The legalising of same-sex marriage, the passing of euthanasia laws and the prosecution of anti abortion protesters have left many Bible believing Christians in Australia feeling besieged.
Some Christian spokesmen are saying it’s no longer possible to have reasoned dialogue with non-Christians about the meaning of life (Eternity magazine 14.6.18). None of this should depress us for as “God does nothing without revealing his plans to his servants the prophets.” (Am 3:7) he will give us a witness from heaven about his plans in the circumstances of our time.
As external pressures from the world on the Church intensify the Spirit of God is working to enlarge “the eyes of our hearts” (Eph 1:18) so we see in new depth the intensity of the struggle in which we are immersed.
Despite our immaturities (1 Cor 3:1; Heb 5:13) we have been placed on a steep learning curve concerning the clash between the dominion of darkness and the kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13).
Unlike us the first Christians believed they were living within the “end of days” (Dan 12:13 i.e. eschatology) on the edge of the consummation of the age long cosmic struggle between Satan and God (1 Cor 10:11).
As followers of Jesus they believed they could see into this spiritual world because through Christ the veil between heaven and earth has been lifted and God’s plan for all things was now revealed (Eph 1:10 i.e. apocalyptic).
The book of Revelation is the part of the Bible that speaks most directly to an oppressed Church like our own and for its message about Armageddon is especially significant.
But certain scales must be removed from our eyes if we are to understand how Jesus is speaking to us today.
Revelation opens with a message that its visions “must soon take place…. for the time is near” (Rev 1:1, 3 cf. Rev 22:10) and Jesus’ ends the book with words of tremendous assurance, ““Surely I am coming soon.”” (Rev 22:20).
Everything in Revelation is going to happen soon because for the New Testament writers knew that the “last days” embraced their own time. As Peter expounded the events on the day of Pentecost by saying, “in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17)
Hebrews starts with, “in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son” (Rev 1:2). With the coming of the Word of God in Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit of God the Church is by nature in the last days when, as Paul says, “the world as we know it is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31).
The whole message of Revelation is (cf. Rev 1:4) in some important way relevant to our day and its atmosphere of urgency applies to us NOW.
Its final battle called “Armageddon” could happen any time soon for its only the last in a series of battles stretching across the history of salvation. When evil angels trespassed onto earth (Gen 6 ff; Jude 1: 6) God destroyed their schemes through the Flood (cf. Matt 24:38-39; 2 Pet 2:5 ff.).
Through the many conflicts threatening the existence of Israel to tyrants like Herod the Great and the emperors of Rome and throughout Church history beast powers rise up whose goal is to exterminate the people of God (Ezek 38-39; Dan 7:21, 22; Matt 2:16; Rev 20:7-9).
There is no armistice, truce or peace in their unholy war.
The conflict between the deceptions of Satan and the Lordship of Messiah simply comes to a climax at Armageddon. This is straightforward and beyond our control but Revelation’s testimony to the Armageddon event is to a Church beguiled by seducing powers and unprepared for the End; vs.13 “And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. vs.14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. vs.15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) vs.16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Rev 16:13-16). These words are a warning to us.
“Armageddon” literally means “mountain of Megiddo” but the fact that in the Old Testament Meggido is described as a “valley” (2 Chron 35:22; Zech 12:11) indicates John is speaking in symbolic not literal terms.
There is no physical mountain anywhere near Megiddo.
Most likely Armageddon means “mount of assembly” (cf. Isa 14:13); but which mountain?
The mountain in the Old Testament at which the anti-God forces gather against God’s people is always the temple mountain, Mt Zion, (Pss 47; 48; 102; Joel 3:2; Zeph 3:8; Zech 12:3; 14:2 cf. Ezek 38-39).
In Revelation itself (Rev 14:1, 20; Rev 20:8-9) “the beloved city”, Jerusalem, is the location of the final end-time conflict.
Since in the New Testament the “Jerusalem above is our mother” and we have “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem [mountain of God]” (Gal 4:26; Heb 12:22 cf. John 4:21-24) Armageddon stands for an attack on the whole Church across the world as it worships Christ in heaven. This final assault will climax at some future time but that time is always impending.
Jesus’ own words sandwiched between the two references to this last battle make the immediacy of the danger crystal clear, “(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)” (Rev 16:15).
This is the language he used in one of his Gospel parables, “vs.39 “Stay dressed for action….if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. vs.40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”” (Luke 12:35, 39-40).
Throughout the New Testament the thief image always describes an unexpected sudden Return of Christ as Judge (1 Thess 5:2, 4; 2 Pet 3:10). The first hearers of Revelation would readily recall these words of Jesus to the church of Sardis; “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” (Rev 3:3).
It is absolutely clear that the outpouring of the plagues described in Revelation 16 consummating in Armageddon could happen at any moment! The power which lulled the church of Sardis to sleep and has sent most Australian Christians into a dangerous spiritual slumber is the power of deception.
Revelation repeatedly warns of a global campaign of deception by the forces of evil (Rev 16:14, 16; Rev 19:19; Rev 20:8). vs.13 “And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs.vs.14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.” (Rev 16:13-14).
Frogs are unclean animals (Lev 11:9-12; 41:47) and by the plague of frogs in Exodus (Ex 8:2-11; Psalm 78:45; Psalm 105:30) the Lord proved his power over heqet the Egyptian goddess of the resurrection who was pictured as a frog (Ex 12:12; Num 33:4).
From ancient religion to religions like Islam to communism and Nazism and the contemporary doctrine of gender fluidity seducing spirits entice humans with wondrous promises of a re-creation beyond the bounds of their present humanity, but in the end “destruction” will come (Ps 78:45; 1 Tim 4:1).
Dragons and the beasts are noisy creatures easy to spot (Dan 7:8, 11, 20, 36; 2 Thess 2:4; Rev 13:5-6) but “false prophet” is an expression always used of evil within the Church (Matt 7:15; 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26; Acts 13:6; 2 Pet 2:1; 1 John 4:1).
Revelation warns repeatedly that the Church of the last days will suffer from demonically induced idolatry and immorality (Rev 2:14; 20-21; Rev 17:2 ff.). God’s response to such compromise is uncompromising.
Throughout the Old Testament the Lord exposed the shameful idolatry of Israel by assembling hostile nations against them to strip their cities bare through battle; symbolically, to quote, he lifted up the skirts of Israel to expose their fornication with false gods (Ezek 16:36-39; Ezek 23:29; Isa 20:4; Jer 13:22, 26; Nah 3:5).
Such actions of holy jealousy are not restricted to the old covenant. As we have seen in Revelation (Rev 16:15) Jesus warns his Bride to stay clothed lest she be found “naked” and “exposed”. Only a people blinded by idolatry (cf. Psalm 115:4-8; Rev 3:17) could fail to see that the Lord Jesus is exposing the shameful spiritual state of his Church today.
By uncovering the depravity in institutional Christianity the royal commission into child abuse should have provoked agonising lament and ongoing 24/7 prayer across the nation!
But through centuries of compromise with the Babylonian harlot/false religious system Western Christendom seems to have lost the ability to conceive that God Almighty is exposing her nakedness by judgement (Rev 17:6).
Whereas a holy Bride is on constant spiritual alert we must accept Christ’s witness to his church in Laodicea applies to us; ““you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”” (Rev 3: 14, 16-17).
Even Adam and Eve could recognise their shame and nakedness (Gen 3:7) but mainstream Western Christianity is too blind to see she’s been stripped bare!
Let me use a contemporary illustration of our spiritual sightlessness. Lots of “Bible-believing” Christians appreciated the vigorous preaching of the African-American bishop at the royal “wedding of the century”.
A man who speaks so passionately about love and Jesus must be a Christian, mustn’t he? The truth is that he leads a “church” famous for celebrating same-sex relationships and which cruelly offers poor Africans development aid on the condition that they change their traditional views on marriage.
Was his preaching inspired by the Spirit of God or some other spirit? Wolves in sheep’s clothing look like… sheep (Matt 7:15)! Thank God his Spirit has instructed us how to recognise deception, by looking through the blood of the cross.
The garments which Jesus places on his Bride (Matt 22:11-13; Rev 16:15) are robes ““washed…and made…white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14).
By symbolising our “righteous deeds” (Rev 19:8) in Christ these spattered garments incite intense satanic warfare against “the saints” i.e. against us (Dan 7:21; Rev 13:7).
Yet in God’s purposes as we remain faithful under attack our discernment of spirits becomes sharper and sharper (1 Cor 12:10; Heb 5:14) so that the great acclamation belongs to us, “they have conquered him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Rev 12:11).
This victory in spiritual conflict is a share in Christ’s victory because it is a share a share in his own righteous life (Isa 53:11; Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; Acts 22:14; 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:7). God’s justice is revealed on earth as his people triumph over evil.
In the Old Testament the Lord revealed his righteousness by his warring against evil nations (Isa 11:4; Ps 96:13) but in Revelation it is the Lamb of God who conquers supernatural evil by “making war in righteousness” in the power of his own shed blood (Rev 19:11).
The sacrificial blood of Jesus stands for his righteousness, his complete obedience to the Father to the point of death in order that lost people might be saved. When we trust in the death of Jesus his righteousness becomes ours through grace; to be “washed in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14 cf. 1:5) is to “have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ” (Rom 5:9).
Satan no longer can justly accuse those who are washed in the blood of Christ (Rev 12:9-10 cf. Rom 8:33-34 cf. 1 John 2:1-2). With Christ’s blood as our covering (Rom 3:25) by faith we stand righteous fearless and unashamed before God’s tribunal (cf. Heb 12:2).
The battle preparedness of the Church is rarely experienced today because most preachers have no biblical understanding of how the blood of the cross revolutionises the human conscience.
“how much more”, says the writer of Hebrews, “will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our conscience from dead works…. let us draw near (to God) with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from a guilty conscience” (Heb 9:14; Heb 10:22 cf. 1 Pet 1:2).
When the Word of the cross (1 Cor 1:18) penetrates cleanses our consciences from idolatrous thoughts spiritual realities become more and more transparent.
Those with a blood cleansed conscience see the conflict in the heavenly realms and are not deceived by the designs of the devil (2 Cor 2:11).
Seeing in the Spirit (Rev 1:10) means seeing that the real warfare in our culture is not driven by social, moral or political forces (Eph 6:12) but by powers that can only be overcome in the way of the cross; by sacrificial obedient love for the sake of others, even unto death (Rev 12:11).
This is the righteousness that makes manifest the victory of the Lamb. This call of God is great but it is not glamorous or easy.
From the shedding of the blood of the righteous Abel (Matt 23:35) to the martyr Antipas named in Revelation 2 there have always been those chosen to suffer more severely than others for the sake of the victory of God.
Only those who see that we are in an end-time cosmic conflict that could consummate at any time can be a part of this elect and privileged group (Matt 5:10-12; Acts 5:41).
If to suffer for Jesus is to be gloried with him (Luke 24:26; Rom 8:17; 1 Pet 4:12-13) why aren’t there lines of Christians queuing up to enlist for the fight; wanting that is to be Christ’s disciples?
It’s because deceived by demonic wisdom much of the Church has placed itself outside of the biblical plot (James 3:14-16).
To engage seriously with the revelation that we are already in a clash of spiritual kingdoms which will conclude in Armageddon is folly to mainstream Australian Christianity.
Few feel an urgency to examine their consciences checking if they are washed in the blood of the Lamb (2 Cor 13:5 cf. 1 Cor 11:27-32).
We have been deceived in a way that a most famous tale of Hans Christian Andersen lays bare.
In The Emperor’s New Clothes counterfeit tailors promise a vain emperor a new suit of clothes invisible to those who are unworthy of their positions. In reality, they make no clothes at all. But when the emperor parades in his new “clothes” no one dares to say that they do not see any clothes on him for fear that they will be reckoned unworthy. Finally, a child in the crowd cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” and the truth is exposed.
Much of the Church today is trying to clothe itself in programmes, celebrity ministries and political activities as if these could ward off the assaults of the devil. The sin, divisions, psychological disorders, disturbed marriages, family strife and prayerlessness amoungst believers expose these devices as defenceless before the powers of evil.
Just as God promised Israel that he would put none of the diseases of the Egyptians upon them if they were faithful to his covenant (Ex 12:13; Ex 15:26) so in parallel form the plagues of Revelation are designed to come upon the world (Rev 3:10; Rev 6:10; Rev 8:13) and not on the Church.
But today Christians seem to be as plagued by disease and disorder as anyone else. Jesus warned that people would be carrying on with life as normal right up until his sudden coming to judge (Matt 24:38-39). This is necessarily true of the world, but it is also largely true of the Church!
Karl Marx spoke as a secular prophet when he described religion as the “opium of the people”.
Look up many websites of larger churches and their home pages picture a brightly lit stage with a worship band and a host of ecstatic worshippers. Many Christian meetings are like opium dens producing a self-intoxicating emotional high lifting the spiritually weak to get through to the next Sunday fix.
There is no corporate lament, no anguished intercession for a world lost, and looking through the lens of Revelation, hurtling downhill to the final conflict when God’s fiery wrath will consume his enemies (Isa 66:15-16; Mal 4:1; 2 Thess 1:7-9; Rev 20:7-10 etc.)
Armageddon stands both for the decisive final battle at the End of history finally separating good and evil and also for a conflict which even NOW is separating a naked compromised idolatrous “Church” from a Church of righteous uncompromising witness (Rev 19:8-9) whose garments are dazzling white and beautiful in the sight of Christ (Rev 3:4-5 cf. Luke 9:29).
To have such a spotless Bride (Eph 5:26-27) is very dear to the heart of Jesus and why he prayed to his Righteous Father, ““keep them from the evil one”” (John 17:15, 25).
Decades later the same Jesus promised the afflicted but faithful little congregation in Philadelphia, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.” (Rev 3:10).
This promise of spiritual protection is not made to all the churches in Revelation. To how many congregations in Perth can Jesus make this promise? How many even care?
This dreadful situation should incite in us holy fear and urgent intercession (Phil 2:12).
We need to be praying for a visitation of the Spirit to apply the power of the blood of the cross to the conscience of the Church; “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb 9:14).
In our present state of war with casualties littered all over the battle field the Church can no longer afford to tolerate her own dead works (Rev 3:1).
May God’s Spirit unveil to us that the time is near (Rev 1:1, 3) so that longing for more of Jesus we might come into a much richer share in the righteous victory of the blood of the cross.
Apart from answers to such prayers the state into which both nation and Church will plunge is too dreadful to imagine. Let us pray for the manifestation of the victory of Christ through the Church i.e. us, whatever the cost.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 8th. July, 2018 | Zion Fellowship
Author: Dr. John Yates
MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: Date. Month, 2018
Related Link: Nil