The Future of the World, its Pleasures and Powers (Revelation Sermon 31 of 49)
January 14, 2018 | Andrew Davis
The Power of Sin, Judgment
A number of years ago, the Bible for Life Missions class was talking about the hidden and pervasive influence of culture and how we do not fully realize how it affects us. Those who have experienced different cultures on overseas mission trips realize how differently people approach basic things of life — food, clothing, shelter, interpersonal and societal relationships and more.
The BFL teacher asked this question one morning: Does a fish know that it's wet? It is a humorous question, signaling a sense of pervasive influence around us at every moment of which we are not fully aware. It has to do with our inability to rise above our surrounding culture to see it as it really is, and even more, to see how it affects us, influencing our minds and hearts and the way we live every moment. To get above that to be able to see it, we need something from the outside. The deeper question is, do we realize the ways the world is influencing us the way the New Testament speaks of the world? Can we see the danger of the corrupting influence on our souls and flee to Christ for refuge, for cleansing, for ongoing transformation and protection? We are in mortal spiritual danger every moment from the world.
The one asking the question about the fish is obviously human, standing outside of the sea, looking down on the fish with that perspective. The human is dry but knows what it is to swim and be wet. We are vastly above the fish, able to see its environment for what it is and to ask that interesting question. But we cannot do that for ourselves; we need someone outside of us to help us see. That is what the Holy Spirit does through Scripture. He is perfect, holy, above the world, looking down with objectivity, saying, “Let me reveal this world system that is pulling on your soul every moment; let me show you the world in all of its allure and enticing power and utter revulsive wickedness. Let me pull back the veil with this book of Revelation in ways that no other book of the Bible does. Let me unveil the great prostitute of Babylon, the world and all of its corrupting influence, in which we live and move and have our being.”
1 John 2:15-17 is the key text in the New Testament on the danger of the world, a partner text to our passage in Revelation 17. 1 John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” That is the theme of Revelation 17 and 18. This world system will pass away, not in a benign way but under the judgment and wrath of God. The one who will survive is he who does the will of God. John warns us directly of this magnetic world system of lusts that attracts us off of the path of righteousness and holiness to serve sin.
James also warns us of the same threat in different language. James 4:4-5 says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?” That is a difficult passage. “Spirit” could be the Holy Spirit or the human spirit with us; both could make sense in opposite ways. We will assume the former. The Holy Spirit who dwells within us is jealous over our affections. James uses the analogy of spiritual adultery — to go after the world is to be drawn away from what Paul calls, in 2 Corinthians 11, “sincere and pure devotion to Christ”, and to go after worldliness. James says to be in love with this present world is like committing spiritual adultery to God, like being a wandering unfaithful wife who cannot stay put and love and please her husband, and it provokes his spirit to jealousy.
The prophet Hosea was commanded by God to marry a prostitute, Gomer. He had purchase her to be able to spend time with her, and then had to prevent her from leaving to pursue lovers. If we put ourselves in that story, we are not Hosea but Gomer, and we need protection — “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above.” Seal it from the world and all its influence.
In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul tells us the origin of this evil, corrupted world system and why it is so evil and powerful: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”
There is a spiritual kingdom of the air whose prince is Satan. He has crafted and set up this worldly, alluring system, singing a siren song to us as we navigate, calling us to wreck the the ship of our souls on the shoals of sin. That is happening every moment of our lives.
Satan, the prince of the power of the air, is invisible, powerful, constantly surrounding us. Paul says the essence of life in this worldly system is to gratify the cravings of our flesh, those bodily drives and desires, the pleasures of the body and mind. That is the nature of the world. This world system has been working its devastation for millennia, and it is working right now. Are you aware of its influence, the daily assault on your soul? Do you know that Satan is pulling on you to cause you to depart from a path of sincere and pure devotion to Christ, to worldliness, pushing you to act and lust. Defying God, his holy laws, little by little, like the proverbial frog boiling in the pot, until you don't notice anymore?
Does a Fish Know It Is Wet?
Does the fish know it is wet? Do we know how we are worldly? No chapters in the Bible so clearly reveal the world from the spiritual Heaven-down perspective as do Revelation 17 and 18. Chapter 17 unveils in vivid terms the mystery of Babylon the Great, portrayed in this apocalyptic vision as a prostitute riding the beast, dressed in luxury, drinking from a golden cup. It will give a sense of how she is right now. Chapter 18 will show us plainly how she will be at the end of the world, her outcome, the final demands, the fall of the world system called Babylon the Great.
Both chapters contain a plain warning. Revelation 18:4: “Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues…’” The central application is a command to the people of God for holy separation from the surrounding world. So that we may know the end, the outcome of this system of elicits sin and pleasure and worldliness, that we may see where it is heading while there is time, and flee to Christ.
... A command to the people of God for holy separation from the surrounding world. So that we may know the end ... of this system of elicits sin and pleasure and worldliness, that we may see where it is heading while there is time, and flee to Christ.
The Angel Reveals the Woman
Revelation 17:1-2 begins, “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.’” Revelation ends with two women unveiled: the great horror or prostitute of Babylon in Revelation 17, and the radiant bride of Christ in Revelation 21. The language used to frame each woman is strikingly similar, in order to reveal them both plainly to understand their true nature. Here the vision is revealed and guided by one of the seven angels who poured out his bowls of judgment on the earth in Revelation 16.
Revelation 17-18 are a pause and a parentheses to help us understand what is being judged. What is God pouring out his judgment on and why? Revelation 16 describes an overwhelming destruction, one that we can scarcely imagine. Life on earth will not be possible for long once the judgments are complete, right before the Second Coming of Christ. Revelation flashes back now to show us the enemy that Christ is fighting and will destroy with the breath of his mouth.
After the third angel pours out his bowl on the earth and turned all the waters in the earth into blood, he celebrates the justice of that judgment with these words in Revelation 16:5-6: “You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.” The world and its hatred for Christ and his people has shed their blood, has made martyrs of them.
Revelation 17 describes the blood-thirsty woman, drunk with the blood of the saints. She drives the slaughter of God’s precious children and deserves to drink of blood for what she has done. One of the seven angels invites John to travel with him in the Spirit to see a prophetic vision: this prostitute who sits on many waters, filthy and alluring and wicked. With her the kings of the earth have committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth are made drunk with the wine of her adulteries. John goes away in the Spirit to see her. Revelation 17:3-4: “Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.”
Revelation 21:9-11 uses similar language but very different content, inviting comparison: “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”
Who is the Woman?
These two women are meant to be held side by side. It is a contrast — one alluring and enticing but filthy and wicked, the other radiant, majestic, holy, stunningly beautiful, shining with the glory of God — the prostitute versus the bride. Revelation 17:18 tells us who she is: “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” She is also called Babylon the Great. She represents the collective group of individuals who are both allured and enticed by Satan’s appeal to the flesh, and enticing and alluring to others to sin with them. They live rebellious lives, being deceived and intoxicated with the world, and then become part of the problem. Jesus says whoever does not gather with me scatters. Babylon has a wandering corrupted heart and must be paid for all her affections and services. She is not faithful; she has no commitment to a bridegroom.
By contrast, the bride of Christ is the church, the godly people from every tribe, language, people and nation, who have escaped the allure and corruptions of the world and have devoted themselves entirely body, soul and spirit to the bridegroom, to Christ, the lover of her soul.
The Judgment of the Prostitute
The lesson of this chapter is the judgment of the prostitute. First, her character is revealed. Second, when she is known, her judgment or punishment is revealed. The point is Revelation 18:4, that we will flee in disgust and fear from her and follow Christ and be protected by faith in Christ. The goal is to see the nature of the world and its alluring system of corruption and her future judgment. Revelation 17:1 “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.” God tells us through John that she is doomed to destruction so we flee the wrath to come.
She sits on many waters. Many of the greatest cities in the world, ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon, modern day cities like New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, are port cities because of the ease of commerce and trade. Revelation 18 shows the perspective of a ships’ captains who watch Babylon’s fall from afar.
Verse 15 tells us what the waters represent. “Many waters” refers to the fact that her power and influence derives from the teeming mass of humanity worldwide. Revelation 17:15: “Then the angel said to me, ‘The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.’”
Revelation 17:2 “With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” This world system allures people all over the world to sin through temptations. The angel initiates a vision with John to show him, and through him all Christians and every generation, the true nature of the harlot city of Babylon the Great.
Journey to a Desert
Revelation 17:3-36 provide the apocalyptic vision of a drunken woman riding a beast, symbolic language to describe this world system. Verse 3: “Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert.” Isaiah and many other prophetic books in the Old Testament use the desert as a picture of the judgment of God — sterility and fruitless deeds of darkness which Paul discusses. Nothing eternally good comes from this system of wickedness; it is the absence of God’s blessings and of life.
The Woman Described
Revelation 17:3-5: “There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: ‘MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.’”
She is seated on a scarlet beast. Both the beast and the woman are scarlet, a vivid, lurid color, which reminds one of the shedding of the blood of the saints and prophets. The beast, the Antichrist, a tyrant, rules a geopolitical world system. We know that the beast has consolidated power into a worldwide geopolitical and military system. Sitting on the beast, the woman shows either that she is riding the beast where she wants it to go, like she is in charge, or that the beast is supporting her and enabling her to do the things she wants to do. The latter is a better fit, because toward the end of this chapter, the beast rises up and shreds her after using her for his own purposes.
The beast, the Antichrist, is covered with blasphemous names, indicating that he openly embraces blasphemy. He demands to be worshipped as God, and he defies the true and living God, so he is blasphemous. Like the dragon, Satan, in the vision in Revelation 12, he has seven heads and ten horns. These represent the different kingdoms and nations that come together to make the beast’s empire, and it also represents the total harmony between Satan, the Antichrist, and the wicked world system together.
The Antichrist supports the woman, enabling her to live a lifestyle of luxury, power and comfort. Her garments are purple and scarlet, symbols of wealth. In John’s day, purple dye was obtained from the secretions of mollusks — snails and clams — native to the Mediterranean Sea. Four species in particular give off a purple dye; it would take approximately 8000 of these small aquatic sea creatures to make a single gram of purple dye. Thus, purple cloth was extremely expensive and almost exclusively reserved for royalty and nobility — the wealthy and powerful in every nation. In addition, she is glittering with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She is holding a golden cup in her hand, a picture of wealth.
She is drinking from the golden cup, a picture of ease and pleasure as she reclines on the beast. The cup is filled with abominable things and the filth of her adultery. She is drunk with illicit pleasure. Revelation 14:8 says, “A second angel followed and said, ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.’” She is drinking the wine that gives insanity. Since the word adultery is used, we can see her reclining at a raucous feast, getting drunk on wickedness, living out a life of pleasure and ease and immoral, sensual excess, especially sexual.
In verse 5, she has a mysterious title written on her forehead, proclaiming her identity to John and through him to us, to the world. “Mystery. Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the Earth.” The word “mystery” refers to the special spiritual insight you need to understand this vision. Her identity and activity in the world are a spiritual mystery, hidden from us unless God reveals it.
It may also refer to the secret mystery religions of the ancient near East, in which gaining ascendancy in circles of knowledge yielded access to more words of knowledge and higher levels. Jesus speaks of the prophetess Jezebel in Thyatira in his warning in Revelation 2, who is leading some of the church members to commit sexual immorality with her in secret. Jesus speaks of those who have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets. There is a hidden mystery to the allure and intoxication of their wickedness.
For this reason, many evangelical interpreters think this woman represents a religious system or the religions of the world, immoral pagan religions that come together under the beast for a while, but then are replaced as the beast sets himself up in his own final religion. Nothing overtly points to religion in this chapter, so it seems to be safer to stay with the idea of worldliness here. There will be a religious impact, but the woman represents worldliness more than an organized pagan religion.
She is called Babylon the Great. Babylon is a symbol of a worldwide pagan empire, the essence of human rebellion against God, begun in Genesis 10 by a hunter named Nimrod who founded the City of Babel. The people who lived there, the Babylonians, began to build a Tower of Babel to make a name for themselves and to show their own greatness and their own elevation, so God confused their languages.
Babylon’s empire came down along the Fertile Crescent, ended the Assyrian Empire, and invaded the kingdom of Judah under Nebuchadnezzar, deporting the Jews into captivity and ending Jewish sovereignty in the Promised Land. Babylon, as was predicted under Isaiah and Jeremiah and other prophets was crushed and judged by God, but it happened over centuries. However, the spirit of Babylon rose up out of the ashes of the literal city of Babylon to move to wherever the dominant geopolitical, military, and economic power was centered. In time, according to church history and tradition, it became Rome. In 1 Peter 5:13, Peter says, “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.”
“She who is in Babylon” is the church, the bride of Christ, in Rome. She is in Babylon because although the old city of Babylon is long gone — crushed, destroyed, razed — the spirit of Babylon has moved from place to place since Rome fell, and it is with us today. It is a vast unifying system of illicit pleasure, with an intelligence behind it, manipulating the appetites of the senses through food and drink and drugs and material possessions and luxuries and power on a worldwide scale.
Drunk with Blood
In Verse 6, she is drunk with the blood of the saints. Revelation 17:6: “I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.” The woman is drinking a mixed wine of adulteries and immoralities and illicit pleasure, but also the blood of the saints and prophets, the followers of Christ, whom she hates. They will not join in her immorality, so she heaps abuse on them and take pleasure in seeing them killed, getting drunk with their blood. The Romans were an example of this: they delighted in watching defenseless Christians be ripped to shreds by wild animals or killed by Gladiators; they could not get enough of it.
John’s reaction to this is amazement; he marvels. This is an important concept. We cannot know her unless God reveals her to us. John is surprised; he underestimates the wickedness of this woman, Babylon the Great. Let me apply this here: ask God to show you immediately with eyes of faith this world we live in, what it will look like on Judgment Day, to warn you away from this corrupting influence.
The Angel Interprets
The interpretation in verses 7-13 focuses exclusively on the beast and his horns. Revelation 17:7-8: “Then the angel said to me: ‘Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns.’ The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.”
The final phase of this world-wide godless system of domination will be under the reign of the final Antichrist. But every era of history sees waxing and waning types of such a reign. Empires rise and fall back into the dust in various versions of the same thing. John says the beast once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss. The word “Abyss” shows the demonic nature of all this. Revelation 9 tells of the deep pit, the Abyss, out of which this demonic invasion billows up. The woman is inspired and dominated by demons. The beast’s kingdom is demonic, and so is the world system. When Jesus returns, he will destroy the final phase of that empire.
The astonishment could refer to the miracle in which the beast apparently receives a mortal wound but comes to life again. The whole world is astonished and worships the beast as a god. But the elect, those chosen from before the foundation of the world, whose names are written in Christ’s Book of Life, will not be deceived or take part in this. We know what is going on because he has told us. If you are elect, chosen, you are wise to flee all this in this present evil age.
The Mystery of the Seven Hills
Revelation 17:9-10: “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.” With prophetic visionary books like Revelation, Daniel or Matthew 24, the Little Apocalypse, whenever there is a call for wisdom, we must combine Scripture and its predictions with current events. Jesus said, “…when you see the abomination of desolation rising in the place where it ought not to be, then run for your lives.” That will be a current event in its time, something to be watching for; we do not run for our lives in every generation or every day.
It is the same here. The final generation will know exactly what is happening. To John’s generation, the seven hills represented Rome, a city on the Tiber River, built on seven hills and nicknamed City of the Seven Hills, the dominating power of John’s era.
Many protestant commentators from the Reformation on see the great prostitute of Babylon as the Roman Catholic Church and its corruption of the Gospel. However, that seems too narrow. The spirit of Babylon moves and does not focus only on the one city of Rome. We should want to critique the Roman Catholic presentation of the gospel (for example, do they preach the gospel of justification by faith alone?), but it is too narrow to pin this passage on Roman Catholicism. The spirit of Rome today is not only one of religion but also one of power, domination, wealth.
The number seven, the Seven Hills, is symbolic as the number of completion. The hills represent man’s lofty ambitions, like the Tower of Babel, or Nebuchadnezzar on the roof of his palace, looking out over Babylon saying, “Is this not the great Babylon I have built for the praise of my glory?” Isaiah 2 says that the final day will come when the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established above all the other hills. All the lofty things — towers and tall trading vessels and oaks of Bashan — will be leveled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. The Seven Hills represent human pride and arrogance as they try to replicate the Tower of Babel in every generation, arrogantly defying God.
Revelation 17:10-11: The Seven Hills “are also seven kings. [Clearly it is not only Rome, but a series of kings leading a series of empires, one after the other.] Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.”
Empires arise one after the other. The United States has its place, as does the British Empire. Who knows what will come after the US is no longer the most powerful nation on earth. The spirit of Babylon will continue in every generation. Do not imagine that this nation is exempt, do not imagine that every inclination of the policy makers of Washington are only the glory of God and of his Christ all the time.
The ten horns represent a coalition of final kings. They may or may not be alive right now, but they do not yet have their power in a way that can be identified. Revelation 17:12-13: “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast.”
The seven trumpets sound and bring ecological disaster on the earth in Revelation 8 and 9. People seek fresh water because one-third of the water is turned to blood at that point. Borders are destroyed, and out of the economic upheaval rise a coalition of leaders like in the United Nation. From that comes one man, the most Machiavellian leader ever, who is able through intrigue and assassination to take control. He then becomes a parody of Jesus, a king of kings and lord of lords, ruling over lesser kings who run their kingdoms and their areas. They come together to give him his power.
They had not risen in John’s day; they may not yet have risen in our day; but they will make an alliance and rule the world for a very short time. This coalition of force will give their power and authority to the beast, who will use them to rule the world, but God will use them to gather the world together for one final battle. They think they are carrying out their own agenda but instead, God is using them. They have one purpose; they are of one mind: they serve the beast and fight against Christ and against his people.
In Verse 14, “They will make war on the Lamb…” They are fighting Jesus, whom they hate. The ten kings and the beast will come together to try to kill Jesus, but they cannot get to him. So they go after Jesus’ people. They assemble to fight this one final battle. The remaining dissidents against the beast, the Antichrist, are believers, both Jewish and Gentile. They will not receive the mark of the beast.
Many Jews may be consolidated in Jerusalem, the area of the Promised Land. The Antichrist comes with the ten kings — one giant army to fight the Lamb, with genocidal intentions toward the Jews, who are now believers in Christ. As predicted in Zechariah, God has taken away the blindness from their hearts and they have called on him and cried and mourn for him as for an only son. They turn at last to Christ, and the Lord loves them.
The Lamb is Loyal
The Lamb is loyal to his people; their names have been written in the Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. They have not received the mark of the beast; they will not bow the knee. They have very little power. In Revelation 16:16, the Antichrist pulls all of this power together in the most one-sided battle ever in history. “Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” Though one-sided, the outcome does not favor the Antichrist.
War on the Lamb
Revelation 19:19 “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army.” They come together to make war on the Lamb. Verse 14 says, “but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings…” Jesus cannot be defeated, and victory will not be difficult for him. He will not break a sweat. He will speak and they will be judged. It is that simple.
The Final Explanation
God’s purpose in all of this is to consolidate and destroy evil. The woman is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth; the waters are the nations, peoples, multitudes, and languages.
Revelation 17:16: “The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” This is a challenging verse. The woman represents worldly pleasure. When it comes to pleasure and happiness, we must understand Satan’s intention: he has no interest in allowing any joy. In truth, he is anti-human in every respect — he hates the Antichrist, his own servants, and every human being. Satan is a thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy.
The Antichrist is like Satan. The wealthy, luxurious, and powerful of the world have yielded their power to him but he does not love them or want them to have anything good. Under his rule, they will come to total ruin; they will be stripped and destroyed. He does not seek to bless and enrich and help them.
The Antichrist is like Satan. The wealthy, luxurious, and powerful of the world have yielded their power to him but he does not love them or want them to have anything good. Under his rule, they will come to total ruin...
In Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, an older demon advises a younger demon about tactics of temptation. On the topic of normal physical pleasure, Screwtape says to his nephew Wormwood, “Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on enemy territory. I know we [devils] have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is [God’s] invention, not ours. [God] made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is encourage the humans to take the pleasures which [God] has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, [reminding people] the least ... of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure is the formula. ... To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return — that is what really gladdens [Satan’s] heart.”
Satan’s method is increasing enslavement to decreasing pleasure. Adolf Hitler represented this mindset to a degree. There was no pleasure in his life. He did not love food — he had an abstemious diet; and he seemed to have no sexual tendencies at all. He was a twisted, sick, strange individual who lusted only for military conquest and power. He ended his life in a reinforced concrete bunker, apart from anything beautiful or delightful, surrounded by the smoldering rubble-filled city of Berlin. The people who gave him his power yearned for prosperity and comfort and ended up with nothing; they ended up dead.
God’s plan in all this is to draw out and collect all of the evil in one place to make it obvious and clear. That is happening now in human history. In the end, we will see how bad evil is. Their purpose is to give power to the beast, but God’s purpose overrides. Revelation 17:17: “For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled.” Romans 4, referring to Adam’s sin, says, “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. [God did that.] But where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more.” This whole thing is to educate the elect, the godly, so we can see evil and hate it and turn from it in the end.
Christians: Flee Babylon
Revelation 18:4-5: “Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.’”
Ask God to show you that you are wet, surrounded by the world. The world has an influence on the way that you think and live — the way you think about money, time, your profession, your future, marital relations. You need first to see how it is, and ask God to give you a heart of repentance. Sexual immorality is a particular area of weakness for humans. Ask God to show you if you are violating your conscience in the sexual area. Ask him to grant you repentance and protection from sexual sin. Ask if you have any pattern of addictions in your life. Paul says all things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything. He also says in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” What does it mean for you to beat your body and make it your slave? What are your appetites? What are you addicted to? Ask God to give you freedom.
Non-Christians: Flee to Christ
For you who are not yet Christians, I urge you to flee to Christ, the world has an even greater influence on you than it does on the Christians. Flee the wrath to come in Christ, find in Christ, in his atoning work, in his blood shed, your forgiveness, your salvation.
All: Understand Future Pleasures
Finally, understand the future of this Babylonian system we living in, the future of pleasure. That pleasure is going to destruction, but there is a greater pleasure that is coming — the pleasure at the right hand of God, of knowing and dwelling with God and his Christ. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Father, we thank you for the things that we have learned in this very difficult chapter. Help us to be aware of how the world is influencing us and drawing us away from holiness. Help us to stand firm and to fight and not allow ourselves to be corrupted and polluted by the world. Help us to help each other, men to help men, and women to help women. Help us to disciple each other and ask each other questions of accountability. Help us to pray for each other, and Lord, help us to yearn for the day when there will be no more evil, no more wickedness in this world. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.