There is no cosmic struggle against good and evil.
Movies make it their plot, but with God, there is no such thing.
Martin Luther may have said it best, when he wrote, “Even the devil is God’s devil.”
And that’s true. Here it is in our reading today:
For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled. (Revelation 17:17; NIV84)
There is no evil strong enough to even contend with God, because God, in his sovereignty, even controls what evil beings do.
Now that’s big, and that’s a pretty deep rabbit hole. Too big, probably, for this post.
Yet here, in the context of Revelation 16, God’s final judgment on all evil in the world begins. Seven bowls, filled with his wrath, are poured on the earth, and bring plagues that sound a lot (again) like the ten plagues given to Egypt.
God has a special place in his heart for oppressed believers. Because when he frees them, in the words of Jesus, they are free indeed.
In Revelation 17, the prostitute of the world is punished. For John’s readers, there is little doubt that this woman is the city of Rome, and possibly even the Roman empire. But since Revelation has multiple applications, it’s entirely acceptable that we see this as the final judgment on the world, and on all of the nations and peoples and governments that have systematically oppressed the church, the very kingdom of God on this pale blue dot in space.
At the end of this chapter, though, God gives the authority to the beast to devour her. To eat her. And the beast, in Revelation, was evil – but God uses this evil beast to devour another evil prostitute.
God is most definitely in control.
It’s interesting, though, that God wants people to turn to him. Even the bowls of judgment were meant to cause unbelievers to turn. Following the fifth angel, and the fifth bowl of God’s wrath, are these two verses, which say much:
The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. (16:10, 11)
Even though it is the moment of God’s final justice, he still offers people a chance to believe in his name.
Astounding. And an amazing image. It’s not the first time, though. After each plague against Egypt, the Pharaoh was given an opportunity to release the Hebrew slaves. God is a God of amazing patience.
But when the judgement begins, it is not pretty. An angel from God’s presence fills the earth with glory from the throne room, and begins a praise for the destruction of this city.
It is with a sigh of relief, then, that today’s reading begins, and ends. The suspense of this judgment has filled the pages of Revelation, until it is delivered. The saints under the altar, have wondered how long they would need to wait for their vindication.
No evil can overtake you. Rest in the power and justice of God today, because nothing can stand against him. Read here, again, from the letter to the Romans, and be encouraged today!
If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)