Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is the Beast about to kill Babylon? 

Revelation 17: 16 "And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 "For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 "And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth."

There is a lot of worry and fear right now that crushing sovereign debt load of the industrialized world is going to destroy the world's economic system. I'm not sure this is going to happen by any stretch, though I too am concerned about the possibility, given our very high indebtedness. Right now, just the US' federal debt alone is equal to 95% of our GDP, and its publicly held federal debt is equal to more than 20% of the GDP of the entire world. Those are truly scary numbers. I don't think it would be an impossible situation to fix, except for the complete unwillingness of most of our political class to do anything at all about it.

Revelation introduces us to the Whore of Babylon in Revelation 17. Without going into a great deal of exegesis, let me just say that the Idealist interpretation of the whore is usually that she represents the "soft power" of the world, the religious / economic system of the world. She is the counterpart of the Beast, who represents "hard power"- political and military might. She seduces people with wealth and pleasure to participate with her in violence and immorality. The beast and the whore work together for a time, but just before the beast attacks God's people, he turns on Babylon and kills her. Although they worked together, the beast will not tolerate any competition to his earthly power. This is ultimately a disaster for the beast, since it was Babylon that made the kings of the earth so rich and powerful, and after she is killed, the kings of the earth (who killed her) weep and mourn over her loss.

Are we perhaps seeing this happening now? The idealist interpretation of Revelation holds that these events are not predictive of just one set of events before or during the coming of Christ, but that they show general spiritual conditions of the church age. Tribulation and the rise of antichrist are therefore periodic events throughout the church age. But it seems very possible, perhaps likely, that the Scriptures also point to one final dramatic occurrence of these conditions before Jesus' second coming.

However close we may or may not be to the second coming of Christ, the spiritual principles taught in Revelation 17 about the beast and Babylon made me wonder about the current situation- is it perhaps the case that what we are witnessing is the overwhelming lust for power on the part of the state destroying the economic system in the developed world, and that perhaps this is not as bad a thing as I originally thought? After all, the economic system of the developed world is largely godless. It heavily promotes wasteful consumption, sexual immorality, selfishness and greed.

The political class hates any power that competes with their own power. They continually regulate and restrict the economic system because they believe they know better how things should run, which they clearly do not. Governmental spending always increases, because that spending is the means by which the federal government continually achieves more and more power over the economic system. But if they destroy the economic system, they destroy the very thing that makes their power possible. Why would they do such an incredibly foolish thing? Perhaps because God is driving them to it, in order to destroy them, just as God induces the beast to attack Babylon?

There is a statement making the rounds on the Internet right now from Steve Wynn, who is the head of a large casino conglomerate out of Vegas. In this statement, Wynn is lamenting the economic destruction being caused by Obama's policies. He is, I believe, absolutely correct. But should we feel sorry for Wynn? This is a man who has become extremely wealthy by exploiting sin. I am not morally opposed to all forms of gambling. But Las Vegas is a cesspool of immorality and greed. It's called "Sin City" for a reason. So I realized- do I feel sorry for Wynn? Should I?

I feel sorry for all the people who just work at regular jobs and take care of their families who are being hurt by this economic crisis. I feel sorry for men and women who got wealthy providing real value to customers and are now losing it all due to these terrible economic policies. But God is a God of justice, and He will always take care of His own, whatever the economic conditions. And as for the rest, rich or poor, large or small, this is a nation driven by greed, entertainment, immorality and selfishness. Europe is even worse. This is a culture that kills millions of babies every year because they are inconvenient, full of people who refuse to let any consequences stand in the way of their relentless pursuit of pleasure and power.

The saints in Revelation 19 rejoice at the fall of Babylon. They recognize it as God's judgment on wickedness, and His deliverance of the saints who were persecuted by Babylon. Perhaps it is the case that we believers should look at the possibility of an economic collapse in the western world in the same light.

For whatever happens, God is sovereign, and is working His justice and salvation through all things that happen, including the current refusal of our political class to stop stealing and wasting other people's money.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Unrepentant Appeal to God's Sovereignty 

People living in unrepentant sin are often strangely quick to appeal to God's sovereignty. They wrongly seem to think that this somehow absolves them of guilt. The phenomenon of people suffering the consequences of their own sins then saying something like, "Well, it's all in God's hands" while making no effort at all to change their ways is a strange one to witness, but is very common.

So now not only are they flouting the righteous rule of God, but also blaming God for their rebellion. But the great and awful power of God ought to be no comfort to the one living in open rebellion against that God.

God's great power and sovereignty over all things in creation is used everywhere in Scripture to advance the idea that therefore we ought to repent of our sin and follow Him with our lives. This truth ought to encourage that response in us as well, and never a complacency over sin.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Why We Lie to Ourselves 

I remember when I first heard about a woman preferring a scale that was inaccurate, that told her she was five pounds lighter. She knew it was probably inaccurate, but liked it better anyway. I thought that this was an incredibly vain and ridiculous way to think. I can understand wishing you were five pounds lighter than you are. But what good is it to lie to yourself about it? That's just stupid, and doesn't accomplish anything.

Several years ago I decided I needed to start doing a much better job of tracking my finances. So I opened a spreadsheet and listed all the various items I spend money on, along with estimates of how much I spent. The first time I did this, I saw that I really should have plenty of money left over at the end of the month, but reality was that we were losing ground financially, not gaining (why the exercise what necessary in the first place). When I looked at the spreadsheet again, it was clear that I had lowballed a number of items and left some items off altogether. Further, it was a real mental battle to get that budget accurate. I kept lying to myself. I'd tell myself, well, that isn't a very big expense, or we usually don't spend that much on that, or things like that. I realized that I was lying to myself just like the woman preferring the scale that put her weight at five pounds less.

Why do we lie to ourselves? When you study the prophets in the Old Testament or the apostles in the New, you run into this phenomenon all the time. People prefer the prophets and the teachers that tell them what they want to hear. Ahab threw Micaiah in the dungeon not because he didn't believe Micaiah was telling him the truth, but because Micaiah always gave him bad news.

In Micah 3, Micah describes the false prophets like snakes who bite while they prophesy "peace". They pronounce "shalom", a very pleasing prophesy, on those who feed them.

We lie to ourselves in so many ways. Sin always involves lying, for sin always involves convincing yourself that you will be happier by following your desires rather than God's law. We convince ourselves that we can somehow escape the destructive effects of sin. We convince ourselves that God doesn't really care that much. We convince ourselves that we're not as bad as other people and that surely ought to count for something.

Our churches are full of teachers who think that what matters is that their teachings have the desired outcome, make people feel better and make them act better. They convince themselves that if they massage the message, soften some parts of it, that their churches will grow. Whether the message is strictly "true" or not is not really the point. What is truth? they say, together with Pontius Pilate, another man more concerned with a desirable outcome than with faithfulness to the truth. And if their churches grow, that is proof that God favors what they are doing. How could God be against full churches? But the false prophets of the Old Testament and the false teachers of the new usually had much bigger audiences than the true ones.

In the Garden of Eden, the Devil (a liar from the beginning) convinced Adam and Eve to believe the most destructive lie of all, the lie that they could be like God, knowing good and evil, if they disobeyed God's commands and took matters into their own hands. In our fallen state, we are doomed to continue believing pleasing but self-destructive lies.

Jesus said that if we abide in His word, we will be His disciples. And we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free.

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