He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. Revelation 22:11
In the World
One who walks today with spiritual eyes open cannot fail to observe the rapid deterioration of morals and the escalation of lawlessness in society: more major crimes including acts of violence; more divorces with the inevitable traumatic effects on many children; more unmarried couples living together; greater disrespect for authority resulting in many frustrated police, parents and teachers; the legalisation of homosexual marriages, and laws preventing employers from discriminating against a homosexual if he applies for a job. The list goes on.
Shades of Sodom and Gomorrah? Signs that we are fast approaching the return of our LORD?
When discussing these developments attention is often drawn to such texts as 2 Thess. 2:3, 4 where we read that the day of our LORD will be preceded by the ‘falling away’, a time when ‘the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God…’. Or people refer to Revelation 22:11, a text which shows that the antithesis is not between the rich and the poor, as socialists would have us believe. Nor is it between males and females, as the feminists would have us believe. It is not between those with power and those without, as the Marxists try to impress upon us. Rev 22:11 shows that it is between the righteous and the unjust, between the holy and the filthy.
And so we look at the decline in society around us and say (as I’ve heard several do): What we witness in the world is a fulfilment of the prophecy of the ‘falling away’ of 2 Thess. 2 and Rev 22:11: the unjust are those of the world and we can expect them to become even more immoral; the righteous are those of the church and they will remain holy.
But whatever elements of truth there may lie in such an observation, it cannot be based on these texts. These texts reveal a far more frightening picture.
In the Church
In 2 Thess. 2 we are shown that before the Lord returns the man of sin, the son of perdition, must be revealed. Therefore ‘God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false’ (vs 11). Where and how does this ‘falling away’ occur? Rev C J Breen, explaining the first twelve verses of this chapter, says, “The enemy will not come from outside, but will attack the Lord Christ under the pretension of being Christian. The church which falls away shall, despite her pretensions to being God’s temple, become the throne of the lawless.” [i]
As to Rev 22:11, Dr C VanderWaal [ii] shows that the book of Revelation was addressed in the first place to the seven churches of Asia Minor, and through them to Christ’s churches throughout subsequent history. In other words, it is addressed to covenant people, to you and me. And the frightening aspect is that the text speaks then not only about the righteous and the holy in the church, but also about the unjust and the filthy in the church!
Schilder, commenting on this text, puts it like this:
He who is unjust – a covenant child.
He who is filthy – a covenant child.
He who is righteous – a covenant child.
He who is holy – a covenant child
One who behaves unjustly – not the absent Anti-Christ this time, but the brother in the congregation.
One who engages in that which is filthy – not the absent Harlot on seven hills this time, but a bride in the congregation.
One who is righteous – not the delegate of United Churches undoubtedly representing a fine Holy Ecumenical Synod, but a sinner who has just repented and still stands perplexed in the back of the church.[iii]
A frightening warning for each of us, is it not? Within the church there will be the righteous and the unjust, the holy and the immoral.
And when Christ comes? Applying Mt. 24:40, 41 to today: Two men will be attending a congregational meeting, the one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be sitting in church, the one will be taken and the other left.
So radical is God’s Word: a two-edged sword which cuts both ways. One either submits in all humility, keeping God’s commandments in order that one ‘may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city’, OR one is forced to stay outside with ‘the dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie’ (Rev 22:14,15).
What of the future? The backsliding in the world appears irreversible. Sad as the decline in the world is, it is sadder to see its mentality infiltrating the church. In a selfish world we, God’s people, are privileged to have been ordained to that glorious three-fold office of prophet, priest and king in Christ. But just as Christ’s life on earth was marked by total self-denial in order to do His Father’s will, so our three-fold office is to be characterised by self-denial: self-denial of many of the world’s pleasures and goods so alluringly presented, particularly by the media; self-denial of the godless frivolity and entertainment so temptingly within reach; self-denial of the worldly forms of reasoning, by which human opinions and feelings shape our attitudes and values, our decisions and actions (even in church matters);[iv] self-denial of following the trend of finding favour with the majority when that trend conflicts with God’s Word.
For the criterion is not that which is personally or socially or ecclesiastically or ecumenically expedient, however religious we may make it appear, but the criterion is simple obedience to God’s Word. Israel sought to please God by being very religiously active. It reasoned that its many solemn assemblies and feasts would please the Lord, and it sacrificed to the Lord under every green tree and on every hill. But such sacrifices were not according to God’s law and He was offended by them.
Same criterion applies to ecumenical relations. When Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was asked by Ahab, king of Israel, to help fight the Assyrians, human reasoning applauded the venture. Weren’t the Assyrians Israel’s and therefore God’s enemies? Didn’t Israel and Judah therefore have a reason to work together on a ‘common front’ against the world? And didn’t all the prophets (except one – Micaiah) approve the joint venture? But Israel was unfaithful and therefore Judah should not have formed an alliance with Israel. We know the disastrous consequences of that venture – including Ahab’s death. Where action is not based on simple obedience to God’s Word such a unity is sinful and doomed to failure.
God’s Word Alone
Let us as believers and as churches be governed only by what the LORD says, commands and ordains. For He says, ‘You are My friends if you do whatever I command you’ (Jn 15:14). ‘Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother’ (Mk 3:35). ‘If anyone loves me he will keep My Word’ (Jn 14:23). But the converse is also true: whoever does not keep His Word does not love Him. He may be influential, powerful, impressive, have a great following, but he does not love the LORD and is not His friend. ‘Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven’ (Mt 7:21).
May God grant that our lives as believers will be characterised by a humble submission to the authority of His Word. May He grant that our churches will be pillars and bulwarks of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Let us individually and collectively ‘hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Rev 3:4). Then in the rest of 2018 and beyond, we may look to the Lord to bless our churches, institutions, families and personal lives and cause us to be a blessing.
[i] C J Breen, ‘De Toekomst van onze Here Jezus Christus’ in G Zomer (ed), Komende in Heerlijkheid, Oosterbaan, Goes, 1975, p.186.
[ii] C VanderWaal, Openbaring van Jesus Christus, De Vuurbaak, Groningen, 1971, p. 10.
[iii] K Schilder, ’De verantwoordelijken worden het pad opgestuurd’, Schriftoverdenkingen III, Oosterbaan, Goes, 1958, pp. 223, 224.
[iv] See, for example, Rev J Moeker’s comments on https://defenceofthetruth.com/en/2018/03/are-we-following-the-decline-in-the-rcn-1/ , https://defenceofthetruth.com/en/2018/03/are-we-following-the-decline-in-the-rcn-2/ and https://defenceofthetruth.com/en/2018/03/are-we-following-the-decline-in-the-rcn-3/ .