Revelation 17: “Mystery, Babylon the Great.”

1] Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2] with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”

3] So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness.  And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.  4] The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.  5] And on her forehead a name was written:

MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT,
THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS
OF THE EARTH.

6] I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.  And when I saw here, I marveled with great amazement.

7] But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel?  I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.  8] The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go into perdition.  And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

9] “Here is the mind which has wisdom:  The seven heads are ten mountains on which the woman sits.  10] There are also seven kings.  Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yer come.  And when he comes, he must continue a short time.  11] The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.

12] ‘The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.  13] These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.  14] These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”

These verses describe a “woman,” but who is she?  John himself tells us.

In v. 5, he sees that she has a title:  “Mystery, Babylon the Great.”  But in v. 9, he goes even further:  the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.  What one city in the world is known for sitting on seven hills?  It’s Rome, the capital of Italy.  If you don’t believe me, google “city of seven hills.”  And in v. 18, she is described as “that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”

But what does Rome have to do with Babylon?  What’s the “mystery”?  (In Scripture, a “mystery” is not something to be solved, but something not previously revealed.)

We dealt at some length with this in our post of the letter to the church at Pergamos, so here let’s just say that the link between these two is found in the title Pontifex Maximus, the title held by the Popes since the time of Constantine, and before then by the High Priest of pagan religions, which originated in Babylon, hence she is the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.

In this chapter, John shows the final development of the Church, completely allied with the world.  The beast on which she sits is described as one who was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go into perdition.  While I won’t be dogmatic about it, it seems to me that this refers to what we’ve already seen in that the beast, in this case, the head of the final world government, who will die and be allowed to come back to life.

This will result in the world saying, “Who is like the beast?  Who is able to make war with him? Revelation 13:4.  Revelation 17:8 continues, and those who well on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they seen the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

I attended a Bible Conference with several hundred pastors.  One of the speakers had as his text Revelation 17.  As he read the chapter, he got to verse 8, and read the first part. Then there was silence for what seemed like a long time, but probably only a few seconds.  He skipped over the part of the verse we quoted in the last paragraph, went to v. 9 and read it and the rest of the chapter.  He never once read or referred to the part of the verse he left out.

I understand there’s a lot of controversy over the topics of election and predestination – the group to which I belonged at the time was very opposed to the Reformed view of them, but to skip over and not even read a portion of Scripture simply because it doesn’t fit a doctrinal viewpoint??

I’m not going to get into those subjects myself at this time.  I’ve done that enough in other posts.  Just remember, our Lord commented that the deception John prophesied would be so great as “to deceive, if possible, even the elect,” Matthew 24:24.

In v. 12, John explains the meaning of the ten horns.  There’s a lot of discussion about who they are, some trying to find them in historical figures, some finding them in consecutive forms of government or rulers.  But John says they’re all contemporaries of the beast and will with one mind yield their power to him.  They will be at the forefront of the “battle” when the Lord comes back, having gathered together with all their armies to invade and conquer Israel.

There’s an interesting description of those who will accompany the Lord Jesus when He returns:  they are called, chosen, and faithful, v. 14.

1. They are called.

This is a common designation of believers, especially in Paul’s epistles.  Cf. Romans 1:6; 8:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 9, 24, 26, chapter 7, to name just two of them.  Then there’s Romans 8:28, a favorite verse of many, and a comfort to believers:  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (emphasis added).

There are those who look at the word “foreknew” in v. 29 and say that God simply looked down the corridors of time and chose those whom He foresaw would choose Him.  On that basis, He chose them.

The Scripture itself uses that picture.  Psalm 14:2 says, The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of the sons of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.  If the “foreknowledge” view is correct, we’d be told that God saw some folks who would receive Him.  Is that what we’re told?

Not at all.

Psalm 14:3 says, They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none good, no, not one.  Paul quoted this portion in Romans 3:11 as he shows the complete and utter corruption of mankind, concluding, There is no fear of God before their eyes, v. 18.

2. They are chosen.

What does this mean?  We’ve already commented on “called.”  Our Lord put “called” and “chosen” together when, in the parable of the wedding feast, He said, “For many are called but few are chosen,” Matthew 22:14.

I heard a pastor quote that as, “Many are called, but few choose.”

There’s a common mindset that just simply cannot wrap itself around the idea that God chooses people to be saved.  But without that “choice,” there would be no one saved.  In Romans 9:29, Paul wrote, And as Isaiah said before:  “Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah.”

While it’s true that Paul was referring to Israel, it holds equally true for us Gentiles as well, for there is no difference [between Jew and Gentile], for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.  If God didn’t choose us, we would never choose Him.

But there’s a final word describing these believers:

3. They are faithful.

There’s a charge made against those who hold the doctrine of God’s sovereign election that we can live as we like and don’t have to worry about holy living.  And it’s true that some do live just like the world, but that’s not a result of the doctrine, but of a misunderstanding of it.  Ephesians 1:4 says that He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him.

In vs. 16-18, John closes his description of this wicked woman and her surroundings.  “The waters” are simply the nations of the world over which, with their rulers, she holds sway, v. 18.  The “ten horns,” whatever kind of alliance that turns out to be, will turn on her and destroy her.  Perhaps this will be because she does claim to represent God, and the beast will himself claim to be God – and will allow no competition.

V. 17 again reminds us that God is overseeing and superintending what goes on in this world.  It also answers the common idea that we must be “willing” before God can work with us.  Here are godless, wicked rulers and yet God has no difficulty putting it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose,…until the words of God are fulfilled (emphasis added).  It’s their purpose, but it’s God’s as well, cf. Genesis 50:20.  A lot of people are bothered by that idea, as Daniel, or rather Nebuchadnezzar, put it, in Daniel 4:35:

“He does according to His will in the armies of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ ” 

But why is God so opposed to this “woman”?

Perhaps the answer can be found in the golden cup she holds.  What is the central part of her worship?  Is it not the Mass?  And what is the central part of the Mass?  Isn’t it the offering of “the unbloody sacrifice” of the Lord Jesus in that bread and wine, which are said to be transformed into His actual body and blood?  In this way, what the Lord Jesus Himself did on the Cross is negated and the efficacy of His sacrifice is made to depend on the utterance of a few words by a priest.  This is presumption of the highest order.

There is no salvation in such things.

We cannot, we dare not, try to add to what He did or to say that men must come to Him through some ritual or ceremony as part of a church service, whether it’s the Mass or an altar call.

There is only one way of salvation, and that is through faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross.  There is nothing to be added to it.  Indeed, such “additions” only subtract from what He did.

Is your hope of heaven in what some man has done?

In what you have done?

Or, in what the Lord Jesus Christ did?

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

Revelation 8:1-6, The Sound of Silence.

1] When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  2]  And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.  3] Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which is before the throne.  4] And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.  5] The the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth.  And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

6] So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.  (NKJV)

This title has nothing to do with the song originally put out by Simon and Garfunkel in the 60’s, which I remember, and later versions, which I do not know or remember.  I’d forgotten about the song when I decided on the title for the post.

So, why this title?

How can “silence” have “sound”?  Isn’t silence the absence of sound?

Let me tell you a story.  I had a friend in Bible College whose family I would visit every so often.  One time in particular I remember.  The room they put me up in had the air conditioner in the window.  It gets hot in Tennessee.  Anyway, this one time it was running, very noisily.  As morning drew near, someone turned it off.  That was what woke me up, that sudden, deafening, silence.

As we come to our text in Revelation, remember the scene John has set:  chorus after chorus, anthem after anthem, shout after shout, of praise, adoration and worship continually being voiced by the multitudes gathered around the throne.  Then, suddenly,

there was silence in heaven….

Perhaps for the first time ever.

The sound of silence….

No “background music” to set the scene.

Just utter, complete silence.

Then…

Seven angels are given trumpets.

Another angel holding a golden censer approaches the golden altar in front of the throne.  He’s given “much incense” to offer “with the prayers of all the saints” on the altar.    Then he takes the censer, fills it with fire from the altar and hurls it to the earth, which results in noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

The seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets.

We don’t often think of heaven as having an altar or censers, but Hebrews tells us that the OT tabernacle was modeled on things in heaven, Hebrews 9:24.

It’s interesting that the prayers of the saints are mentioned twice.  And by “prayers,” I don’t think John meant those repetitive, formal prayers recited during church services or repeated during quiet times.  To be sure, they can be heart-felt and fervent, but I’m afraid that too often our mouths are saying one thing and our mind is thinking of something else.

When the Lord wanted to convince Ananias that it was safe to go find Saul of Tarsus, He said, [B]ehold, he is praying,”  Acts 9:11.  Now, Saul had been a zealous Pharisee before his conversion and, no doubt, like that Pharisee mentioned in Luke 18:11, had often “stood and prayed…with himself,” telling God what a great guy he, Saul, was.

What was the difference?  Before, he had simply “said” prayers.  Now, he was “praying.”  He wasn’t just going through the motions; he had literally been stopped in his tracks.

“The prayers of the saints.”  Those prayers themselves are described as “incense” in Revelation 5:8.

Without getting into the typology of the Tabernacle and offerings, the incense offered with the prayers of the saints refers to the merit of the Lord Jesus.  It is He who makes them presentable to a holy, righteous and just God.  That’s why, in Colossians 3:17, we’re told, Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

John brings up a subject we don’t really think about, don’t even like to think about, apparently.  Paul mentioned it in Romans 11:22:  consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.  Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Our society and culture is all over the idea of “the goodness of God.”  “God is love” is apparently all the theology many people have.  And we are thankful that “God is love,” else we’d all be in trouble.

There is more to God than “love.”  That same book that mentioned the love of God also said of God, This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, 1 John 1:5.  “This is the message” – not that “God is love,” but that “God is light,” that is, that He is holy, righteous and just.  That is the God with whom we have to do, not this sentimental, grandfatherly type that we seem to have today that chuckles over the foibles and folly of His children.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, we ARE NOT His children, in spite of what is commonly believed today.  We are His subjects, He is our God and King, against whom we are traitorous rebels who are doing everything we can to dethrone Him.  We are the subjects of His wrath.  There is coming a time when that will be plain to all, when the inhabitants of the earth will have to acknowledge that wrath, Revelation 6:17.

The truth is, apart from the Lord Jesus there is nothing but wrath and condemnation for the unbeliever:  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. … He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him, John 3:18, 36, emphases added.

That’s true of nations, as well.  Psalm 9:17 says, The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.  History is littered with the ruins of nations that have come and gone.  This country will not be exempt.  I’m encouraged by recent events that perhaps God has given us a breather, so to speak, but still, there is abundant evidence that the voice of the enemy has not been silenced, only muted a little.  Indeed, those same events may stir the enemy up.

Heaven may seem to be silent for the time being.  Life goes on.  But there is coming a time, sooner or later, when it will speak loudly and clearly, and finally, to the inhabitants of this world.

We do not rejoice in the idea of judgment.  God Himself has no pleasure in judgment.  Ezekiel 33:11 says, “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’  And Isaiah 28:21 calls judgment, His unusual work.

Indeed, God has gone to great lengths to make a way of escape from the judgment rightfully due us.

Seeing a mankind that would universally reject Him, He chose from among these rebels a vast number to be saved.  For those who object to such an idea, for Him to have chosen only one to be saved would be more than any of us deserve, let alone the countless multitudes that He has chosen.

Having chosen these otherwise condemned sinners to be saved, God sent His Son to take their place under His wrath.  The Lord Jesus suffered what we should suffer, who are by nature children of wrath, just as the others, Ephesians 2:3.  Because He suffered, there is no more wrath for us, those for whom He died, Romans 5:9.

But there was still something that needed to be done.  Because we were dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1, because we once were alienated from the life of God, Ephesians 4:18, and were alienated and enemies of God, Colossians 1:21, God sent the Holy Spirit:  God has revealed them to us through his Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2:10.

Our Lord referred to this work of the Spirit in John 3 as the new birth, a birth not of flesh and blood, but of or by the Holy Spirit.  Without this birth, we are unable either to see or to enter into the things of God, John 3:3, 5.  Without His work, there is no understanding at all of spiritual truth.  Religion, yes, spiritual truth, no.

Oh, there is so much more we could say about this.  It’s enough for now to say that judgment is coming.

Only those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ will be spared that judgment.

Have you believed on Him?

Revelation 3:20a, “Behold, I Stand At the Door”

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.”  

Revelation 3:20 is a very familiar Scripture.  One of my earliest memories is sitting in a church service in which a famous picture derived from this verse was being explained.  I don’t remember a lot about it anymore, except that it was the usual approach that Christ is standing at the door of the heart of the lost sinner, calling to him to open the door and let the Lord in.  One preacher in this vein even went so far as to refer to our Lord as “the Christ of the bloody knuckles.”

Ah, beloved, the Lord God and His Son have more interest in and concern for the salvation of sinners than you or I can even begin to imagine.  Look at all they’ve done to bring it about.  Salvation isn’t just the thing of a moment, the result of an “oops” on God’s part when our first parents fell.  It wasn’t some result of a “hastily called emergency meeting,” as one writer put it.  How anyone can even think such a thing of our God is beyond me.  There are no “emergencies” with God.

No. no.

Scripture tells us salvation stretches from eternity past, when it was conceived in the heart, mind, purpose and action of God, through today and the work of the Spirit in regenerating sinners and bringing them to faith in the Lord Jesus, into the boundless eternity of the future in the presence of These who loved us and gave themselves for us.  It was the Lord Jesus who died on the Cross, but the others have been or are just as active and have their own part in our salvation.

Christmas, just a few days from now, should remind us of all this.

But that’s not what John is telling us.  Our Lord is not talking to sinners, but to His own churches!  And since churches are made up of individuals, He’s talking to the individual members of those churches.

It ought to be a staggering thought – that the Lord of the church stands on the outside!  Asking for entrance!  No wonder John records Him as saying, “Behold”!

This doesn’t mean that the Lord is impotent, or that He “must” wait for us to “take the first step.”  It does mean that we are responsible for how we respond to His commands, and His entreaties.  Besides, Scripture tells us that He is quite able to open the door Himself, cf. Acts 16:14, which tells of us of Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened…to heed the things spoken by Paul.

And we are responsible to respond.  Make no mistake about it.  Some have taken the sovereignty of God to such an extreme that they almost make men puppets or robots.  Or take them out of the picture altogether.  They’re like those who responded to William Carey, “the father of modern missions,” who felt a call and desire to go to India.  In effect, he was told, “Young man, if God wants to save the heathen, He can do it without you.”  Others go to the other extreme and make God little more than a humble supplicant at the throne of man’s will.

We’re not sticks or stones.  And we don’t just run on instinct, as much of the animal world seems to.  We’re creatures with intellect, emotions and will. We’re able to think, to feel, and to do.  The fact that these faculties have all been corrupted by the Fall of Adam doesn’t make us any less responsible to use them, or for how we use them.

Churches.

The Lord’s talking to them.

I wonder how many in their church services really look to see if the Lord is with them, or if He’s on the outside.  Or if they assume that just because they’re there, then so is He.  And Baptists tend to be as bad at this as those “formal” churches they differ with.  After all, their “order of services” is pretty much as “set” as any routine in any liturgical church.

But He’s not talking just to individuals in churches.

There’s so much application here.

He’s talking to churches, yes.

But I think He might also be talking to –

Families…

Neighborhoods…

Cultures…

Our nation….

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock….”

 

“The Kindness of God.” Part 3: “But God….”

In our first two posts, we looked at the fact and effects of the Fall of Adam and Eve, both for them and for us, their descendants.  We saw that Man was not just “bruised by the Fall,” as the old gospel song put it, but was killed by it.  Adam, and through him, us, lost spiritual life and we remain in the tomb of spiritual death.  How, then, shall we live?

The answer to that question is also seen in Genesis.  God came to the guilty couple and, paying no attention to their efforts to undo or cover up what they had done, did something about it Himself .  Observe, also, that He didn’t merely “provide” the coats, or tunics, of skin and then leave it up to them whether or not they would put them on.  No, no, He came to them and clothed them.  He didn’t ask for their input, cooperation or permission.  He just did it….

II.  The Kindness of Grace. 

In our first post, we referred to 2 Samuel 9:3 and Ephesians 2:7.  It is from these verses that we get the idea of “kindness.”  We’ll not consider 2 Samuel 9:3 further, but leave you with the idea that this act of David toward Mephibosheth was undeserved, unearned, unexpected and unsought and it was because of another.  These words are a good description of what is one of the most misunderstood and vilified teachings in Scripture:  the doctrine of election.

This post and the next one will briefly cover five general areas:  1). Some misconceptions about the teaching.  2)  What the Bible says about it.  3).  Election and the foreknowledge of God.  4).  Some verses used to oppose this teaching.  5).  Some objections to the teaching.

A. Misconceptions about the Doctrine of Election.

1. Election means the condemnation of some who otherwise would be saved.

The cover of a popular booklet several years ago showed a man with his hands tied behind his back, head bowed, being prodded toward the flames of Hell by a sword held in a hand extending from Heaven.  This is absolutely false!!  The Biblical doctrine is that, because of election, there are many going to Heaven who would otherwise, without exception, have gone to Hell!

Hear what the Scripture says:  Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah, Romans 9:29.

As much as we hate to admit it, except by the grace and purpose of God, we’d all be out there right in the middle of all the world’s corruption.  We want nothing to do with God as He is.  It’s only because of His unbelievable mercy and grace that He wants anything to do with us!

2.  Election is merely God’s choice of those whom He knew would choose Him.

We’ll have more to say about this later.

3.  Election is God choosing between His children.

I had a lady tell me this.  It’s based on the popular and false idea that we’re all already the children of God.  But we’re not just wayward children wandering from the care of a loving Father.  We’re rebels against the God of Heaven and traitors to everything He holds dear.  On the contrary, it is God choosing some of those rebels and traitors to become His children!

4.  Sinners are worse off because of election.

This would be true only if the Scripture teaches the election of sinners to damnation in the same way that it teaches the election of sinners to salvation.  Granted, there are some who believe that.  I do not!  Sinners are condemned because of their sin, not because of some decree of God.  The Biblical view is that, because of election, sinners are much better off.  Without election, there would be no salvation at all.

B. The Biblical Doctrine of Election.

 1.  Election is from eternity past, Ephesians 1:4, Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.

See also Ephesians 3:22; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8.

Granted, not all of these verses refer specifically to election, but they do clearly show that salvation isn’t some sort of “Plan B” God had to scramble to improvise in a “hastily-called meeting of the Eternal Council,” as one writer put it about the aftermath of the Fall.

The teaching is common that believers become “elect” when they believe, not before.  This is not true.  The Bible places election before time began, 2 Timothy 1:9.  …before time began, God had thoughts of love toward His people, determining that they would be His people, and including everything that would be involved in bringing them from a state of being “sinners” to a state of being “saints.”

2.  Election is “unto salvation,” 2 Thessalonians 2:13, …God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation….

There are Scriptures which refer to an election to national privilege, such as Deuteronomy 7:7, or to “service,” as John 15:16, but these are not the only such “elections.”  We’ve quoted 2 Thessalonians 2:13 above, but when Paul wrote that God chose us in order that we should be holy and without blame before Him, Ephesians 1:4, what was He talking about, if not salvation?

3.  Election is personal, Revelation 17:8, …whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. 

See also Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 13:8.

Some try to soften the Biblical doctrine of election by making it impersonal.  They say that God only chose the number who would be saved, or that He chose the plan by which they would be saved, or that He chose “in Christ,” but one’s inclusion in “the number” or “the plan” or “in Christ” is an individual matter.  It’s still up to the person to make his decision to go along with God’s choice of the impersonal means of salvation.

Certainly God knows how many elect there are, as well as who they are.  And Christ Himself is referred to as chosen, Luke 23:35, 1 Peter 2:4, but election is so much more than this.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians that God chose us.  To the Thessalonians, he wrote that God has chosen you.  Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 tell us that the names of the elect were written down before the foundation of the world.

Election is personal.

4.  Election is unconditional, Ephesians 1:5, …having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

See also Romans 9:16; Ephesians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:9; James 1:18.

By “unconditional,” we mean that there is nothing in the sinner that is the basis for God’s choice of that sinner.  This is pretty much the opposite of what is generally believed about the doctrine, namely, that there is something foreseen in the elect that is the basis for their election.  However, Scripture teaches that it’s according to His will, to His good pleasure, that the elect are chosen, and not according to their will or their good pleasure.  We’ll leave further comments on this until the section on God’s foreknowledge, although the next segment of this post continues the thought that election is “unconditional.”

5.  Election is the sovereign choice of God, Matthew 11:20-26,

Then [Jesus] began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works began to be done, because they did not repent:   “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sodom, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
At that time, Jesus answered and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.”  
(emphasis added.)

These verses, and others like them, trouble people who have only been taught a humanistic and unScriptural view of the “love” of God.  But, remember, these words are not the words of some “wicked theologian imposing his views on Scripture.”  They are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, saying that there were some whom God knew would repent if given the opportunity, but they were never given the opportunity!  Instead, the Bible teaches that Sodom was set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, Jude 7.

We’ll not look at them, but you might also consider the choice of Israel as God’s chosen nation, passing by every other nation.  Also, God’s instruction to Ezekiel at the beginning of his ministry:  Ezekiel 3:5, 6.

The truth is, the Bible teaches, almost in every chapter, that God is sovereign, even in matters of salvation.  However, it neither apologizes for, nor seeks to make this teaching “reasonable” or “acceptable” to fallen mankind.  It simply says that it is so.

6.  Election comes because of the grace of God, Ephesians 1:4-6, Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…to the praise of the glory of His grace. 

“Wait a minute!” I can hear someone say.  “Doesn’t this contradict what you just said about the ‘sovereign choice of God’?”

Not at all.  After all, what is grace?

Simply defined, grace is “God’s unmerited favor in spite of our merited disfavor.”  In other words, we don’t merit, or deserve, God’s favor.  We do deserve, or merit, His disfavor:  His wrath and judgment.  In fact, Paul wrote that the elect are by nature the children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3.  That God chose to save even one sinner is more than we could rightfully expect.  That He has chosen to save the innumerable multitudes that He has saved, and will yet save, is beyond comprehension.

Many people who might accept our definition of grace really don’t believe it, or perhaps they just haven’t thought it through.  There’s more to this idea that we don’t deserve God’s grace than meets the eye.  If we’re upset by the idea that God might choose one and not another, simply because He wants to, saying that such an action is “unjust” or “unfair,” then we are really saying, after all, that man does deserve to be saved.  If that is so, salvation is not by grace at all; it is by reward or debt.  God owes it to us.

7.  Election is in connection to Christ, Ephesians 1:4, 6.

As we said earlier, this doesn’t mean that God simply chose us “in Christ,” leaving everything else up to us.

a.  When my firstborn son was just an infant, I was somewhere where there was a crying baby.  He was having a fit about something, as babies know how to do!  I had never liked crying babies, but as I looked at this red-faced little fellow, somehow I saw my own son, and it was alright.

What I’m saying is that our condition before God is so offensive to Him that the only way He will even think about being gracious toward us is through His Son.  The only way you and I will ever stand uncondemned before God is “in Christ.”  The only reason you and I aren’t in hell right now is because God loved His only-begotten Son (NKJV) so much that He decided to have a whole bunch of adopted sons and daughters just like Him!

b.  Not only did God give His Son for us, John 3:16, but it is clear from Scripture that there were people given to the Son and for whom He assumed special responsibility.  Scripture describes these people in various ways:  a gift, John 6:37, 39; 17:2, 6;  sheep, John 10:14-16, 26-28.  Other descriptions are found in Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:28; Hebrews 2:10-14, and many others.

We’ll conclude our thoughts on election in the next post.

Questions

1.  Does the doctrine of election harm sinners?

2.  Did God simply choose those whom He knew would choose Him?

3.  When did God make His choice?

4.  What are the different “kinds” of election?

5.  Didn’t God just choose the “means” or “plan” of salvation?

6.  Were there any “conditions” in the sinner which influenced God’s choice?

7.  Define “grace.”

8.  The world defines “grace” as God simply making salvation available.  Is this true?

9.  Do we deserve grace?  Why or why not?

10. Can we earn it?  Why or why not?

11. What do the Scriptures call the elect beside a “gift” and “sheep”?

The Words of Salvation

A lady once asked me why there were so many words used in talking about salvation.  I told her that salvation was like a diamond, with many facets.  The different words used about salvation simply describe one of these various facets.

The following is adapted from a tract I’ve had for a long time.  It briefly describes several, though not all, of these words.  It was written by a man named C. D. Cole (1885-1968), a well known pastor and writer of an earlier generation.  I’ve done some editing, as indicated by [ ].

Sin has wrought awful havoc with the human race.  It has ruined every man and every part of man.  The consequences of sin are manifold, and there is an aspect of salvation for every aspect of sin.  If the sinner be viewed as in a state of [spiritual] death, then regeneration is the Bible word to  denote the impartation of [spiritual] life.  If the sinner is considered as a child of the devil, then adoption is the term which expressed the judicial act of God.  If we think of the sinner from the standpoint of his body, being mortal and having in it the germs of death by which it will be turned into a dustheap, then  glorification is that aspect of salvation in which the body will be fashioned like unto the glorious body of Christ.  If the lost person be regarded as in a state of depravity or moral defilement, sanctification is the work making him holy and pure before God.

If we think of the sinner as in a state of spiritual darkness unable to understand the gospel, then [illumination] is the Bible term describing the act of God giving light [to the soul] by which the sinner can see or understand that Christ crucified is the wisdom and power of God in the plan of salvation.  [If we think of the sinner as in a state of rebellion and defiance, then calling is the act of God by which the Holy Spirit effectually draws that sinner from the power and influence of Satan into the kingdom and authority of God’s Son.]  If the sinner be thought of as in a position of condemnation – cursed by God’s law he has violated – then justification speaks of his perfect standing before the throne of God.  [It is the other side of sanctification.  The Bible says believers are God’s handiwork, Ephesians 2:10.  Sanctification is simply the Holy Spirit making sure we look like it.]  If salvation be approached from the standpoint of the eternal purpose of God, according to which He graciously saves sinners, then election and predestination are the Bible terms which denote the choice and destiny of God’s people.