Come Out! – Revelation 17:15-18 – Pastor Brian
How does the darkness of evil and suffering reveal His light?
The horrible and scary events of Revelation tell the darkness of evil and suffering to come. We as Christ followers should not be afraid, yet I know there is fear. Facing and overcoming our fears boils down to how much do we trust in the safety system of God’s purposes and His Word. Do we really believe that God is sovereign and in control, even in the darkness of evil and suffering that we know is coming and see today? It’s very difficult to see that the light of God still shines in the midst of evil and suffering. The question for this morning is… How does the darkness of evil and suffering reveal His light?
Revelation chapters 4-18 describe the seven-year period known as the Great Tribulation from the book of Daniel. Because of intricate and unusual symbolic language used in the Book of Revelation, most of us find it a difficult read. People in the ancient world would have been more used to the complex nature of apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature was written for people who already knew something of the situation and the symbols that were used to portray it. So, for the original audience of John, Revelation would have been immediately understandable. For us, it is easy to get lost in the language and miss that the message of Revelation was meant to encourage the believer in any period of church history.
The Woman is identified as the city of Babylon which existed in John’s day. This city was prosperous, powerful, idolatrous and dangerous. Polluting nations with its filthy and immoral standard of living as well as it’s persecution of those who belong to the Lord. (v.6). Power, wealth, immorality, and persecution are words that summarize Babylon and her influence on a worldwide scale. The Babylonian system, mother of all false religions, represents the powers that will be in the end of time.
The Beast is how the Woman would rule. At the time, John was referencing the political and religious systems of Rome as a way to relate to his audience. More specifically the Beast was called the scarlet Beast (v.3) Scarlet is the color of Satan and of sin (Isaiah 1:18). Scarlet was also a popular color in Rome associated with rank, riches, and status. For the audience beyond John’s day, the Beast Is the powerful political and religious system that will rule the world.
The Waters (v.5) symbolize all the people whose names are not written in the Book of Life. These are those who have rejected the truth and light of Jesus but will believe the lies of the beast and live in the darkness of the world.
The Lamb (v.14) is The Lamb of God who is Jesus, Light of the World, Savior, Son of God, Lord of lords and King of kings.
Hopefully these explanations (Woman, Beast, Waters and Lamb) will help give a clearer picture of this spiritual war between God and Satan. It’s Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Darkness. How does the darkness of evil and suffering reveal His light?
1) God allows the darkness of evil to reveal the light of His purposes. Trials are not fun but they are intended to move us to trust God. Difficulties in life are God’s way to guide us to have faith in His plans. In the eternal perspective, God will at times use the darkness of evil to turn our hearts towards Him. God, through His Son Jesus, is the only true light that will overcome the darkness of evil we might face in this world. Wouldn’t you agree that it is easier to trust the plans of God when all things are going well? But when they are not, when life becomes challenging and hard, our faith is tested. It’s easy to doubt the light of God’s purposes and think that darkness has won.
“They,” are the Beast and the ten horns or ten kings of the corrupt world system. God put into their hearts to overthrow the Woman (Babylon) to carry out His purposes. This destruction and description of Babylon is further shown in Revelation 18:2–4. Babylon is the epitome of all evil and this depravity is graphically described. The wicked, foul and despicable state of Babylon is the darkness of evil. Then the angel warns (18:4), “Come out of her, My people.” All saints of both heaven and earth are called to come out of Babylon’s darkness and escape its influence.
(17a), “For God has put it into their hearts to carry out His purpose.” It’s confusing and encouraging all at once. Encouraging because though this battle between two evil forces will create hardship, suffering, and pain, God has a purpose. Despite how horrible, discouraging, and scary things will get, God will reveal the light of His purposes in the darkness of evil when we hold tightly onto faith in His sovereign care knowing that He is carrying out His purpose.
The light of His purposes is the belief, faith and trust that God’s plans are always good. We may not see the value of today’s darkness but be assured God knows what He is doing and it is good. “So that the tested genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1Peter 1:7
Faith is tested when we begin to wonder and question why. You might be asking, why is this happening to me? Why God have you allowed this worldwide pandemic, or the evil of racism to exist? This shelter in place and upsetting news is straining my marriage and relationships. Or you might be thinking, I am so alone because I can’t see my parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, friends etc. It’s too much! Why God? Yet we are encouraged to view any testing of our faith as more precious than gold for it is preparing us to be at peace with the certainty of future darkness because God is carrying out His purposes and leading us to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the Light of God’s purpose.
Through the darkness of evil, the light of His purposes are revealed by holding tightly onto faith in His sovereign care and His Son Jesus.
2) God allows the darkness of suffering to reveal the light of His Word. When we see the darkness of suffering, it should move us to trusting in God’s Word. Believe it or not, God allows hardships to bring His people closer to Himself. Through sufferings, our trust and faith in His Word are being tested. Though this is very difficult to understand, even in the darkness of suffering, God’s Word is accomplished. (17:17) “For God has put it into their hearts to carry out His purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.”
“Until the words of God are fulfilled.” God’s plans will be completed when His Words are accomplished. If you believe God exists, everything about the end of time will happen as described in Revelation. In your head you might hear this but, in your heart, do you believe this? Do we fully realize and understand what this means? The end of time will be a horribly scary and awful time for those who reject God’s Son. The terrible and frightening truth is that those who are not written in the book of life, will be ruled by evil forces and eventually killed with them. The darkness of suffering will be unimaginable and eternal. This head knowledge that God’s words will be fulfilled, should fill our hearts and break us. The great tribulation of Revelation should bother us and move us to share life with Jesus with those who don’t know Him.
Because of God and His purposes, His people get to participate in seeing souls saved. Not just for souls of the United States, but for the entire world. Regardless of how hopeless or dire circumstances may become we are called to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. I find this passage comforting because it refocuses our attention to what is really important in life, the souls of people.
Whatever challenges you are dealing with right now, know that God’s Word, shines a light on your purpose, to live and share in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the Word of God shines a light in the darkness of suffering by reminding us of what God says in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” God allows the darkness of suffering to reveal the light of His Word magnifying life’s purpose and the sureness of His Word. Saints are called
to be the light in the darkness of these troubling times to guide people to the true Light, Jesus, who saves them from the Great Tribulation.
A couple of Friday’s ago we enjoyed a staff development day at Mt. Hermon and did the ropes course, high above ground, between majestic redwood trees. It’s very safe, there was great training and participants are always attached to a safety wire. If you slip and fall the safety protocol will keep you from falling to the ground. So, what is there to be afraid of? When it comes down to it, there is nothing to fear if you trust and have faith in the system if you stumble.
This event was meant to create unity and connect us. Little did we know that the bonding of our team would come in a different way. God knew. You’ll soon understand why I am especially grateful to join you this morning. I’m thankful not only to God, but for prayers lifted on my behalf this past week. While on the course, I injured myself pretty seriously. Tearing hamstrings in both legs. The pain was so intense I passed out on a platform 80 feet above ground. Thanks to God and the calmness and knowledge of our guide, a young college woman, I was pulled from one platform to another and then safely hoisted down 80 feet to a soft landing on the forest floor. At first my body was limp and I couldn’t physically or verbally respond, but after being laid out on the ground for a bit, I was able to open my eyes and squeeze Kathy and Pastor Eric’s hands before being put on a stretcher and transported to the ambulance. Funny thing in route to the ambulance on the stretcher we passed the next group being trained for the course. Kathy and Pastor Scott assured them it was a safe course after seeing the look of fear on their faces.
Needless to say, my injury pulled our team together in way not planned. God’s purpose for connecting the staff was not the
way I pictured, but it emphasizes the main point that God allows the darkness of evil and suffering to reveal His light. I would not call what I suffered evil, but it did hurt and was not fun. Though I don’t understand or like what happened, God has allowed this suffering to remind me that He has a plan and to trust in His purposes and Word.
Prophetic Lament, by Soong-Chan Rah, is about Jeremiah’s lament in the context of Israel’s exile and captivity in Babylon for 70 years. The author makes a great point that Jeremiah 29:7 sets up Jeremiah 29:11. God has a plan for His people that gives a future and hope if they seek the welfare of the city that they are exiled. In their captivity, God is saying to His people in their darkness His light will be revealed. Seek the welfare of your captors and you will find your welfare. Seek the shalom, the peace and prosperity where you are and you will find the same.
In a way, life on earth, compared to life in heaven, is our exile in Babylon. We are called to “Come Out” from the evil surrounding us and be a light for those living in darkness. Revelation should cause us to lament, to cry out for those who reject Jesus in the same way Jeremiah lamented over Israel’s rejection of the Laws of God. Christ followers, we ought to lament for those who reject the grace of Jesus and live for their welfare and be lights in a dark place… “Until the words of God are fulfilled.”
Praise Songs: Christ Our Hope in Life and Death, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, What a Beautiful Name It Is, Doxology