You should understand that this will be the longest post I have ever written, and I did not intend to expatiate endlessly, but this weighed heavy on my heart and it was such a relief to write it. Be patient and read it prayerfully and carefully.
Now, to get us started, I want us to read some from 1st Samuel:
He will guard the steps of his faithful, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. For it is not by strength that a person prevails — those who fight ADONAI will be shattered; he will thunder against them in heaven — ADONAI will judge the ends of the earth. He will strengthen his king and enhance the power of his anointed” —I Samuel 2:9-10
Currently, I am going through 1st Samuel (verse-by-verse) and I was fascinated by the whole book, but specifically the first 10 verses of Chapter 2. It is referred to as “Hannah’s Song,” or “Hanah’s Prayer,” and it recognizes the absolute control the Lord has over life and death, what happens after death, who is powerful and who is feeble, who has dignity and who suffers humiliation, who has sufficient food and who goes hungry, and over everything that happens in our planet. Then it shifts to the spiritual. In verse 9 the issue is good versus evil, and the idea is that those who are good are those who are faithful to Yehoveh. Those who are evil are those who aren’t faithful. The good will have their journey through life charted out and guided by the Lord. The wicked will walk in darkness.
Then it shifts to the spiritual. In the 9th verse. the issue becomes good versus evil. The idea is that those who are good are those who are faithful. Those who are evil are those who are not. The good will have everything in their life charted out and guided by the Lord. The wicked will walk in darkness.
The word for darkness is choshek and has nothing to do with nighttime or the absence of physical light (like what naturally happens when the sun goes down). It is an ominous term that is the opposite of divine enlightenment. It is the lack of spiritual light, not the lack of physical light. When that great darkness came over Pharaoh’s Egypt as a plague, was not a long lasting time without sunlight; it was a spiritual darkness that overcame them. It was the essence of evil. So in that story, the term choshek was used.
The final stanza of the verse, warns that the Lord cannot be defeated by human strength or determination; if anyone comes against Him they will be shattered. The idea of “shattered” is utter, complete, unalterable destruction. Hannah says that the Lord will “thunder” against the rebels from heaven. The Hebrew word for thunder is ra’am; and it means to rage or cause to tremble and not merely the clapping of thunder in a storm.
Biblically, thunder often precedes or accompanies God’s wrath. When we hear thunder we know a storm is coming. Well, within Scripture, thunder signifies the onset of God’s anger. The ancient oriental mind had the same kind of mental picture that we do withthunder; it is startling and we flinch involuntarily at the sound. Some of us practically “hit the deck” or immediately break into flight when it is especially near and violent. Our poor dog runs to the basement — even if we do not hear the thunder, yet. So before God’s wrath appears physically, on earth, the tenth verse demonstrates that first God’s wrath “thunders” in heaven. The hope for Believers is that we are sufficiently spiritually aware that we can detect the Lord “thundering” in wrath in heaven, so that we can warn others or prepare (or both) for His coming earthly wrath (and maybe even change our ways, repent, and avert the consequences).
However, we are also told that the Lord judges the ends of the earth; there is nowhere to escape. It will not do any good for us to dig a deep hole and stock it with food, and climb into it. It will not help for any of us to move to the Outback of Australia. Because there is no way for us to escape God’s anger, especially if He wills that you experience it.
Hannah’s song ends with the purpose for which the Lord relieved the burden of her barren condition and gave her Samuel: to anoint a king over Israel. But this king is to be totally different from kings brought to power by men. This king will be God’s king and the Lord will lend some of His power to His anointed king. When we realize that the Hebrew word for anointed is Mashiach (which in certain contexts we translate as Messiah), then we see that for the first time in the bible the concept of Messiah being connected with a king is presented. This makes Hannah’s song even more indispensable and central in the history of salvation. It’s a tragedy that the Church long ago abandoned the Old Testament such that this clear and early prophetic statement and understanding about the source of salvation is all but forgotten.
What I discovered is that the first ten verses were exciting, but what I did next was to make a connection between Hannah’s song and a section of the New Testament that certainly startled me, and I’m sure will startle many of you. In fact, I think it will cause you to think about certain aspects of the end times in ways you may never before have considered.
So I sure hope you are ready for a bit of a tough lesson and a little frank talk, because what we’re going to get into is one of those topics that makes me a little nervous but at the same time it needs to be addressed.
We’re still looking at the first ten verses of chapter two, and we can find that this Psalm is mostly a series of couplets that explains God’s activity on earth, and the way He balances the scales of divine justice. These couplets often used as a method that literary-types call merism as a means to get their point across. For instance, we’re told that God kills and He makes alive. God sends people down to the grave and He raises them up from the grave. The idea is that we have two outer boundaries of human existence (life and death) and that God actively controls both of these and everything in between. This eloquent Psalm of gratitude and deliverance that poured out from the depths of Hannah’s soul was the result of the once-barren Hannah miraculously conceiving and giving birth to a son, Samuel (Sh’mu’el in Hebrew).
This Psalm doesn’t just glorify God for His mercies towards Hannah but also very effectively summarized several of Yehoveh’s fundamental and eternal characteristics, and its those fundamental characteristics that we’re going to get into.
To do this, we’re going to take a significant detour to some well-known teachings in the New Testament that bear the identical context. The problem is that this critical context is either never defined when these Old or New Testament passages are taught, or it’s erroneously defined, and as a result, a terribly important principle for the well being of the individual Believer (and Messiah’s church in general) is lost.
So let’s just jump right in and turn to the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. We’re going to read extensively; in fact we’re going to read the first 3 chapters in their entirety. This section is usually called the Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia. I don’t think I need to convince you that these seven congregations were (in John’s day) actual Messianic assemblies (churches) that existed, but at the same time it’s important that we bear in mind that those seven letters form a prophetic and general message to the church and is representative of all the congregations of Christ going by whatever name they are known by. And while these admonitions are pertinent to all Believers—at all times—in every age, they bear extraordinary significance as the time of the return of Yeshua approaches (which is where we are now in history, which should explain this detour).
This is the revelation which God gave to Yeshua the Messiah, so that he could show his servants what must happen very soon. He communicated it by sending his angel to his servant Yochanan, who bore witness to the Word of God and to the testimony of Yeshua the Messiah, as much as he saw. Blessed are the reader and hearers of the words of this prophecy, provided they obey the things written in it! For the time is near!
From: Yochanan To: The seven Messianic communities in the province of Asia: Grace and shalom to you from the One who is, who was and who is coming; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; and from Yeshua the Messiah, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the earth’s kings. To him, the one who loves us, who has freed us from our sins at the cost of his blood, who has caused us to be a kingdom, that is, cohanim for God, his Father–to him be the glory and the rulership forever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds! Every eye will see him, including those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the Land will mourn him. Yes! Amen!
I am the ‘A’ and the ‘Z,'” says ADONAI, God of heaven’s armies, the One who is, who was and who is coming.
I, Yochanan, am a brother of yours and a fellow–sharer in the suffering, king–ship and perseverance that come from being united with Yeshua. I had been exiled to the island called Patmos for having proclaimed the message of God and borne witness to Yeshua.
I came to be, in the Spirit, on the Day of the Lord; and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a trumpet, saying, “Write down what you see on a scroll, and send it to the seven Messianic communities–Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea!
I turned around to see who was speaking to me; and when I had turned, I saw seven gold menorahs; and among the menorahs was someone like a Son of Man, wearing a robe down to his feet and a gold band around his chest. His head and hair were as white as snow–white wool, his eyes like a fiery flame, his feet like burnished brass refined in a furnace, and his voice like the sound of rushing waters.
In his right hand he held seven stars, out of his mouth went a sharp double–edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell down at his feet like a dead man. He placed his right hand upon me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, the Living One. I was dead, but look! –I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys to Death and Sh’ol. So write down what you see, both what is now, and what will happen afterwards.
Here is the secret meaning of the seven stars you saw in my right hand, and of the seven gold menorahs: the seven stars are the angels of the seven Messianic communities, and the seven menorahs are the seven Messianic communities.
To the angel of the Messianic Community in Ephesus, write: ‘Here is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven gold menorahs: I know what you have been doing, how hard you have worked, how you have persevered, and how you can’t stand wicked people; so you tested those who call themselves emissaries but aren’t–and you found them to be liars. You are persevering, and you have suffered for my sake with–out growing weary.
But I have this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Therefore, remember where you were before you fell, turn from this sin, and do what you used to do before. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your menorah from its place–if you don’t turn from your sin!
But you have this in your favor: you hate what the Nicolaitans do–I hate it too. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities. To him winning the victory I will give the right to eat from the Tree of Life which is in God’s Gan–’Eden.”‘
To the angel of the Messianic Community in Smyrna, write: ‘Here is the message from the First and the Last, who died and came alive again: I know how you are suffering and how poor you are (though in fact you are rich!), and I know the insults of those who call themselves Jews but aren’t–on the contrary, they are a synagogue of the Adversary.
Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Adversary is going to have some of you thrown in prison, in order to put you to the test; and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful, even to the point of death; and I will give you life as your crown. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities. He who wins the victory will not be hurt at all by the second death.”‘
To the angel of the Messianic Community in Pergamum, write: ‘Here is the message from the one who has the sharp double–edged sword: I know where you are living, there where the Adversary’s throne is. Yet you are holding onto my name. You did not deny trusting me even at the time when my faithful witness Antipas was put to death in your town, there where the Adversary lives.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: you have some people who hold to the teaching of Bil’am, who taught Balak to set a trap for the people of Isra’el, so that they would eat food that had been sacrificed to idols and commit sexual sin. Likewise, you too have people who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
Therefore, turn from these sins. Otherwise, I will come to you very soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities. To him winning the victory I will give some of the hidden man. I will also give him a white stone, on which is written a new name that nobody knows except the one receiving it.”‘
To the angel of the Messianic Community in Thyatira, write: ‘Here is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like burnished brass: I know what you are doing, your love, trust, service and perseverance. And I know that you are doing more now than before.
But I have this against you: you continue to tolerate that Izevel woman, the one who claims to be a prophet, but is teaching and deceiving my servants to commit sexual sin and eat food that has been sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to turn from her sin, but she doesn’t want to repent of her immorality.
So I am throwing her into a sickbed; and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great trouble, unless they turn from the sins connected with what she does; and I will strike her children dead! Then all the Messianic communities will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and that I will give to each of you what your deeds deserve.
But to the rest of you in Thyatira, to those who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some people call the ‘deep things’ of the Adversary, I say this: I am not loading you up with another burden; only hold fast to what you have until I come. To him who wins the victory and does what I want until the goal is reached, I will give him authority over the nations; he will rule them with a staff of iron and dash them to pieces like pottery, just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities.”‘
To the angel of the Messianic Community in Sardis, write: ‘Here is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars: “I know what you are doing–you have a reputation for being alive, but in fact you are dead! Wake up, and strengthen what remains, before it dies too! For I have found what you are doing incomplete in the sight of my God.
So remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and turn from your sin! For if you don’t wake up, I will come like a thief; and you don’t know at what moment I will come upon you.
Nevertheless, you do have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; and they will walk with me, clothed in white, because they are worthy. He who wins the victory will, like them, be dressed in white clothing; and I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life; in fact, I will acknowledge him individually before my Father and before his angels. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities.”‘
To the angel of the Messianic Community in Philadelphia, write: ‘Here is the message of HaKadosh, the True One, the one who has the key of David, who, if he opens something, no one else can shut it, and if he closes something, no one else can open it.
I know what you are doing. Look, I have put in front of you an open door, and no one can shut it. I know that you have but little power, yet you have obeyed my message and have not disowned me.
Here, I will give you some from the synagogue of the Adversary, those who call themselves Jews but aren’t–on the contrary, they are lying–see, I will cause them to come and prostrate themselves at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you. Because you did obey my message about persevering, I will keep you from the time of trial coming upon the whole world to put the people living on earth to the test.
I am coming soon; hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. I will make him who wins the victory a pillar in the Temple of my God, and he will never leave it. Also I will write on him the name of my God and the name of my God’s city, the new Yerushalayim coming down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities.”‘
To the angel of the Messianic Community in Laodicea, write: ‘Here is the message from the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Ruler of God’s creation: I know what you are doing: you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other!
So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth! For you keep saying, ‘I am rich, I have gotten rich, I don’t need a thing!’ You do not know that you are the one who is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked!
My advice to you is to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich; and white clothing, so that you may be dressed and not have to be ashamed of your nakedness; and eyesalve to rub on your eyes, so that you may see.
As for me, I rebuke and discipline everyone I love; so exert yourselves, and turn from your sins!
Here, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me. I will let him who wins the victory sit with me on my throne, just as I myself also won the victory and sat down with my Father on his throne. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities.”‘
Here comes the crux of what I want . . . need to share. Most of us have been well-taught (and correctly so) by Pastors, prophecy experts and Bible teachers that the crux of the matter that Messiah is addressing in His letters to the seven churches follows each time the words, “And to him who overcomes….”, or as in the Complete Jewish Bible, “And to him winning the victory” are spoken. So since we have seven different letters to seven different churches, that common phrase about the vital matter of “overcoming” is repeated in each letter and then followed by what it is that the Believer will receive as an eternal reward if he or she overcomes. In other words, the format is that first we have a list of complaints and comments by Messiah Jesus, the founder and head of the Church, along with a warning that those who belong to these congregations are in grave spiritual danger; this is the followed with a statement of what it is that those who do overcome this grave spiritual danger will receive as their just reward (as opposed to who don’t overcome). And at the heart of each requirement is a significant change in spiritual attitude, doctrine, and behavior.
So, beginning with the letter to the church at Ephesus and ending with the church at Laodicea, we have these 7 rewards pronounced for the over-coming Believer:
- The right to eat from the Tree of Life (meaning the receiving of eternal life).
- They will not be harmed by (they will avoid) the 2nd death, which is referring to the Eternal Lake of Fire that comes at the final judgment for all mankind.
- They will be given guaranteed access to the banquet of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (the new manna), with the white stone as their entry ticket and each stone personalized with a new secret name that no one else will have or know.
- The victors shall be given authority to rule over nations.
- They will be given white robes indicating a condition of absolute purity, ritual cleanliness, and personally introduced one at a time to the Father Creator, and be given a personal guarantee of living forever in the presence of God.
- The one who overcomes will be able to serve at the Temple of God and be permitted to live in the New Jerusalem.
- They will be allowed to sit with Christ on His throne (so intimate will be the relationship) and share His authority.
Now if you are able to imagine and visualize all this I applaud you because it is way too much for my mind to fully grasp. But one thing is clear and not hard to understand: what these seven rewards describe are what we all hope for (living eternally with God) amounts to. But what it also means is that many who are part of these seven representative congregations who refuse to heed the Messiah’s warnings, open their eyes, and change their ways won’t live eternally with God because they didn’t overcome. Please understand: this isn’t about some church members receiving “jewels in their crowns” and others just barely squeezing in to heaven (so to speak). This is about eternal life for some and no eternal life for others, all of whom were seemingly satisfied that they had already won that victory and the matter was settled.
Go back to our context so we can see what this has to do with us, His Believers in the modern age. I said before that Hannah’s Prayer only concerned God’s redeemed people. There’s no reference to pagans, no comparison to the heathen, no contrast with non-followers of the God of Israel. So in Hannah’s Prayer those who are killed by God were equally as much a part of God’s redeemed people Israel, as those who were made alive by God. A good example of this is the issue of the Serpent on the Pole during the Wilderness Journey when thousands of Israelites were killed by the Lord, but thousands more were healed by the Lord. Hannah’s Song talks about those who were wealthy but suddenly were brought low as equally a part of Israel as those who were poor but became exalted. Those who were well-fed and had plenty to eat but now had to fight for a crumb of bread were part of the redeemed congregation of God, and those who were hungry but now had abundance were also part of the redeemed congregation of God, and so on. Hannah’s Song is only referring to the relationship Yehoveh has with His own people and has nothing to do with those who don’t belong to Him. Do you hear that? This is another key to what we’re learning here, so hold that firmly at the front of your minds.
Coming back to Revelation, the message of Revelation chapters 1–3 is in the same mold as Hannah’s Song because it only concerns God’s people; His Believers, His followers. This series of seven messages only concerns Israel and those spiritually joined to Israel by means of trusting God’s Messiah. The seven letters of Revelation are addressed strictly to the body of Believers, not to others (not to pagans or even what today we call “seekers”). And by the way, don’t be confused: a “seeker” isn’t someone who is midway between a pagan and a Believer. They are non-Believers as you can only believe or not believe, there is no hybrid of the two states.
However what’s usually assumed (and often flatly stated) when Revelation 1-3 is taught is that these letters present a contrast between the Church and the world; that the challenge set down by Jesus is for the Believer to overcome the increasingly wicked ways of the unbelieving world in order for His followers to achieve victory and gain the rewards He has promised. Put another way: the dynamic is usually set up as the church at large as the overcomers who get rewards, and pagans at large as those who have not over come and so get the shaft. I’m here to tell you that this is not so! That kind of interpretation completely defies the obvious context and plain reading of the passages and misses the point. This is about the dynamics of what goes on within the walls of the organized, institutional Church (and when I say “church” I mean it as a common term that indicates all aspects of Christian or Messianic activity). These warnings from Christ are all about the individual Believer overcoming the false doctrines, the peer pressure, the political correctness, the bad teaching, the watering-down of the Gospel to merely a social and prosperity formula, and the herd mentality of the organized fellowships of Believers (that we commonly call Churches or denominations). Like Hannah’s prayer this is about God’s people only. Doesn’t that put these matters into a different perspective and unnerve you just a bit?
See, this isn’t a situation where Jesus is perfecting His Church or quibbling over optional items in order to spur us on to greater ministry. He is dividing and separating true Believers from those who claim to be (and are certain that they are) part of His Church, but are not in His eyes. This is separating the sheep from the goats, so to speak.
In Hannah’s day the institution of the Priesthood had become a dysfunctional Ponzi scheme that no longer served any real divine or spiritual purpose (it was an institution that spoke of God constantly and used all of His symbols, but had long ago stopped serving or obeying Him). In Revelation we find a parallel situation, so these seven letters are about the priesthood of Believers (Christians, Messianics), many who have been co-opted by the institution of the church (a manmade institution merely purporting to be God made), and swayed by the trappings of religion; an institution that in some cases has become dysfunctional and hardly has any real divine or spiritual purpose anymore. These letters speak of a collection of seven congregations that at one time were on the right track but some have now (each in their own way) fallen away while others have done well and remain faithful but are under condemnation by the fallen churches for not following them into the abyss.
In Ephesus loving the Lord has become secondary and lip service, and so without Him as their guide they have been enticed into great sin and lost their way (and they are utterly unaware of it). In Smyrna they are suffering and hurting from the barbs and insults of brothers and sisters who claim to be followers of God but are not. In Pergamum they insist on doing everything in Christ’s name, and to be the true standard bearers of the Christian faith, yet they have taken on the role of Bil’am who did everything he could to curse and destroy Israel by means of enticing Israel to forget their unique heritage and instead adopt the ways of gentiles. In Thyatira the congregation has taken to following church members who hold themselves up as pious prophets who get special messages from God, but these self appointed prophets are actually leading the sheep into sexual immorality and sin. In Sardis the congregation is large, vibrant, and well known and this makes them think they must be in harmony with God, but Yeshua says that it’s all a mirage; they are actually dead men walking! In Philadelphia Yeshua says He knows that they are small in size, with little influence in the realm of the institutional church (barely a blip on the radar screen) but that He is going to send folks to them from some of these other more visible but apostate churches so that a least a few can come and learn truth, live faithfully, and be saved away from what is going to happen to those who stubbornly remain in their apostate congregations. Finally, at Laodicea, the issue is that the people have become passive. Their commitment to the Lord amounts to showing up at congregational meetings. While on the one hand they haven ‘t openly renounced their faith, on the other they have no enthusiasm for their Savior, no sense of obligation to serve Him or obey Him or to grow in Him or help to expand His Kingdom.
>Matthew 7:22-23 says, “On that Day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we expel demons in your name? Didn’t we perform many miracles in your name?’ Then I will tell them to their faces, ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’—Matthew 7:22-23 (Complete Jewish Bible)
Which one of these seven representative congregations are we attached to as individuals? Which one of these best describes the denomination where we worship and fellowship? Which one are our friends and families associated with? While no man can truly know another man’s heart, we are told in God’s Word that we can tell something about a person or a group (including, to a degree, their spiritual condition) by their fruit.
I think it is reasonable to look to some of our greatest and most faithful church leaders and to at least take into account their view on the general condition of the body of Believers and see if it fits with what Yeshua says in Revelation. Several years ago during a TV interview with Larry King, Billy Graham stated that he has come to the sad conclusion that at best probably no more than 30% of folks that attend church regularly are actually saved. Billy Graham’s organization also followed up on the hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) who came forward over the years at his Crusades and found that fewer than 2% demonstrated any evidence of continuing in the faith. I imagine that really doesn’t shock many of you; you’ve probably looked around and suspected the same even if you didn’t want to believe it or say it out loud.
Does that mean, then, that we have churches today that are 70% seekers and only 30% who profess to be Christians? Heavens no! It means exactly what we just read in Revelation and I just quoted from Matthew; that most who think that they have received their fire insurance actually bought a phony policy. How is that possible? Well that exact situation has really kind of been the point of everything that has followed and flowed from the Book of Exodus onward in God’s Word when by means of His Laws and Commands the Lord defined just who He is and what He expects from those who want fellowship with Him. And what we learn is that when we put aside any aspect of His written Word, when we deny any part of His unchanging and indivisible nature and character, we stop acknowledging the true God and begin worshipping a non-existent god that is made in our image of what god should be. We rely on a false-god whom we have conjured up and too many of our religious institutions uphold instead of tearing down. This is called idolatry.
In Hannah’s day the men in charge of God’s sanctuary (the Levite Priests) put away the Torah and decided to follow a system of manmade traditions, doctrines and observances that they claimed were the same thing as the Word of God (but God wasn’t buying it!) In our day (and at the end of days) many men who are in charge of our Christian religious institutions have put away the Bible and decided instead to follow a pious and nice sounding system of manmade traditions, doctrines and observances that they say are the same thing as the Word of God. Well guess what: Messiah Yeshua says here that He’s not buying that either!
I remember what a bombshell this reality was when it first struck me. First it scared me, and then it depressed me. Later it blessed me because I now had the knowledge to make a change and perhaps a difference. Folks, this isn’t my word, this is God’s warning directly taken from His Word. Yes it’s hard hitting, it’s sobering, and it’s unsettling. This is why we took the time to read these three chapters fully so that not only can we see the connected parallel of the letters to the seven churches to Hannah’s Song, but also that we can feel the impact of what God is telling us in proper context and hopefully take corrective action as it applies to each of us as individuals, and as congregations of Believers. But what is that corrective action going to look like in some cases?
I want to read from one more place in Revelation that answers that question. Turn to Revelation 18.
After these things, I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, the earth was lit up by his splendor. He cried out in a strong voice, She has fallen! She has fallen! Bavel the Great! She has become a home for demons, a prison for every unclean spirit, a prison for every unclean, hated bird. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of God’s fury caused by her whoring–yes, the kings of the earth went whoring with her, and from her unrestrained love of luxury the world’s businessmen have grown rich.
Then I heard another voice out of heaven say: My people, come out of her! so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not be infected by her plagues, for her sins are a sticky mass piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crime —Revelation 18:1-5
“Come out of her, My people.” As hard as it is for us to do, this is the prescribed corrective action for Believers who want to again stand with the Lord. Sometimes there is no choice but to walk away. The great whore of Babylon is that part of the institutional church that has become so dysfunctional that it has become the apostate church. What is an “apostate church”? It means it claims to be the church with Christ as its head. It means it calls on Jesus’ name for authority. It means it sure looks good and sounds good if you don’t look too closely. But it also means that the Lord’s laws and commands have been ditched, and the recognition of His nature exchanged, in favor of something else that’s not God. And applying the principle of the seven letters to the seven churches to this passage in Revelation 18, despite Christianity’s proclivity to want to identify just one of the hundreds of manmade denomination as the whore of Babylon (usually it is said to be the Catholic Church) is very doubtful. This isn’t about people who belong to one institutional church denomination that has gone terribly astray; instead we will find this tendency towards whoring, unfaithfulness and apostasy spread throughout the earthly religious institutions generally. Certainly it isn’t a universal condition, and certainly many church institutions are fighting hard to stay on (or return to) a pure path.
How can I be so certain that Revelation 18 is about God’s people and not the wicked pagan world? Because God is calling out, “My people.” “My people” (God’s people) has always been and will always be God’s true followers, not pagans and not the apostate. Even the term “whoring” (which biblically means to be unfaithful either to God or to a husband) only has meaning when applied to God’s followers. Whoring is what happens when a wife cheats on her husband. Whoring is what happens when a Believer prefers to see elements of religious or humanistic philosophy added to, or substituted for, the pure worship of Yehoveh because it pleases us or allows us to be more acceptable to our peers.
So the issue addressed in Revelation 18 is the same as in Revelation chapters 1, 2 and 3: individual Believers overcoming authoritative religious institutions that claim to represent the Lord on earth, but don’t follow His Word nor honor His Laws and Commands. These are religious institutions that claim the Bible as their Holy Text, but then turn around and denounce the majority of it as no longer valid or relevant. These are organizations that on the one hand say that God never changes, but on the other say that some time between the books of Ezra and Matthew God traded in one set of characteristics for a newer set and one set of commandments for another.
The question and challenge before us all is the one that Christ set down in His seven letters: will we take the harder road, accept our personal responsibility and overcome, or will we stay on the easier road, prefer comfort and familiarity and popularity to the truth, and in time be very surprised by the inevitable eternal consequences?
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