Habits for Eternity
John had received amazing visions about the future from Jesus. What is he to do with them? Daniel's visions were also remarkable, but he was told to seal them up because the time for them had not yet come (Daniel 12:4-9): in many ways they only make sense when read in the context of Revelation. However, John's visions were for his day and every day until Jesus returns - the Last Days. The letters to the churches (Revelation 2:1-3:20) in what is now Western Turkey were to be read immediately; action had to be taken. The remaining chapters show God's plan for the future of the world … and that future is not so far off (Romans 13:11). These visions are necessary to stabilise the church at risk of being shaken by persecution, godless world systems and false religion; necessary too to explain that God is still in command even when He pours 'bowls of wrath' on the world. That time is near.
To what extent will Revelation change people's eternal destiny? It is not an evangelist tract but its message provides very strong motivation to believers both to live well for Christ and proclaim Him well. However, like the hardening of Pharaoh's heart in Egypt, it seems that the dreadful preludes to the lake of fire will have little effect in changing people's hearts if they have closed their ears to the gospel – they will refuse to repent (Revelation 16:9, 11). Pharaoh hardened his own heart three times at the beginning of the plagues, but the desire of his unrepentant heart was granted by the Lord as He then hardened Pharaoh's heart on seven further occasions (Exodus 7:13-11:10).
That is the background to the verses we are now studying. When the gospel has been ignored or refused enough times, the habits of sin are hard-wired (Ezekiel 3:27; Daniel 12:10). However uncomfortable the impact of God's warnings, the rebel will continue to be rebellious if they reject the gospel (Revelation 16:9). The challenge to the church, though, is to remain holy. The pressures of a hostile world will disturb the faith of some, as will the inner pressures of temptation and the pressure to compromise or accept false teaching (Hebrews 3:12). The activity of the Holy Spirit is to enliven the conscience but some will abandon their faith because they prefer demonic lies; they who have started well lose everything (1 Timothy 4:1-2; Hebrews 6:4-6).
So, the challenge to the church now is the same as in John's day, to repent of wandering from the truth of the gospel and cling fast to Jesus. As we have seen in previous studies, Revelation motivates us to keep on living for Christ: He is coming back to judge everybody; Christless global powers will all be punished along with false religion, the Antichrist, the devil and all unbelievers in the lake of fire; the Lord will protect the church and martyrs will be eternally safe. These glimpses into the future prepare us to keep on doing what is right even when it seems everything is against us, and to keep ourselves holy for Jesus when everybody wants to tear us away from Him. In simple words, keep going, do not give up, Jesus is with you and waiting for you. If you are in Christ you have an inheritance in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. Do not throw it away! Your confidence in Jesus, will be richly rewarded (Hebrews 10:25).
© Dr Paul Adams