Good News in Bad News
THE GOOD NEWS
ABOUT THE BAD NEWS
By Mark E. Hardgrove, D.Min., Ph.D.
Text: Revelation 17:1-14, NIV
1 One of the seven angels who had poured out the seven bowls came over and spoke to me. “Come with me,” he said, “and I will show you the judgment that is going to come on the great prostitute, who rules over many waters. 2 The kings of the world have committed adultery with her, and the people who belong to this world have been made drunk by the wine of her immorality.”
Here we are today on this last Sunday of the year 2010. We come together blessed just to be in the land of the living. Some folk didn’t make it through. After just five years of being reunited with my father, I buried him this year. Some of you have also felt the pain of separation standing beside the grave of a loved one--a husband, a grandchild, a parent, a brother, a sister--and are reminded that life is fleeting. It is like a vapor that is here for one moment and then it’s gone the next. We don’t know how many of us will be here at this time next year, but we’re here now.
Ten years ago I came to Conyers Church of God eager and excited, but naïve and untested. Much has happened during those ten years. Many people have come and gone. We’ve praised and we‘ve wept. We’ve jumped for joy and we’ve fallen to our knees in desperation. Some of the people in our life have given us hope, while others have caused us much grief. There have been days when we didn’t think we would make it through to morning, times when we didn’t think the tears would ever stop falling, times when our heart was breaking and we didn’t think anything would ever be able to heal the hurt that we felt. But then the sun rose in the morning, we girded up our loins, picked up our cross, and pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ.
I) THE BAD NEWS
So here we are on December 26th, 2010, waving goodbye to yesterday and the evil thereof. It’s been a difficult year. Jobs have been scarce, the church finances have been teetering on the need for a radical budget revision, home values have fallen, two radical nations—Iran and North Korea—now claim to have nuclear weapons, the war in Afghanistan has continued to drag on with no end in sight, the gay agenda has advanced unabated, major ministries in the area have been rocked with unbelievable scandals, and in the midst of all this sin and chaos many people have become weary, some have thrown up their hands in despair and disappointment feeling like the bottom of the world has dropped out from under them.
I don’t know about you, but I sure could use a little good news today. I’d like to believe there are better days ahead. I’d like to believe that everything’s gonna be alright. Standing here on the precipice of a new decade I’d like to be able to say I’ve heard a “word from the Lord” that in the next year all our problems are going to be solved, that the economy is going to dramatically rebound, gas prices are going to go down, salaries are going to go up, and unemployment rates are going to go down. The truth is that I don’t see those things happening. I don’t see a rosy picture ahead for America.
So where does that leave us? What hope do we have? Where is Jesus in all this? Has God forsaken us? Has He cast us off forever? As I read the text for the message today I was struck by the seeming futility and finality of the failure of the world as the masses of humanity embrace a false religion and turn their backs on the one true God.
A.) THE GREAT PROSTITUTE
Look at verse 2, “The kings of the world have committed adultery with her [the great prostitute], and the people who belong to this world have been made drunk by the wine of her immorality.” Who is the great prostitute? In the Bible references to the adultery and harlotry are metaphors for false religions. The great prostitute is not a woman, but a religious system that spans the nations. It is a religious system that kings and nations have gone to bed. World powers will embrace this religious system to advance a radical anti-Christian political agenda. Ironically, they will use this false religion to gain control and then after establishing their own power, these leaders will discard the great prostitute, they will make the very religion they once espoused, illegal and illegitimate.
There is much speculation about who the great prostitute is, about the identity of this false religion. The Seventh Day Adventists are fond of arguing that the great prostitute is Roman Catholicism and they maintain that the mark of the beast is worshipping on Sunday. But this argument is fallacious and is losing credibility as the Roman Catholic Church is losing members and power in the twenty-first century. The Seventh Day Adventists need to demonize the Roman Catholics in order to advance their own twisted religious perspective that seeks to subjectively implement elements of the Mosaic Law.
Some are convinced that the great prostitute is Islam. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world at the moment, and many of the Islamic nations are in oil rich areas, which empower them on the world scene in a way that is disproportionate to their military might or global significance. So while Islam will undoubtedly be a key player in the end-time scenario, I do not believe that Islam as we know it is the great prostitute that the world embraces as an alternative to Christianity.
So where does that leave us? I believe that the end-time religion that kings and rulers will embrace, and which the world will sell their souls to, will be a perverted Universalist form of Christianity that seeks to remove every distinction between the major world religions and insist upon all people agreeing that everyone is going to heaven, we’re just taking different paths. They will argue that Jesus preached great truths, even while denying that He should be worshipped as God incarnate.
This is a movement that is already underway in many seminaries around the world. Preachers of no less stature than Carlton Pearson, who once pastored a successful mega church in Oklahoma, have embraced this view. It is a growing religious movement that will eventually seek to marginalize and minimize denominations or churches that still believe the Bible is The Word of God, and that Jesus is the only hope for humanity and the only Way to God the Father.
Look at verse 3 and following:
3 So the angel took me in the Spirit into the wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, and blasphemies against God were written all over it. 4 The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewelry made of gold and precious gems and pearls. In her hand she held a gold goblet full of obscenities and the impurities of her immorality. 5 A mysterious name was written on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World.” 6 I could see that she was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people who were witnesses for Jesus. I stared at her in complete amazement.
Notice that this religious system will seek to silence the church and will promote obscenities, impurities, and immorality. Her name is, “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World.” This religion will embrace homosexuality and will promote sexual impurity, perversion, and promiscuity, and do so in the name of God.
John says of this religion, “I stared at her in complete amazement.” He is aghast, speechless, not believing what he’s seeing. John sees the world embracing a religion that is patently and unabashedly evil and immoral, even as she mercilessly persecutes the true people of God. The world will celebrate this great prostitute in an intoxicating love affair with a religious movement that will thrive on and promote immorality of every conceivable and inconceivable kind.
Over the past fifty years of my life I have watched things unfold that are almost too unbelievable to comprehend. During my lifetime (in 1973) our country made it legal to kill a child while still nestled in its mother’s womb. Not content to stop there, the law was passed allowing the baby to be killed as it is being delivered in the third trimester of life. And we call this a woman’s right. As horrendous as this is, equally astounding is the fact that I know pastors of successful churches who will argue that abortion is not a sin, and that the church doesn’t need to make it an issue. They will argue that it is a woman’s choice and right to chose to end the beating heart that God has placed within her womb.
Now, in our generation, ministers are standing in pulpits arguing that homosexuality is not a sin, promoting gay marriage, gay adoption, and some denominations are now ordaining gay bishops. As this unfolds I stand in amazement, speechless, astonished, that people are going to these churches and affirming religious teachings that are in direct and blatant opposition to what “thus saith the Word of God.” In my humble opinion, Islam is a distraction from the real threat and a diversion from the really disturbing trends in the churches and pulpits of America in so-called Christian churches.
In verse 7 the angel asked John, “Why are you so amazed?” Then the angel said:
“I wil1l tell you the mystery of this woman and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns on which she sits. 8 The beast you saw was once alive but isn’t now. And yet he will soon come up out of the bottomless pit and go to eternal destruction. And the people who belong to this world, whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made, will be amazed at the reappearance of this beast who had died.”
9 “This calls for a mind with understanding: The seven heads of the beast represent the seven hills where the woman rules. They also represent seven kings. 10 Five kings have already fallen, the sixth now reigns, and the seventh is yet to come, but his reign will be brief.
11 “The scarlet beast that was, but is no longer, is the eighth king. He is like the other seven, and he, too, is headed for destruction. 12 The ten horns of the beast are ten kings who have not yet risen to power. They will be appointed to their kingdoms for one brief moment to reign with the beast. 13 They will all agree to give him their power and authority.
B.) THE BEAST
In addition to embracing the great prostitute (this worldwide false religion), the kingdoms of the world will join in an alliance with the beast (the antichrist) who is worshipped by the great prostitute. The religion of the false prostitute will be empowered by the beast who is the object of worldwide worship by those who have embraced the false religion of the great prostitute.
Next, an alliance of ten kings, who will come to power and will give their support and offer their military might to the beast. Look at verse 14 . . . it says that this allegiance of kingdoms, along with the beast, will go to war against the Lamb. They don’t go to war on poverty or drugs or crime, but they make the Lamb the object of their vitriol.
C.) THE LAMB
Who is the Lamb? The Lamb is seen in many places in Revelation, often worshipped along with Him who sits on the throne. It is clear that the Lamb here is Jesus. So the kingdoms of the world, along with beast go to war against the Lamb.
While there will be a future eschatological war when the kingdoms of the world, along with the great prostitute and the beast, rebel against Jesus Christ and attempt to eradicate every vestige of Christianity that remains upon the earth, the fact is that there is a spiritual warfare going on right now in America and around the world for the hearts and souls of humanity.
Islam is a problem and a potential threat to our national security, but the attack and warfare I’m referring to is not being waged from Mosques or temples. The war I’m referring to is being waged from the pulpits of so-called Christian churches where the Deity of Jesus Christ is being denied, the Bible is being stripped of moral authority, the church has become a social club, and God is being replaced by the pleasures of sin, social accommodation, and political expediency.
The spirit of the beast (the antichrist) is already alive and well on planet earth. There is a war against Lamb that is being waged in our day, in our schools, in our courts, in our senate and in our churches, right here in America. That’s the bad news, but the good news is that no power can or will prevail against God. God is still God, always has been God, and always will be God. He is not afraid or threatened or imperiled in any form or fashion, and the outcome of this war is not in doubt.
II) THE GOOD NEWS
As I was reading this text I was encouraged, and hope was renewed, by what I read in verse 14. It says:
14 Together they will go to war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will defeat them because he is Lord of all lords and King of all kings. And his called and chosen and faithful ones will be with him.”
I love the way it is worded in the NIV. It says simply “but the Lamb will defeat them.” That’s powerful right there. They will come together against Him. The kingdoms of the world, the world religion, the beast, Satan Himself, will join forces against the Lamb, but the Lamb will defeat them. And notice the reason why the Lamb will win. It says, “Because He is the Lord of all lords and King of all kings.”
The Psalm 2 says:
1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision.
5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
God laughs at those who think they can overthrow Him or His church. Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (16:18, KJV). Regardless of how bad it gets (and it will get much worse before it gets better) this much we know for sure, that if we remain faithful to Him Who was and is and is to come, if we keep our faith in the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, then we are on the winning side and despite how dark it gets, the sun’s coming up in the morning. The Lamb will prevail because He is the Lord of all lords, and He is the King of all kings.
Not only do we know that the Lamb wins, look at verse 14 again. There’s another little nugget of good news I want to drop on you today. It says, “. . . but the Lamb will defeat them because he is Lord of all lords and King of all kings. And his called and chosen and faithful ones will be with him.”
The Lamb wins, and if we remain faithful to Jesus, we’ll be with Him when He defeats the devil and those who follow him. Don’t you want to be there for that? Haven’t you had enough of the enemy and his attack on you, your family, your church and your country? I despise the devil and all that he stands for and I can’t wait to be with Jesus when the final victory over and every knee must bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
There’s a lot of bad news out there, but no of these things move me, because I’ve got my feet on the Rock and my mind’s made up, Jesus is Lord and He shall prevail. In the face of moral compromise and cultural accommodation, the church must maintain the clear moral and theological truths of God’s word. This means that above all else, the church must remain committed to the Bible as The Word of God. This is spiritual warfare that we are in the only offensive weapon in our armor is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Too many believers are being defeated because they are going into battle unarmed and unprepared for the distortions, half-truths, and all-out lies that are being promulgated from pulpits and podium in churches.
The good news is that if we keep a firm grip on the sword of the Spirit, if we hide His word in our heart that we might not sin against Him, if we preach and proclaim the Word that will not come back void, then victory is sure and our faith shall end in sight.