God’s Great Mysteries

by Dr. John Yates

great mystry

(A study on Book of Revelation Chapters 17-19) 

Introduction: The Importance of Knowing the Plan of God. 
 
Revelation unveils the secret that the End will come through the suffering of the saints and their apparent defeat at the hands of evil. It is insight in to this destiny that has the power to give victory over the spirit of depression that plagues the people of God.

 When modern Western people try to imagine “heaven” it looks something like the experiences of those resuscitated from death.  Peaceful floating feelings, bright light, warmth, bliss and reunion with loved ones, a sort of recapitulation with the things that we value most in this world.

The biblical picture of the last State is nothing like this, because it unveils the purposes of God’s heart and not our fantasies.

An important methodological principle in studying the Bible is the deep connection between the things of the End and how they were at the beginning.1)Protology [first things] and eschatology [last things] are symmetrical related. It should not surprise us then to find that the final mystery to which all things are moving in their great consummation, is a marriage! This is the eternal marriage between Christ and the church.

At first thought to live forever in a marriage might not seem a particularly exciting prospect,2)I think it was C. S. Lewis who said that earthly marriages partake of  both heavenly and hellish realities. because all of us have been deeply impacted by the imperfections of the marriages of our parents, our own marriage(s), or the matrimonial culture that surrounds us. But in the glow of  the central figure of Revelation, the Lamb, a vision emerges of an endless married state that so impacts our deepest heart that anything earthly will be sacrificed to attain it.

Just as partners in authentic marriage know their union has to be fought for, so it is, on a universal scale, with the union between Christ and the Church. If Jesus has a woman (the church) he loves as his own life,3)v28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. v29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, v30 because we are members of his body.”[Eph 5:28-30]  Satan opposes this marriage with all his strength. As a serpent of great cunning,4)See Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9. he does not simply oppose the purposes of God for his people with brute physical force -beatings, burnings and imprisonments; the devil has a far more effective agency, he has his own woman, Babylon, the great harlot.

Two Mysteries

Babylon, The Great Prostitute vs The Church, Christ’s Bride

It is important to note that in the context of the New Testament the word “mystery”5)In some English translations, “secret”. means something hidden but now revealed by the Holy Spirit to God’s saints.6)E.g. “v8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, v9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in  God who created all things “[Eph 3:8-9]. The book of Revelation is one unfolding mystery, for at its very commencement we read, v10I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice …v11 saying, “Write what you see in a book” (1:10-11). This crucial expression, “in the Spirit”, occurs only three other times in the book. At the start of chapter four (v.2) it marks John’s entry into the heavenly realm, the other two times it contains specific content, one a matter of sheer horror, the other of supreme beauty.

In chapter 17 we read, v1Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me,Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters,v2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk. v3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. v4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. v5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations. v6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.” (17:1-6).

The other mystery comes in the next to last chapter of the book. “v9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. v10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God (21:9-10)

The Great Prostitute and the Bride are “mysteries”7)The term “mystery” is directly related to Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the future [Dan 2:18 ff]. because they are the disclosure of truths previously concealed in the secret counsel of God. Only in the end times8)The “last days” in the New Testament always refers to the entire period from the first to the second coming of Christ. See, for example, Acts 2: 17; Heb. 1: 2; 9: 26; James 5: 3; 1 Pet. 1: 20; 2 Pet. 2: 3. According to 1 John 2: 18 this is already “the last hour”. can that which has been prophesied as the mystery of God’s plan (10:7) be seen as fulfilled. Only those, like John, who are “in the Spirit” can see into the depths of reality as it is, in both its evil and glorious dimensions, for these two great mysteries are totally opposed.

The Identity of Babylon

666 de-mystified

The woman John sees is “sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names” (17:3), the beast that arises out of the “bottomless pit” (17:8) is a worldly power that is one with all the forces of evil.9)Rev 9:1, 2, 11, Rev 11:7; Rev 20:1-3. Since “the woman …is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”, Babylon is obviously Rome.10)This is also plain from the reference to the “seven mountains” [17:9] on which the woman sits. Rome was built on seven hills.  Yet the mystery concerns more than one city. When the same blasphemous beast first appears in chapter 13 (v. 1), we are given a clue to its identity by the expression “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” (13:18). There has been much unnecessary speculation about this number.11)Using not only Greek, but Latin and Hebrew systems of numbering. Most recently it has been applied to the name Barack Hussein Obama The simplest way forward is to first recognise that numbers in Revelation are always used symbolically. Secondly, if the number 7 represents fullness, triple 6 symbolises a complete failure to reach completion. Finally, the Greek of this text can simply be translated as “the number of man, and its number is 666”. This would mean that the beast represents the persistent failure of humanity to reach the status of God.12)Beginning with, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” [Gen 3:5].  Babylon, riding on the beast, is essentially the city that man builds13)Compare Genesis 11:1-9 of the tower of Babel, especially verse 4, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves”. for his own glory and pleasure.

The Nature of Babylon

Unmistakeably and unapologetically sexual

Babylon is “arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup…” (17:4). Her presence is so awesome that even the aged and holy apostle “marvelled greatly(17:6). There is something intoxicating about megacities, and in the case of this woman – “all roads lead to Rome” was literally true.14)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milliarium_Aureum . We inhabit a period when for the first time in human history the majority of people live in cities  This great harlot represents all the social, cultural, economic and religious aspects of a world characterised by pride, economic overabundance, idolatry and persecution of the saints.15)Sodom and Gomorrah were Babylonian cities, according to Ezekiel here is why they were destroyed, “ This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” [Ezek 16:49]. I wrote these following words about Perth on Melbourne Cup Day 2005, “I saw a crowd spilling out from Ascot Racecourse onto the Great Eastern Highway, it was like Sodom and Gomorrah on the streets of Perth – men carting women suggestively back to motel rooms, drunken people staggering across the road, half naked females, public propositioning… the grief in the heart of God over the state of the city and the lack of urgency in the church was overwhelming.

Babylon is unmistakeably and unapologetically sexual, “mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (17:5). John is not primarily interested in the physical aspects of her sin, the words he uses are drawn from prophetic passages in the Old Testament symbolically representing the intoxicating impact of idolatrous worship.16)Jer 13:27; Ezek 6:9, 11 ff; Ezek 16:22; Ezek 20:28-32.

The connection between idolatry and sexuality is deep, profound and a part of the mystery of fallen humanness.17)A range of instances spring to mind, the worship of the Golden Calf involved sexual play [Ex 32:1-6], the false prophet Balaam enticed the Israelites into idolatry through the fornicating with the Moabite women [Num 31:15-16]; the cult of Baal was associated with cult prostitution, the churches in Revelation were eating idol meat along with sexual immorality [2:14, 20]. Idolatry and sexual immorality have this in common; they are a perversion of true worship. All idol worship is a motive by personal gain of a material, social, relational or spiritual sort. In terms of sexuality,

God created sex as a vehicle for giving yourself wholly to another person “For better, for worse, For richer, for poorer, In sickness and in health, To love and to cherish, As long as we both shall live.“” The Anglican Book of Common Prayer has this brilliant line in its marriage ceremony, “With this ring, I thee wed, with my body, I thee worship…”. Our bodies are so tender, our emotions are so fragile and our hearts are so vulnerable they could only ever be protected and honoured in the total, permanent and exclusive relationship of covenantal monogamous marriage.

Idolatry and sexual immorality are a perversion of a God given disposition to give your whole self in service to another person for the sake of the deepest possible intimacy. This is why the biblical writers teach that the worship of false gods is the root cause of every form of sexual disorder.18)Clearest in Paul, “v22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, v23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. v24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” [Rom 1:22-24]. When people try to consume G/gods for their satisfaction, they will consume others for their personal pleasure.

Given the huge success of Avatar, an article was discussing the likely future of 3D in film and TV, once the pornography industry, worth about $100 billion dollars annually, was brought into the scene19)Statistics are difficult to come by, http://www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html lists these. Every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography. Every second 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography. In that same second 372 internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines. Every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is being created in the U.S. 2006 Worldwide Pornography Revenues ballooned to $97.06 billion. the outlook was clear. In Western society we are in the midst of a money based campaign that wants to see the sexualisation of everything.

In West Australian newspaper (March 16 2010, p. 6) the head of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists spoke of “Sexual images everywhere” and called for regulation to halt the negative impact on child self-image. Donna and I went shopping at the local supermarket on Saturday and came back to find under the car windscreen this blatant ad for prostitution (hold up A4 sheet with “bikini girl” photo and massage while nude).

When pleasure replaces intimacy, sex takes on a mystification with addictive powers that are often incurable. When anything finite, like sex, is deified (made godlike), we have false worship, and such idolatry always draw the judgement of God. This is why in Revelation 18 John prophesies, v8For this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.v9 And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. v10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.” (Rev 18:8-10).

Pleasure driven societies always lose a sense of the value of human life.

The old, weak, children and infants become dispensable.

In the Roman world there were no laws about abortion, and death through the procedure was quite common. Infanticide was quite acceptable, new borns were exposed on city walls for wild beasts or left on dung heaps to perish. Here is a letter from the time illustrating the casual nature with which infanticide was often viewed,”I am still in Alexandria. … I beg and plead with you to take care of our little child, and as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. In the meantime, if (good fortune to you!) you give birth, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it.”20)A letter from a Roman citizen to his wife, dating from 1B.C., Oxyrhynchus papyrus 744. G  In some periods Roman law required all visibly deformed children to be put to death;21)A child had no legal rights before named by the father, on the eight day for a female, ninth day for a male. children had no legal rights.

In these ancient societies paedophilia and homosexuality were widely accepted and practiced without question.

There were no penalties for prostitution and brothels were common and highly visible. Divorce was permitted for any reason, and the state did not even have to be notified.

The power of a highly sexualised culture is not merely moral or rational, it is supernatural.

Revelation commonly links three words, 1idolatry, 2 sexual immorality and 3sorcery.22)See likewise 2 Ki 9:22; 2 Chron 33:5-7; Mic 5:11-12.

In explaining the power of Babylon it says, “v23all nations were deceived by your sorcery. v24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”.”(18:23). The word translated “sorcery” is pharmakeia, from which we get our English “pharmacy”, it was used of the mixing of “poisons”, for example to induce abortions, but here it means something like “enchantment”. There was in the empire of Rome a sort of spiritual atmosphere that penetrated and corrupted everything. Sadly, peoples and nations of European origin have forgotten what life was like before Jesus came into the world.

The early Christians of course were different – they did not practice abortion, they rescued abandoned babies, kept sex within the bounds of marriage and rarely divorced. Their disassociation from the evil system around them led to fierce and baseless persecution. So warped and demonised was the thinking of their neighbours (Tit 1:15) that when they heard about loving “brothers and sisters”, they accused the believers of incest, when they heard about “eating the body and drinking the blood” (of Christ in communion), Christians were cannibals, and since the church had no idols they were atheists.

The truth is that those who followed in the way of the Lamb had come to know that the purpose of humanity is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever, not to glorify oneself and fleetingly enjoy one’s own achievements. This is the solution to the spirit of darkness and depression that lies over our pleasure crazed society today. Only the followers of the Lamb know the mystery of God which alone has the power to break the spell of Babylon that lies over the minds of men and women. But to do this they must first obey the command of God.

Come out of Babylon

Marriage Preparation

v1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. v2 And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! …. v4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues;” (18:4)23)A repeated refrain in scripture, Isa 48:20; Isa 52:11; Jer 50:8; 51:6; 2 Cor 6:17. Christians are called to come out of Babylon.

This raises a sharp and painful question, have we as a Christian community in Western nations come out of spiritual Babylon?

The evidence is clearly “No!” for all the “plagues” of Babylon are found amongst the people of God in our day.

Everywhere you turn there are divorces, sexual immorality and abuse, family breakdown, gossip, illness (physical and mental), money loving, division, spiritual dryness, ambition, addictions etc.

By the principle (see Romans 1:24, 26, 28) “the punishment for sin is sin” the “plagues” of Babylon are upon us.

What can be done about this dreadful state of affairs?

The answer of Revelation is simple and direct; the worship of the one true God absolutely relativises Babylon’s claim to power. To participate in such worship however takes a particularly intimate form, the marriage of the Lamb. The mystery of Satan is a Prostitute because she is a substitute for the “the mystery of God” (10:7), a Bride.24)This is most explicit in Ephesians 5:31-32, “v31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.v32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

The Bride of the Lamb25)For the OT background of the marriage between Yahweh and Israel, see Isa 54:5; Jer 3:20; 31:32; Ezek 16.

Delight yourself in the LORD

Revelation 19:6-8 is the last great heavenly song of the book, by introducing the climax of covenantal intimacy between humanity and God, the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb”, it satisfies the age old cry “How long, O Lord?”. The millennia long search for perfect communion with God has been satisfied.

v6Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. v7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;v8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.(19:6-8)

The final revelation of the nature of the kingdom of God is that the Lamb rules as the perfect husband, not by lording it over his woman,26)Compare, “not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” [1 Pet 5:3]. but by winning her inwardly. God establishes his reign on the earth through the intimacy of a marriage.27)This is the fulfilment of the primal command given to the first married couple at the beginning, “v27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;male and female he created them. v28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over.. ” [Gen 1:27-28]. In the purposes of the plan of God and the structure of the book of Revelation, this disclosure is the climax of prophetic insight.28)See also, “v2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…. v9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.””[21:2, 9] The “testimony of Jesus… the spirit of prophecy” (19:10) culminates in the vision of eternal marital bliss.

Everything in this picture contrasts with the great harlot. She dresses in finery (17:4; 18:16), God (the Father) gives the Bride of the Lamb simple garments of dignity and purity. The prostitute is drunk with fleeting fleshly sensuality (17:2, 4; 18:3, 7, 9), “those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” enjoy never ending blessedness (19:9).29)Contrast, “the fleeting pleasures of sin” [Heb 11:25]. There is, in this relationship, no disappointment, only the endless delight of the Bridegroom in the Bride and the Beloved in her Lover.30)As in the powerful imagery of,  “v3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. v4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,  but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,  and your land Married;  for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. v5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” [Isa 62:1-5] This is a revelation so deeply precious that the angel who speaks of the marriage utters a solemn affirmation, “These are the true words of God.” (19:9).

We are here in the realm of holy love,31)Prefigured in the Song of Solomon. of virginity of the spirit, of the secret intimacy of the bridal chamber where mutual interpersonal knowledge is discovered. This is a reality to be experienced very deeply. (Praying with Donna early some mornings, I can discern in the Spirit the tangible connection between Jesus and his Church.) Nevertheless, the widespread Babylonian state of the church and the lacklustre condition of many Christian marriages calls us to penetrate these alluringly texts much more deeply.

We are told that that the church descends from heaven “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (21:2)

How is the true church prepared?

The Bride must be prepared for her Husband in the same way he was made holy on her account, by suffering (for his sake).32)This logic follows Ephesians 5:25-29, “v25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, v26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, v27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  v28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. v29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, v30 because we are members of his body.”. The nuptial union between Christ and the Church begins in battle33)A battle that rages through history but climaxes in Armageddon [11:7; 12:17; 13:7; 16:14; 17:14; 19:19;20:8]. and the white garments of the saints, their righteous deeds (19:8), are gained by victory over Babylon’s temptations.34)Compare, “v4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.v5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”  [3:4-5] It is through identification with the Lamb in his campaign to destroy all evil and the suffering that we begin to experience the reality of which Paul speaks, “he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” (1 Cor 6:17).

The rider on the white horse who comes to destroy the beast and the Harlot is accompanied by “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure” (19:14). The one who “will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (19:15) scouring the earth of all evil is none other than a holy husband whose jealousy35)See, e.g. Ex 20:5; 34:14; Num 25:13; Deut 4:24; 5:9; Ezek 8:3 etc., often in the context of idolatry. for his Bride is infinite. Jesus will most definitely exterminate by fire all that corrupts the earth (19:2; cf. 2 Thess 1:8). Anything, everything that could possible distract the Bride from her Bridegroom must be swept forever away into “into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur” (19:20).

The Present Power of the Bride

Image of Heaven on Earth

If the perfect consummation between the Bride and the Lamb at his Second Coming are continuous with their present relationship, the implications are enormous. The war that Satan wages continuously against the saints is a conflict centred not on external threats, for no external force can damage a holy marriage, but on seducing the spirit of the church away from intimacy with Christ36)Cf. “v2 I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. v3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” [2 Cor 11:2-3]. (example: a church Donna and I visited was like a nightclub, afterwards found out the music team was involved in sexual immorality). Satan hates a holy church so much because he knows that true marital intimacy penetrates into a depth of human life where no demon dares to go.37)Compare their fear in the presence of Jesus, ““What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”” [Mark 1:24]. In Christ the church possesses a presence and a delight that was not only lost by humanity in Eden but also by the powers of evil when they fell from heaven (12:7-9). Satan knows that through his Bride the Lamb is able to bring his glorious presence into every element of life in this world.  The Bride has in her the ability to image future restoration of “all things” (Acts 3:21) in all its beauty. Against such holy things the powers of darkness are completely helpless.

Caught up in the measureless love of the sacrificial Lamb the saints grasp that Babylon is ultimately destroyed not by what some would call, “the omnipotence of God”, but by a power revealed in the “Lamb, standing as slain”.38)I.e. raised from the dead, this is the power of the gospel [Rom 1:16] contained in the transformed humanity of Christ.  The presence of the limitless love of God has penetrated the very core of the humanity of Christ, and so into union with his Bride, by the resurrection power that follows sacrificial suffering. In Revelation, such mysteries are only seen “in the Spirit” (1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10).

The reality of Babylon can only be seen in the light of the beauty of the Bride.

The Church only understands who she is in the reflection of the superlative excellence of her Groom, Christ. Christian marriages are only transformed as in the Spirit of God husbands and wives go beyond the “one flesh” given to Adam and Eve and enter into the “one spirit” condition of Jesus and the church.39)Prefigured by the old covenant, “v14 she is your companion and your wife by covenant. v15 Did he not make them (husband and wife) one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?”[Mal 2:14-15]

For these reasons, Revelation, the climax of Spirit inspired prophecy, exhorts and brings the church to urgent prophetic intercessory prayer. “The Spirit and the Bride say,Come.And let the one who hears say, “Come.And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price”(22:17). Wherever the church suffers under the hands of the false woman, “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (17:6) it has an aching longing for Christ to come, and instead of shrinking back, calls all people to union with her Bridegroom.

It was once said, “No one has ever seen an ugly bride.” In my experience this is true, because the woman is caught up with a man who loves her enough to spend the rest of his life with her. As “the Lamb, standing as slain” (5:6) Jesus has given his life for us, his church, in order to be with us forever. It is time, through the ministry of the Word of God (19:13) and the power of the Spirit of God, that we moved out of the web of deception spun by the Babylonian harlot, that tells we are not shapely enough, intelligent enough, personable enough, wealthy or healthy enough, sexy enough, or, most significantly, spiritual enough to be loved with a true undying love. The vision of the Bride has the power to release us from the spirit of depression hanging over a church addicted to affluence; this is the vision that will launch us into the true Overcoming Joy of a beloved Bride who knows that not even the forces of hell will stop her keeping her wedding date.

Conclusion

The two great mysteries of Revelation throw enormous insight into the deep issues of life. They unveil why the Christian prohibition of sex outside marriage40)v18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin  a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. v19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, v20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” [1 Cor 6:18-20] is not some mere outdated moralism but represents an understanding that the ultimate reality is a holy romance. It is now clear why the first call of the church is not “relevance” and attractability to the world, but to reveal the reality of eternal holy love in Christ.

Out praying recently I believe I was moved to ask the Father a strange question, “How serious are you about completing the humanity of your Son?” Because the humanity of Jesus, the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45) can only be completed when he marries a church “in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27).

The Holy Spirit calls us to cleanse our lives of all whoredom, mot merely of overt or mental sexual sin, but of the selling of our souls to the materialism and hedonistic lifestyle of this world.  A great Reformer once said, “Through Christ we daily conquer Babylon within ourselves.” (Oecolampadius). By this he meant that through the death and resurrection of Christ, the “Lamb, standing as slain” (Rev 5:6), we overcome mystery Babylon inside us each day.

In the vision of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is the power to renew Christian marriage41)Like the huge beam of joy on the face of a women whose husband had conquered years of porn addiction and renewed their marriage in the love of Christ. and bring about a revolution in all social, cultural, economic and religious realms of human relationship. This is an appeal by the Holy Spirit to image in our lives a purity that reflects that the true End of all things is a holy marriage. The revelation of this mystery is a commission to communicate to all those enslaved by the Great Prostitute, the intimate penetrating love of Christ which has the power to liberate from any sin, any darkness and demonic power.

This brings us to the threshold of our final topic, ““Behold, I am making all things new.”” (Rev 21:5)

References   [ + ]

1. Protology [first things] and eschatology [last things] are symmetrical related.
2. I think it was C. S. Lewis who said that earthly marriages partake of  both heavenly and hellish realities.
3. v28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. v29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, v30 because we are members of his body.”[Eph 5:28-30]
4. See Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9.
5. In some English translations, “secret”.
6. E.g. “v8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, v9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in  God who created all things “[Eph 3:8-9].
7. The term “mystery” is directly related to Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the future [Dan 2:18 ff].
8. The “last days” in the New Testament always refers to the entire period from the first to the second coming of Christ. See, for example, Acts 2: 17; Heb. 1: 2; 9: 26; James 5: 3; 1 Pet. 1: 20; 2 Pet. 2: 3. According to 1 John 2: 18 this is already “the last hour”.
9. Rev 9:1, 2, 11, Rev 11:7; Rev 20:1-3.
10. This is also plain from the reference to the “seven mountains” [17:9] on which the woman sits. Rome was built on seven hills.
11. Using not only Greek, but Latin and Hebrew systems of numbering. Most recently it has been applied to the name Barack Hussein Obama
12. Beginning with, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” [Gen 3:5].
13. Compare Genesis 11:1-9 of the tower of Babel, especially verse 4, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves”.
14. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milliarium_Aureum . We inhabit a period when for the first time in human history the majority of people live in cities
15. Sodom and Gomorrah were Babylonian cities, according to Ezekiel here is why they were destroyed, “ This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” [Ezek 16:49]. I wrote these following words about Perth on Melbourne Cup Day 2005, “I saw a crowd spilling out from Ascot Racecourse onto the Great Eastern Highway, it was like Sodom and Gomorrah on the streets of Perth – men carting women suggestively back to motel rooms, drunken people staggering across the road, half naked females, public propositioning… the grief in the heart of God over the state of the city and the lack of urgency in the church was overwhelming.
16. Jer 13:27; Ezek 6:9, 11 ff; Ezek 16:22; Ezek 20:28-32.
17. A range of instances spring to mind, the worship of the Golden Calf involved sexual play [Ex 32:1-6], the false prophet Balaam enticed the Israelites into idolatry through the fornicating with the Moabite women [Num 31:15-16]; the cult of Baal was associated with cult prostitution, the churches in Revelation were eating idol meat along with sexual immorality [2:14, 20].
18. Clearest in Paul, “v22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, v23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. v24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” [Rom 1:22-24].
19. Statistics are difficult to come by, http://www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html lists these. Every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography. Every second 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography. In that same second 372 internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines. Every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is being created in the U.S. 2006 Worldwide Pornography Revenues ballooned to $97.06 billion.
20. A letter from a Roman citizen to his wife, dating from 1B.C., Oxyrhynchus papyrus 744. G
21. A child had no legal rights before named by the father, on the eight day for a female, ninth day for a male.
22. See likewise 2 Ki 9:22; 2 Chron 33:5-7; Mic 5:11-12.
23. A repeated refrain in scripture, Isa 48:20; Isa 52:11; Jer 50:8; 51:6; 2 Cor 6:17.
24. This is most explicit in Ephesians 5:31-32, “v31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.v32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
25. For the OT background of the marriage between Yahweh and Israel, see Isa 54:5; Jer 3:20; 31:32; Ezek 16.
26. Compare, “not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” [1 Pet 5:3].
27. This is the fulfilment of the primal command given to the first married couple at the beginning, “v27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;male and female he created them. v28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over.. ” [Gen 1:27-28].
28. See also, “v2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…. v9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.””[21:2, 9]
29. Contrast, “the fleeting pleasures of sin” [Heb 11:25].
30. As in the powerful imagery of,  “v3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. v4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,  but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,  and your land Married;  for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. v5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” [Isa 62:1-5]
31. Prefigured in the Song of Solomon.
32. This logic follows Ephesians 5:25-29, “v25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, v26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, v27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  v28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. v29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, v30 because we are members of his body.”.
33. A battle that rages through history but climaxes in Armageddon [11:7; 12:17; 13:7; 16:14; 17:14; 19:19;20:8].
34. Compare, “v4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.v5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”  [3:4-5]
35. See, e.g. Ex 20:5; 34:14; Num 25:13; Deut 4:24; 5:9; Ezek 8:3 etc., often in the context of idolatry.
36. Cf. “v2 I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. v3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” [2 Cor 11:2-3].
37. Compare their fear in the presence of Jesus, ““What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”” [Mark 1:24].
38. I.e. raised from the dead, this is the power of the gospel [Rom 1:16] contained in the transformed humanity of Christ.
39. Prefigured by the old covenant, “v14 she is your companion and your wife by covenant. v15 Did he not make them (husband and wife) one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?”[Mal 2:14-15]
40. v18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin  a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. v19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, v20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” [1 Cor 6:18-20]
41. Like the huge beam of joy on the face of a women whose husband had conquered years of porn addiction and renewed their marriage in the love of Christ.

John Yates

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