A Separate Identity
The global evil power or ideology which will take control of all the world's systems and structures towards the end of time, will be defeated. The world rulers, who were trapped by its domination, will destroy it (Revelation 17:15-16), in 'an hour' (Revelation 18:10,17,19). Not that they will give glory to God but to assert their own power. However, they will be lost without its cohesive influence (Revelation 18:9-10). The merchants will be unable to trade (Revelation 18:11-16) and international transport systems will grind to a halt (Revelation 18:17-20). But there will be rejoicing in heaven as commerce, science, the arts and the autonomy of human relationships can no longer claim to have the last word (Revelation 18:21-24).
Today's verses are for the church which has been under such pressure from a malignant world, which has martyred so many believers. 'Come out of her.' It is the call to a separate identity (2 Corinthians 6:17). Instead of collaborating with the world - actively hoping to gain some favours, or passively accepting that there is no other option – God calls His people to be separate/different/holy/sanctified saints. The call is a refrain in the Old Testament as Israel wandered from their exclusive devotion to the Lord (Ezra 10:11), either out of fear of superior armies or their compulsive desire for what God had forbidden (Genesis 19:12-14). Syncretism and backsliding was as common for Israel as for the Early Church where persecution and false doctrines pulled the church away from their devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Yet Jesus placed His church in the world, to be a light to the world (Matthew 5:14), but not to be overcome by the world (John 16:33). Jesus prayed that the Father would protect His people (John 17:11). In John 17:15-18, Jesus prays that they will be kept separate from sin and from being twisted by the Evil One, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." Paul, in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, calls believers not to tie themselves into relationships with unbelievers which will prevent them from being wholehearted for Jesus. Paul's practical advice is, "… do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure." (1 Timothy 5:22).
It is not easy to be holy for Jesus in an unholy world: but that world will be destroyed (1 Peter 3:10). The world can never save us, so do not worship it. It is a challenge to be a light in the world without letting the world extinguish the light. It requires constant vigilance to be in the world without being polluted by the world. It will be tough to refuse the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16-17), but eternally worse for those who don't (Revelation 14:9-11). In our attempts to attract the world to Jesus, let us be careful that we do not let the world dictate the church's raison d'être – "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)
© Dr Paul Adams