THE REVELATION OF CHRIST

Lesson Number 30

THE SEVENTH VIAL

Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great. (Rev 16:17-21, NKJV)

INTRODUCTION

We are beholding the Lord's sure judgment upon His enemies. The particular focus is upon religious corruption, the greatest of all Satan's initiatives. Throughout the writings of the Apostles, solemn warnings are given concerning a great apostasy - a falling away from the faith. In my judgment, the warnings have not been taken seriously by the professed church. That circumstance indicates we are in this falling away, which has caused the hearts and consciences of professed believers to become dull and insensitive.

Jesus revealed that the nature of His Kingdom did not exclude the human propensity to spiritual dulness. The parable of the sower made known the lurking liabilities with which hearers wrestle. Not only are there hard hearts into which the Word cannot penetrate, there are hearts in which noble beginnings are experienced, but God-glorifying conclusions are not realized. Our Lord described two of these situations. The first received the Word "immediately with joy." However, this hearer develops no root - i.e., his religion, so to speak, is only on the surface. For a while, all seems well. However, when the heat of trial arises like the blast of the noon-day sun, this person withers and dies. In the words of our Lord, "For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles" (Matt 13:20-21).

There is another type of listener described by Jesus. This class of hearer also hears the Word, giving attention to it. That attention, however, is not total. The religion of this person leaves his heart divided, with other interests. Those competing concerns soon dominate the heart, smothering the interest in things eternal. Jesus said it like this. "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful" (Matt 13:22).

Satan has developed and promoted a religion that raises all of these distractions-giving them a religious flavor, and thereby sanctifying them in the minds of spiritual juveniles.

Our Lord also described a time when iniquity, or lawlessness, would be so dominate "the love of many will grow cold" (Matt 24:12). It simply will not be fashionable to have a fervent love for the Lord-even in the professed church. Such people will be misfits, and obstacles to the fulfillment of the organizational agenda. Their fervency for the Lord, and single-hearted commitment to Him, are seen as threats to the organization.

Ephesian Elders Warned

The Ephesian elders were warned of a coming departure from the Lord. Paul told them it would be initiated by those within the leadership of God's people. "Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20:30-31). For three years the Apostle warned these leaders, alerting them to the dangers of corrupt teaching and recruitment occurring in their very presence. I fear the contemporary church has not viewed this matter as seriously as it is represented in the Word of God.

A Falling Away

The Spirit revealed to the church at Thessalonica a coming apostasy-"a falling away." It would occur BEFORE the return of the Lord Jesus, and would be fostered by a religious spirit. In that "falling away" the "man of sin,"or "son of perdition," would become apparent. This would be an anti-Christ spirit, who would come in the name of Christ, opposing the Lord and exalting him self above the Most High. He will assume the prerogatives of God Himself. This is nothing less than a Satanic initiative against the people of God. The rise of this spiritually lethal opponent is said to be "according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved."

From an even higher vantage point, this is God sending "strong delusion" upon corrupt religious people, compelling them to "believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess 2:3-12).

Religious sophists have sought to identify the personality used in this deception. In so doing, however, they have become insensitive to the "falling away" itself. The point being made by the apostle is not the one through whom the apostasy is promoted, but the apostasy itself.

The Spirit Speaks Expressly

With great zeal and clarity, the Holy Spirit spoke of the apostasy of reference. Young Timothy was informed of its coming. "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth" (1 Tim 4:1-3).

Following the alluring doctrines promoted by demons, "some" would "depart from the faith." They would do so to embrace a religious system rather than a living Christ. In fact, they would take hold of a religion that taught men there was virtue in obeying rules that contradicted the very Word of God. Such corrupt doctrines would be advanced in the name of Christ, but would be under the auspices of demons.

Form Without Power

With great solemnity, Paul told Timothy of the induction of an era when the power of God would be rejected, yet allegiance to Him professed. These times are termed "perilous," because they bring great jeopardy to the saints. Personal interests and human agendas would be aggressively promoted. The sins from which Jesus delivers men would become prominent in religious circles. These "perilous times" are referred to as an era when men retain "a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Tim 3:1-5). Denying the power involves thrusting it from us-rejecting it. Such a condition is NOT taken lightly by God or His people! It successfully removes one from salvation.

SPIRITUAL BABYLON

This apostasy is the spiritual Babylon to which we are being introduced. It is what God is judging in our text. Over the years, men have grown accustomed to this religious corruption, and have even sought to justify its existence. Great tolerance for lifeless religion is promoted by those threatened by real spiritual life. It even appears as though God has been forbearing of this corruption. But He has not! Over the years-even centuries-His wrath against this encroachment has been stored up.

Now "great Babylon" comes into God's remembrance. She will receive no mercy, no Divine consideration, no compassion. She has willingly embraced the devil's delusion, and has espoused the teachings of demons. She is guilty of "the great transgression" (Psa 19:13), which seeks to impose the will of the created upon the Creator. Such transgression is never overlooked by the Lord. It is serious beyond measure, and is to be avoided at all cost. God will judge such sin!

Why God Waits

Some wonder why God does not judge presumptuous sin immediately-why His judgment lingers so long. Why do the enemies of the saints sometimes seem invincible? In addressing this question, the Spirit is quite precise. "What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and [in order] that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory" (Rom 9:22-23).

Two objectives are seen in the Lord's lingering judgment. First, He is revealing the riches of His glory in those for whom both mercy and glory are reserved. These "vessels of mercy" are vouchsafed Divine benefits in the very midst of adversity-even during the seeming reign of their opponents. Second, even though the Lord desires to "show His wrath and make His power known," He holds that wrath back for a season. In this restraint, He distinguishes His wrath from that of men, which breaks forth uncontrolled and without righteousness (James 1:20). He confirms His willingness that none should perish, but that all come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). The ultimate destruction of the wicked (and particularly spiritual Babylon) will be just. None caught in the wake of Divine wrath will be able to find fault with the Almighty.

The Principle Declared to Abraham

Our text tells us that great Babylon "came up in remembrance before God." She did NOT begin to be wicked at that point, but had been wicked all along. Her wickedness now reached its apex, and could not longer be endured.

Earlier, in God's dealings with His friend Abraham, the Lord revealed this aspect of His nature. He told Abraham of the time when his offspring would be delivered from a long period of Egyptian bondage-no less than four hundred years (Gen 15:13). They would come out of Egypt "with great substance," and would be brought into the land God promised Abraham.

At the time Abraham received this commitment, there were inhabitants in the land of promise. These very residents would remain in the land until Israel received it according to God's promise. They were wicked people, yet God would tolerate them for several centuries before expelling them from the land. His tolerance of them was not owing to any virtue on their part. Nor, indeed, did they possess some small hint of goodness. Rather, Divine forbearance was revealed-an unwillingness to destroy them without showing His longsuffering.

The Lord spoke of this longsuffering to Abraham, revealing this marvelous aspect of His nature. "But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete" (Gen 15:16).

The Principle Declared to Daniel

The very same principle of Divine endurance was expressed to Daniel. "And in the latter time of their kingdom, When the transgressors have reached their fullness, A king shall arise, Having fierce features, Who understands sinister schemes" (Dan 8:23). By this, the Spirit signified the loosing of a fierce opponent WHEN sin had reached its culmination, and could no longer be tolerated-even by God Himself.

The Principle Declared by Jesus

The Lord Jesus addressed a sinful generation concerning this subject. He informed them of the coming destruction of Jerusalem in arresting words. "Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt" (Matt 23:31-32).

The Principle Declared by Paul

Paul also referred to the persecuting Jews in this manner. "Who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost" (1 Thess 2:15-16).

What is Declared

Now John is shown the conclusionof all things from a particular vantage point. The focus is not on the grand termination itself, but on WHAT is destined to fail-to be brought down by the Lord God Almighty.

Spiritual Babylon has appeared invincible-like Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. From all appearance, Satan's substitute has seemed so formidable that many abandoned the faith to embrace its lies. The very power of God was rejected in favor of accepting Babylon the great. Form without power came into vogue. Spiritual deadness became acceptable. Men were declared leaders of the Kingdom upon the basis of earthly credentials, and the approval of Satan's fabrication of the church. Even the world, which crucified Jesus, accepted this faithless church! The blood of saints was shed by her, corrupt doctrines taught, and the Divine agenda rejected.

In John's day, there were believers suffering at the hands of Christ's enemies. They needed to know that all such enemies would be destroyed by Jesus-that their cause would not, and could not, continue without being judged. Earlier, political oppressors were judged (the first beast). Now believers are told spiritual oppressors will also be judged.

There is coming a time when false religion will simply not be able to continue. It will be a time when God can no longer endure her false ways-a time when her iniquity will reach its fulness, and her cup will spill over its brim.

If you are ever tempted to be discouraged because of the dominance of lifeless religion, remember the scheduled fall of Babylon. If your ministry has been dulled by the influence of organized religion, ponder the coming judgment of "great Babylon." If you are tempted to join hands with impotent religion, diffuse that temptation by considering its cup is filling up, and soon God will bring it down with irresistible and irreversible judgment. Think on these things! It will help rescue you from delusion, and empower you for Divine service.

A BRIEF SUMMATION

Remember, we are considering the PRELUDE to the end of all things. There will come a time when the effectiveness of Christ's enemies-especially those who wear His name-will be concluded by the Lord Himself. When Egypt pursued Israel by attempting to go through the Read Sea as Israel, their end was preceded by signs of coming disaster. It is written, "Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians. And He took off their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians. Then the LORD said to Moses, Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians. Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians. And He took off their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians" (Ex 14:24-27). Before their end, an acute awareness of the futility of their aggression rushed in upon the Egyptians. Their chariots, in which they boasted, became a liability to them. Their bold pursuit of the people of God was turned to awesome fear. They realized God was fighting for Israel, and they knew their own efforts were absolutely futile. All of their effort was devoted to trying to escape, but they could not do so.

So will it be for those who oppose the truth, reject the power of God, and promote lifeless religion. Before they are destroyed at the brightness of Christ's coming (2 Thess 2:8), they will be made to realize their impotence. They will see they have actually opposed Christ Jesus, and that Christ is taking the side of His people, fighting for them. Like the "kings of the earth," they will cry "to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Rev 6:15-17). Because of their religion, they will be incapable of repentance. They will enter into the consummation of all things and the day of judgment with inexplicable fear and trepidation.

It is necessary to make one more general observation about this text. Some men have used this passage to strike fear into the hearts of God's people. They speak of the "great tribulation" in such a way as to make the hearts of the saints fear and quake. Such teachers do greatly error. Those who must fear are those who have settled for lifeless religion! Those who have promoted their own religious careers at the expense of the edification of God's people are the ones to stand in fear! Their religious systems will all be broken up. Their organizations will fail. Anything and everything that was not originated by God will be violently uprooted. As the Lord Jesus affirmed, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted" (Matt 15:13). Religious institutionalism will not always flourish! Form without power will not always be dominant! That is the message of this passage. I cannot begin to tell you how this truth has encouraged me. I have tasted of the opposition of lifeless religion, and have been oppressed in some measure by it. The dominance of powerless religion is a great burden to my soul.

Yet, faith can take hold of the message of this marvelous book-that these conditions are scheduled to be terminated, abruptly, irreversibly, and without mercy. Believers must not despair because falseness flourishes.

If John could wait for such a day on the Isle of Patmos, we can confidently endure where we are. If early believers could cast their anchor within the veil and "hope to the end" (1 Pet 1;13), so can we! No seeming advantage is worth embracing a form of godliness that denies the power thereof! No real influence for Christ can be exerted where lifeless religion is accepted! In Scripture, no person of God has ever pursued such a course. They have, to a man, stood against the tide of devilish influences, preferring to stand alone rather than identify with a system from which Jesus Himself had withdrawn.

The list of such individuals is impressive. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Moses, David, the holy Prophets, John the Baptist, the Apostles of the Lamb, Timothy, Titus, Luke, James, Jude, and countless others. Of old time, there were those who chose torture to deliverance, rather than cave in to the demands of their enemies (Heb 11:35). Such notable saints will rise up in the day of judgment against those who compromised their faith and mitigated their doctrine to appease their enemies. Compromise will make no sense in that day, and it really makes none now. This is a message we must heed!

THE SEVENTH BOWL POURED OUT

The seventh vial includes the Divinely imposed disintegration of "great Babylon." It only required the Lord's "remembrance" of her to initiate this judgment. Proceeding through the world triumphantly, spiritual Babylon has run roughshod over the saints of God. It has corrupted the Gospel, and heaped honor to itself rather than to the risen Lord. Every consolidation of men that is out of harmony with God and His "eternal purpose" will be brought down.

All of this will happen BEFORE the "end of all things." A lengthy time period is not necessary for this to happen. The armies of Egypt were vanquished in a short period of time (Ex 14:27,30). Sennacarib's massive army was overthrown in a single night (2 Kgs 19:35). God does not require an extended period to eradicate powers that have stood for a long time.

Judgment Is Inevitable

The point of this text is the inevitability of Divine judgment-particularly against those who have oppressed His people and maligned His truth. Circumstances lead the enemies of Christ to believe their cause will flourish, and they are not in jeopardy. But that is a delusion, as our text affirms.

"Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, 'It is done!'"

Into the air

"The air" is identified as the seat of Satan's power. The Spirit reminds all believers they were once under the domination this power. "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others" (Eph 2:1-3, NKJV). Notice this realm is associated with "wrath"-God's wrath. While we trafficked in those realms, we were not aware of this association. Yet, those dominated by the devil will inevitably taste of the wrath of the Almighty. The ONLY hope is to be removed from that jurisdiction.

Course of This World

Those who are NOT in Christ Jesus live in strict accord with "the course of this world." Grammatically, this is an unusual combination of words. The word from which "course" is translated is (ai-on-a), which is ordinarily translated "age" or "world." The word "world" comes from (kos-moo), which is translated "world" or "universe." The first word presents the world from the standpoint of time, i.e., "age." The second represents the world as a realm, or domain of activity, i.e., "world."

The phrase "course of this world," therefore, refers to a manner of life bounded by time and limited to the created realm. While those in Christ do occupy the realm of time, and live "in the world," they are by no means confined to it. Faith projects the believer into "heavenly places," from which those out of Christ are excluded. The "course of this world" is limited by time, and restricted to the natural order.

Those confined to time, and to the natural order, are, by that very circumstance, dominated by "the prince of the power of the air." Such are "taken captive" by him, to do his will (2 Tim 2:26). There is no human initiative that can extricate the individual from this captivity. It is a condition from which only God can deliver us. That deliverance is experienced in Christ Jesus, and in Him alone.

Babylon Is Confined to This Word

Spiritual Babylon is confined to this world, and operates in strict accord with its principles. It wears the name of Jesus, but does not experience His presence. It claims affiliation with His Word, yet does not have it dwelling richly within them. While this wicked conglomerate represents itself as Christ's representative, it is actually animated by the devil, and is his representative. It offers more than it can give, and is cursed by God.

Remember, "Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). There are no exceptions to this rule! Satan's supremacy in the world mandates this situation.

Spiritual Babylon has formed an alliance with the "course of the world." It imagines strength is found in that affiliation. Oblivious of the curse of this relationship, Babylon obtains its credentials from the world, allowing it to define the requirements of the institution. Because it has no power from God, it seeks to obtain it from the world. In so doing, it has incurred the wrath of God. It is only a matter of time until that wrath will be poured out upon it.

Satan Governs Babylon

Satanic forces and powers have controlled the rise of "great Babylon," and cause it to flourish in the world system. This is his "monster" - the second beast. It is a devilish repository where error can be introduced and flourish without fear. "Doctrines of demons" are welcome here, and the truth is not loved. If Jesus is found in its vicinity at all, He is on the outside, calling out to those within, seeking to obtain entrance with those who will open the door to Him (Rev 3:20).

Poured Out Into the Air

The pouring out of the seventh vial, or bowl, "into the air," signifies the disruption of Satanic powers. These are the principalities that controlled Babylon, and without which it could not have existed.

Seen in the Book of Daniel

What occurs in this text is precisely pictured in the book of Daniel. Daniel was given to see the reason for the fall of Persia and the rise of the Greece. While military strategies were observable from the world's point of view, something more significant occurred in the region of the air.

A mighty angel informed Daniel he had been sent from heaven as soon as Daniel's prayer was uttered. However, for twenty-one days, this angel was detained in a remarkable conflict. In the words of the angel, "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia" (Dan 10:13, NKJV). Later, this mighty angel affirmed he would return and resume this battle with the "prince of the kingdom of Persia," then in dominance. "And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come" (Dan 10:20, NKJV).

The displacement of the kingdom of Persia is traced back to a high spiritual conflict-one which disrupted the domination of 'the prince of the power of the air."

Our text is portraying precisely this type of thing. The wrath of God is poured out "into the air," unsettling the principalities and powers that undergird Babylon the great. It is not possible for those dominated by this power to avert its overthrow. When "the prince of the power of the air" is deposed, all those who operated in his realm are also vanquished.

Babylon is the devil's enterprise, and when he is overthrown, Babylon will also fall. This is not only true on the collective level, it also occurs on the individual level. When a person is truly liberated from the tyranny of the devil, he is also liberated from enslavement to lifeless religion.

Divine assessment

The judgment of God is never a pleasant thing, but it is always a righteous action. The throne of God is associated with judgment. "He has prepared His throne for judgment" (Psa 9:7). The judgment of God evidences His Sovereignty and reign. Throughout the entire earth, the judgments of God are being executed. As it is written, "His judgments are in all the earth" (Psa 105:7). They are always timely, always righteous, and always thorough.

It should not surprise us that a heavenly response occurs when the judgment of the seventh vial is poured out. As the air is filled with the outpouring of Divine wrath, "a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, 'It is done!'" We are not told precisely what was "done." The Spirit is focusing our attention upon the rule of the Almighty, and the sure retribution of the wicked. Remember, He has already told us the outcome of those who kept the faith. They will stand at last on the tranquil sea of glass, with harps in their hands and praise in their mouths. The destiny of the false church, however, is as sure as that of the true one!

It is determined

The phrase "IT is done," is the language of fulfillment. What God has determined will at last be accomplished. In no way will it fail of fulfillment, "though it tarry" (Hab 2:3). With God, the accomplishment is as assured as the purpose. What God has determined will come to pass-and He has determined the fall of "great Babylon."

How appropriate are the words of Isaiah on this point. They provide a most precise expression of God's determination upon "great Babylon," as well as against the wicked of Isaiah's day. "For the LORD will rise up as at Mount Perazim, He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon; That He may do His work, His awesome work, And bring to pass His act, His unusual act. Now therefore, do not be mockers, Lest your bonds be made strong; For I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts, A destruction determined even upon the whole earth" (Isa 28:22-23).

Daniel appears to have alluded to this judgment in his far-reaching words. "Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done" (Dan 11:36, NKJV).

Here, principle is the point, not details. Just as surely as faith overcomes the world, unbelief will be overcome by God. Those who keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus cannot lose, and those who embrace Satan's ways cannot win. As simplistic as that may seem, Satan continues to be aggressive in his attempts to persuade men this is not true. It is as though he said, "Hath God said 'Babylon will fall?' it will not surely fall." Its fall, however, has been determined by Him whose counsel cannot fail!

It is done

The Lord declares "the end from the beginning," and from "ancient times the things not yet done" (Isa 46:10). The Lord Jesus addresses the people of God concerning the demise of their most formidable foe. He declares it when it is beginning to grow and flourish. Circumstance seems to belie the announcement, but it is nevertheless true. The Lord still "calls those things which do not exist as though they did" (Rom 4:17).

There will come a time when the work of Satan is "finished," just as Jesus' work was completed (John 19:30). There is a difference in the conclusions of reference. Jesus himself "finished" the work given to Him. The devil's work will be finished by the Lord, not the devil! You must believe this, and not be moved by appearances. Only Jesus is the "Finisher!"

REAPING AND SOWING

The sureness of reaping what is sown must not elude us. Throughout the Word of God, this principle is stated repeatedly. We are seeing it fulfilled in the Revelation. We do well to spend a moment on this aspect of the Kingdom, lest any of us be lulled into complacency through the fiery darts of the wicked one.

Render to Her Double

"Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, 'I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow" (Rev 18:6-7). This word is spoken concerning Babylon, the great-machination of the devil. Notice that she will reap more than she sowed. The phrase "repay her double" is not meant to convey the idea of mathematical precision. Rather, it affirms a Kingdom principle that is everywhere declared in scripture. Just as Babylon threw itself wholeheartedly AGAINST the Lord. So He will throw Himself wholeheartedly against it. The language is riveting: "repay her double . . . mix double for her . . . give her torment and sorrow." All of this reveals how wicked it is to refuse the power of God, distort His truth, and malign His people.

Do Not Be Deceived!

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Gal 6:7). This exhortation confirms a good deal of deception will be hurled at us concerning this reality. Legion is the name of people who believe they can get by with sin-but they cannot. This is particularly true in spiritual Babylon, where form without power is embraced heartily. But we must not be deceived! Those who refuse God's power in this world, will NOT be protected by it in the end of the world and the final judgment! Those who have maintained a lack of interest in God, will find Him uninterested in them in the destruction of the world.

Everyone will Give An Account

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor 5:10). This is a reality that cannot be delayed or nullified. Whether an individual or an institution, all will give a strict account for how they conducted themselves in this world. The Lord Jesus, the only One worthy of service, will be the Evaluator and Rewarder. We are not apprized of this appointed time simply to increase our knowledge base. The awareness of this time is intended to constrain us to comport ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord.

Every Work Judged

"For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil" (Eccl 12;14). The works of individuals, cities, and nations will be brought into judgment. Cain and Judas will, together with John the Baptist and Paul the apostle, have their works brought into judgment. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah who were destroyed, and the cities of Nineveh and Samaria who repented, will come into judgment. Think of the nations whose works will be judged. Egypt, Syria, Persia, Greece, etc. Continents, noted for various traits, will come into judgment: Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, etc.

Our text is confirming that judgment is also reserved for clusters of people joined by their commitment: i.e., spiritual Babylon. Wherever a purpose is being executed, whether good or evil, it will be brought into judgment. Those joining their hands together in an effort God does not snaction, will be judged by Him.

Everything Revealed

"For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known" (Matt 10:26). There are hidden agendas being served. This has been the case from the beginning of time. From individuals to nations, people have been motivated by covetousness, as well as a quest to fellowship in Christ's sufferings. But all will finally be exposed in the blazing light of Divine judgment.

Measured Back

"For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you" (Matt 7:1). Both retribution and reward will be in direct proportion to the measure used by the ones being judged. If men have been unusually aggressive to insist on total commitment to themselves, the Lord will use that standard of measurement in evaluating their conduct. If they have been merciful and considerate in their judgments, the Judge of all the earth will do likewise. It is written, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt 5:7). And again, "With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful" (Psa 18:25). However, with those who have shown harshness, eternal judgment will be harsh.

God Will Repay

"Vengeance is Mine, I will repay" (Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30). While these words may appear harsh, they are necessary to be said. Divine vengeance is a reality, and not a mere threat. It will break forth upon all who have rejected the mercy of God, as offered in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord told Israel, "Vengeance is Mine, and recompense . . . " (Deut 32:35). Again it is written, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And render vengeance to His adversaries" (Deut 32:43). The 94th Psalm reminds us, "O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongs" (verse 1). Nahum proclaimed, "God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; The LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies" (Nah 1:2).

While this is not a fashionable message, nor one in which we are to delight, it is a necessary one. The Lord will not overlook the determined and continued rejection of His Son, the oppression of His people, and devotion to lifeless religion. There is an appointed time during which His judgment will be unleashed against all that is false and debilitating. If we marvel at this, we must awaken our souls by the consideration of the record of Divine judgment upon the enemies of truth. Babel, the Amorites, Sodom, Gomorrah, Egypt, the seven nations of Canaan, Babylon, and Jerusalem stand as testimonies to the wrath of God. They are to be taken seriously, and will help us reject error.

THE DISRUPTION OF INIMICAL FORCES

"And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth." To say the very least, the language is arresting to the sensitive soul. It is the vocabulary of Divine intrusion-an intrusion that cannot be averted or diminished in any sense.

This is a judgment of an epochal nature-something that has not "occurred since men were on the earth." It has to do with last things-the final confrontation of false and insipid religion with the God it feigned to represent. Remember, this judgment is preceded by the words, "IT IS DONE!" The purpose of God has been completed, and the time of corruption has come to an end.

The thrust of this passage is a proclamation of the demise of Satan's kingdom-particularly as it relates to the setting up of a false church. This does not, however, exclude the possibility of an upheaval within the natural order. Those who insist on limiting this to a spiritual application do not stand on solid ground. Throughout history, the Lord has revealed His judgments amidst colossal upheavals within the natural order.

The flood (Gen 7:11-12).

Fire and brimstone on the cities of the plain (Gen 19:24-25).

The plagues of Egypt (Ex 9-12).

The giving of the Law (Ex 19:18).

Great hailstones from heaven killed the enemies of Israel (Josh 10:11).

A tremendous earthquake in the days of Uzziah (Amos 1:1; Zech 14:5).

When seemingly invincible Sisera was overthrown by God, it is written, "They fought from the heavens; The stars from their courses fought against Sisera" (Judges 5:20).

These were very real occurrence-not symbols. They have been recorded to acquaint us with the Lord and His ways. As we draw near to the close of time, we must not allow ourselves to imagine such things cannot occur again. God has given us no reason to think He no longer works in this manner.

Whatever one may think of this engrossing passage, it declares something very emphatically. God's latter dealing with his enemies will be more severe than any of His previous judgments against them. The flood and Sodom and Gomorrah are very faint reflections of what is reserved for the ungodly.

The people of God do well to acquaint themselves with the severity of Divine judgments that have already occurred. On one occasion, the Lord warned Israel of eminent judgment if they refused to walk in His ways. In words that startle the soul, He said, "then I also will walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters" (Lev 26:28-29; Deut 28:53-56).

While these are difficult things to talk about, they are required for the proper culturing of the soul. Whatever one may choose to believe about the Lord, it is ever true: "For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. And again, 'The LORD will judge His people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:30-31). The only haven of rest is the Lord Jesus. He alone has "delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess 1:10).

The prevalence of an academic approach to Scripture has robbed men of this perspective of the Lord. Sophists encourage us to think neither blessing nor cursing any longer occur at a supernatural level. But they are wrong. A God that is transcendent to nature cannot be confined to it!

Utter and Irresistible Destruction

This is the language of utter and irresistible destruction. It will be total, and no effort can or will be made to resist it. The words "voices, thunderings, lightnings, and earthquakes" denote a unity of everything in heaven and earth against the enemies of Christ. They also denote a direct and immediate judgment from God, for these qualities are associated with His throne (Rev 4:5). This judgment will not come through their instrumentality of men. In history, there have been such judgments (the driving out of heathen nations by Israel, the overthrow of Jerusalem by Rome, etc). There have also been judgements that occurred independently of human intervention (Sodom, Egypt, etc.). Such will be this judgment. God Himself has been offended by His enemies, and God Himself will judge them.

Caused by the Presence of the Lord

God is often depicted as "fighting" for His people, and against their enemies. Thus it is written, "The Lord will fight for you" (Ex 14:14), "He shall fight for you" (Deut 1:30), "the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies" (Deut 20:4), and "So the LORD of hosts will come down To fight for Mount Zion and for its hill" (Isa 31:).

Technically speaking, however, there is no fight! The wicked are destroyed by the mere "breath of His mouth," and the "brightness of H is coming" (2 Thess 2:8). The Lord "fights," so to speak, by simply making Himself known. The entire natural order will disappear when His face is revealed. As it is written, "from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them" (Rev 20:11).

This is how it will be with the enemies of Christ. When they are aware of His Presence and power, their reign will come to a grinding halt. From this perspective, the only reason spiritual Babylon flourishes is because of its lack of awareness of the exalted Christ. But when He is made known, it will be quite another circumstance. If the entire Egyptian host was "troubled" when the Lord "looked" at them through the pillar of fire and cloud (Ex 14:24), what do you suppose will happen when the Lord makes His enemies acutely aware of His presence? It is no wonder the response of His foes is recorded in these words, "And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'" (Rev 6:15-17).

Unequaled judgment

This is unequaled judgment- greater than the flood, more intense than the destruction of Sodom, and more fierce than the plagues of Egypt. It will be worse than the curse poured out upon Jesus because of the sins of men. Worse, because Jesus recovered from the curse, but these enemies will not. There is no wrath like that which will be poured out upon the enemies of Christ Jesus and His people! This is particularly true of those who wear the name of His Son, yet reject His power.UNITY CONCLUDED

"Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell." The "great city" represents the devil's most extensive and successful amalgamation of men. It is more comprehensive than the unity disrupted at Babel (Gen 11:6-8). It is greater than the evil unity forged between the "five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon," who came against Gibeon (Josh 10:5).

The Wicked Join Forces

The wicked have consistently joined themselves together in wicked alliances. One time, king Benhadad joined "thirty-two kings" to himself to besiege Samaria (1 Kgs 20;1). In prophetic language, the Psalmist spoke of the "kings of the earth" uniting themselves "against the LORD, and against his anointed" (Psa 2:2). The early church recognized this Satanic initiative, and prayed to God about it. "The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ. For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together" (Acts 4:26-27). They also knew God's will would be triumphant in the whole arrangement. Their prayer continued, "to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done" (Acts 4:28).

Such Unions Will Fail

Solomon saw the principle, and wrote, "Though they join forces, the wicked will not go unpunished . . . Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished" (Prov 11:21; 16:5). However, this does NOT appear to be the case while the wicked conspiracies of men flourish.

The Most Wicked of All Unions

Never is the union of men more ungodly than when it pretends to be from God! It is an evil day indeed, when men engage in supposedly Christian efforts that requires neither God nor His Divine power. Such is spiritual Babylon-the "great city" Satan has raised up among men. As Jerusalem gloried in its "buildings" (Matt 24:1), so "great Babylon" glories in its religious structure. It has forged an alliance with the world like Jehosaphat, who "helped the ungodly," and loved them that hated the Lord (2 Chron 19:2). John the beloved also wrote of those who, by condoning those who did not hold to the "doctrine of Christ," "shares in his evil deeds" (2 John 10-11).

The Great City

"The great city" has been mentioned before, and it will be mentioned following this text. It is "Babylon," and is scheduled for a fall (Rev 14:8). Later, it will be depicted as a great harlot who reigns over the kings of the earth (17:18). It is a place in which the demons of hell feel at home, as well as every foul thing (18:2), and is declared to be a "mighty city" (18:10). It is made attractive with the world's paraphernalia (18:16), and receives the world's approval (18:17-19). But "with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore" (18:21). It cannot escape this appointment.

Like the Disruption of the Midianites

Its unity will be Divinely disrupted without earthly weapon, and independently of the wisdom of men. Suddenly, what was once their strength will become their weakness, and the "great city" will not be able to hold together. The disruption of this diabolical union will be much like that of the overthrow of the Midianites. It is written, "the LORD set every man's sword against his companion throughout the whole camp" (Judges 7:22).

Why Three Parts?

Why is the "great city" divided into three parts? This is the language of total destruction. Both the unity of the Lord's enemies and their monstrous empire will be brought down. The language is that of the prophet Ezekiel, who spoke similarly of the destruction of Jerusalem. The expressions are most vivid. "You shall burn with fire one-third in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are finished; then you shall take one-third and strike around it with the sword, and one-third you shall scatter in the wind: I will draw out a sword after them" (Ezek 5:2). One third burned, one third killed with the sword, and one third scattered to the wind. That is total disruption-total destruction. The idea is that recovery is impossible. The Lord totally decimates the "great city" which dominated religion for centuries.

God Remembers

"And great Babylon was remembered before God." It is not that God ever forgot "great Babylon." The expression "was remembered before God," or "came in remembrance before God" (KJV), is synonymous with Babylon's iniquity being "full." As I have already mentioned, it is the concept introduced to Abraham when the Lord revealed the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. "But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" (Gen 15:16). Daniel also spoke of "transgressors" coming "to the full" (Dan 8:23).

Babylon's iniquity will finally reach its apex; i.e., it will come to the point where God can no longer tolerate it. It is what happened when the world became so evil God destroyed it with a flood. It happened when Sodom and Gomorrah, whose sin grew "great in the face of the Lord" (Gen 19:13).

It is at this point the Lord looks intently upon the offenders in question-in this case, "great Babylon." His nature will not allow that prolonged look, as it were, to yield mercy for the transgressors. He does not view Babylon with Jesus' intercession in mind, but with its wretched character in mind. He remembers what SHE has done.

When the Lord "remembers" great Babylon, the blood of the saints shed by her will come into His mind. Her distortion of the truth will come into His mind, together with her aggressive posture against His Son and His great salvation.

Why Is This Said?

The saints of God are currently faced with much the same situation as Habakkuk. The prophet saw iniquity being flaunted in the face of God, and asked the Lord about it. "You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he?" Hab 1:13). With heavy hearts, believers throughout the ages have had to battle distortions of the faith, false doctrines, and enemies from within its walls.

On the surface, it seems the Lord is indifferent to the situation. However, He is not, and His people need to know it. Babylon's time is running out! She is slated for demise and eternal judgment. Not one drop of blood she has shed has gone unnoticed. There is not a syllable of false doctrine that has not been heard by the Lord, and duly noted. The sighs of discouragement that have risen from the saints have been heard by their Lord. This record is given to assure their hearts victory will soon be evident.

Given a Cup

" . . . to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath." The word "cup" is a significant one in Scripture. It denotes the Divine apportionment of something to the individual or group. This Jesus, when He was about to have the sins of the world laid upon Him, spoke of "the cup which My Father has given Me?" (John 18:11). With great fervency, He sought for a way to have this "cup" pass from Him (Matt 26:39-42). In His

case, the "cup" involved tasting "death for every man" (Heb 2:9). Although the Lord Jesus relinquished His own will in favor of the will of God, His was an imposed cup-something He was commanded to drink.

So it is with the cup given to Babylon. This "cup" is not offered to be accepted or rejected. It is forced upon her, and she will drink it to the fullest. The 73rd Psalm will be fulfilled in her: "waters of a full cup are drained by them" (verse 10).

A Word Of Grace

In this "day of salvation," another "cup" is being offered to humanity. Those who drink from that cup have nothing to fear from the cup that will be given to "great Babylon." In his inimitable way, the "sweet psalmist of Israel" referred to this "cup." Realizing the unspeakable benefits he had received from the Lord, he asked a poignant question, then answered it. "What shall I render to the LORD For all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, And call upon the name of the LORD" (Psa 116:12-13). Blessed "cup," indeed! Those who drink from this cup will not drink from the cup of God's wrath!

Because of the presence of evil, and the seeming impregnability of worldly religion, the people of God are tempted to despair. But we must not allow the clouds of discouragement to hang long over our heads. By faith, we must rise into the heavenly places and breath the refreshing air of eternal purpose. Lifeless religion is scheduled to fall, and those who cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart are destined to triumphantly judge the world and angels.

Ponder the Fall

If your mind is given to ponder Babylon, think of its fall, not its present influence. Its dominance is temporary, and will yield without contest to the will of the Almighty.

Babylon's Turn to Drink

That "great city" made the nations of the world to drink from her cup. It is said of her, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" (Rev 14:8). Under the direction of the devil, she introduced a religion of admixture-attempting to mingle the Word of God with the wisdom and ways of the world. The world bought her sweet elixir, contributing even more to her comfortableness in "this present evil world." But now it is Babylon's time to drink, and drink she will! There is no way she is able to avoid drinking her appointed cup.

No Help "Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found." The mountains are often portrayed as a place of refuge (Song of Sol 2:17; Matt 24:26). In the time of the flood, the "mountains were covered" (Gen 7:20). But in the day of wrath, the mountains will be removed. There will never again be a place of safety for the godless-no refuge for the enemies of Christ.

This precise language was used at the opening of the sixth seal, which affirmed the conclusion of the natural order. "And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places" (6:14). The language denotes Divine disruption that removes all confidence and hope.

Thus all hope of recovery is removed, and there is no place to hide. The ultimate confrontation has come, and Babylon will not be able to stand. Suffering saints, take courage! The truth may be maligned now, but the day of recompense is coming. Your day is coming, praise the Lord!

OVERWHELMING JUDGMENT, YET NO REPENTANCE

The language is unusually strong. "And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent." While this is most likely figurative language, there is no reason to limit it to a figure. There have been remarkable judgments involving the use of hailstones. On one occasion, "all the kings of the Amorites" were gathered against the children of Israel. The Lord told Joshua not to fear-that he would put the enemy to flight without a single one of them left standing. It is written, "the LORD cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword" (Josh 10:11). In the seventh plague upon Egypt, the Lord sent "a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now" (Ex 9:18). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!

It IS Possible

The God who can send a deluge that covered the entire earth (Gen 6), cause the sun to stand still (Josh 10:12), impose darkness over the earth (Lk 23:44), and loose natural forces and insects against a nation (Ex 9-12), can send great hailstones upon His enemies. With God, all things are possible-whether blessing or cursing.

Devastating Judgment

There are differing levels of Divine judgment. Some at Corinth were stricken with weakness and sickness, while others were smitten with death (1 Cor 11:30). The Lord can send fear upon people (Ex 30:13), cause their resources to diminish (Hag 1:6), or send a famine on the land (Psa 105;16).

What we are beholding here is devastating judgment from which recovery is not possible. It is the result of God's patience running out. Some doubt that such a state can be reached. Their theology will not allow such a conclusion. But they are seriously wrong, and are themselves testing the longsuffering of God by entertaining such a view.

These hailstones were each "about the weight of a talent," or "about a hundred pounds" (NIV). Students of language tell us a "talent" ranged in weight from 108-130 pounds. Imagine a hailstone of that size! Whether this is literal or metaphorical hail does not change the intent of the passage. The language confirms this is a supernatural, not a natural, phenomenon.

Established Language

Throughout Scripture, Divine judgment is depicted as a sort of hailstorm. Three times in the book of Revelation, "hail" is mentioned in association with Divine judgment (8:7; 11:19; 16:21). It is something over which man has absolutely no control. The Lord challenged Job with this question: "Have you entered the treasury of snow, Or have you seen the treasury of hail, Which I have reserved for the time of trouble, For the day of battle and war?" (Job 38:22-23).

The occasion of the giving of the law was described as a time of "hailstones" (Psa 18:12-13). His judgment against Egypt's vines and cattle is described as being accomplished through "hail" (Psa 78:47-48; 105:32). "Hail" is said to be in the Divine arsenal-a means of fulfilling His word (Psa 148:8).

The prophet Isaiah referred to "a tempest of hail" as the means of destroying His enemies (Isa 28:2,17). Haggai used the same language (Hag 2:17). Thus, our text speaks of overwhelming Divine judgment. It was long in coming, yet sure in its execution.

No Character Change

Sin brings men to a state where change is impossible. In Christ Jesus, God has provided a means of escape from sin. He sends a message of good news to lift the attention of men to the realm of promise. If that message is not heeded, sin continues its hardening and searing affect upon men. If, as in our text, men choose to corrupt that Gospel, sin becomes even more aggressive. Corrupt religion accelerates hardening, increments spiritual blindness, and desensitizes the soul. A confirmation of this is seen in the reaction of those upon whom judgment falls.

"Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great." This is the third time in this chapter that such a response is recorded. "And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God . . . They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores . . . Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail" (verses 9,11,21). It is one thing to blaspheme the Lord when times are going well, and self-reliance seems justified. It is quite another thing for such blasphemy to come from the lips of men when they are under Divine judgment. This is a display of extraordinary hardness of heart. To deride and reproach the Living God during the ferocity of His judgment reveals a condition from which recovery is not possible.

From the Second Beast

Keep in mind that "blasphemy" was a particular trait of the second beast. "Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven" (13:6). This beast appeared docile, but spoke as a dragon, in perfect harmony with the devil. He was given authority "to make war with the saints and to overcome them" (13:7). This is nothing less than the source of "great Babylon," which has come in remembrance before God.

Remember, the seventh vial of judgment is focused against corrupt religion-that "great city," or "great Babylon." Those who blaspheme God are the ones swept up in the current of false and lifeless religion. They have obtained the very nature of the second beast. That is why they "blaspheme God." To be more precise, they have become like their "father the devil" (John 8:44). Suffice it to say, all men become like the master they serve - and they cannot serve two masters (Matt 10:25; Lk 6:13).

Because of the Plague

The hearts of those upon whom the plague fell were not changed by the plague. It only confirmed a condition that already existed--an irreversible condition. This is a Kingdom principle, and is worth noting. Solomon once said, "If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small" (Prov 24:10). From the stresses of life to the judgments of the Almighty, pressure reveals what we really are. They test the real metal of life.

When sore and unparalleled affliction was experienced by Job, his response revealed his character, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him: but I will maintain mine own ways before Him . . . And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another" (Job 13:15).

David also responded in a godly manner to great difficulty. "Your wrath lies heavy upon me, And You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah. You have put away my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an abomination to them; I am shut up, and I cannot get out; My eye wastes away because of affliction. LORD, I have called daily upon You; I have stretched out my hands to You . . . Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word. You are good, and do good; Teach me Your statutes . . . It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes" (Psa 88:7-9; 119:67-68, 71).

Those in Christ are brought on their way by means of tribulation. They are told, "that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). Rather than working against them, tribulation is the appointed means through which godly perseverance is matured. "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance" (Rom 5:3).

Why the Difference?

What is the difference between the saints of God and those comprising "great Babylon"? Why do difficulties develop a determination to reach the goal in the illuminated, and blasphemy in the deceived? When believers in past ages were sorely oppressed, they "died in faith," acknowledging they were "strangers and pilgrims in the earth" (Heb 11:13). But it is not so with those who have been deceived by the wicked one. They have settled in this world, and are alienated from God.

The difference is owing to the truth. The righteous love and receive the truth. The wicked hate and reject it. That truth strengthens the heart of those loving it, enabling them to stand in storms and trials. Those who reject the truth, settling for the lie of the wicked one, because of that rejection, become weak and incapable of responding to the glory of God. This is involved in the glorious announcement of Jesus: "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). One aspect of that freedom is extrication from delusion and its perpetrators. Believers are admonished to "stand fast" in that liberty, and not be moved (Gal 5:1).

PURPOSES FULFILLED IN THESE JUDGMENTS

Divine judgments are reactions, but not mere reactions. There are noble purposes served in the pouring out of judgments-particularly those at the conclusion of time. Just as blessings have a purpose, so do the judgments of the Almighty.

Retribution for Persecution

The martyred saints had asked about the avenging of their blood, and were told it was on the Divine agenda (Rev 6:10). While vengeance is not proper for men (Rom 12:18-21), it is proper for our Lord. In fact, vengeance belongs to the Lord. With Him, "it is a righteous thing . . . to repay with tribulation those who trouble" believers (2 Thess 1:6). Just as it would be "unrighteous" for God to "forget" the godly expressions of His people (Heb 6:10), so it would be contrary to the Divine nature to ignore the oppression of His people. Although appearance seems to contradict it, the people of God are the apple of His eye. As it is written, "he who touches you touches the apple of His eye" (Zech 2:8). Thus, in the pouring out of the vials of Divine wrath, those who have taken upon themselves to oppress the saints will be justly punished. This will be a revelation of the righteousness of the Living God.

The Worldly Spirit Judged

The Lord has made clear how He feels about this world. It is defined as "this present evil world" (Gal 1:4). The concerns of this world render the Word of God powerless, competing against the Lord (Mark 4:19). In a poignant statement of the real situation, the Spirit says, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). The "carnal mind," which is the worldly mind-set, is "enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom 8:7-8). There is no possibility of the person enmeshed in the world serving or pleasing God. It simply is not possible! God has rejected them.

Yet, in spite of this revealed circumstance, "great Babylon" has sought to wed this alienated world with the one to come. It has endeavored to place the new wine of salvation in the old wineskin of flesh. In so doing, it has violated both the nature and purpose of the Almighty. His wrath will be poured out upon all who promoted such a view. It constrains one to quench the Spirit, and despise the blood of the covenant, wherewith we are sanctified.

Wicked Confederation Visited

God made men for fellowship--to dwell with others. From the beginning, it was not good "for man to be alone" (Gen 2:18). By nature, man is gregarious, or sociable. That trait finds its lawful gratification in union with the Lord and His people.

"Babylon the great," however, has sought to fulfill this tendency by unholy alliances. Like Babel of old, its unity excludes the Lord. To justify such an omission, it has constructed theologies that affirm God no longer has immediate involvements with men. The institution becomes the fundamental thing, and commitment to the organization the primary means of obtaining its approval-which sanction is essential for ministry in the group.

But this appraisal is seriously wrong, and is destined to be judged by God. He will not allow coalitions to continue that fail to focus upon Him. When His Son, around Whom all valid unity centers, is excluded in any sense, the wrath of God is being stored up against the offenders. It is just a matter of time until that judgment is unleashed. It is unspeakably wicked to align yourself with the realm that is dominated by the devil!

CONCLUSION

We have dealt with a most awesome text-one which Satan will tempt us to ignore. It is an introduction to the following chapters, which shall go into some detail about "the great city," "great Babylon," or "Babylon the great." As I have said before, this is Satan's most formidable attack against the saints. It is his most extensive enterprise. Traffickers in sensual pleasure and drugs are nothing to compare with this consortium.

It is the business of every one in Christ to devote themselves to the truth and separate from everything that militates against it. Do not grow accustomed to lifeless religion. God and Christ have certainly not acclimated to it. Jesus stands on the outside of the lukewarm church, and solemnly warns the orthodox church that has left its first love.

This is a personal matter, and cannot be legislated by another person. The Lord Jesus presides over the entire universe in general, and His body the church in particular. He has told us what He will not tolerate, and we are to give heed to it. The abandonment of our "first love" will cause us to be removed unless we return to it (2:4). The toleration of doctrines that contribute to immorality and the worship of other things will be judged (2:14,20). Dead churches will be visited by Jesus in an inconvenient hour (3:1-3). Churches that are not aggressive for or against the truth will be spewed out of the mouth of Jesus (3:16). Our Lord has spoken plainly on these matters.

Yet, churches of this sort are all about us, cluttering the landscape of humanity. The world has crept into the church, and now it has been received with open arms. It sanctions our preachers, and teaches us about interpersonal relationships. It instructs us of economics, and brings its entertaining ways to us. Some of us cannot keep quiet about it. We already know the mind of the Lord about such things. Our Lord has reserved His fiercest wrath for spiritual corrupters.