Part 4 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
The testimony of Jesus:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you..." (1 Pet.1:3-4)
The command of God:
"Now that you have purified your souls by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." (1 Pet.1:22)
The treasures of God are not the treasures of the earth: we value gold, silver and diamonds, and we often cheat and kill each other in order to possess them. But God says that we—the nations—are His inheritance! (Ps.2:8,82:8) We think perishable things are treasures, but to Him, we are His eternal treasures! Each one of us is a priceless treasure to Him—measurable only by the cost of giving His Son to purchase us! And so He calls us to love one another (even our enemies) just as much as He loves us, to find our treasures in each other just like He has.
OVERCOMING THE WORLD
The kingdom God has for us is an everlasting kingdom; He wants us to share His inheritance in eternity. Our inheritance is not the kingdoms or things of the world. And so no matter what happens here on earth, we have a firm hope that doesn't spoil or fade, because it is above and not here below:
"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (Jn.16:33)
Because Jesus overcame for us, on our behalf, we can take heart and have peace during every tribulation. Our peace doesn't come from our situations or from attaining a secure 'kingdom' here, but our peace comes from believing in the victory He accomplished on our behalf:
"Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." (1 Jn.5:4)
Our 'overcoming' or 'conquering' is by faith instead of by our works or our battles—He has already accomplished the necessary works for us, triumphing over the enemy at the Cross. (Col.2:15)
THE CHURCH CROWNED
The church began in faith, washed white by the blood of the Lamb, having overcome the world by faith alone because its Lord overcame and had already won the victory. Suffering intense persecution, the church withstood everything the gates of Hades threw at it (Matt.16:18), overcoming by faith—by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and not loving their lives so much as to shrink from death (Rev.12:11).
Then something changed:
"Then I saw when the Lamb opened the first of the the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, 'Come!' I looked, and there was a white horse. The horseman on it had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and in order to conquer." (Rev.6:1-2)
The church received a crown and became dominant. The church could now defend itself from persecution and protect its own. It could use its arms to keep enemies from attacking, and even to conquer enemies. The first motivation is to protect, and then expands to subdue enemies, eliminate threats pre-emptively, and to spread our law and order. Setting aside what Jesus said, the 'kingdom of God' was defended (and expanded) as a kingdom of the world:
"My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting so that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My kingdom is not from the world." (Jn.18:36)
Since the church had the crown and the authority of the government to make and enforce law, the kingdom of God now seemed to be one with the country (or empire) as a place where 'Christian' virtue, morality, righteousness and ideals could be taught in freedom, encouraged, spread, rewarded and even enforced. Whereas before the crown, the word of their testimony was all the church could use to spread the kingdom of God, now the church had the authority of the government to make and enforce law as well. When the country was enlarged by conquest, the 'kingdom' seemed to be increased as well.
HE WHO JUDGES IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
"He sent messengers ahead of Him, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for Him; but the people there did not welcome Him, because He was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, 'Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?' But He turned and rebuked them, and said, 'You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.' And they went on to another village." (Lk.9:52-56)
The crowned church forgot the heart and spirit of Christ among those who were not welcoming. It's very easy for us to believe in our righteousness (our 'right-ness'), that God is on our "side" and those who are against us are against Him, too. Sometimes we even take a 'prophetic' role by declaring that His judgment is against them—against those who disagree with our politics, our policies, our nation, our beliefs and our systems.
When the church began, it "overcame the world" by faith alone in Christ's victory; but when the church received the crown, it began to 'overcome' by defeating its enemies who resisted the 'kingdom' and its ways.
In contrast, there is another 'rider' on a white horse in Revelation:
"Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. And He who sat on it was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many diadems. He had a name written on Him that no one knows except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God." (Rev.19:11-13)
Jesus rides forth not as a conqueror setting out to conquer, but rather as One who has already won the victory—on the Cross! He doesn't set out to gain more crowns from the kingdoms of the earth because He is already crowned with many crowns—all in heaven and earth already belongs to Him! He doesn't need to 'win' the kingdoms of the earth!
He is the One who judges in righteousness, because He is the One who loved all and died for all. He is the One who sees, knows and reads every heart. He is the Word of God who is "living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword," who "penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow." He is the One who judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, and nothing in all creation is hidden from His sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before His eyes. (Heb.4:12-13)
He is the One who rules the kingdom and who protects it. He is the only one who has the authority to take vengeance and pour out His wrath. He is the only one whose judgment and war is completely righteous. Our judgments, our wars, our politics and our nations are not righteous like He is righteous. Only He is completely "Faithful and True."
We may think we are rich in righteousness—in law, morality, right positions and right professions of faith—but we can't mix God's kingdom with the ways and means of the kingdoms of the world forever. We can't try to hold onto the flame of the fire in His eyes and expect Him to look away when we choose to let our agape love grow cold.
"You adulteresses! Don't you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)
This is why 'Babylon' is pictured as a "great prostitute" in Revelation 17. She represents those who began betrothed to Christ, but who commit adultery with the kings and merchants of the earth—she professes her betrothal to Christ but in her heart and actions she seeks power, land, wealth and prosperity for herself and the beast whose fatal wound had been healed. Like the ancient empire of Babylon, she sets out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
She doesn't know that her lovers—the merchants and kings of the earth, and even the beast whose wound was healed—they do not truly love her, and they will hate her and leave her naked.
She chooses to believe in her own righteousness instead of His alone, and to pursue earthly treasures instead of God's treasures—people. She forsakes the testimony of Jesus and His command of agape love in order to gain a 'kingdom' that will not last; she sells her soul seeking 'her own life', but loses even that.
And so He calls us to come out of 'her'—to repent and take up the Cross instead: by pleading His testimony alone and obeying His law of agape love above all other laws.
Part 5: "The Beast"—Seemingly Favored