Monday, September 30, 2019

The World's Not So Fairy Tale Ending- Revelation 18:1-8

Recently my family had the opportunity to enjoy an exciting trip to Disney World courtesy of my awesome parents. In many ways this trip to this special place lived up to its billing as being “magical.” While you are there, the hospitality you are shown, the beauty of the parks, the fun that is had, and the experiences you enjoy can really have you forgetting your problems and living, at least for a brief while, in fairy-tale land. However, I know and you know that the world we live in isn’t quite the beautiful, carefree, and optimistic place I came to love at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, or Hollywood studios. In fact, our van breaking down on the way back home somewhere in North Carolina on I-77 jolted me back to this reality quickly. That said, many do buy into a false narrative—a fairy tale if you will—that has them believing that real happiness and a “happily ever after” is something that can be found in this world or in themselves. Revelation 18:1-8 tells a very different story. In fact, by spoiling the ending of history, my prayer is that we might spoil the ending the world doesn’t want people to know in time for them to become citizens of a new world to come. To this end, let’s look at this text and listen to two exclamations from heaven as it responds to the fall of the coming world order.

a. Description of Desolation-18:1-3

After witnessing a preview of what is coming—in a statement covering the victory of the Lamb and the fall of Babylon—the preview of Revelation 19 continues in chapter 18:1-8 with two exclamations that demonstrate how we ought to interpret the loss of this fallen world. The first of these exclamations is a description of desolation provided in verses 1-3. The source of the message is given first in verse 1: “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.” Following the introduction of a new section (indicated by “after these things”) John witnesses “another angel” especially bright with God’s glory and possessing great authority. The message that he comes to bring is what one commentator calls a “prophetic taunt song” that begins with the angel announcing the death of the enemies of God with overtones of joy at the judgment (Aune, Revelation 17-22, 976; Osborne, Revelation, 634).
In many ways, it is similar to what a superior playground athlete might chant to his grossly inferior and opposing playmates—“Your gonna lose! Your gonna lose!”

However, in a statement that is a bit more refined than what was heard in my youth, the angel “cried out with a mighty voice, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!’…” (18:2a). Like the angel’s announcement in 14:8, this repeated chant also speaks of Babylon’s fall as it if had already occurred. Remember, when we are talking about “Babylon” in the context of Revelation we are referring to a coming world order with sway over the earth’s population. It will be a wicked and idolatrous regime that will be taken over by the Antichrist for a time during the tribulation period. This “Babylon” will fall and this angel of God knows it.

Fall she must as “she has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird” (18:2b). In many ways, the future world power has become haunted by every wicked spirit imaginable.

Jews in the first century believed that evil spirits lived in desolate places. Jesus reflects on this in Luke 11:24-“When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.” This is also revealed when Jesus heals a demoniac who lived in the hill country off by himself along the sea of Galilee in Mark 5:5. Here, in Revelation 18:2b, the world’s system is described as not only haunted by evil spirits, but is shown serving as a prison cell for these wicked ghosts. Physical manifestations of the saturation of evil spirits emerge in the presence of unclean birds circling overhead like vultures waiting to devour the dead below. Isaiah 13:21 and Jeremiah 50:39 both prophesied that Babylon would be destroyed and that owls—an unclean bird—would inhabit the site. Also, other unclean birds, probably carnivorous vultures, are again mentioned in Revelation 19:21.

After taunting the world by throwing their coming destruction in their face, the angel outlines the reasons for this in verse 3. First, “for all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality” (18:3a). This is a figurative way to suggest that the nations will be destroyed along with the world power itself because they have participated freely with her in her debauchery (see 14:8; 17:2). They have gotten drunk on the same excesses and will therefore share in the same miserable defeat.

Not only are the nations implicated in this destruction, so too are the leaders of those nations—"and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her” (18:3b). Don’t you know that a nation is directly affected by the quality of its leadership? Just as the leadership is a reflection of the nation (to some degree) today, so too will there be a direct correlation between leader and nation in the end. Here again, as before (see Revelation 17) the image of sexual immorality is conflated with spiritual idolatry. Cheating on the one true God by allying oneself with inferior ideas and or personalities is compared to lying with a prostitute—in fact, this is exactly the image that was used to describe Babylon in Revelation 17:5—“and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, ‘Babylon the great the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth’.”

Added to the drunkenness of the world and the immorality of its leadership is the greed with which the economic powers of the world have operated –“and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality” (18:3c). Though up to this point the sins of idolatry and immorality have been highlighted and used to implicate the world and its leadership, Revelation 18 adds greed and materialism to the litany of grievances heaven has against earth.  Much as Rome conquered both through military might and economic domination at the time this was written, so too will this coming world order use trade to hold power over the earth’s population. The incipient greed and questionable networking will result in a global economic power, the likes of which the world has never seen. As power often accompanies money, this rich and powerful regime will abuse its power in controlling the economy for its nefarious purposes and not for the good of the world. For this it will be judged.
In the description of coming desolation we hear a prophetic taunt against the fallen world along with reasons for why the world is so deserving of future destruction. The next voice John hears calls for retribution.

b. Callings for Retribution-18:4-8

This retribution comes in three forms. The first involves a call for God’s people to separate themselves from the wicked world—“I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues’” (18:4a). “My people” is a relatively technical label for those who, in either the Old or New Testament share in a special relationship with God. In the context of Revelation 18, these “people” are those with a special relationship with God living on the earth during this tribulation period (tribulation saints). Miraculous though their conversion may be during this troubling period, these converts will emerge and will be in harm’s way. As most of these final plagues are focused on the seat of global power in a capitol of sorts, God’s people on the earth are asked to vacate the premises. Their association with this context could have them entertaining the ways of this context (idolatry, immorality, greed, etc.) and suffering the plagues that God will concentrate in this city’s direction.

Don’t you know that in some ways you and I are a product of our environments. North, south, country, urban, south side, north side, different contexts in different places can significantly impact people’s lives. This has been true since very early. Consider Lot and his affiliation with Sodom and Gomorrah. His locality had a very negative impact on him and his family for a time. Consider those kingdoms that required conquering as God’s people moved into the Promised Land. The same will be true in the end and one of the ways that retribution against the wicked world will be seen will involve the separation between God’s people and Babylon the Great. Once God’s people have left the area, God will reign down his final plagues (particularly the fifth and sixth bowls) on this region.
The reason for God raining down plagues on this location is articulated in verse 5—“for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (18:5). The verb used for “piled” is defined as “to increase enormous the number of something, with the implication of reaching the attention of God” (Louw & Nida). The world will grab the attention of God in a negative way. Its idolatry, immorality, and greed will grow so great that it demands a response from heaven. Though the response may not seem especially great—“and God has remembered her iniquities”—it is antithetical to how God responds to his people in places like Hebrews 8:12—"for I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” To have one’s sins forgotten means to be forgiven and enjoy life. To have one’s sins remembered is to be judged and condemned. The fallen world is falling and will ultimately land in this second category.

The second way that God will enact retribution against the wicked world order is by paying her back for her many evil deeds—“Pay her back even as she paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her” (18:6). What follows in verses 6-8 of chapter 18 is a courtroom scene in which God deals out a punishment that fits the crime. In fact, “the whole scene could be likened to a universal courtroom, in which a class-action suit takes place. Plaintiffs in this suit are Christians together with all those killed on earth (18:24) (at the hands of persecution and pressure—see Rev. 6:9ff); the defendant is Babylon…who is charged with murder in the interest of power and idolatry; and the presiding judge is God. As announced previously in 14:8 (and revealed in 18:1-3), Babylon…has lost the lawsuit” (Schussler Fiorenza, Revelation: Vision of a Just World, 99). As a result, God pronounces a legal sentence that is read here by a heavenly intermediary (a bailiff of sorts if we are continuing the metaphor along). The sentence describes that the world be punished not just in a way similar to what she was guilty of, but “double according to her deeds.” Not only that, but to the degree that she made the world drink of her indulgences and immorality, she is to drink from the same cup and, added to it, the cup of God’s wrath mixed to full strength (see Rev. 14:10).

In verse 7 God hands down the punishment—“to the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning.” In this description of the punishment two crimes the world order has committed are revealed: she has glorified herself rather than God (the only appropriate destination for glory of any kind) and she has lived in sensuous luxury—i.e. licentious opulence. Pride and decadence are the two indictments God has against this future world order and for these the world will pay—“to the same degree give her torment and mourning” (18:7a).
So swelled is the world with pride and decadence in this future time that she will parade herself around saying “I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning” (18:7b). The world believes herself to have it all and have no need of anything (spiritual or otherwise). Self-sufficient in her own mind, the world believes it has a happily ever after awaiting her. This is taught even today.

In between the other-worldly parks, spectacular shows, memorable characters, and themed rides, a distinct and not-so-subliminal message was broadcast to the thousands of daily visitors at Disney World on our recent trip. This message might be summed up best in the closing lyrics to the firework show that can be seen each night at Magic Kingdom: "The story comes alive! When we look inside; a new adventure, there in your eyes. It’s just beginning, feel your heart beat faster. Reach out and find your…happily ever after!" While there are many reasons to question the philosophy behind these lyrics, this message (and others similar) are indicative of what the world would have us all believe: that our hope, joy, and fulfillment can be found inside ourselves and that this can somehow bring about a happily ever after. It is a message that is, like the overpriced cotton candy sold in the parks, as sweet as it is weightless. Nonetheless this philosophy (and the cotton candy) sells...a LOT! The Bible presents a very different worldview. Our hope is not found by reaching inside or around us. After all, our hearts, according to Jeremiah 17:9, are deceitfully wicked and the world around us is itself corrupt (Romans 8:21). In fact, because of the condition of the hearts of men and the corruption of the world, things as they stand, in and of themselves, will never result in a happily ever after. Instead, the Bible clearly articulates, in no uncertain terms, that the world (affluent and attractive though she may be) will fall under the weight of her indulgences (Revelation 17). Therefore, we should not look for nor expect to find a happily ever after kind of ending around us here and now.

This same popular philosophy will be in place at the future pivotal juncture of history described here in Revelation 18. Thankfully, the one we follow is not of this world and our ultimate destiny is in a new heaven and a new earth. Jesus says in John 16:33, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." Christ is the true and ultimate hero. Instead of dawning tights and a perfect hairdo, he carried a cross and bled and died to bring about salvation. Instead of conquering a dragon or kissing a sleeping princess, he overcame the grave and ascended on high to the right hand of God. As such he alone is able to offer salvation that is far greater than a carriage ride over the horizon or peace in a temporary kingdom. Though I don't want to spoil a perfectly wonderful trip by ranting on what appear to be relatively benign lyrics to a song, I'm afraid that what might appear benign is actually symptomatic of a malignant cancer in our culture--a culture that is looking in all the wrong places for its fulfillment. In shooting for happiness in this world or in themselves, people miss out on the joy that Christ alone can bring in any and all circumstances. The real fairy tale is believing that the world or those in it can live up the hype that these songs, presentations, and philosophies project. The Bible teaches that Jesus and what he provides not only lives up to the hype, he surpasses it greatly. Which is why HE ALONE is deserving of all the glory. To glorify something/someone else here or in the future is misinformed to the max!

As the world will be guilty of this in a most egregious way in the future, the writing is on the wall—“for this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.” In many ways this is the same predicted fate the Book of Revelation has made plain several times already (see Rev .14:9ff; 16:17ff; 17:1-18). Ultimately, the indulgent, immoral, and idolatrous world will suffer a great humiliating defeat—it will be the opposite of the fairy tale ending it often predicts for herself.

So What?

If this is what the coming world order can expect and certainly what the fallen world system will experience, why place any confidence in the world and what she offers? Don’t believe the lies that she tries to sell you. A happily ever after ending is not found in anything in you or around you, nor will it emerge out of anything the world could produce in an of herself no matter how good we may cooperate with each other or what solutions we may find to the problems that confront us all today. According to Revelation, the fallen world (no matter how pretty or alluring she may be) isn’t the heroine of God’s grand story, but the villain and ultimate loser. Christ is the victor and he alone provides the victory. For many in our world, this truth may seem like an unexpected plot twist too ludicrous to believe. However, it is up to us to spoil the ending of the story that has already been spoiled for us in places like Revelation 18:1-8  so that those who belong to this world today may grieve their sin and turn to the only one who can save them—turning from their worldly allegiances and becoming members of God’s family.  

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Fallen's World's Defeat-Revelation 17:14-18

Last week we learned that the world will prove to be a cruel and immoral mistress that seeks only to take from and deceive people with her wiles all the way to their death. This week we are going to learn more about the one who will rule the world for a short time and come to understand just how evil evil can be. However, thankfully, this sobering message is only offered after an inspiring promise is made to all who are ultimately not of this world.  In Revelation 17:14-18, we are going to examine TWO VICTORIES that are portrayed and appreciate about how futile and short-lived any confidence in the world really is compared to the confidence that can be found in the person and work of Christ.

a. The Lamb’s Future Victory over the Beast-17:14

The reason for the assimilation of forces described in Revelation 17:13 is revealed in verse 14—“these will wage war against the Lamb” (17:14a). All the world’s evil powers—particularly of the ten governors (ten horns) and the Antichrist (the beast)—will join together in an effort to lodge a final insurrection against the Lamb. This final insurrection has already been introduced in Revelation 16 and will play out later in the account of Revelation 19.

Revelation 16:12-14-“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east  And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.”

Revelation 19:19-“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army”

What is introduced in Revelation 16 and fulfilled in Revelation 19 is predicted here in Revelation 17—a major battle involving the evil world and the Lamb. This is the culmination of cosmic conflict that this apocalyptic work has been building up to ever since Revelation 6 with the opening of the seven seals. In one corner you have the beast and his gang of governors and in the other the Lamb.
Though the forces of evil will engage in open warfare against God and his people, especially at the tail end of the tribulation period, “the Lamb will overcome them” (17:14b). While the Lamb might appear to be an interesting choice to go against a seven-headed, ten horned beast, consider who this Lamb is. He is the leonine Lamb introduced in Revelation 5:6.

Revelation 5:6-“And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirit of God, sent out into all the earth.”

This Lamb occupies a place of absolute power (between the throne,…and the elders), unlike the beast who occupies the earth and operates on borrowed authority. This Lamb has already conquered death itself (“standing as if slain”) what is a beast and a few vassal-kings? This Lamb has all authority (seven horns) and is not encumbered with the weight of three extra (ten horns). The Lamb is also omniscient, nothing escapes his vision (seven eyes which are the seven Spirits of God). This Lamb is the humblest and most glorious figure ever to exist and as such is worthy of worship and deserving of honor. Who better to lead God’s people in victory over the Lord’s enemies than this Lamb—Christ?
This Lamb—humble, glorious, powerful, wise, victorious—“will overcome.” The verb is the latest installment of a theme that rings forth throughout the book. The theme of “overcoming” would have inspired the original readers, many of whom were experiencing all kinds of persecution and pressure, to overcome despite their present circumstances in view of the ultimate victory described here. God’s people can overcome in any age because they know that the Lamb—their Savior—will overcome on their behalf in the end. 

If the reference to the “Lamb” is not enough to suggest that the battle between he and evil is not a fair fight (in favor of the former), John continues with a description of the Lamb’s superiority—“Because He is the Lord of lords and King of kings” (17:14c). At the time this was written, the Roman emperor was called “king of kings” because he presided over the many “sub”-kings of the empire. However, the Bible does one better in describing the ultimate protagonist in this coming saga. The Lamb is not merely “the King of kings,” he is also “the Lord of lords”—a phrase that is used of God often in the Old Testament (see Deut. 10:17; Daniel 2:37; 2:47; 4:37), in intertestamental literature (2 Macc. 13:4; 1 Enoch 9.4; 63.4), and in the New Testament (1 Tim. 6:15). In light of this textual and historical background, John appears to be applying divine connotations to this Lamb. He is not just the greatest ever Savior; he is one with God—the absolute sovereign over the universe!

The Lamb’s victory extends to those who are on his side—“and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful” (17:14d). Used elsewhere in the New Testament to speak of believers (see Rom. 8:28; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:10), “called” and “chosen” are paired with “faithful” here in connection to what was found earlier in places like Revelation 2:10.

Revelation 2:10-“…Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (i.e. the victor’s crown).

The point being made in Revelation 17:14 is that God’s people (“called and chosen”) demonstrate their special relationship with God in their enduring faithfulness. Those who remain faithful in the midst of temptation and persecution, with Jesus (the faithful witness) as their model (Rev. 1:3; 3:14; 19:11) and their own faithfulness as the result (2:10; 17:14) prove they have been called and chosen and counted among those associated with the Lamb and his final victory. What a promise and preferred destiny—victory with the victorious one!

b. The Beast’s Temporary Victory over The Harlot-17:15-18

In 17:1-13 the harlot, beast, heads, and horns were explained in greater detail. In verses 15 and 18, two more important symbols are explained in the context of the beast’s temporary victory over the harlot. The first of these is the water—“and he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues’” (17:15). The waters referred to here were first introduced in 17:1—“’I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,…’”. Ultimately, this detail shows that the coming world order will be a conglomerate of peoples and nations that are united in opposition to God and in promotion of the world’s system. This world’s system will enjoy a capitol city in the future—described in verse 18 as a woman.
 “the woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth” (17:18). Just as “Washington” is one way to refer to the power base of the United States (an example of metonymy), so too will the woman/harlot and the city she illustrates represent the power base of the coming world order. All of the world’s powers will be funneled through this great capitol.

Perhaps this is why the beast and his forces are so bent on conquering this city and assuming absolute power in its place. This is what is described in verse 16—“And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire” (17:16a). Though the language is symbolic, what is ultimately described here involves the world powers (beast and ten kings) turning against the center of power (the woman). Here, the true feelings of the beast (Antichrist) for the harlot (coming world order) are revealed and what results is a civil war of sorts in  which  the ruling forces (Antichrist and governors/”beast” and “heads”) turn against the populace (“waters”) and city (“harlot”). Though this city and its population have devoted themselves to the beast, the actions taken by the beast reveal that Satan’s forces of evil at this late juncture have no love for any human beings—God’s people or lost people—as all humans possess the image of God and are objects of God’s love. By inflicting as much pain as possible on humanity at large, these evil forces seek to get back at God by wreaking as much havoc on his greatest creation.

What is described here is not unlike what Rome feared most in the ancient world (the context in which this was all written). There were many prior to the writing of Revelation who believed that the deceased emperor Nero would one day return with a foreign army to destroy Rome. This played upon the Roman population’s dread of vassal kings conspiring together against the capitol and seizing power—something that Hannibal of Carthage attempted around 200BC. Here, the world’s worst fears—a civil war that overthrows a sitting power—will prove successful and many of the world’s citizens will pay the ultimate price.

The Bible holds no punches in describing the nature of this victory of the beast—“will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire,…” (17:16). First, “to make desolate” means to suffer destruction with the implication of being totally deserted and abandoned. Rendering “naked, …and will burn her up with fire” is taken from Ezekiel 23:25-29 where the destruction of an unbelieving Jerusalem is described. In that context, Babylon is being used as God’s means of judging a people that has denied their Lord in Jerusalem. Here, a future Babylon (this great city and her population) is being judged by evil because of their unrepentant sin and pride. In describing this judgment on this capitol city, several images are used. First, “to be stripped naked” builds on the warning to the church of Laodicea (to buy white garments and cover their nakedness) and the shame already associated with nakedness mentioned in places like 16:15—“Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.” This imagery refers to the exposure of one’s sinful deeds. Here, the beast’s victory over the world capitol will render all of her inhabitance exposed and ashamed. Worse than even this the text goes on to describe this defeat with “and will eat her flesh,” calling to mind the fate of people like Jezebel in 2 Kings 9:36-37 whose dead corpse was consumed by dogs. Finally, “and will burn her up with fire” references both the smoldering structures that often accompany conquests of this type and the ultimate judgment of fire that will be revealed in Revelation 20:10 in which the enemies of God will be tormented day and night forever (Osborne, Revelation, 626-27).

While this insurrection between the beast and the world capitol appears to be inside baseball and limited to the earthly domain, the vision reveals that even this temporary victory handed to the beast is not beyond the scope of God’s control. First, even this victory of the beast is according to God’s plan—“For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose” (17:17a).

Not only has God moved in the hearts of these players to execute this temporary victory for his greater purposes, he has “given their kingdom to the beast” (17:17b). This is not new as God has often placed people under the rule of others at various times and for various reasons. God allowed the Egyptians to enslave the Hebrews for a time. God gave Jerusalem to the Babylonians in the days of Nebuchadnezzar. He then handed the Babylonians into the hands of the Medes and Persians and them to the Greeks and them to the Romans. All of these historical examples reveal what is said in places like Romans 13:1, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” and Daniel 2:21, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.” God alone can do this kind of king-making as the King of kings and the Lord of Lords.

And this he will continue to do—that is orchestrating world affairs according to his will—“until the word of God is fulfilled” (17:17c). In the most general sense this refers to all the promises concerning the last days in the end and the final judgment that will condemn the world and usher in a new heaven and a new earth. Interestingly, this temporary victory of the beast over the capitol will contribute indirectly and ultimately to the demise of evil itself as part of God’s plan to bring about a glorious destiny for all who belong to him.

So What?

This future temporary victory of the beast over the capitol city demonstrates what happens when evil leads to self-destruction. “The repulsive immorality, idolatry, luxury, and misuse of power” that will characterize the future world order will ultimately leave this power susceptible to destruction by evil at the hands of the beast (Osborne, Revelation, 628). What is portrayed here (pride and idolatry preceding a mighty fall) is, in many ways, the same thing that happened to Rome in the ancient world and what has proven to be the case of many world powers since. Evil doesn’t just destroy good things; it destroys corrupt things as well. Thankfully, as God’s people, we are “with the Lamb” and as such look forward to a victory over the forces of evil forever. If in Revelation 17:1-13 we learned that being the bride of Christ is to be preferred over being a lover of the world, here we learn being with the Lamb of victory is infinitely better than being counted among those who will prove to be the biggest losers—those who will be desolate, naked, eaten, and burned up. Are you standing with the Lamb in victory today? Or are you counted among the ranks of this world and her temporary systems. Make no mistake, the world that promises everything will one day be ruled by an evil one who will turn on a dime to destroy you without batting an eye. Just as the harlot (world system) will woo only to use, so too will the Beast (Antichrist) come to rule the world just to watch it burn. Christ, the Lamb, came to save the world and will come again to remake the world. Our confidence ought to be placed in Him.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Fallen World's True Colors-Revelation 17:1-13

Our culture is fascinated with the pursuit of relationships, especially romantic relationships. From reality shows like The Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise to dating sites (, E-harmony, and more questionable forums to meet romantic interests (Tender), the world plays upon our very real need for human connection in many ways. However, what is more insidious than even these over-the top means by which to make love connections is the world’s program to get people to fall in love with it and what she claims she can provide. We all want to be loved, cared for, enjoy peace, and have freedom to do what we want, and the world would have us believe that it can give all of these things. However, there is great danger in hooking up with the world, entering into a relationship with the world, and, dare I say, marrying the world. When I was dating I would hear parents encourage their daughters saying, “watch how he treats his mom, for this might indicate how he will treat you.” These words of advice are offered to help protect those we love from entering what might prove to be a bad relationship down the line. We are always trying to predict the future and save ourselves from coming trouble, especially when it comes to relationships. In Revelation 17, God tells you exactly what you can expect from the world in the end and this he does to try and prevent people who read it from ever entering into a relationship with the world. The three parts of God’ commentary on a coming wicked world will have us asking, “If this is how she will be in the future, why would I want entertain her even now?”

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a. The Coming World Order is Introduced-17:1-2

The close link between chapters 16 and 17 is witnessed in the reappearance of the angel who poured out the seventh bowl—“then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowl came and spoke with me,…” (17:1a). This also helps frame the next couple of chapters. The judgment described in chapters 17-19 is really an extension of the bowl judgments, probably an elaboration of the final two bowls (the drying up of the Euphrates river and the cosmic earthquake) that leads to the destruction of Babylon the Great. In other words, what the angel will show John here is a retelling of the final plagues described earlier in chapter 16.

The angel speaks with John and says “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality” (17:2). This is the third time “I will show” appears in John’s Apocalypse (see 1:1; 4:1). Each time it refers to divine revelation via a vision. In this vision the judgment of the “great harlot” is in view. This harlot is “Babylon the Great” introduced in the description of the final bowl in Revelation 16:19. The first way in which this coming world power is described is as a “harlot” (pornh)—highlighting how she leads the way in immorality and idolatry (moral and religious prostitution) (Osborne, Revelation, 608). This harlot (coming world order/Babylon the Great) is sitting “on many waters.” This reference calls to mind both the geographic location of the center of power –near the mighty Euphrates and its many irrigation trenches and canals—and the figurative control she has over the people of the world (see 17:15) (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 283).

Revelation 17:15-“The waters which you saw where the harlot sits are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.”

This coming world power is cast as one who has shared her bed with multiple partners—global, economic, religious, etc.—and with these partners has spread her wicked tendencies and corruption like a venereal disease—“with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality’…” (17:2). Not unlike a predator seeking to take advantage of someone by getting them drunk, the vision portrays this harlot as a temptress who takes advantage of nations by intoxicating with immorality and manipulating them to perform her will.

b. The Coming World Order is Described-17:3-6

After hearing this preview of the vision he is about to witness, John says, “and he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness” (17:3a). Much as he was found “in the spirit” elsewhere in Revelation (see 1:10; 4:1; 21:10), John’s being in the Spirit here allows him a supernatural vantage point from which to see what is going to transpire in vivid detail. Here, John is carried away into the wilderness—an ominous location that calls to mind a place of temptation (see Matt. 4), trials (see wandering in Exodus), and desolation (Jer. 50:12). Already, one can get a sense for what is going to be described with the physical context that is introduced here.

However, I imagine nothing could have prepared John for what he observed when he gazed upon this harlot (Babylon the Great). The first thing he reports on is where she sat—“and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns” (17:3b). While this woman is the harlot introduced earlier by the angel, the scarlet beast here is the same beast (Antichrist) from the sea described earlier in Revelation 13:1 (with the same features). The harlot’s position on top of the beast is suggestive of her influence over this coming world leader. That the beast/Antichrist and the harlot/Babylon the Great are connected is introduced in Revelation 14.

Revelation 14:8-11-“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality. Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receive a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God…”

Much as a president is associated with his capital so too will the Antichrist (the beast) be associated with his seat of power (Babylon the Great). The features of this beast (as was described in 13:1ff) are indicative of decadence and imitation. Seven heads suggest complete authority over the world and the ten horns indicates the decadence and over-the-top nature of his rule via multiple proxy’s spread over the earth (more on this in a moment).

However, John returns to the woman riding this beast in verse 4—“the woman was clothed in purple and scarlet,…” (17:4a). So much can be determined by the characters in the Book of Revelation by what they wear. Jesus’ garb in Revelation 1 portrayed his power and authority. The elder’s raiment in Revelation 4 indicated their purity and righteousness. Even in Revelation 16, clothes indicate readiness for Christ’s return. Here, the purple and red call to mind great luxury and affluence. Typically royalty and the very wealthy dressed in these colors, suggesting that this coming world empire is rich and powerful (Osborne, Revelation, 611). However, purple was also worn by expensive prostitutes to draw attention to themselves763 (Keener, IVPBBC, 762). Equal parts powerful and corrupt, the clothes worn by this women are very connected to her character. However, what would loud clothes be without corresponding accessories? John continues by saying, “and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls,…” (17:4b). The verb might be translated “gilded with gold and pearls.”   One commentator points out that this is drawn from the ancient courtesan archetype who was clad in opulent dress and gaudy jewelry taken from her many lovers (Aune, Revelation 17-22, 935). This coming world order might best be understood, giving these descriptions so far, as decadent and debaucherous—a far cry from the bride of the Lamb who later will be seen “in fine linen bright and clean” (Rev. 19:8).

John moves from what she was wearing to what she was holding –“having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality” (17:4c). This golden chalice adds to the royal appearance of this woman but the contents “epitomizes the depths of her degeneration” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 288). Though in her cup the woman might believe she carries the proof of her power and influence over the world, in reality, what she carries in this container—abominations, uncleanliness, immorality—will ultimately condemn her and those she rules.

Though readers might be led to believe that this woman is bewitching in appearance (given the description so far) and that the colors of her dress and the jewelry she wears don’t really hint at her depraved nature, a tattoo more obviously identifies this woman’s character—“and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, ‘Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and the abominations of the earth’…” (17:5). Connections between this woman and Babylon—the ancient pagan empire—abound. Like ancient Babylon, this coming world order is pagan. Like the Babylon of old, this coming world order has dominion over other nations. Like Babylon, this harlot is proud and decadent. As Babylon was associated with gold (see Daniel 2 and 3) so too is this coming empire richly gilded. However, as Babylon ultimately fell, so to will this coming world order.
So proud and powerful is this coming world order/harlot that she pushes the envelope of evil to the extreme—“And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” (17:6a). “Among the ancients, being drunk with blood spoke of a lust for violence, vastness of slaughter, and their maddening effect on one who was inclined to initiate savagery” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 290-91). Because the recently saved during this tribulation period do not comply with the world order’s rule and ways, efforts to silence and eradicate the followers of Christ will result in heavy persecution and many deaths—including, but not limited to the deaths of the two witnesses portrayed in Revelation 11. This, it would seem, is what finally moves the needle past the limits for God’s patience. The pressure that has built at the world’s open idolatry and immorality is shoved passed the threshold when God’s people are systematically destroyed and, as will soon be made very clear, the world power that is responsible for the genocide will be held accountable.

c. The Coming World Order is Explained-17:6b-13

After Babylon the Great is introduced and described, the angel that led John to this vision explains what he has seen—“When I saw her, I wondered greatly. And the angel said to me, ‘Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and ten horns” (17:6b-7).

First, the angel explains the beast—“The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction…” (17:8a). In Revelation 1:8 the Lord God says of himself “I am the Alpha and the Omega,…who is and who was and who is to come.” This is repeated throughout the Book of Revelation (4:8; 11:17; 16:5). Unlike God—the ultimate eternal sovereign Lord of the universe—this beast emerges and then disappears—“was and is not…”. The addition of “and is about to come” is also limiting. While God always existed and will continue to exist for eternity. This beast has a starting point fixed in the future (“is about to come”) and then will, when all things are done, be no more. His emergence will be out of the abyss and into the abyss he will return—“was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction” (17:8b). This is the third time the beast is said to come up out of the abyss. In 11:7 he ascends from the abyss to murder the two witnesses. In 13:1 he comes out of the abyss to take his place among the unholy trinity and conduct war. Here, when this is fulfilled, he will emerge yet again, only to be cut down and thrown back from whence he came. After such “… those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come,…” (17:8c). Those who choose to forsake God and instead follow the beast, bearing his mark and not the mark of the Lord, will be astonished that so great and mighty a ruler will be cut down and removed from the face of the earth. All the hopes and dreams they placed in this wicked world ruler will be lost, leaving them stupefied.

Next, the angel discloses where one can expect to find this beast—“here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings;…” (17:9). The original audience would have, no doubt, made connections between this vision and the Roman empire around them. Rome was known throughout the ancient world as the city of seven hills. However, to limit this beast to Rome in a literal or historical sense fails to appreciate what Rome represented in John’s day—total domination. In many ways, Rome was the culmination of the gentile empires before it. By using themes and inventions that John was familiar with in his day, the angel suggests that this coming world order, like Rome in the ancient world, will have global dominion—it will, in other words, look and feel like Rome did in its day to some degree. However, what about these kings? The description goes on to say “and they are seven kings; five have fallen, on is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while…” (Don’t you just love it when an angel promises an explanation and leaves you more confused than before 😊 As with Daniel in Daniel 12 so to is it with John here). So many different interpretations of these kings have been offered, each depending on when people believe this book was written and when the first of seven emperors served. That said, generally speaking these seven heads and mountains (that people are to associate with how Rome looked and felt in its heyday) probably represent seven successive empires with the seven kings of verse 10 behaving as the personification of those empires. Concerning these empires, the angel reports “five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while…”. When one considers the many connections Revelation has with the Book of Daniel and that these “heads” and “Kings” are no doubt Gentile it is easier to put the pieces together. The five kingdoms/empires that have fallen probably refer to Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The “one which is” is the Roman empire that was active at the time this was written in the first century. All of these empires share something in common—they actively oppressed the people of God in their own way. This will also be the case in the future during the reign of a future empire—Babylon the Great described here as “one which has not yet come” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 298). However, unlike Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome, this empire will be short-lived (“when he comes, he must remain a little while…”-17:10). Therefore, “the angel’s clarifying word to John about the seven heads spans essentially the entire history of Gentile world empires” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 298).

Interestingly, the angel continues by muddying the waters a bit (as if things were not already complex enough) by saying, “the beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven and he goes to destruction” (17:11). Though seven has typically articulated completion (and in this context has referred to the completion of Gentile dominion over the earth throughout history), 8 is typically a number that speaks of new beginnings. Interestingly, in the world’s eyes, this beast (the Antichrist) will emerge to power, perhaps with the promise of delivering new beginnings—bringing about a new world order and promising (though not producing) world peace. People will, no doubt, be deceived by this campaign promise, especially after the beast suffers a mortal wound and is healed miraculously as was described in chapter 13. Some believe that the idea of the beast as the eighth king is a parody of the resurrection of Christ on the eighth day or the first day of the following week (which is Jewish thinking followed the seven days of creation with the “eighth day” of the new creation) (Beale, Revelation, 875-76; Osborne, Revelation, 620-21). As Christ was raised on the eighth day of the week, so the beast (the Antichrist) will be raised in order to deceive the nations into worshiping him as God (Osborne, Revelation, 621).

Now that we know, perhaps, what to make of the heads and kings associated therewith, the angel explains the horns saying, “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour,…” (17:12). During the reign of this coming beast/Antichrist he will delegate power to ten governors/managers over ten respective jurisdictions/provinces (again much like Rome was divided into ten provinces in the ancient world). These “client kings” or governors will be given power along with the beast/Antichrist for a short time—"one hour.” This is yet another way to refer to a short span of time during the tribulation period. Though the tribulation has been conceived of as 1 week (see Daniel 9 where a week refers to seven years) and the great Tribulation (or second half of seven years) as “a time, times, and half a time” (3.5 years-see Dan. 12 and Rev. 12:14) or 1260 days (Rev. 12:6), here we are talking about the tail end of this latest period—one hour.

After such a time of acute persecution of God’s people and global unrest “these [kings] have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast” (17:13). In other words, all of the world’s domains and power will be consolidated under the power of the beast (Antichrist) in preparation for the final battle against the Lord God—the same battle that was introduced to us in Revelation 16:17ff.

So What?

Still want to run around with the world now? Still want to entertain company with the systems of our fallen planet? Still believe that the world and what is in it can ultimately satisfy your very real and present needs in the best way? This passage is like the advice my dad shared with me as I was dating. Our heavenly father leaves nothing to the imagination as to what the world really is (as proven in what she will ultimately be in the future). Sure, she might be treating you well now, but make no mistake, the world in an of her present fallen self, is a repulsive, power-hungry, manipulative, prostitute spreading her disease of idolatry and immorality to all she shares her bed with. One day, her pimp—the Antichrist—will be calling the shots and enslave you along with her to do his bidding. Yikes!

Thankfully, there is an alternative to hooking up with the world. It is entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ and joining the church as his bride. Unlike the world who only takes and never gives, Jesus gave his life for you and sacrificed everything on your behalf. Unlike the world that promises satisfaction but can never ultimately deliver, Jesus provides real peace, hope, and joy, even in great struggle. Unlike the world that loses in the end, Jesus is the one who has overcome and by being in him so too can we. This is a relationship I can endorse with no reservations.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Big Storm Forecast-Revelation 16:13-21

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PHASE #1: The Preparation for the Bowl-16:13-16

In reaction to all of the judgments that have been poured out over the earth, all three members of an unholy trinity go about the business of preparing for a final conflict—“And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs” (16:13). Remember, as was discussed in chapters 12 and 13, the dragon is identified as Satan, the beast from the sea is the Antichrist, and the beast from the earth is the false prophet. These three evil beings imitate, albeit in an inferior and wicked way, the divine Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Out of the mouths of these three separate but related entities come unclean spirits. As stated in 1:16, the mouth in the ancient world often represented an important proclamation. Here the false trinity sends a deceptive proclamation throughout the world (Osborne, Revelation, 591). Throughout Revelation, the supernatural and physical world collide in a variety of ways. Here, demonic activity is very much involved in the activities taking place on the earth as unclean spirits are used to proliferate the message of this unholy trinity. The evil nature of the message coming from the mouths of these three is revealed in the description of the spirits—“like frogs” (16:13).  Frogs were considered unclean in the Torah (Lev. 11:10-11) and also call to mind the second plague that befell Egypt in Exodus 8:1-15. Given this, it is possible that more than emissaries who deliver an important message in a formal way, these frogs/spirits/deceptive messages prove to behave more like a pestilence that spreads throughout the earth to mislead the nations.

“…for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God the Almighty,…” (16:14). Again, what is emphasized here is that the spiritual realm is very much involved in what is experienced in the physical realm, especially among those who have/use power. In fact, any time you see religious blasphemy and persecution against the people of God among world leaders/powers, you can count on there being a heavy demonic influence that is fueling it. Demonic forces have and will continue to lead the world and its leadership toward the worship of false Gods and foment antagonism toward the one true God. This will reach fever pitch here at the end of all things. When this is fulfilled, attitudes against God manifest in preparations made to battle against him in an existential way. Wicked ideologies are betrayed in massive armies that collect themselves and lead to a final insurrection against the God they cannot stand and the people who follow him.

The collection of forces assimilate in verse 16—“And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon” (16:16). The natural meaning of this title from the Hebrew is “mount Megiddo,” however, there is no Mount Megiddo. There is a city and plain of Megiddo. So where is this? Some believe this is a reference to the greater area surrounding this plain complete with the hills and Mount Carmel along the periphery of Megiddo (but some think this is too vague or large an area for what appears here to be a specific reference). Others think that Megiddo is Megiddo the city on the plain that was erected on a seventy foot artificial mound (some believe this is too small a location for so great a coming conflict). Others believe it is Mount Carmel near Megiddo (however, Mount Carmel is never called Megiddo and this connection is obscure) (Osborne, Revelation, 595-96). Still others argue that a more general reference is intended that build on the Old Testament connection of Megiddo with warfare. Megiddo was the site of several major battles (see Judg. 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29-30). Also, Ezekiel locates the defeat of Gog in the final eschatological battle on the mountains of Israel (Ezek. 39:4). John may be combining these references together in describing an undisclosed location of coming cosmic conflict (Wilson, ZIBBC, 342). Regardless of where it is exactly, it will serve as a epicenter of a coming battle, the likes of which the world has never before seen.

In the midst of this disturbing description of deception and preparation for coming war, Jesus breaks through to share an important alert with the reader—(think FoxNews ALERT! or “We interrupt this program to…”). To those reading this book (Asian believers initially and today’s reader as well), Jesus says, “‘Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame,’” (16:16). In this bulletin Jesus uses the imagery already present in the messages to Sardis (3:1ff) and Laodicea (3:14ff) of readiness and watchfulness. You can almost hear the urgency in the comments Jesus puts forth. “Look!” he says, “I can come at any moment. Those who are ready will be blessed!” and, spared from witnessing these ordeals firsthand. This imminent reference here probably refers to the next eschatological event to transpire for which there is no warning—the rapture. After all, many will see this late episode the tribulation coming a mile away and those aware of Revelation’s prophecy will not be surprised by it in the least. Believers are those who are dressed and ready for such—having put on the clothes of righteousness provided by Jesus so that the shame of their nakedness is covered (see 3:18). These will not “not walk about naked and men will not see his shame” (16:15) nor will they be made to endure these plagues that God brings upon the planet. This is the message of the third beatitude of seven found in the book (see 1:3; 14:13 for the first two).

PHASE #2: The Emergence of the Bowl-16:17-21

After these preparations are made, “the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne saying, ‘it is done,’…”(16:17). The dissonant chord of finality sounds again here with “It is done.” Different from “It is finished” introduced 15:1 and 15:8 (telew) “it is done” (gegonen) calls to mind something that happens with the implication that what transpires is different from a previous state (Louw & Nida). This is emphasized by the use of the perfect tense suggesting the culmination of something major. The implication here is that this final plague will result in a totally different state of affairs, distinct in some ways, from what came before it. God himself (from “the temple”) makes this pronouncement as, once again, he is shown calling the shots (see 16:1), instigating the judgments (15:5ff), and separating the epochs (16:17).  

What happens as a result of this seventh bowl being poured out upon the earth is very-near indescribable. That said, John does he best to articulate what he sees in this vision. First, something causes a huge earthquake—“And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder, and there was a great earthquake, such as there has not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty” (16:18). Though the earthquake is what takes precedent in the description, a familiar literary invention introduces it—a storm theophany (or the use of storm imagery to symbolize the power of God). In fact, this is the last of four passages that allude to the cosmic storm based on the phenomena first witness on mount Sinai in Exod. 19:16-18 (see Rev. 4:5; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18).  Though this is the fourth iteration of a storm theophany and the third that is accompanied by an earthquake, what John sees here is more severe than anything that has been witnessed previously in his vision. The earthquake is called “great, such as there has not been since man come to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty” (16:18). The compounding of adjectives emphasizes the awesomeness of this plague.

The earthquake is so severe that “the great city was split into three parts and the cities of the nations fell,…” (16:19a). Revelation 11:8 has a clear identification of Jerusalem as “the great city.” Also, its separation from “the cities of the Gentiles (or nations) in the next phrase indicates that Jerusalem is in view (Tomas, Revelation 8-22, 275). Though this location experienced an earthquake back in 11:13, this separate earthquake will divide the city into three parts—highlighting the complete and total devastation of this location. Not only will Jerusalem be decimated, so too will all the gentile cities of the earth and, in particular, Babylon the great (the headquarters of the beast)—"Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of his fierce wrath” (16:19b). Later (in chapters 17-18) this future Babylon and her influence over the cities of the world will be described in greater detail. In all, Babylon represents a vast political, religious, and commercial system controlling the lives of men and nations (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 275). This city does not come out of this seventh bowl judgment unscathed. In fact, as will be made clear in 17:1-5, she falls—only to be remembered by God after the cup of his fierce wrath is poured over her.

In addition to the decimation of cities is the disappearance of landmarks and land masses—“and every island fled away and the mountains were not found…” (16:20). The image of the sea swallowing up islands is ominous as earthly bodies of water often symbolize chaos, confusion, and danger. In many ways, this might set things up (at least figuratively) for the new creation to come later in Revelation 21:1-2. Also, mountains are leveled. Proud platforms that once served as strongholds and places of meeting are brought low. In many ways, the world is being demolished down to the foundation.

In addition to the earthquake, “huge hailstones, about one hundred pound each, came down from heaven upon men,…” (16:21). Just to provide an idea of how large these hailstones will be, consider that according to the Guinness Book of Records 1997, the largest hailstones in recorded history were 2.25 pounds and they fell on Bangladesh on April 14, 1986, killing 92 people (Osborne, Revelation, 600). The largest ever recorded in the United States were 1.671 pounds with a diameter of 5.62 inches that fell on Coffeyville Kansas, on September 3, 1970. Those that will fall in the end will be multiple times larger than even these, killing many beneath their weight. 

However, as before (see 2:9; 9:20-21; 16:9, 11), the earth-dwellers are stubborn and do not repent following this plague. To the contrary, they “blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe” (16:21b). Instead of focusing on the message of the plagues (that illustrates the holiness and power of God), they dwell on their pain. This is similar to what was done in Egypt. “Like Pharaoh the unbelievers (in Revelation 16) do not listen to God’s message to them but only think of their plight, blaming it on God rather than on their own sin” (Osborne, Revelation, 600). 

So What?

Speculation concerning exactly what will cause the phenomena described here abounds. Whether or not this destruction is brought on supernaturally or as the result of something like nuclear warfare is still up for debate. However, one thing is for sure, this plague appears to eclipse all that come before it both in severity and scope. It is, in many ways, the final chord played after a long and disturbing crescendo. The only thing that remains is to consider what we are to do in response to this prophecy that has been provided.

Thankfully, the application of this passage is explicit in what Jesus himself shares as he breaks through to speak with the reader—“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame” (16:15). This period of judgment that is described for us in Revelation 16 will come at the tail end of a period that could start at any moment. In light of this, Jesus encourages that people be ready. Readiness means staying awake—i.e. being watchful, busy about the mission of God, and watchful for Christ’s return. Readiness is possible only after receiving the righteousness raiment that is required for salvation from the only one who can give it—Christ. Readiness means no longer being subject to the shame of sin awaiting punishment—the punishment that we read about in this passage—because Jesus has taken that punishment upon himself on your behalf. Are you ready today? Or are you at risk of experiencing the judgment we read about in this terrifying passage?