sex is often not carried out the way that God designed and thus leads to innumerable problems.
We need to understand how God, the Grand Designer, intended sex to function.
 We live in a very sexualized age. I know in one sense that there is “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). I know there are pornographic Egyptian hieroglyphics that have been discovered and that there are old Roman bathhouses with pornographic morals on the walls. Yet, never before has porn been so accessible. It’s not just found under your uncle’s bed or in the attic it’s constantly in your hand, just a click away. Here’s some statistics: 90% of children between the ages of eight and sixteen have viewed pornography. The average age of exposure to internet pornography is eleven. The largest consumer of internet pornography is boys ages 12 to 17 (Greg Gibson, Date Different, 80).
The porn industry is one of the biggest industries and has the largest presence online. In fact, porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined.
Internet pornography is also very potent. I’ve read that it’s as addictive or more addictive as heroin or cocaine. Social media very often, even if it’s not officially labeled pornographic, is teaching and influencing how we think about sex and act out sexually.
 Matt Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 90-91. He goes on to say, “and you certainly forfeit this glory when you engage in sex outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is deliberate disobedience against God’s commands, which are for your good and therefore it is a deliberate forfeiture of your spiritual well-being, as well as your sexual well-being.”
 For example, Dr. Kevin Leman says, “If you are having sex before marriage, you are ultimately threatening your own happiness and marital satisfaction. The research couldn’t be clearer” (Kevin Leman, Sheet Music, 17-18).
 Actually the word porn is from the Greek word porneía (πορνεία), which is often translated sexual immorality.
 Gail Dines, “Is porn immoral? That doesn’t matter: It’s a public health crisis” in The Washington Post.
 See Ibid.
 Douglas E. Rosenau, A Celebration of Sex, 4.
 O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 33.”Eros alone is not evil, but eros outside of God’s ethics is” (Ibid.). Gary Thomas says, “Sex is a powerful tool. In a healthy marriage, used appropriately, it can be nothing short of glorious. As people who believe God is the Creator of our bodies and our sexuality, we should be eager to embrace His good handiwork. But know this: the more powerful the tool, the more training and caution you need when learning to use it” (The Sacred Search, 201)
Our discussion here should not be limited to bathrooms. It’s not just a problem of bathroom signs and who comes in those bathroom doors. The problem is not just political. If we leave it there we miss the heart of the issue and we fail to care about hearts.
It’s a matter of concern for people and prosperity. It’s a matter of love. And yes it’s a matter of truth. But I feel and fear that the latter has received the emphasis. And it sounds kind of like a noisy gong.
How is this issue related to prosperity? As we think about all-gender restrooms we need to consider the matter from the perspective of love for neighbor and not just moralism or concern for ourselves or even our kids. We need to look at Jesus as the standard of how we interact with people. We should desire to represent Him in this conversation. Not the Andy Griffith Show.
We should have a concern for our neighbors, whether monogamous, transgender, all-gender, because they are fellow human beings created in the image of God. And we don’t want them to miss out on the good design that God gave.
Thus the issue at hand is an issue of prosperity. How do humans prosper and flourish? How and what were we created for? What leads to our ultimate prosperity? What is our ultimate good?
Obviously, what blurs the issue is many believe we weren’t created and we thus have no ultimate purpose. Yet, if God did say in the beginning “it is good” and intends the world to function in a certain way then we shouldn’t want others to miss out on the good God intended even as we realize the world is broken (physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc.). If, however, many of our neighbors our right, if God is not there and He is silent, then it doesn’t matter. Let us eat and drink, let us gloat and indulge in gluttony, let us define our own identity, let us do what we want for tomorrow we die.
But, if as I believe, God did create the world in a certain way, to function according to to certain physical and moral laws then this conversation matters. It matters not just for me, my family, and those that have my same worldview. It matters for all people. It is a matter of being inlined with the laws of the universe, ever as much as we must account for the laws of gravity.
Yet, if we are Christians having this conversations with others, no matter who those others are, we must not be prideful. We must have the conversation in humility and love. We must have it knowing that all of creation groans with longing for redemption. We are all broken. We all struggle (Rosaria Butterfield’s words are helpful).
Love and Concern for People
As we think of and discuss this issue we shouldn’t do it detached from real people. Real people that have real struggles. We should not demonize other people, no matter who those people are. I don’t think Jesus would have done that even if they were putting up new signs on the restrooms at schools. I think Jesus would have seen the masses as blind sheep without a shepherd.
My reading of Scripture leads me to think Jesus would have loved and reached out in love to all people even transgender people (cf. Matt. 23:37). What people still need today is a shepherd, the Shepherd. A loving Shepherd that will lead His sheep to truth.
We must imitate the Good Shepherd. We must love our neighbors even as we disagree with our neighbors. We must be motivated out of love and not out of fear.
How can we who have been loved so much not reach out with love to others?! Are we in a position to judge? Have we removed our log when we reach for another’s speck (cf. Matt. 7:1-6)?
The Kingdom Question
“Hypothetically” if a certain potitical leader did things that didn’t line up with biblical morality and said things like “What is truth?” I don’t think Jesus would have lambasted the political establishment. I think He would have remembered and perhaps reminded us that as Christians our Kingdom is not here. We should not expect it to be (cf. Jn. 18:33ff).
Are you thinking more about the Andy Griffith Show and what our world should be like? Or are you looking at Jesus and what He acted like? Are you expecting to build your kingdom here or are you looking to Christ’s coming Kingdom?*
*Of course, we should not have an uninvolved escapist mentality. We should hold to our biblically informed views (see Politics?).
“Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord,” Proverbs tells us (20:10, 23). And this is no less true when it comes to theology. When we give more weight to God’s love then to His other attributes we are not correctly representing who He is. We are being deceiving. Deceit when it comes to earthly treasure is an abomination. How much greater an abomination when He that is infinitely worthy is falsely treated?!
God’s attributes must not be incorrectly understood. The Bible does clearly teach that God is a God of love (e.g. 1 Jn. 4:8) and continued faithfulness or covenant loyalty (Ex. 34:7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 7:9; Ps. 86:15; 119:90; Lam. 3:22-23; Nahum 1:3; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Thess. 3:3; Heb. 10:23). However, the Bible also clearly and repeatedly teaches that God is a God of righteous jealousy (Ex. 20:4-6; 34:14; Num. 25:11; Deut. 4:24; 5:8-10; 6:15; 29:20; 32:16, 21; Josh. 24:19-20; 1 Kings 14:22; Is. 42:8; 48:11; Ezek. 8:3-5; 16:38, 42; 23:25; 36:5-7; 38:19; 39:25; Joel 2:18; Nahum 1:2; Zeph. 1:18; 3:8; Zech. 1:14: 8:2; Ps. 78:58; 79:5; 1 Cor. 10:22; James 4:5) and unrestrained wrath (cf. e.g. Is. 13:6-11; Jer. 7:20; Nahum 1:2-8; Matt. 3:12; Rom. 2:5). The Bible clearly shows that God will not clear the guilty that spurn His grace and patience (cf. e.g. Ex. 34:7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 7:9-11; Lam. 3:22-23, 64-66; Nahum 1:3). Further, the Bible never says that love is God’s main attribute or that God has a main attribute. Rather, God is; and He is perfect in all ways. “Attributes,” such as love, wisdom, etc. are anthropological, they are given so that we can understand God. Thus, these attributes should not and cannot be understood when striped from their connection to the whole of who God is.
Also, though God’s attribute of love is clearly and very much on display through the whole of Scripture other attributes, such as God’s holiness (cf. the emphatic “holy, holy, holy” Is. 6:3; Rev. 4:8), could be agued to be God’s central attribute. We also see in different places in Scripture that God pours out judgment on people, clearly not to show His love, but to be glorified (cf. e.g. Ex. 9:13-16, 34-10:2;14:4; 8:13-18; 2 Sam. 24:1, 10-11; 1 Chron. 21:1, 7-8; Is. 6:9-13; Ps. 92:7 [NASB]; Rom. 9:22-24). Actually, we see various times in Scripture that God’s motivation for salvation is His glory (cf. e.g. Ps. 23:3; 25:11; 31:3; Ezek. 36:16-32 [esp. v. 21, 22, 32]; Rom. 9:22-24). James M. Hamilton Jr. persuasively argues that the story of redemption history and the Bible is not about God loving all people without exception but about “God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment” (the title of his book).
The Universalist extrapolation that since God is love He will not finally allow people to be damned eternally in hell is unfounded. Some Universalists have extrapolated that God’s glory is seen in that He has mercy and compassion and thus will display His glory more when He repeals His judgment on sinners in hell (some wrongly cite Ex. 33:19). However, these Universalists incorrectly understand the Exodus passage. Instead, through a closer look at the text we see that “God’s glory and his name consist fundamentally in his propensity to show mercy and his sovereign freedom in its distribution. Or to put it more precisely, it is the glory of God and his essential nature mainly to dispense mercy (but also wrath, Ex 34:7) on whomever he pleases apart from any constraint originating outside his own will. This is the essence of what it means to be God. This is his name” (cf. Rom. 9:6-24).
God does not bow to any of His “attributes” but He is continually perfect in a unison of perfection. Wrath does not hold a place over love or love over wrath, the Son does not fight with the Father nor the Spirit with the Son, God’s Name and ways are always and forever perfect. His Name, who He is, His character, is holy (cf. Lk. 1:49). He is I AM. We do not determine who He is or what He should do. He is. And He is perfect in all His ways.
So, no. I don’t think love is God’s main attribute.
 See Hamilton’s book length treatment God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology where he goes from Genesis to Revelation to argue his case or see his much smaller article “The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment: The Centre of Biblical Theology?” in Tyndale Bulletin 57.1 (2006), 57-84. Also Jonathan Edwards argues the same point in The End for Which God Created the World (see John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory).
 John Piper, The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1993), 88-89. Italics his.