Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Revelation 17:6-14 The Beauty and the Beast

KEY TEXT: Revelation 17:6-14 When I saw her, I marveled greatly. But the angel said to me, "Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind and hand over their power and authority to the beast. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful."

KEY THOT: As John was marveling at the Woman, the Great Prostitute (KJV: Harlot), he was shown another creature upon whom the Great Prostitute was seated. And this beast "with seven heads and ten horns... carries her" (v.7). The seven heads apparently refer to a series of seven kings, "five of whom have fallen (dead), one is (still alive), the other has yet to come" (v.10). And the final and seventh king probably will arise in the end-time. But there will arise another king (eighth, v.11) who would then take over as the global Ruler in place of the seventh king. The ten kings would then submit to this new global Ruler who is none other than the Anti-Christ. This Anti-Christ would then make war against the church and the Lamb. But the Lamb who is the Lord of lords and King of kings who will return with his saints to destroy this evil alliance of anti-Christ nations.

Some bible scholars have suggested that the Great Prostitute (Mystery Babylon) may refer to an Apostate Church of the last days who rides on the political power of the Beast. The imagery of prostitution is often used to refer to God's people who have compromised with sin and the world. They may refer to Christians whose love have grown cold and have compromised by denying Christ because they are seduced by the power of the Beast: "And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast" (v.8).  This Apostate Church is not to be identified with any particular denomination as it will encompass all so-called Christians who have aligned themselves with the Anti-Christ.

The basic idea here is that we cannot love the world and love God at the same time. The Apostle John has warned believers in 1 John 2:15-17, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."

We cannot wait until the appearance of the Anti-Christ to decide where we stand. We have to decide now to renounce the world and its deceptive seduction of pride, power and passions based on our material possessions. As stewards of God's riches, we must renounce all ownership to all that God has blessed us and to release them for His kingdom purpose. As stewards of God's gifts, we are to dispense them faithfully to further His kingdom and glorify His name.

There are two women mentioned in Revelation thus far. One is mentioned in Revelation 12:1, "And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." This first woman is a picture of the Bride of Christ. She is aligned with the Lamb of God. The second woman is mentioned in this chapter as the Great Prostitute riding on the Beast: "And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns" (v.3). The second woman is aligned with the Beast, the Anti-Christ. The first woman is persecuted while the second woman is the persecutor: "And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (v.6).

So the real test is persecution: will you be the persecutor or persecuted of Christ? Jesus has said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:10). True believers will be persecuted. False believers will be persecuting. And those who are ready for persecution will be blessed. Those who are not ready for persecution will be cursed with the Beast, for "it goes to destruction" (v.11).

Abba-Father, You have said that those who will suffer persecution are blessed. Grant us the grace to be ready for suffering for Christ so that we may inherit the Kingdom of God. Amen.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Revelation 17:1-6 Mystery Babylon the Great

KEY TEXT: Revelation 17:1-6 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk." And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: "Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations." And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

KEY THOT: The most important question we want to answer (but not today) is, "Who is Babylon the Great?" It is definitely some kind of world power--whether religious, political or economic--for it has influence on all the nations of the earth: "the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk." In fact, it is later clarified in verse 15 that the "waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages." So, clearly this "great prostitute who is seated on many waters" (mystery Babylon) has global influence and power. It has corrupted the world morally and spiritually through her "wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk" (v.2). But most importantly, mystery Babylon would be "drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (v.6), the persecutor of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Many different religious institutions and political entities have been identified with Mystery Babylon, viz., Roman Catholic religious system, Iraq, Islam and even America (USA). Mystery Babylon is referred in this passage as the woman who sits on the scarlet beast, the anti-Christ political institution which has "seven heads and ten horns" (v.3). The ten horns are later identified as 10 kings (v.12). Whichever city or institution Mystery Babylon is pointing to, we know that she will corrupt the world spiritually and morally, and will persecute true believers who dare to stand up against her attempt to undermine the Church through sexually immoral practices. The resulting spiritual conflict will cause this great prostitute to wage war against true believers wherever they are found globally.

When the Great Tribulation starts, there will be no escape as Mystery Babylon's reach is global, not just local. As we shall see later, Mystery Babylon's real power is economic, for the global economy and wealth depends on her: "the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living" (Revelation 18:3). We will examine the details of Mystery Babylon's power over the nations when we come to Revelation 18.

But for today, we need to reflect on own lives: are we being influenced by the temptations of sex and money propagated by this Great Prostitute known as Mystery Babylon? Those who oppose this lust for sex and money will become targets of her wrath. As believers, we will have to make a choice--whether to make the pursuit of holiness our life goal ("without which no one will see the Lord", Hebrews 12:14) or to make the pursuit of happiness of luxurious living as our life goal ("for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many", Matthew 7:13). 

In the coming days, our real motives for following Christ will be exposed. As some would-be followers of Christ once discovered, following Christ was no guarantee that life would be easy: "And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head'" (Luke 9:58). If our view of discipleship does not involve self-denial, then it is cannot be true Christianity. 

The goal of true discipleship is holiness, not happiness. Seeking holiness first will produce true happiness but seeking happiness first may not lead to holiness--in fact, it may produce unholy lifestyles that will lead us to destruction: 
  • 1 Timothy 6:8-10 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
 Have we already fallen into Mystery Babylon's temptations of sex and money? If we have, we need to repent immediately and not rationalize our ungodly desires for more of this world, rather than more of Christ.

Abba-Father, even as the influence of Mystery Babylon has already encroached into this world and even into Your church, we pray that You will keep us walking in holiness, in the fear of God. Amen.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Revelation 16:17-21 The Final Cry from God's Throne

KEY TEXT: Revelation 16:17-21 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe. 

KEY THOT: Jesus' cry at the Cross, "It is finished!" signals the completion of Christ's atoning work of turning away God's wrath that makes God's mercy available for all mankind. But the final cry coming from God's throne that "It is done!" marks the end of God's grace and the final judgement upon the earth. It will trigger off an earthquake "such as there had never been since man was on earth" (v.18). It will split the city of Babylon into three parts and all the cities of the nations will fall. It will also trigger an explosion so huge that every island and mountain will be thrown up into the sky, resulting in giant hailstones falling back on earth. The destruction will be so terrible that instead of repenting, people will start cursing God because of the suffering caused by the giant hailstones.

While the first cry from the Cross--"It is finished!"--offers mercy to all, the final cry from the Throne--"It is done!"--ends that offer and brings the age of grace to a close, as Christ returns to earth to set up His kingdom. We are still living between the two cries. While there is still time, we should re-examine our lives and strive to obey Christ absolutely so that we will be rejected when He returns:

  • Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'  And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" .

There is no such thing as a nominal or lukewarm Christian. We are either red-hot for Christ and obey His commands totally, or we are not Christians. This may sound like a shocking statement, but it comes out of Jesus' own mouth: "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:15-16).

These words are spoken by Jesus to the Church after the Cross, not before. So, they are spoken in the era of grace. As His coming draws nearer many believers' love for God will grow cold as they embrace lawlessness. Jesus himself has already forewarned us: "And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:12-13).

A church survey done in one large Singapore church shocks the leadership: it reveals that almost one-third of those surveyed thought pre-marital sex is okay. This is perhaps a manifestation of the spirit of lawlessness that is already creeping into the church.

Abba-Father, Your final judgment will be so terrifying that people would curse You rather than repent. May Your early warning in Revelation turns our hearts from lawlessness towards complete submission to You. Amen.