The story is told of the famous sculptor Michelangelo. One day an apprentice asked him, “How do you create such beautiful, life-like works of art? It doesn’t seem possible!” Michelangelo turned to the young man and told him, “I simply look at the block of marble, see the finished sculpture, and then chip away everything that doesn’t belong!” The key, for Michelangelo, was to see a mental picture of the final work of art. That, in essence, is what we try to do each week on Pictures of the End. Bible prophecy paints a very clear picture of our world today, but the challenge is to clear away “everything that doesn’t belong.” Fortunately, the Bible is such a clear teacher that understanding its pictures of the end is both possible and rewarding.
Our topic today is Revelation’s false revival. The book of Revelation predicts that two great spiritual revivals will take place on earth shortly before the second coming of Jesus Christ. One will be sent from heaven, and the other will ascend from the abyss, Revelation’s word for the home of demons. One revival will be sent by God, the other will be a counterfeit sent from Satan. Those that participate in the true revival from heaven will spend eternity in heaven; Revelation refers to these people as “the saints.” Those, however, that get caught up in the false revival and refuse to let God free them from it, will eventually perish and miss out on eternal life.
I want to interject a thought here before we go on. Many people believe that the book of Revelation cannot be understood. Maybe they have heard this from their pastor—and there are pastors that say this—or maybe they’ve had friends express these kinds of thoughts. Sometimes people beginning reading the book of Revelation and give up because there are so many symbols—beasts, and horns, and trumpets, and seals, and locusts, and scorpions. Revelation is full of symbols, and it can be a challenge to study them, but this does not mean that the book of Revelation cannot be understood. In fact, it is pretty clear from the text itself that God expects us to not only read the book of Revelation, but to understand it as well.
In Revelation 1:3 we read, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” The Bible says that we are to read, and hear, and keep, the things revealed in the book of Revelation. You can’t “keep” the book of Revelation without understanding it, so clearly God expects us to not only read and listen to the prophecies in Revelation, but to understand them as well. Also, the very word “Revelation,” or Apocalypses in the original Greek, literally means “the unveiling,” or “the revealing.” The very name of the book indicates that we can understand what is contained in it!
OK, let’s open up the book of Revelation now and see what it says about these two revivals. The revival from heaven, the true revival, is found in Revelation 18:1-4. This is part of the final message given by God to fallen humanity. It is an invitation to participate in heaven’s revival, and also to avoid the counterfeit revival. Let’s read verse 1.
“And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.”
Here is a picture of God’s end-time revival. The angel coming down from heaven indicates that this revival is from God—it is the real deal, the genuine, and the authentic revival at the end of time. The angel has great power, which means that God’s end-time revival will have great power. In fact, it will be so full of power that the entire world will hear God’s final message. The verse refers to this when it says, “and the earth was lightened with his glory.” This is a message that every living person will hear.
What is the angel’s message? Let’s continue reading in verse 2:
And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
Now there is a lot packed into these verses. First is the reference to “Babylon,” something that we will look at in just a minute. Notice that this false revival is full of devils, foul spirits, and every “unclean and hateful bird.” These are all different ways of saying that the world be awash with fallen angels and demonic power at the end of time. This shouldn’t surprise us, since Revelation 12 describes Satan and his angels being cast to earth after loosing the war in heaven. Never forget this: Satan is a looser; he has already lost the war. He is much more powerful than human beings, but he is no match for God, or for people that have entrusted their lives to God!
This false revival is also worldwide in scope, because the verse says, “all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of [Babylon’s] fornication.” In other words, the false message, the false gospel, the false spirit that fuels the counterfeit revival is also very strong and appealing, and much of the world will be taken in by it.
Finally, the angel’s message concludes with a call by God to “come out” of Babylon’s false revival, so that they will not partake of her sins and share in her plagues. Justice is often hard to see in this world, and far too often justice is not served. Many times it seems like those that reject God enjoy all the good things in life, while those that serve Him faithfully only suffer trial and persecution and hardship. This happens because, even though Satan has lost the war against God, we are still living and fighting on enemy territory. The earth still lies under Satan’s influence, and just like Jesus Christ was not immune from Satan’s attacks while He lived on earth, Christians today are also susceptible to the fury of the devil. However, Jesus promised in John 14:3, “I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” The Christian’s home is in heaven, and Jesus has promised to return and take His people there. God’s end-time revival is really His final work of preparation so that they will be ready to live in heaven. This is a pretty good reason to make sure that you participate in heaven’s revival, and avoid Revelation’s false revival!
Let’s take a closer look at this mysterious “Babylon” reference in Revelation 18:2. Understanding what the Bible means by its reference to Babylon is very important to understanding God’s warning message in Revelation 18. Like many of the symbols and passages of Revelation, the concept of “Babylon” is drawn from an earlier Biblical source. Its precursor is the tower of Babel in Genesis. Babel was the first of four cities built by Nimrod, a hunter and “mighty one in the earth” (Genesis 10:8, 9). Nimrod was a great-grandson of Noah and a grandson of Ham, whose descendants were cursed by Noah after Ham’s disgraceful treatment of his drunken father.
Two things distinguished the tower builders at Babel. First, their building effort represented a direct assault on God’s authority, and second, they were fully united in their rebellion. The Bible says “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech” (Genesis 11:1), and the greatest fear of the tower builders was that they would “be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (verse 4). Although the people shared a common language, the true mark of their unity was a shared mindset of rebellion against God. “And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (verse 6, emphasis supplied).
“The men of Babel had determined to establish a government that should be independent of God…the people were fully united in their Heaven-daring undertaking. Had they gone on unchecked, they would have demoralized the world in its infancy. Their confederacy was founded in rebellion; a kingdom established for self-exaltation, but in which God was to have no rule or honor. Had this confederacy been permitted, a mighty power would have borne sway to banish righteousness—and with it peace, happiness, and security—from the earth. For the divine statutes, which are “holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12), men were endeavoring to substitute laws to suit the purpose of their own selfish and cruel hearts.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 123.
It is significant that the Bible’s first and last uses of the word kingdom are in reference to Babel and Babylon. In Genesis 10:10 we read, “And the beginning of [Nimrod’s] kingdom was Babel.” In Revelation 17, the nations of earth “have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast…For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled” (verses 13 and 17). From beginning to end, the Bible depicts human kingdoms and the uniting of humanity as synonymous with Babel’s spirit of rebellion and self-sufficiency. End-time Babylon represents the final fruition of the Babel-builders’ dream—a single world empire, a single earthly kingdom, controlled by man.
Revelation predicts that Babylon will eventually control the world’s political and military powers, its great corporations and businesses. This end-time tower of Babel will also unite the religious world under a false system of worship that appears righteous on the outside. On the inside, however, it will be full of “devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (Revelation 18:2). According to the Bible, the more closely humanity presses together, the more completely it falls under satanic control. Another passage from Revelation describes it this way:
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:13-14).
At the end of time the world may appear deeply religious, but it won’t be the Bible-based Christianity that your grandparents and parents tried to teach you. The world may share spiritual slogans, but you won’t hear hymns about “power in the blood.” The revival and worship and unity promoted by mystery Babylon at the end of time will be ruled and controlled by demons.
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to be part of the false revival! Fortunately, the Bible gives us several clues to help us recognize the counterfeit revival. The first picture is found in Revelation 16:13-14. This is another passage that predicts Revelation’s false revival that sweeps the entire world. Here’s what it says:
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”
Revelation 12:7-9 clearly identifies the dragon as Satan himself. According to this passage, something very strange comes out of the mouth of Satan and his two accomplices—unclean spirits that look like frogs! These “frogs” work miracles and finally succeed in gathering the “kings of the earth,” or the nations of the world, to fight against God. This is the lead-up to the battle of Armageddon, which is mentioned two verses later. Notice that spiritual deception and false spirits are the power behind the battle of Armageddon. There are many sincere Christians that believe the battle of Armageddon will be a physical battle fought somewhere in the Middle East. While I admire these Christian’s convictions and interest in prophecy, I cannot agree with this view of Armageddon. The Bible is very clear that spiritual deception, complete with false miracles and false spirits are the primary focus of the battle of Armageddon. This battle may include physical fighting, but it is primarily a spiritual battle fought in the hearts and minds of people. How do I know that?
There are three “frogs” in this passage that carry a message to the entire world, and the result is that the world unites against God. Now I happen to be an expert on frogs. You see, I live in the country, and our soil is extremely heavy clay—so heavy, in fact, that water does not percolate through the soil at all. It just sits on the ground. When we first moved here we dug several large tree holes (three feet deep and three feet wide) but didn’t get the trees in before the spring rains hit. Water sat in those holes all summer long and through the fall. It never drained out. Finally I had to pump the holes dry and fill them in with dirt. All of this is to explain that our septic system empties into what we affectionately call our “potty pond.” Now we don’t care for the potty pond, but there are creatures that do. Frogs! In the summer you can hear dozens, maybe hundreds, of frogs sitting at the edge of the potty pond water, croaking their happy little song. Here’s the point: Frogs like sewage; they are attracted to it, and they croak out their message so that other frogs can join them.
In Revelation, three frogs croak out a message that is, in reality, dirtier and more dangerous than the water coming out of our septic tank. Their three-fold message comes out of the mouth the Satan, the beast, and the false prophet. According to the Bible, those that accept the frogs’ message are headed down a one-way path to destruction. That sounds strong, but it’s what the Bible says. Revelation 19:20-21 says, “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him…[and they] were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” The next chapter says that the dragon, or the devil, receives the same fate. Unfortunately, those that participate in the false revival and refuse to come out of it will share the same fate. Revelation 20:15 says, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” The battle of Armageddon is primarily spiritual, friends, and there is a satanic message carried by three “frogs,” actually demons, that unites the world into the muck and filth and sewage of a false gospel that keeps people from being written in the book of life.
What message do these three frogs take to the world? What message is it that unites end-time Babylon in opposition to God? This message comes out of the mouth of the dragon, or Satan, so let’s look at another picture where a deceptive and destructive message comes from the mouth of Satan. This picture is found in Genesis 3—it’s the story of Adam and Eve’s first sin. If you know the story, you remember that when God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He warned them to avoid the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The penalty for eating from this tree was death, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” said God (Revelation 2:17). One day Eve finds herself standing under this tree, when a snake begins talking to her. This seemed like a miracle, for snakes do not talk. Of course, it was Satan speaking through the snake. Eve should have run, but the miracle grabbed her attention and she stayed to listen to what the snake had to say. Notice the parallel with Revelation’s false revival. Nobody would normally listen to frogs croak about their love of sewage, but when miracles are worked the world listen to the frogs’ message.
Eve does the same, and Satan, through the serpent, begins croaking the same message that the frogs deliver to the world at the end of time. What does Satan say? First he asks a question that causes Eve to doubt God’s word of warning, “Has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). When Eve repeats God’s warning that if she eats from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil she will die, Satan replies, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Satan’s great deception was to get Eve to doubt God’s word, and at the end of time the issue is exactly the same. In Revelation’s false revival, the dragon’s greatest deception will be to get people to doubt God’s word.
Jesus said in John 12:48, “He that rejects me and does not receive my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same will judge him in the last day.” The great standard of truth, the only thing that enables human beings to discern between right and wrong, is the Bible. The only thing that will enable you to recognize Revelation’s false revival is God’s word, and this is why Satan and his three frogs work so hard to cast doubt on the Bible. The battle of Armageddon and the false revival that leads up to it is first and foremost a battle over the Bible. It is a battle where Satan does everything he can to make people doubt and question the clear teachings and warnings of the word of God.
This is the great distinguishing line between God’s end-time revival and Satan’s end-time revival. Both will have power. Both will sweep the world. Both will unite people together. But one will uphold the Bible as heaven’s roadmap to life, while the other will subtly push it aside and label it as outdated, incomprehensible, exclusive, or simply unimportant. Those participating in God’s end-time revival will do everything they can to order their lives according to the Bible’s teachings, while those that get caught up in the false revival will eventually disregard all that the Bible teaches. It really is that simple.
At the end of time, spiritual Babylon will attack and do its best to destroy biblical Christianity. It will do this by casting doubt on God’s word and leading people to disregard things that God clearly teaches in the Bible. At the same time, a false revival full of demonic power will unite people and make them think that they are experiencing a true revival from heaven. So, is this false revival here today?
The Huffington Post published a fascinating article by Steve McSwain in 2012. McSwain is Ambassador to the Council on the Parliament for the World’s Religions, and his article was titled, “Why Christianity Is Dying While Spirituality Is Thriving.” The article identifies five ways in which the “new spirituality” differs from historical Christianity. I’m going to focus on three of them:
1. This new, emerging church is made up of people who are desperately seeking ways of understanding, and in many cases, rewriting Christian theology. It needs to be rewritten. For decades now, the church has sought to survive on a doctrine of salvation that depended on the shedding of innocent blood…It is not what Jesus taught. And as a consequence, it is more pagan than it is Christian.
Actually, Jesus did teach that He, an innocent Sacrifice, had to die in order that we might have life. He said in John 12:24, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” This was Jesus’ way of saying that He must die so that we can live. However, according to McSwain, there is a religious revival sweeping the world right now that is founded on a denial of this most central teaching of the Bible. How else does this revival differ from historical, biblical Christianity? McSwain continues with his second point:
2. These new churches have a healthier view of their sacred text known as the Bible. They revere the Bible without making a god of it. Instead [of] worshipping the Bible as a kind of “Constitution,” …they interpret the Bible for what it is: an inspired book, capable of providing inspiration, wisdom and spiritual direction, not a textbook on science or morality or answer-book preachers might use for “Stump the Preacher” talk-shows.
This is pretty clear. The new revival is simply putting the entire Bible aside as an absolute source of truth, and regards it only as an inspirational book. I’m going to skip McSwain’s next two points and go to his fifth and last description of the revival he sees going on.
5. Finally, …this emerging new Christianity no longer interprets Christian “hope” as some “pie-in-the-sky” future paradise that they alone will enjoy, along with those who agree with their theology, their eschatology and their exclusivist beliefs.
So this revival is also casting doubt on what the Bible says about the second coming, how the world will end, and heaven. There is no promise repeated more often in the Bible than the promise about Christ’s second coming; something like one out of every 25 verses in the New Testament is about the second coming of Jesus Christ. However, the spiritual revival sweeping the world right now is calling all of these promises rubbish.
What we are looking at is Babylon’s emerging global religion, fueled by Revelation’s false revival. It attacks the Bible and casts doubt on the word of God. It discards the atoning death of Jesus Christ, the divinely inspired authority of the Bible, and all the promises about the second coming of Jesus Christ. Like the rebellious builders at the tower of Babel, end-time Babylon is trampling on God’s word and then attempting to build a monument to human wisdom and power. Listen to how McSwain’s article ends. This is what he understands the goal of the new spirituality to be:
“[A] world wherein peace and justice and plenty for everyone exists in the here and now; a world that reflects “God’s will on earth just as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10); a world where all people are treated equally, cared for, respected, fed and nurtured for the wonderful creations of God that they are; a world where all people regardless of color, sex, race, religion, political party, nationality or sexual orientation have a voice and a place; a world where people and nations, as the Prophet Isaiah put it, “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; where nation no longer takes up sword against nation; where war is no longer learned” (Isaiah 2:1-5).
This sounds great, but the problem is that the goal of this perfect world is being built by ignoring God’s word. Revelation’s false revival promises a better world, but “devils” and “the spirit of devils, working miracles”, will control it. In the end, Babylon will burn. This is why the mighty angel from heaven calls God’s people to “come out” of Babylon, and order their lives according to God’s word. If we do this, we will avoid Revelation’s false revival, and take part in the true revival from heaven. That is our picture of the end for this week. Thank you for listening!