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)

Justified by grace through faith and the forensic view of the atonement

SUMMARY

To be “justified” means to be accepted by God as just.

How sinners are justified was the great controversy in the Church in Paul’s day.:

Some Jewish Christians maintained that Christians are saved “by the works of the Law.” This does not mean to try to be good. It means to rely on the observance of the rituals and ceremonies of the Law of Moses to become acceptable to God. 

Paul opposed this view and taught a different law (the Law of Christ) and a different means of justification (By Grace through Faith).

Today we agree that sinners are justified by grace through faith but we still disagree about how sinners are made just.

The forensic view emphasizes the legal undertones of the word “justified” to explain HOW people are put right with God. They understand justification as a technical legal process whereby Christ’s righteousness is imputed to sinners.

One objection to this forensic view is that “justified” is only one of several Metaphors of Salvation that Paul used. We should, therefore, not interpret the word ‘justify’ literally. Nor should we emphasize it over the other metaphors.

A second objection to the forensic view is that several alternative atonement theories have been proposed over the past 2000 years. All of them should be evaluated to determine which fit the Scripture data best.

DEFINITION OF JUSTIFIED

Strong’s concordance defines the Greek word, which is translated as “justified,” as to show or regard as just or innocent.  “Justified,” therefore, means that sinners are accepted and regarded by God as just. Justified people:

Are “Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29; cf. 3:7, 9, 14; 4:7)

Are “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (3:26; cf. 4:5); and

Have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

JUSTIFICATION IN GALATIANS

In Paul’s day, the great controversy in the Church was about how sinners are justified. This controversy is particularly seen in Galatians. In this letter, Paul used the words “justified” and “justify” several times, for instance in 2:16-17, 3:8, 11, 24 and 5:4.

Some Jewish Christians maintained that Christians are saved “by the works of the Law”.  This does not mean to try to be good. It means to rely on the observance of the rituals and ceremonies of the Law of Moses to become acceptable to God.  Justification is then a mechanical process. All that is required is that you perform certain rituals.

Paul opposed this view and argued that God justifies sinners “through faith in Christ Jesus” (2:16). The word “faith” can also be translated as “trust.”  To be justified by faith means to accepted by God simply because you trust Him, as opposed to trusting in what you can do for yourself.  While justification by the Works of the Law is something which the person does, to be justified by faith is something which God does:

God … will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Rom. 3:30).
God would justify the Gentiles by faith” (Gal. 3:8).

The article By Grace through Faith discusses the Galatian controversy in much more detail. While Jewish Christians were adamant that man is “justified by the works of the Law,” Paul taught:

A different law (the Law of Christ versus the Jewish Law of Moses) and
A different means of justification (by grace through faith versus the Jewish “works of the Law”).

FORENSIC VIEW OF JUSTIFICATION

JustifiedWe agree today that sinners are justified by grace through faith but we still disagree about how sinners are made just.

The word “justified” seems to imply some kind of legal process in the courtrooms of heaven. Some theologians emphasize the legal undertones of the word and use it to explain HOW people are put right with God. Consequently, they understand justification as a technical legal process whereby Christ’s righteousness is imputed to sinners.  In this view, God has no option but the punish sin but Christ took our punishment so that we do not have to be punished.

This view is somewhat similar to the Jewish view of 2000 years ago, where they relied on mechanical rituals and ceremonies to be justified. 

METAPHORS OF SALVATION

One objection to the forensic view is that “justified” is only one of several Metaphors of Salvation which the New Testament uses to express the thought that sinners are put right with God.  Another metaphor explains justification as reconciliation:

Were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10; cf. 2 Cor. 5:18, 20; Col. 1:20, 22). 

Paul drew these metaphors from different spheres of human experience. While “justified” is a term used in a courtroom setting, Paul derived other metaphors from other dimensions of human life:

Ransomed” implies that the sinner was held as a hostage.
Redeemed” is used when the sinner was bound by debt.
Reconciled” suggests that the sinner was estranged from God.
Propitiation” implies that God was angry with the sinner.

These terms are simply different ways of saying the same thing. Because of the many metaphors of salvation that Paul used, and because it is difficult to determine which of these are literal and which are figurative, we cannot determine with certainty, simply on the basis of these words, how Christ atones for the sins of God’s people. When we attempt to explain how a person is put right with God, we should not interpret the word ‘justify’ literally. Nor should we emphasize it over the other metaphors. See the article Metaphors of Salvation for a discussion of these metaphors.

THEORIES OF THE ATONEMENT

A second objection to the forensic view is that several alternative atonement theories have been proposed over the centuries. The idea that people are justified by imputing Jesus’ righteousness to them is only one of these.  The article Atonement Theories provides an overview of these theories and also suggests further arguments against the forensic view of the atonement. See the articles Christ’s death proved that God judges rightly or Why Jesus had to die for the explanation of atonement which, in my view, best fits the data from the Bible.