Revelation 12: Why did God not make an end of evil 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 testing 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” (Rev 12:12).

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

WHY DOES SIN CONTINUE?

Why did God not make an end to sin immediately after the Cross?  One seldom hears this topic discussed, probably because the standard theories of the atonement have no answer for that 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 (Rev 5:9) and with the testimony of “our brethren” (Rev 12:11)  By these means, God provides the evidence required to refute Satan’s charges.  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.

WHY 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” (Rev 20:15).   After this event, we will hear God say, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5).

The eradication of evil in Rev 20:13-15 is preceded immediately by the judgment before the great white throne (Rev 20:11-12).  The extermination of evil, therefore, is 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 extermination of evil, and with it all the people and angels that are permanently corrupted by it, will be a most traumatic event for all the universe, including for the people that are saved.  God wants 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 short 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” (Rev 13:17).

What the mark of the beast is, requires a more in-depth study, 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 a statue, at the threat of death (Dan 3:5-6). The beast itself is an earthly power (cf. Rev 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” (Rev 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” (Rev 15:2).  They “had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand” (Rev 20:4).

The plagues

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

The Millennium

Christ’s return will make an end to 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” (Rev 20:5) and “Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations” (Rev 20:7-8).  “They … surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (Rev 20:9).  This, in a few words, describes 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

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” (Rev 13:15), “even when faced with death” (Rev 12:11).  This will reveal their faith: “They overcame him (the accuser) … because of the word of their testimony” (Rev 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 ENEMIES

The persecutors of God’s people “did not repent,” even when they have clear evidence that they are persecuting God’s people. This will reveal their true natures. They pretend to be Christians, 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.

CONCLUSIONS

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. Rev 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“ (Eph 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?” (Rev 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” (Rev 14:4-5).

SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

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 the 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 repent.
      • 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 IN THIS SERIES 

The following are the articles in this series on the war in heaven as described in Revelation 12:

    1. Michael and his angels waged war against the dragon and his angels. Who are the Male Child, His mother, the Dragon, and Michael?
    2. The wilderness period is mentioned both before and after the war in heaven. What is the chronological sequence? When was Satan defeated and driven out of heaven?
    3. Satan deceives & accuses God of arbitrary judgment when He forgives some people their sins but condemns others.  How did Christ’s death refute Satan’s accusations?
    4. While Revelation 12:7-10 describes Michael’s victory over Satan in the war in heaven, verse 11 describes the victory of “our brethren” over Satan because of “their testimony?” Who are they?
    5. God made peace in heaven by the Lamb, but Revelation 12 indicates that the war continued on earth. Why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross?

For further reading on Revelation, I recommend Jon Paulien’s commentary. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the excellent Pineknoll website.

What did the accuser of our brethren say, and what evidence did Christ provide?

The following is a brief overview of the articles in this series on the war in heaven, as described in Revelation 12:

THE CHARACTERS IN THIS DRAMA

The first article identifies the main characters in this chapter::

    • The Male Child, who was caught up to God, is Jesus Christ
    • His mother symbolizes God’s people both before and after Christ.
    • The dragon, that stood ready to devour the child as soon as he is born, has a double identity:
      • In the context of the war in heaven, it is Satan.
      • When represented as having seven heads and ten horns, it represents the Roman Empire (See, The Seven-Headed Beasts).

CHRONOLOGICAL SEQUENCE

The wilderness period is mentioned both before and after the war in heaven. The second article determines the chronological sequence of events in this chapter to determine when Satan was defeated and driven out of heaven. It concludes that:

    • The victory in the war in heaven (Rev 12:7-9) was gained after and as a consequence of Christ’s victory on earth (Rev 12:5).
    • The woman hides in the wilderness (Rev 12:6, 14) after Satan has been cast down to earth (Rev 12:13).

HOW DID MICHAEL DEFEAT THE ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN?

The third article discussed how Michael defeated Satan.  It concluded that Christ’s death won the victory over Satan. To explain how this happened, this article discusses the origin of evil, proposes that Satan accused God of arbitrary judgment when He forgives some people but condemns others but that Christ’s sinless life refuted Satan’s accusations.

REVELATION 12:11

While the third article concluded that Christ’s death defeated the accuser of the brethren, verse 11 describes the victory of “our brethren” over Satan because of “their testimony?”  The fourth article, therefore, asks who they are, and why their testimony was required to expel Satan from heaven

WHY EVIL STILL EXIST

God made peace in heaven by the blood of the Lamb, but Revelation 12 indicates that the war continued on earth. This article asks why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross?

For further reading on Revelation, I recommend Jon Paulien’s commentary. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the excellent Pineknoll website.