Revelation 12: Why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross?

War in heavenThis is the sixth article on the War in Heaven, as described in Revelation 12.   The first article identifies the role-players in this war:
● The Male Child, who was caught up to God,
● His mother, who existed both before and after Christ,
● The Dragon, that stood ready to devour the Child. and
● Michael, who wages war in heaven with the Dragon.

The second article concludes that the actual chronological sequence of events in Revelation 12 is as follows:
● The war rages in heaven,
● The Male Child ascends to God,
● The victory in the war in heaven,
● Satan thrown down to earth and
● The woman flees to in wilderness.

The third article explains how Michael overcame Satan.  Satan deceives and accuses.  To explain how “the blood of the Lamb and … the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11) were able to overcome Satan’s accusations, this article discusses the origin of evil and Satan’s tactics.

The third article concluded that Christ’s death defeated Satan, but verse 11 of Revelation 12 claims that “they” overcame him because of “their testimony.”  The fourth article therefore asks who they are, and why their testimony was required to expel Satan from heaven.

The fifth article asks what the accuser of our brethren (Revelation 12:10) accused God of, and what evidence Christ provided that was able to refute Satan’s accusations.

God made peace with the “things in heaven” because of the blood of the Lamb, but Revelation 12 indicates that the war continued on earth. The current and final article asks why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross.

Rejoice, O heavens

Lamb of GodBecause of the blood of the Lamb and because of the testimony of our brethren, Satan was driven out of heaven and thrown down on earth (Revelation 12:8-13).  A loud voice then announced:

Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, … For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them” (Revelation 12:10-12).

Events on earth made an end to the war in heaven.  Through Christ, God made peace with the “things in heaven” (Col. 1:20).  This world became the test ground for God’s righteousness, with huge implications for the entire cosmos.

Woe to the earth

But the voice continued:

Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath” (Revelation 12:12).

The war continues on earth.  This planet is the only place in the universe where Satan still has power.

Why does evil continue?

Why did God not make an end to sin immediately after the Cross?  One seldom hears this topic discussed, probably because the standard theory of the atonement has no answer for the question.  In this theory, Jesus died to satisfy the wrath of an angry God.  Is God’s wrath then not yet fully satisfied?

Satan’s weapons in this war are deception and accusations.  God responds, not with violence or with force, but with the blood of the Lamb and the testimony of “our brethren.”  These means provided the evidence required to repudiate Satan’s charges.  This probably includes evidence about God’s love and grace, and evidence about Satan’s intentions and the consequences of his principles.  Since Satan attacks with accusations, and since God responds with evidence, the only possible conclusion is that sin continues because some evidence is still outstanding.

For what purpose is evidence required?

If we understand Revelation 12 correctly, the earth is the only place where the rebellion against God still rages, for Satan has been banished from the courts of heaven after Jesus’ ascension.  Therefore, to remove evil from this planet is to remove it entirely from God’s creation:

The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption” (Rom. 8:21).

Lake of FireEvil will be exterminated when “the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone” (Rev. 20:10), and with him, anyone whose “name was not found written in the book of life” (20:15).   After this event we will hear God say, “Behold, I am making all things new” (21:5).

The eradication of evil in 20:13-15 is preceded immediately by the judgment before the great white throne (20:11-12).  The extermination of evil is therefore the consequence of this judgment.  The evidence is therefore required for the final judgment, in which “books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books” (Rev. 20:12). 

In conclusion, the war still continues because there still is some evidence outstanding that is required for the final great judgment.  The eradication of evil, and with it all the people and angels that were corrupted by it, will be a most traumatic event for all the universe, including for the people that are saved.  God want to make sure that all of His intelligent creatures understand and agree with the decisions made in that judgment.

What evidence is still outstanding?

What and why evidence is required, we can see from the end-time events as described in the book of Revelation:

The Mark of the Beast

Jesus’ arrival on earth caused a major crisis.  In a few years much was revealed both about God and about Satan.

Revelation predicts a similar crisis in the end time, when “the image of the beast would … cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Rev. 13:15).  It will attempt to give all people “a mark on their right hand or on their forehead” (Rev. 13:16).  People who refuse to receive this mark will not be allowed “to buy or to sell” (v17).

What the mark of the beast is, requires more in-depth study of the prophecies, but we can safely say that it will be some sin which people will be forced to commit, the modern equivalent to Nebuchadnezzar forcing all people to worship the statue he made, at the threat of death (Dan. 3:5-6).  The beast itself is an earthly power (cf. 13:1-2; 17:9-10; 12).  To worship it is to accept its authority.

At the same time the truth will be preached with more power than ever before (Rev. 14:6).  The evil one attempts to blur the distinctions between what is holy and what is common, but these distinctions will be made clear by God’s end-time messengers.  All people will have to choose between the mark of the beast and “the seal of the living God” (7:2; cf. 14:1).  This will be the valley of decision for all people:

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near” (Joel 3:14).

God’s people will be “victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name” (15:2).  They “had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand” (20:4).

The plagues

There will come a turning point, during this final crisis, when “the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple” (15:8).  After this, the plagues are poured out (16:1), but only “on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image” (16:2).  This will give them clear evidence that they are persecuting God’s people, but “they did not repent” (16:9, 11).  They will continue to oppress God’s people.

The Millennium

Christ’s return will make an end of the persecution of God’s people, but only temporarily.  At the end of the 1000 years all people that opposed God, from all ages since the creation of the world, will “come to life” (20:5) and “Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations” (20:7-8).  “They … surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (20:9).  This describes, in a few words, the final and major battle between good and evil.  It is described only briefly because we have no way to understand the circumstances or nature of that battle.

The outstanding evidence

Why would God allow an end-time crisis in which His people are killed?  Why does God pour down horrible plagues on the earth when there is no possibility that sinners will repent?  And why would God bring the lost back to life, 1000 years after Christ’s return, only to consume them again by fire?

These are to provide the evidence required for the final great judgment.

God’s people will be “victorious over the beast.”  The evil one will take away from them all they have, but they will refuse to “worship the image of the beast” (13:15), “even when faced with death” (Revelation 12:11).  This will reveal their faith: “They overcame him (the accuser) … because of the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11).  The Cross demonstrated God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:25-26).  God’s end-time people will similarly demonstrate, to the universe for all ages to come, the justness of God’s grace for His people.

God’s persecutorsdid not repent,” even when they have clear evidence that they are persecuting God’s people.  This will reveal their true nature.  They pretend to work for God, but their actions will show that they are fundamentally opposed to God and to His principles, like the pharisees of old, who opposed Jesus.  This will confirm God’s condemnation of them.

All the seeds—both good and evil—that have been sown over the centuries, will come to maturity in this last battle.  Through this crisis good and evil will both be fully revealed (cf. 3:10).

God allows the human race—created in His own image—to show the nature and consequences of Satan’s principles.  The entire universe is watching events on this little planet with intense interest (e.g. Job):

The manifold wisdom of God (is) … made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places“ (Ephesians 3:10).

Various articles on the website are available with further information, for example Purpose of the Plagues and Return of Christ in the book of Revelation.

The delay

Why does God delay the end-time crisis?

First century Christians expected Jesus to return in their time.  See The Lord is coming soon.  When He did not, they asked questions, and Peter explained:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Over the centuries God’s persecuted people complained about the delay:

How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (6:10)

In Revelation 7:1-3 an angel ascends from the rising of the sun (the east), “having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads’.

God delays the final crisis because His people are not ready, and He is “not wishing for any to perish.”  He will only allow the end-time crisis when the 144000 are sealed.  The number 144000 is interpreted here not as a literal number, but a symbol of the quality of their faith:

These are the ones who have not been defiled with women … who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. … And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.” (14:4-5).

Summary

Satan was driven out of heaven because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the testimony of our brethren.  God made peace with the “things in heaven,” but the war continued on earth.

Why did God not make an end to sin immediately after the Cross?  Since Satan attacks with accusations, and since God responds with evidence, we assume that God allows sin to continue because some evidence is still outstanding.

For what purpose is evidence required?  Earth is the only place where the rebellion against God still rages.  To remove evil from this planet is to remove it entirely from the universe.  After the judgment before the great white throne, evil will be exterminated through the lake of fire.  The war continues on earth to generate evidence required in the final judgment.

The end-time events show what and why evidence is required. By threats of violence and death people will be forced to receive the Mark of the Beast, which is some sin which people will be forced to commit.  But God’s people will be “victorious over the beast.”

At some point, during this final crisis, the plagues will start to fall, but only on the people who are persecuting God’s people.  This will give them clear evidence that they are opposing God, but they will not turn to God.

Christ’s return will not be the final end of sin.  At the end of the 1000 years all people that opposed God, from all ages since the creation of the world, will “come to life” and continue their persecution of God’s people.

All of this is to provide the evidence required for the final great judgment.  These events will demonstrate the faith of God’s people, but will also show that the lost are fundamentally opposed to God and to His principles, thus confirming God’s judgments, for God wants us to trust Him fully.

Articles on Revelation 12’s War in Heaven:

1. Who are the Male Child, His mother, the Dragon and Michael?
2. When was Satan Defeated?
3. How did Michael overcome Satan?
4. Who are they who overcame Satan because of “their testimony?”
5. What evidence did Christ provide that refuted Satan’s accusations?
6. Why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross? (Current)

Hebrews 1:1-2 The New Testament has a higher authority because God spoke it in His Own Son, who is heir of all things, through whom also He made the world and who still upholds all things.

Hebrews 1:1-2 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son. (New American Standard)

The Two Testaments

These verses contrast the two testaments:

What God spoke long ago in the prophets represents the Old Testament.

Son of manWhat God spoke in these last days in His Son refers to the New Testament, or perhaps more accurately, the Four Gospels.

The writer is saying with this contrast that the Four Gospels have a much higher authority because God spoke it in His Own Son, who is heir of all things, through whom also He made the world and who still upholds all things (Hebrews 1:2-3).

Hebrews frequently quotes the Old Testament.  It uses the Old Testament to show that the Four Gospels have a much higher authority.  For this reason the writer starts in Hebrews 1:1 by affirming the Old Testament as the Word of God.

New TestamentSome Bible interpretations effectively classify the Four Gospels as part of the Old Testament, while the New Testament letters are used as the basis for Christianity.  But Hebrews tells us that the four gospels are the foundation of the New Testament.

 

 

God Spoke

In these verses it is God that spoke; not the prophets and not His Son.

We should be amazed that the infinite and eternal God should speak to man; a speck of dust floating in the unending expanse of the universe.  But this reflects His love for man; “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).

God exists outside the limits of space, time and matter. If God had not spoken, we would have known anything about Him, and we would have floating around in this immeasurable universe without hope. But God has spoken, and we therefore do have hope.

The fathers include Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  They are also the spiritual fathers of Gentile Christians believers (Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:29).

Last Days

Last DaysThe phrase last days is commonly understood as meaning ‘recently’.  However, Jesus said, His disciples believed and the entire New Testament—including Hebrews (9:26; 10:25, 36-37)—teach that the Lord is coming soon.  The phrase “these last days” therefore indicates the writer’s belief that his generation was to be the last generation before Christ’s return.  Please see Why did He Not Return in the First Century as He promised?

His Son

Even though 1:2 says that God “has spoken to us in His Son”, the writer and his readers had not actually heard Jesus (2:3).  They were second-generation Christians.  Hebrews was written more than 30 years after Christ’s death.

The title “His Son” (1:2) signifies His unique relationship to God, just like the title “Son of man” designates His relationship to man.

Jesus as babyGod created everything through His Son (1:2).  His Son therefore always existed.  To become a human being, His Son emptied Himself of glory, power and even wisdom.  He became a helpless human baby, had to develop like any other human being, and was utterly dependent on God.

The most wonderful event ever in the existence of mankind is that the Son of God should have come from heaven to teach mankind.  But equally amazing is how few listened to Him when He was on the earth, and how few still regard Him today.

Conclusion

This letter to the Hebrews does not have an introduction like we would find in other letters.  In Hebrews the first three verses serve as an introduction, but also immediately confront the reader with the main theme of this epistle, which is the superiority of Christ, and therefore the higher authority of His message.

This is a summary.
To read the full article, see God Spoke.

Hebrews 1:1-2 God spoke long ago in the prophets. In these last days He has spoken in His Son.

What God spoke to us in His Son has a much higher authority than the Old Testament.

 

Hebrews 1:1-2 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.

God … spoke

God spoke – In 1:1 God spoke in the prophets and in 1:2 God spoke in the Son, but in both verses it is God that spoke; not the prophets and not His Son.

If God had not spoken, we would have been without hope.God exists outside the limitations of our physical space, time and matter. He cannot be seen by our eyes or measured in a laboratory. He said,

My thoughts are not your thoughts“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, … For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

We are not equipped to know anything about God.  If God had not spoken, we would have been without knowledge of Him or without hope. But God has spoken, and we therefore do have hope.

Long ago to the fathers in the prophets (1:1)

The letter to the Hebrews was written for Jews.The letter to the Hebrews is very Jewish in nature.  It has a strong focus on:

Moses (3:1-6);
The Exodus generation (3:7-4:11);
The Jewish sacrificial system (4:14-10:31);
The Old Testament heroes of faith (chapter 11) and;
The “heavenly Jerusalem” in contrast to Mount Sinai (12:18-24).

On the basis of this strong Jewish emphasis it is usually concluded that the letter was addressed to Jews who converted to Christianity, or even that it was addressed to a Jewish synagogue of which some members have accepted Jesus as Messiah, but others not.

 The writer of Hebrews admits the Old Testament as the Word of God.  Both the writer and the intended audience were trained in the Jewish Scriptures.  The writer in 1:1 affirms the Old Testament as the Word of God.  His ultimate purpose was to show the superior claims of the gospel, and to lead them away from confidence in the Old Testament rites, but he will use the Old Testament to substantiate his arguments.  Therefore he first affirms their belief in the inspiration of the prophets.

God elected AbrahamThe fathers also belong to Gentile Christians.The fathers include Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Gentile believers may correctly assume that “the fathers” belong to them as well, for Abraham is the spiritual father “of us all,” that is, of all true believers:

so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law (the Jews), but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Rom. 4:16)

if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29).

God spoke … in many portions (KJV – parts) (1:1)

Law of Moses

God did not speak through the prophets all at once.  In the 39 books of Old Testament, God revealed Himself in many portions.

God spoke … in many ways (1:1)

By whom did He speak? – Sometimes the Spirit spoke directly to His servants; sometimes through angels, or sometimes God even appeared Himself as the Angel of Jehovah, as to Abraham in Genesis 18.

How did He speak? – His methods of communication include direct Still small voicecommunication, dreams, visions and impressions.  Elijah, for example, once stood upon the mountain before Yahweh,
and there was a great and strong wind which rent the mountains, and broke the rocks into in pieces; but Yahweh was not in the wind.
Then there was an earthquake; but Yahweh was not in the earthquake.
Then there was a fire; but Yahweh was not in the fire.
Then Yahweh spoke to Elijah is a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12).

In what form did He speak? – The forms in which His word is delivered include prophecy, poetry, proverbs, historical events and religious ordinances.

In these last days (1:2)

Last DaysThe early church expected Jesus to return soon. – The phrase “last days” is commonly interpreted as meaning ‘recently’.  However, Jesus said, His disciples believed and the entire New Testament teaches that the Lord is coming soon.  The author of Hebrews similarly wrote:

Now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (9:26)

all the more as you see the Day approaching. …   For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay” (10:25, 36-37).

The phrase “last days” elsewhere in the New Testament also implies the last days before Christ’s return:

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking” (2 Peter 3:3)

Mockers’and it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour forth of My spirit on all mankind’” (Acts 2:17)

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self” (2 Timothy 3:1-2)

It is therefore proposed that the phrase “these last days” indicates the writer’s belief that his generation was to be the last generation before Christ’s return.  Please see Why did He Not Return in the First Century as He promised?

God … has spoken unto us (1:2)

This does not mean that the writer and/or his readers had actually heard Jesus, for they did not (2:3).

We should be astonished that the infinite and eternal God should speak to man; a speck of dust floating in the unending expanse of the universe.  But it reflects God’s love for mankind; “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).

In his Son (1:2)

Son of manTo become a human being, His Son emptied Himself of glory, power and wisdom.  Jesus said, “before Abraham was born, I am” (John 7:58). The Son shared the Divine glory before the world was, but He “emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7) when He came into the world. That means that He laid aside His glory and power, and even His wisdom, “taking the form of a bond-servant” (Phil. 2:7).  He became a helpless human baby, had to develop like any other human being, and was dependent on God for everything.  He said, “the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (John 5:19), and “I cast out demons by the Spirit of God” (Mt. 12:18).  But even though Christ emptied Himself, He remained Who He previously was before.  These things we have to accept by faith, for we are unable to understand it.

The title “Son” signifies His unique relationship to God, just like the title “Son of man” designates His relationship to man. The Jews understood the title “Son of God” to mean equality with God:

Jesus and the PhariseesJesus said, “My Father is working until now” (John 5:17).  “For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” (v18).

John 10 records Jesus saying “I am the Son of God” (v36).  For that reason the Jews wanted to stone Him, saying, “because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (v33).

The most wonderful event in history – The most wonderful event ever in the existence of mankind is that the Son of God should have come from heaven to teach mankind.  Yet, equally amazing, how few listened to Him when He was on the earth, and how few still regard Him today.  People have no interest in Him, and refuse to listen to what He has to say about of the unseen and eternal world.

New TestamentThe New Testament is God’s message in His Son.  The Four Gospels—the first four books of the New Testament—record God speaking to us in His Son, but Acts and the New Testament letters interpreted and elaborated what Jesus taught.  Therefore the entire New Testament may be considered to be what God “has spoken to us in His Son”.

The gospels are the foundation of the New Testament.  Some Bible interpretations view the gospels effectively as part of the Old Testament, and teach that the New Testament letters represents true Christianity.  But according to Hebrews the foundation of Christianity is what God spoke to us in His Son.

The New Testament has a much higher authority than the Old Testament.  The Old Testament contains solemn messages to mankind which God gave to the prophets, endowing them with more than human wisdom and eloquence. But how much more important is the message which is brought by his own Son?  Throughout the letter, the writer contrasts the old and the new and elevates the new above the old.  In the current verses the old is how God revealed Himself through the Old Testament prophets, and the new is how He revealed Himself through His Son.  With this contrast the writer is saying that, what God has spoken to us in His Son, has a much higher authority than the Old Testament, and therefore imposes on us the highest obligation to attend to what He has said.  This is the main message of Hebrews 1:1-3.

The New Testament clarifies many issues that were unclear in the Old.  There is a great variety of subjects which we now, with the benefit of Christ’s teachings, see clearly, which were very imperfectly understood by the teaching of only the Old Testament prophets. Among them are the following:

(a) The character of God:

No one has seen GodNo one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” (John 1:18)

Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Mt. 11:27)

(b) How man may be reconciled to God: Even the sins committed under the first covenant are taken away through the sacrifice of His Son (Heb. 9:15; 10:4; 11:40; Rom. 3:25).

But I say to you
Sermon on the Mount

(c) God’s moral principles: Prophets had delivered many moral principles of great importance, but the purest and most extensive body of moral principles on earth are found in Christ’s teachings.

(d) The future state:  Jesus revealed the doctrine of the resurrection of the body and the certainty of a state of future existence.  What the Sadducees previously were able to dispute, is stated irrefutably in the New Testament.  The Saviour raised up more than one to show that it was possible; and He was Himself raised, to put the whole matter beyond dispute.  He also revealed the certainty of future judgment of all mankind.

Conclusion

Hebrews does not have an introduction like we would find in other letters.  The first word in Paul’s letters, for instance, is always his own name, followed by the name of the church or individual to whom he wrote.

In Hebrews the first three verses serve as introduction, but also immediately confront the reader with the main theme of the entire epistle, which is the superiority of Christ and His message.  The first three verses argue that Christ is superior to the Old Testament prophets, for He is God’s Son—the exact representation of God’s nature—and through Him God made everything and through Him God still upholds everything.  But that is not the writer’s ultimate goal.  His real message is that Jesus’ message, as recorded in the New Testament, is superior to the Old Testament prophets.