Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
At the moment that we’re tempted to sin, rarely does it seem like a bad idea. Ok, for the believer (and even the naïve non-believer), there’s that feeling that you’re doing something you shouldn’t at least the first few times you engage in whatever you may be tempted to do. But, I think most of us agree that when we’re tempted to do something wrong, we rarely consider the consequences, or maybe don’t even realize there are any. However, sin always leaves regret (in one form or another). The Holy Spirit showed me that the book of Revelation gives us a picture of how this works. Let’s check that out today.
To understand how sin works, the Bible gives us some pretty extreme imagery in the form of the woman on the beast. John, documenting his vision, writes,
Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries (Revelation 17:3-4).
Now if you’re like me, your first reaction is, “What the heck is going on in these two verses?” Most people can quickly figure out that the dragon is the devil, or some sort of embodiment of sin. The woman is a person who is in sin. Sin can be empowering and give you a feeling of control or freedom over your life. You’re doing what you want, when you want, how you want; it doesn’t get much more free than that, right? Therefore the woman enjoys her time high on the horse…er, dragon just like we enjoy the moment in our sin (whatever that sin may be). The Bible continues,
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
When I saw her, I was greatly astonished (Revelation 17:4).
Now the woman in this vision, Babylon, was sinning against the righteous (clearly in a bloody manner). However, the message of how sin works carries through any sin. When a person is deep in sin, they become drunk with it, to the point where they are no longer really controlling themselves but are moved by the sin itself. Think of a drug-addict or a wrathful person- their whole existence revolves around that part of their lives. And when we see them, we’re shocked; “How could he/she live like that?” But the truth is that a person deep in sin is able to stop themselves about as well as someone who’s intoxicated is able to stop themselves from having another drink. Even as things spin out of control, a person who’s caught in a sin isn’t able to get out of it.
A lot of non-believers think that there’s nothing wrong with engaging in sin. And, at the time, sin feels good. But here’s the truth: the devil hates you and wants to destroy you (even if you’re rebelling against God and doing all sorts of dastardly things). Check out how the dragon responds to the woman (now referred to as a prostitute from an earlier verse),
The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 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 17:16-17).
There’s no such thing as getting a nice room in hell. The devil hates humanity and seeks to destroy it and punish it until the return of Jesus. This verse even tells us that its part of Satan’s programming to seek the ruin of those who do wrong. Notice that the woman is called a prostitute, and how is she punished? She’s left out naked and ashamed (before being devoured and burned). Not only does the devil seek to destroy you through your sin, but he’ll also do it by your sin if he can- and afterward he’ll let you suffer in the fires hell. There’s no protection for you when you live on the devil’s side. Sure, you might think you’re in control, but he’s just letting you ride him a little while the trap is being set. But it gets worse. What does heaven say of all of this sin and punishment? Scripture records,
Give back to her as she has given;
Pay her back double for what she has done.
Mix her a double portion from her own cup.
Give her as much torture and grief
As the glory and luxury she gave herself.
In her heart she boasts,
“I sit as a queen; I am not a widow,
And I will never mourn” (Revelation 18:6-7).
The deceived person, living outside of God’s will and rebellious to our Lord has no refuge. For such a person has turned away from the living God and sided with one who wants that person destroyed. This isn’t just some words in a book; people get their sins turned back on them every day. And any person who’s experienced having to drink a double portion of what they did when they were deep in sin will tell you that it is an experience not to be wished upon anyone.
“Whoa, whoa, I call shenanigans. Revelation 17:18 says, ‘The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.’ This vision is about a city in sin, not a person.” This is true. However, although the illustration in the Bible is carried on to a city, it can also represent personal sin and its effects. Don’t believe me? Check out Ezekiel 16. In Ezekiel 16, the Lord gives another parable of sin and punishment, in which he produces quite a list of sins. We read,
You took some of your garments to make gaudy high places, where you carried on your prostitution. Such things should not happen, nor should they even occur. You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them (Ezekiel 16:16-17).
As strange as that may sound, things get worse. God continues his charges in Ezekiel 16:20, “And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough?” Finally, in his anger, the Lord pronounces in Ezekiel 16:32, “You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband!” Now, just like in Revelation, these statements are aimed at a city rather than a person (this time, Jerusalem). However, all of the sins listed are also sins committed by individuals (either still today or from Biblical times). And, just like in Revelation, the punishment is related to the sins. God warns the representative unfaithful wife,
Then I will hand you over to your lovers, and they will tear down your mounds and destroy your lofty shrines. They will strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry and leave you naked and bare (Ezekiel 16:39).
Now take note here, God doesn’t say that he’ll punish the woman directly, but rather he allows her lovers to do so, just like how in Revelation the Lord needs not lift a finger because the dragon does all the work.. This is how sin works. You’re not safe in sin, and that sin will be your undoing. James backs all of this up when he writes of sin,
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:13-15).
Rejecting God and his commands and living life how you want it is dangerous and stupid. You haven’t a friend in the world out there without the Lord; because the devil, who you serve, hates you with all of his being and is just waiting to be given the ok to destroy you.
Rather, call out for help today. Call to the Lord Jesus, who can deliver you not only from your sins, but also from the eternal death and punishment in hell that awaits. I implore you; turn to life through Jesus Christ. John writes,
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God,
And the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers,
Who accuses them before our God day and night,
Has been hurled down.
They overcame him
By the blood of the Lamb
And by the word of their testimony;
They did not love their lives so much
As to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens
And you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
Because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
Because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:10-12).
Only through Jesus, his atoning death on a cross, and adherence thereof can you be saved and truly find life and happiness. Don’t let the devil fool you into thinking that you can live high on the dragon and suffer no ills. Satan hates you and has deceived you into making yourself drunk with this life’s pleasures in order to deny you the true pleasures, lasting forever, in heaven.