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Revelation 22: The urgency of now, exposing Satan’s cunning strategy

Unsplash/Marek Piwnicki
Unsplash/Marek Piwnicki

There is this timeless tale, a fictitious story of strategy and urgency, set within the confines of Satan’s boardroom. The Evil One, being the cunning mastermind of malice, gathered his senior advisors together for a meeting, and posed to them a tactical question that echoed through Hell’s infernal chambers.

“By what means might we bring about maximum despair, chaos, and destruction among Earth’s inhabitants,” Satan asked.

In response, one of Satan’s most shadowy advisors suggested: “O great Lord of darkness and desolation, let us tell them that there is no heaven?” But the devil quickly dismissed that suggestion as antiquated, and no longer potent enough to deliver the best results.

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“People nowadays largely believe in heaven. It brings them solace and comfort, particularly in times of grief, loss, or adversity. The idea of reuniting with loved ones or experiencing eternal peace offers them hope and a sense of reassurance,” responded the devil. “Furthermore, it alleviates their fear of death and is interwoven with the universe’s requirement for justice and right living. The need for believing in heaven is at the core of humanity’s being. They need to know that they are more than flesh and blood. You fool! Can’t you see most of them would never embrace such an inconvenient lie?”

Then, a second demonic advisor sheepishly spoke up and said, “O great Lord of sinister intent and havoc, let us tell them that there is no hell.” But neither did this ignite Satan’s interest.

With a tone of ambivalence, the devil replied, “You know, most people never give a thought to the prospect of going to Hell at the end of their lives. If even for a short while, we should cause them to seriously think about the possibility of spending eternity in hell, it will more likely do damage to our efforts than benefit. You imp of ignorance! Don’t you understand that we don’t want them to earnestly think about it? Let the masses march thoughtlessly to the pit as they already do.”

Finally, a third demon stepped forward with a proposition dripping with deception. “O Master of Maleficence and Malignancy, let us work to convince them that time is not of the essence — that there is no urgency about where one will spend eternity. Let us say to them that there is no need to hasten — no rush about life’s most important questions.”

At this, Satan’s fiery eyes gleamed with diabolical delight. “Yes, yes, yes!!!” he cried. “It is a brilliant strategy! Perhaps the greatest and most effective I’ve heard. Every day we shall lull them into complacency, whispering to them that they have plenty of time to decide and act on life’s most crucial matters. Take your time, we will tell them. There’s no hurry.”

Indeed, it is a stroke of genius — probably the most masterful maneuver ever employed by the Father of Lies and the best of his stygian strategists.

However, there is an urgency in life’s most vital affairs. In Luke chapter 9 verses 57 through 62, Jesus gave a seemingly harsh response to two individuals who said that they wanted to follow him. One said he wanted to delay his decision to follow the Lord until after his father’s passing. The other said he merely wished to bid his family farewell first. Yet, the Scriptures say Jesus rebuked both men because they failed to realize that in matters of truest significance, procrastination can have extremely dire consequences.

In Revelation chapter 22 and verses 6 and 7, Jesus warns not to be beguiled by the illusion of plenty of time. We should embrace the urgency of now, every moment counts, and delaying a pivotal decision as imperative as preparing for Christ’s return can lead to ultimate regret and loss.

This is what the Book of Revelation says:

Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets, has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon. “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book” (Revelation 22:6-7).

A holy angel told the apostle John that the vision he had about end-time events was “trustworthy and true” — a phrase that appears four times in the book of Revelation (3:14; 19:11; 21:5; 22:6). The angel said the vision John was given had the same authority as the prophetic messages God had given the prophets of the Old Testament. In other words, this entire revelation of the last days can be completely relied upon.

In the Old Testament, the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah foretold that prideful and godless Babylon, that ancient city renowned for its advanced architecture, magnificent ziggurats, and hanging gardens, one of the seven wonders of the world and ruled by powerful despots like King Nebuchadnezzar, would surely fall.

Who in their right mind would ever believe such an impregnable place with the world’s strongest military could be defeated as the seers predicted? Nonetheless, it happened just as they foretold when the Persian Empire led by Cyrus the Great, ingeniously redirected the flow of the Euphrates River, enabling the Persian army to breach the city walls. The prophecies came true in remarkable detail approximately two centuries after Isaiah made his predictions and a century after Jeremiah made his.

Tyre was a prominent ancient Phoenician city known for its incredible maritime trade, purple dye production, and formidable fortifications. It consisted of two parts: the mainland city and an island fortress.

Because of its wickedness, Ezekiel prophesied Tyre’s downfall. He said it would be plundered and its stones would be cast into the sea. This is exactly what happened when Alexander the Great besieged Tyre for seven months and employed an extraordinary engineering feat. He constructed a causeway or land bridge using rubble, stones, and timber gathered from the ruined mainland city of Tyre, which he had previously destroyed. This causeway connected the mainland to the island fortress, enabling his army to assault the city walls directly and ultimately overcome Tyre. It happened just as Ezekiel said it would happen, approximately 260 years beforehand.

Still, these are only two examples and there isn’t enough space to take up the hundreds more. Probably the most impressive example of the truth of prophetic messages given in the Bible are the ones predicting Christ’s first coming.

In their tremendous book, What if the Bible Had Never Been Written, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe share a compelling narrative about Lee Strobel’s journey into understanding Bible prophecy and its predictions concerning Jesus’ first appearance.

Strobel, equipped with a law degree from Yale University, as well as his experience as an award-winning legal affairs journalist for the Chicago Tribune, was initially a skeptic of Christianity’s claims. So, he decided to use his amazing investigative talents to try and disprove Christianity. Instead, his research led him to embrace the faith.

Strobel’s intrigue was piqued by the work of mathematician, Peter Stoner, who conceived that the probability of any individual fulfilling just eight of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah was astronomical, estimated at 10 to the 17th power. Strobel vividly illustrated this staggering likelihood of finding a single red-tiled square among a vast expanse of white tiles covering the entire planet, with the odds analogous to randomly selecting the one red-tiled square during a lifetime of exploration across all continents.

Yet, the magnitude of fulfillment didn’t simply stop there. Stoner further demonstrated the probability of fulfilling only 48 Old Testament prophecies escalated to an incomprehensible 10 to the 157th power, which is much like discovering a predetermined atom within trillions of universes, each as vast as our own.

Within the Scriptures, there are over two thousand prophecies, with 333 specifically about the arrival of the Messiah. Astonishingly, the life of Jesus aligns impeccably with every last one of them.

So, when the angel said the prophetic vision God gave to John was as credible as those provided by the Old Testament prophets, we can be certain it is absolutely, “trustworthy and true.”  Everything promised and everything foretold in Revelation, will without question and the slightest deviation, come to pass.

In his seminal work Bible Prophecy, Oliver B. Greene, revered founder of “The Gospel Hour” radio broadcast, eloquently articulates that the prophetic pronouncements within the Bible intricately weave through the pivotal moments of human history, transcending time to illuminate past, present, and future events with profound clarity and divine insight.

The following quote by Greene is lengthy, but well worth the read:

“The men who penned our Bible recognized God as reigning on the throne of his eternal glory, ruling over the universe and overruling in accordance with his perfect and unerring will, which cannot be broken. The prophets of God proclaim his sovereignty. They declare that his counsels will stand and that he will bring to pass that which he has spoken and all that he has purposed.

“The prophets also warn that suffering and shame will come upon individuals and nations who sin against God. They declare that God will ultimately triumph and, through the Lord Jesus Christ, Messiah and King, he will reign in righteousness over all creation throughout eternity. Events which have occurred (and are occurring all around us today) prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that the Word of God can be trusted, believed, and lived by. Events past and present prove that the prophetic declarations of all Scripture – both Old and New Testaments – are positively and unalterably true…

“The Bible is not only up-to-date; it is far-ahead-of-date. It has enabled man to know things that will come to pass long before they have actually occurred. There is not a single movement of world importance — yesterday, today, or tomorrow — which is not foretold in the Word of God through God’s prophets, the apostles, and in the words of the Son of God himself. They declared that Jesus would be despised and rejected. They foretold that Israel as a nation would be hated and that the Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Jews, would be hated and crucified by his own brethren.

“Scientific knowledge being demonstrated today is prophesied in the Word of God — including solemn warnings against the dangers of these perilous (yet marvelous) times in which we live. The Old Testament prophets spoke concerning the present worldwide unrest among men and antagonism toward God. They prophesied concerning the spiritual declensions in these terrible days and the increasing apostasy that is all around us, even within the organized visible church.

“The prophets declared that evil days would grow worse and worse as we come nearer the end of the Church Age. They foretold the decline of democracy and the rise of dictatorships, with people becoming merchandise of men. Even Jesus himself prophesied of wars and rumors of wars, distress of nations and perplexities and fears, men’s hearts failing them for fear.

“Things transpiring all around us today declare that the Bible is verbally inspired, God-breathed, and therefore worthy of our acceptance and trust…

“Rest assured…this world is not as a helpless iceberg, drifting in a mighty ocean, changing its course as the current and the winds change. It is more like a great ship with a chart, a rudder, a compass, and a captain on the bridge, following a determined course by his providence — not as the winds blow, but as He determined before the foundation of the world...

“It is true that man is allowed to rule for a season independently of God – but his rule is characterized by unrest, turmoil, strife, hatred, wars, commotion, confusion, and chaos. In spite of all that man does or attempts to do, God overrules in his sovereign might. He will bring order out of chaos. He will establish his kingdom of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. There is a day coming when every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God (Philippians 2:11).

“Yes, the hand of our sovereign God is in history. He determines the ultimate outcome of all things, and for that very reason prophecy is history written in advance.”

Are there prophets like those of Bible times, who by God’s Spirit, can predict the future today?  Some contemporary theologians would argue that the gift of prophecy continues in the present dispensation, albeit perhaps in different forms. They say some individuals can still receive divine revelations or insights about the future through the spiritual gift of prophecy or prayer and meditation.

Nevertheless, the Bible itself seems to indicate certain spiritual gifts, including prophecy, would cease or be done away with when “completeness” or perfection arrived (I Corinthian 13:8-10). A temporary gift like prophecy was provided to disseminate revelation and divine information before that which is perfect was completed. Therefore, with the completion of the canon of Scripture in A.D. 95, prophecy was no longer needed.

As Harold Wilmington explains in Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible:

“The written Word of God by itself can and does provide every conceivable need for the man of God in the work of God.”

All matters pertaining to any life situation need only be measured by the Scriptures, and not some person like Jim Jones, founder of the People’s Temple, or David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidians, or Marshall Applewhite, co-founder of Heaven’s Gate, all of which claimed to be prophets and declared they had received divine revelations but led their followers to drastic outcomes.

The Bible’s teachings are “trustworthy and true” and more than enough to sufficiently guide us. The claims of men, no matter how convincingly argued they originate from a celestial source, should be treated with suspicion. The Scriptures alone are completely sufficient and perfectly reliable.

Lastly, the person who speaks after the angel, is the Lord Jesus himself, saying: “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book” (v. 7).

Here the Lord Jesus Christ makes the case for urgency!

To put these words in the vernacular, Jesus says, “Wake up and get ready! Act now! Your time is running out faster than you realize! Tick Tock! Get a move on! You can’t afford to be late about matters of the soul! You must prepare for my coming again. You must believe and act on “the words of prophecy written in this book.”

When Jesus says that he is “coming soon,” He isn’t necessarily referring to a specific timeframe as we might understand it, but rather he is emphasizing the certainty and imminence of his return.

We know this because it’s been more than 2,000 years since Christ told the apostle John that he was coming soon, and the evangelist recorded it in Revelation. Some might query, “Why the delay?”

The concept of time in biblical prophecy is often understood differently from our conventional understanding, as it operates within a broader framework of divine timing and fulfillment rather than adhering strictly to some human chronology.

Larry R. Helyer and Richard Wagner in The Book of Revelation for Dummies, masterfully clarify:

“The Old Testament prophets who spoke of the End-Times Day of the Lord also describe it as imminent, impending, even threatening. For example, Isaiah, speaking in the name of God, proclaims, “For soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance revealed” (Isaiah 56:1). Through Ezekiel, the Lord promises “they [the exiled people of Israel] shall soon come home (Ezekiel 36:8). Many similar passages make the same point.

“The New Testament adopts the same note of imminence about Jesus’ Second Coming – the day of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Romans 3:12; James 5:8; I Peter 4:7; I John 2:18). At the very least, there’s a consistency of expectation between the two Testaments: both Testaments view the Day of the Lord as imminent.”

Don’t misunderstand! If one considers the signs of the times — those harbingers the Scriptures provide which indicate the Lord’s coming again is indeed near — it would seem we have every reason to be encouraged that time-wise Christ’s return is very close at hand. Yet, we don’t know with absolute certainty, and we must be careful not to be dogmatic about it, as some have in the past, and made fools of themselves and injured the witness of the church. Christ may come today but it may also be several hundred years from now. Nevertheless, we should live in a state of readiness.

The primary reason for the Bible saying the coming of our Lord will be “soon,” is to underscore the urgency of being spiritually prepared and vigilant. Living every day in the light of Christ’s return is an incentive for being in a right relationship with God, faithfully living for the Lord, and staying ready for his coming judgment.  We are to treat this most momentous day in the future as though it may happen at any moment! We should always watch, faithfully and expectantly. Then, we can avoid being ashamed at his appearance.

May God give us grace not to believe the Devil’s curiously effective lie. We mustn’t allow him to lull us into complacency. We cannot afford to believe the whispers that say that we have plenty of time to decide and act.

You see, it really is urgent!

Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He was a pastor for twenty years before taking this position, having served five different Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina and one Independent Baptist in upstate New York.

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