Tag: REVELATION

WHY ARE WE HERE?

I was listening to a song* by my favorite prog-rock band, “Yes”. The founding lead-vocalist and lyricist, Jon Anderson, is a super-talented man in my opinion, but in his attempt to address the reason for our existence, his view of life and eternity, which has been based on a New-Age style of thought, fell short of answering the question. Instead he sang that at some far-off future time (I’m paraphrasing) the reason for our existence will be made clear.

Ahem, Jon, excuse me, but the answer to our vital question, and the one which is all-too politically incorrect to ask these days, has already been made clear, and there’s no need to wait for another one. We weren’t made so that we could ultimately be gods or ascended masters, or so that we could find fulfillment for ourselves-although that certainly is an outcome of our willing submission-but to bring glory and pleasure to our creator:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11)”

When we accept our correct role in the grand scheme of things, and begin to live lives pleasing to our God, then and only then will we find fulfillment and meaning in our existence.

*The closing section of “Gates of Delirium”, on the album “Relayer”.

Advertisements

POLITICS, CHRISTIANS AND REVELATION

A good friend who is a godly man recently commented on social media that Christians should keep their opinions to themselves on the matter of politics, for fear of upsetting someone. I respectfully, but very strongly, disagree…

457px-B_Escorial_108v

John Adams and other founders of the United States feared that under a two-party system in politics the people would end up being polarized and divided. Well, like it or not, that’s what has transpired. And how could it be any other way, given human nature and the truth we Christians profess? Read the gospels, or Revelation, which is as much about division of opinion as any piece of literature could be! The division of mankind is as unavoidable as the dawn. Not only so, but it’s God’s prescription for humanity. Didn’t Jesus say, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”? (Matthew 10:34).

The U.S. Revolutionary War-itself a fundamental and open division of political opinion-is won, the nation is founded, and the internal political division has set in. What do we do now? I’m not going to say that all on the Right of politics are right and all on the Left are wrong-they aren’t. But it’s a recognized fact that most people with faith vote “right”. So should the half of us on the “right” hand the nation to the half of us on the “left”…on a plate… without comment… and go quietly to the abortionist’s knife and suction pumps? Should we smile sweetly while those who work hard to overthrow all human dignity of marriage and sexuality get their way and our children? Should we take a bow with our hands behind our back while the champions of all that’s ungodly stuff moral anarchy and propaganda down our throats, and trash the man we elected to the once-hallowed office of President? I say NO!

We have the ability to help influence how millions of people are treated; what kind of society we have; whether godly standards are implemented or if immorality will dismantle our families and our homes; whether money will be used wisely or wasted; whether or not the nation and the world is secure and whether or not we have real freedom of speech or a creeping media hegemony, and a belief system attempting to shut down our minds and our way of life. Life is all about politics!

George_Orwell_press_photo

If we fail to engage, the enemies of all that’s right and all that is of God will not. Make no mistake, the ungodly and the anti-Christs of the world are increasingly proactive. Do we then shrink back and hand the nation…the world over to them, for fear of upsetting someone’s feelings? Do we keep pertinent information and the illumination of truth and logic to ourselves while others feed a pack of lies to all around us?

Whose world is it anyway? Didn’t God create, with the intention that mankind would dominate the earth? I’m not talking about a theocracy here, that’s the last thing we need: I’m saying that in a republic or as some call it a “democracy”, for which millions of young men and women have died and still fight to defend, we have as much right to take part in decision making and in influencing thought and opinion as does the abortionist, the socialist, the communist, the atheist, the gay and trans-gender, the Christ-hater and anyone else you can name. More than that, we have a duty to care about how all people are going to be treated in our nation, and about what kind of society our children will grow up in.

Some will say that the Bible doesn’t tell us to get involved in politics, but only be concerned with the spiritual. I don’t see how you can separate the two. Isn’t sexual immorality sin? Then isn’t it a spiritual matter as well as a physical one? So how can we, who have the ability and right to say something, stand back while some in our world promote gross immorality? Didn’t John the Baptist stand up to Herod for his immorality? Isn’t the murder of a man as spiritual as it is physical? So how can abortion, a physical act, not also be a spiritual matter? And how can we stand by silently while it goes on, supported wholeheartedly by one of the political parties?

4810137-portrait-of-a-cute-caucasian-baby-girl-beige-background

I know that Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world”, and I know well that it isn’t-and thank the Lord for that. Jesus didn’t run for office or vote. But then, he wasn’t a politician, and there were no votes. There was no democracy, and there were no elections. But Jesus Christ let his opinion be known without reservation. He called the Pharisees-the politicians and bureaucrats of his day, “Whitewashed tombs!” (Matthew 23:27).

On another occasion, when Jesus had spoken very plainly to the Pharisees, the disciples tried to educate the Son of God in political correctness:

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (Matthew 15:12).

Hey Jesus! Watch your mouth-you might upset someone! Keep your opinions to yourself! You’re embarrassing us! You’re going to lose us some friends, and boy do we need friends!

To those wanting to let politics be run by the ungodly, I say read about any great person in the Bible and you’ll find someone confronting the ungodly of their day:

Moses confronted Pharaoh;

Daniel confronted Nebuchadnezzar;

David confronted Goliath;

Samuel confronted Saul;

The Baptist confronted Herod;

Elijah confronted Jezebel and Ahab;

Paul confronted Peter.

Painting by Osmar Schindler (1869-1927)

The book of Revelation is as much political as it is spiritual. Those who stand against God will have their own distinct political views-you can be sure of that, as will those they oppose. And don’t the references to “kingdoms” and their leaders refer to some sort of political structure gaining dominance?

There is no reasonable escape from politics. We either disengage and stick our heads in the sand, or we take what opportunity we have to influence as many as we can to turn against the ways of darkness, and the ways of bad logic. One side of the political world is working very hard-through education and all forms of media-to lead as many young people into a one-world, immoral, anti-Christ world as they can. Why should we not do our part to counter them? In fact, how can we not?

For God or for tyranny!

THE END OF AN IRE

No, dear reader, I haven’t mis-spelled a word in my title, I’m just rather partial to puns…

393px-Gojira_1954_poster_3Do you ever wish you could read a book or watch a movie in which nothing goes wrong, where nobody gets hurt and there are no problems to solve? I’ve discussed with my sons the fact that works of fiction probably would never meet with much, if any success, without trouble at their center.

Without some sort of tension to resolve-injustice, war, loss, unfulfilled desires, threats or enemies-any movie, novel or drama would probably be rather hum-drum and not very interesting to the majority of people. Can you think of any work of fiction without at least one problem to put right? Even Christian stories center on family break-up, loss, persecution or aggressive debate.

It seems that while we all hate to suffer ourselves, we want to see others suffering, at a distance…but then perhaps to see the problem resolved at the end of the story. The hero must win the battle, or wreak revenge, or get his desired lover. If there isn’t a problem, we like to create one…don_quijote_and_sancho_panzaWe like to tell ourselves that we enjoy seeing suffering because it “reflects reality” and touches upon our own struggles. Even sci-fi and fantasy stories are really just dressed up hypothesized versions of real-life problems, although in these times some Hollywood-style stories attempt or hope to shape reality rather than mirror it.

History is a long succession of stories filled with tensions and resolutions, and in many cases there is no happy ending. So it is even in the Biblical narrative. Problems begin almost on the first page, when Adam and Eve fail a simple test. But wait a minute: why is there a test to pass or fail in the first place? Wasn’t it God himself who put that nasty tree in the garden? And wasn’t it God who seems to have turned his back while the Tempter came to persuade Eve to disobey? Behind it all, God had a grand plan-a scheme, the subject of the Bible: a narrative which is still in process of being acted out and fulfilled. I’ve written about this in my series “Why Do We Suffer?”Ary_Scheffer_-_The_Temptation_of_Christ_(1854)I was looking at a few facebook pages of people I used to know, and I was amazed to see even there that a common source of mirth and hilarity these days is ridicule of Donald Trump. Of course this isn’t news to any of us-it’s going on in many places. And the things they say about him are hateful, spiteful and most often completely false. They come from a media and an entertainment industry which has declared war on the world’s leader and his supporters.

So what do they want in Trump’s place? Who would they replace him with? I’m convinced they want more of the same. They want what President Obama was working hard to give them: a throwing off of the influence Christianity has had over the past two millennia, and a reversal of the confusion and separation of Babel. At Babel God acted to prevent the world of men from being unified. He did that because he knew that any such unity would be in opposition against him and against all that he created mankind for. And sure enough, the modern socialistic, one-world movement seeks to redefine marriage, spirituality, gender, love, and just about everything you can think of which relates to the original plan of God for mankind. Trump, imperfect though he is-as we all are-and his supporters, seeks to set back the clock on the perversion of God’s plan. The dissenters, the “jokers” and the haters all seek to continue the movement away from God, which was so enthusiastically facilitated and encouraged by our last president, his appointed judges and his devoted followers.800px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_editedThe history of man has been likened to a tale of two cities: one the celestial city of God, and the other Babel, the city of man. It’s all actually one story only: history is His-story. I’ve written before about the “Beautiful City”, a place in which man will one day, he hopes, realize his Utopian dreams; where he can do whatever he wants without consequence or criticism, and from which God is banished forever. However, proponents of modern humanism and secularism do seem to like the idea of inviting into the free world one version of god and his followers, in the hope that this god will aid in the removal of the one they see as the great ogre-the Biblical God.

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot in vain? (Psalm 2:1 ESV).

Behind it all the devil works to take down free society so that the gospel of Jesus Christ can be strangled once and for all. Many people see this as a top priority in life. They just refuse to see the fact that the gospel cannot be controlled or suffocated, any more now than it ever has been; any more than it was at the beginning when Jesus Christ was crucified and his disciples scattered and persecuted throughout the world. Persecution, as horrible as it is, only serves to further the cause of the gospel.What-is-truth02All these people will accomplish is the loss of freedom. But freedom will not only be lost for those that they hate: it will be gone from them also, because the system they work to impose in God’s place is intentionally excluding the only source of freedom.

All the machinations of those who seek to destroy what the West has stood for, with all its failures and weaknesses, may succeed temporarily, and on a superficial level- the only level they’re willing or able to see and detect. But in fact they’re expending all their energies only upon that which God has already planned and foreseen. Man without God is like a convict digging an escape tunnel, only to find that the entire prison guard are waiting for him at the other end.

God’s grand story is still unfolding-we’re in the middle of it now. The last page of the story of rebellious man is not far away, and man himself is helping to write some of the detail. Our Creator will bring to completion the Resolution of all resolutions, when those who’ve sided with God’s only son Jesus Christ will experience the happiest ending of all. And the happiest ending of all will begin a never-ending succession of wonderful, amazing stories without tension, trouble, or problems.

There can be no other outcome for the world than God’s victory over man’s rebellion, because God is the creator and sustainer of all things. Not only this, but he, and his Son, are the beginning and the end of the grand story:

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:12 The words of Jesus Christ-see verse 16)

 

 

 

WHO OR WHAT IS MYSTERY BABYLON? Part 2

While I don’t see a rebuilt city of Babylon in Bible prophecy, I’m sure there must be a future-or contemporary-manifestation of the woman called “Mystery Babylon” in Revelation. There must be a place, an organization or an influence fulfilling what God describes as an adulterous prostitute. So what exactly will (or does) the last-days manifestation of Babylon the Great look like?

800px-RedEnzo(photo by Karrmann, who has not endorsed this post!)

MY INTERPRETATION: AN ADULTEROUS, IDOLATROUS WORLD
Mystery Babylon is predominantly a world of false gods, false religion and false philosophies, and an obsession with worldly possessions and pleasures to the point of idolatry. What you love and spend all your time and energy and money on, if it’s not God, is your idol, your god.
Babylon is also God’s name for a world in rebellion against him. It’s an attitude, a way of life, a culture, a spiritual condition and a mindset which is determined to ignore the Creator and go its own way. With this arrogant attitude, mankind creates its own gods and idols, its own philosophies and beliefs, its own set of morals and laws, its own explanation for origins, its own set of values, and its own economy in which to run what it sees as its own world. It’ s the ultimate form of humanism: a system of thought and life which will not submit to God.

THE BIRTH OF A REBEL
Mystery Babylon is called in Revelation the “Mother of Prostitutes”. Whether God sees the original Babel/Babylon as being one of the seven kingdoms “ridden” by the harlot in Revelation chapter 17 isn’t very clear, but It’s helpful to look at the Biblical account of what happened there, because the attitudes, beliefs and practices of the people in that first human civilization certainly passed on to successive world empires.
The Bible describes a time after the Flood in which people left their nomadic lifestyle, began to gather on the plains of ancient Mesopotamia, and build cities (Genesis 10:8-12). This fact, recorded in the Bible many centuries ago, concurs with our contemporary understanding of history. The first human civilization, we’re told by secular historians, was built in Mesopotamia, after nomadic people and farmers moved into the area from the north and east and began to build cities. Historians and archaeologists are amazed to see how suddenly people began to build cities, form government, create complex art forms, develop architecture, math, astronomy and scientific knowledge, and keep written records of their actions and their culture.
Genesis describes the settlers deciding to build an exceptional city which would contain an exceptional tower, using baked bricks. The reason they did this was:
“…so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:1-4).
This may seem like a good idea to us, but the most obvious problem with this decision is that God had already told man to spread out over the earth and fill it, not to gather in one spot and stay there. God blessed Noah and his sons, telling them to:
“Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1).
Before that God had told mankind through Adam:
“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28. See also Genesis 8:17 and 9:7).
As an aside extremists of the contemporary environmentalist movement are in conscious and intentional opposition to the commandment of God to fill the earth and subdue it. He didn’t say “trash it” as they try to claim the Bible implies. Instead, those who destroy the earth are going to be judged (Revelation 11:18).
So a major factor in God’s treatment of those gathering in Mesopotamia is that they were disobeying him: they were in rebellion. They had decided not to fill the earth as commanded, but instead to do their own will:
“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
Notice that they wanted to make a name for themselves, not for God.
There’s been a lot of discussion over the fact that they wanted their tower to reach into the heavens. This may or may not relate to their worship of nature-it certainly would fit the known beliefs and history of these people, and worship of creation rather than the Creator is sin. But the point is that they wanted to do it so as to make a name for themselves. They wanted to be somebodies; they wanted to be in control and to make their own decisions; they wanted to be sophisticated and clever, and they were excluding God. They were the first humanists.
But there’s more to their sin than disobedience. When they began to build the city and tower God said:
“If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (11:6).
God knew the potential he’d designed man to have, and he knew that a world in rebellion would have enormous potential for evil. Further, God didn’t want to see humans building a united, “one world” society without him: such an entity is in direct opposition to his will.
MYSTERY BABYLON: RELIGION WITHOUT THE REAL GOD
Mystery Babylon is said in Revelation to be a “prostitute” and the ‘Mother of Prostitutes”, as well as an adulteress. In the Bible the terms “prostitute” and “adulterer” are not only used for a female of ill repute and an unfaithful wife, they can also be used as a metaphor for people who endulge in the worship and reverence of other gods rather than the real God. He regards the worship of other gods as unfaithfulness. Remember that the first of the ten commandments quoted in the Old Testament reads, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The second warns against making or worshiping idols, and God said:
“…for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” (verse 4).
Israel was at times accused by God as having been unfaithful, because the people were seduced by other gods. But it was not only the people of God who would be committing prostitution if they regarded other gods than the Creator: it was, and is, a sin unbelievers can commit also. This is a spiritual form of prostitution:
“Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead you to do the same” (Exodus 34: 15-16).
Since Mystery Babylon is the “mother” of harlots, it seems that she is the originator of all kinds of spiritual prostitution and adultery.
Does her prostitution also represent physical immorality? That’s probably a part of it, but I don’t think it’s God’s main focus in Revelation.

A TALE OF TWO WORLDS
Jesus criticized people at the time of his earthly ministry because they demanded a miraculous sign from him before they would take any notice of him. His response:
“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!” (Matthew 12:39).
This was no organization or city he was criticizing: it was an attitude.
God lovingly warns and pleads with those who love him to:
“Come out of her my people, so that you will not share in her sins…” (Revelation 18:4).
Sometimes the Bible speaks of “the world”, meaning not the physical earth that God created, but the rebellious ways of life created by man. James, in remarkably similar language to that which John used speaking of Babylon in Revelation chapters 17 and 18, wrote:
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4-5).
James then went on to warn about worldly wealth and business being persued without regard for God (4:13-5:6).
Paul, also counselling separation, wrote:
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers, for what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?…What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said, I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from them and be separate, says the Lord…” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
THE WORLD-WIDE WOMAN
Mystery Babylon “sits on many waters” (17:1). This imagery is interpreted for us. The waters are:
“…peoples, multitudes, nations and languages” (verse 15).
This seems to be stressing the fact that Mystery Babylon has been and is a world-wide phenomenon, affecting everyone in one way or another:
“Babylon the Great…made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries” (Revelation 14:8).
The people of earth, including its leaders, have all been led and corrupted by her prostitution (17:2). Each empire she has had influence over has been marked by polytheism, pantheism, pluralism and materialism, rather than the worship of the one true God. The modern West was, until just a few decades ago, predominantly Christian. Now it’s been altered so that Christianity is the one religion that’s marginalized and rejected. Foreign gods and philosophies have moved in, and some people who’ve rejected those have embraced a militant form of atheism in determined opposition to God.

© Nick Fisher 2016

Part 3 will appear next week…

WHO OR WHAT IS “BABYLON THE GREAT”? Part 1

Revelation is possibly as rich in imagery as any book ever written, but I don’t agree that it’s impossible to unravel all those word-pictures. Here’s the result of my own on-going study of the mysterious “Mystery Babylon” of Revelation, in three or four parts…

Lower_Manhattan_from_Jersey_City_November_2014_panorama_3

(Lower Manhattan, with the One World Trade Center) Photo: King of Hearts / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Revelation chapters 17 and 18 discuss an amazing vision of a prostitute riding on a seven-headed beast. I could describe her here, but you’d be better off reading the two chapters to get the full effect of the scene. Notice how stunning and shocking is her appearance: she’s no ordinary woman, and of course the beast she’s riding is no ordinary beast. I’ve written a separate article about the beast, to be published at some time in the future, although the two are inextricably linked.
Who or what is the woman described here? I’m going to outline my own interpretation and explain my conclusions. But first, here’s a list of some of the most popular interpretations of this prophecy:

VIEWS OF BABYLON
1: The prostitute represents a global economic system
2: She represents an immoral world
3: She’s the Roman Catholic church from its inception to the end times
4: She’s a last-days world religion, or
5: She’s all false religion
6: She’s the future literal city of Babylon, rebuilt in her original location, and turned into the hub of international trade
7: She’s the present-day United States, or the United Nations, or New York city. Some think the fate of Babylon spoken of in chapter 18 will befall America. In fact, a few actually believe it’s already happened, and the “9-11” terrorist attack was, according to them, the fulfillment of chapter 18.
8: She’s the idolatrous world, including an obsession with materialism and wealth.
THE NAME
The name “Babel” comes from the Hebrew word “balal”, which is first used in the Hebrew Bible as a place name, called in English “Babylon” (Genesis 11:9). The word “babel” is of Akkadian origin and means “gateway to a god” (or gods). The ziggurats-a type of pyramid-built in ancient Mesopotamia had steps on the outside leading to a shrine a the top.
WILL BABYLON BE A LITERAL CITY AGAIN?
Some commentators think that the Babylon of Revelation chapter 18 will be a literal re-built city in its original spot, which will be destroyed at the end of the Tribulation: I don’t agree. Among the clues I see that she’s not a literal city even in chapter 18 are these:
1: “By your magic spell all the nations were led astray” (verse 23). Well, the truth is that the nations are already “astray” and have been so for a long time, and the city of Babylon hasn’t yet been rebuilt.
2: “In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth” (verse 24). We can hardly say that the blood of all people who have been killed on earth will be found in a city that hasn’t been built yet.
3: “The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever” (19:3). A literal city on earth will not be burning “for ever and ever”, and God plans to cleanse the earth after the Tribulation and remake it after the Millennium.
4: Her sins are “remembered” by God (18:5). More on this in a minute.
5: The destruction of Mystery Babylon is immediately followed by God assuming his reign over the earth (Revelation 19:1-6 and 11:15). If Babylon were one single city-however great-there would still be plenty of rebellious cities and nations left on earth.
BABYLON THE DYSPHEMISM
Sometimes names-city or nation names and names of people-are used in scripture to describe another city, nation or person which has become like the original. It’s usually a slur, a critical inference, a negative metaphor, an insult. This kind of association is sometimes called a “dysphemism”: it’s the opposite of a “euphemism”.
For example, chapter 11 of Revelation speaks of Jerusalem in derogatory terms, naming it after cities it had become corrupted to be like in the eyes of God:
“…the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8).
Secondly, when final judgments are meted out upon the earth, we’re told that God will think of Babylon as a memory:
“God remembered Babylon the Great…” (16: 17-21). He gives her “the fury of his wrath” .
He would not have to remember a literal city if it were right there in front of him in the present: at least some of its guilt is history. Again, while discussing the wealth earned by the merchants of the earth from the woman, and its destruction, God “remembered her crimes” (Revelation 18:5).
There’s a precedent for retrospective judgment, and we can see it’s not just a case of God getting mad about something which happened in the past. One day Jesus was denouncing cities of his day which would not repent, even though he had done great miraculous signs in them. He compared them to cities which had declined or fallen long ago, saying that both were to face a future judgment:
“Woe to you Korazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths…I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:20-24).
Thirdly, when Babylon is judged, we’re told that,“The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever” (Revelation 19:3). This would surely not be the case if she were a literal, physical city in the Middle East.
THE LAST-DAYS BABYLON
So the judgment of the city and/or empire of Babylon will be at least partially retrospective (Revelation 16:19), just as it will be with Capernaum and the other cities Jesus mentioned. However, since the final “beast” of Revelation will hate the woman and seek to destroy her (17: 15-18) there must be a contemporary manifestation of the woman on earth at that time: there must be a place, an organization, or an influence defined by God as an adulterous prostitute, and which reminds him of the old Babylon. The entity named after Babylon which has shaped the world and which has “ridden” upon successive world empires will be judged in the last of days, at the time of antichrist and his empire, as well as being judged in the memory of God.
So what exactly is that influence, entity, organization, place or system? What will (or does) the last-days manifestation of Babylon look like?

Part 2 will appear next week…

Copyright  © Nick Fisher 2016