Revelation 11:16-18
Economics, The Earth, And The End Times

Authored By Mike Furey, USA

Place: Culbertson Baptist Church, 4007 Grant Line Rd, New Albany, Indiana, USA

Intro: Michael Crichton wrote a novel called State of Fear; I have enjoyed many of his novels over the decades. As a science fiction writer he takes the position that the planet is entering an ice age and sees no threat from global warming. He claims since the cold war is over that governments and organizations need a new threat or "devil" such as global warming. This new issue keeps people in a state of fear; therefore, it is easier for funds to be raised by governments and NGOs.

For Revelation 11:16-18, The New International Version says:

16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God,
17 saying:
"We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
the One who is and who was,
because you have taken your great power
and have begun to reign.
18 The nations were angry; and your wrath has come.
The time has come for judging the dead,
and for rewarding your servants the prophets
and your saints and those who reverence your name,
both small and great—
and for destroying those who destroy the earth."

How do you interpret verse 18 in particular? It says those who destroy the earth will be destroyed. The Greek word destroy, diaphtheiro, can mean ruin, spoil. It is a sin to destroy or ruin or spoil the planet. The book of Revelation puts a huge emphasis on the pantokrator, or almighty creator. The entire planet and beyond it, all of nature, is considered in this end times prophecy. The creator will hold those who ruin the planet accountable to the point of destruction. Biblically speaking, this can mean eternal damnation.

Back in 1992 - 1993, I was pastor of Switzerland Baptist Church in Vevay, IN and our services were broadcast on the radio each Sunday morning. I remember preaching on Revelation and the bizarre behaviors of many animals and sea creatures. I received two comments. One from a woman whom I regularly visited at the Swiss Villa nursing home, who was in her 90's at the time. She said, "That was one of the most interesting sermons I ever heard!" Another commentator was a preacher friend of mine who was vacationing at the Ogle Haus Inn at the time. Several months after the sermon, I ran into him and he brought it up and had said it was a highly unusual sermon, which was a way of saying he didn't quite agree with the message, but it had made him think about it. I had the opportunity to preach on this topic at Spring Branch Baptist Church in Vevay as well a few years later and the church members there were kind about it but they did not see global warming and its effects on animals as relevant. I did. And still do. Recently I found another preacher who is likeminded. The Rev. T. J. de Ruiter of the Netherlands on http://home.tiscali.nl/tdruiter/7bowls.htm or http://www.j-e-s-u-s.org/special/TJdeRuiter.htm preaches that the sin we commit has a direct effect on the planet as seen in Revelation. He calls for repentance. He begins his study of the 7 bowls in Revelation as follows:

"In this study of the seven bowls I make an attempt to interpret the disasters John saw being poured out over the earth and its inhabitants in the light of the environmental problems we are facing in these days according to scientists. It is not difficult to see that the disaster scenes John described in terms and pictures he could understand do fit exceptionally well the calamities we, the generation, that entered the 21st century, can expect if we continue with the present lifestyle and culture as a whole."

My personal view is that the sins humankind commits as a human community such as greed and exploitation result in the sickened planet choking back at the populace and vomiting out its woes. That is, God uses our sinful behaviors to correct us. As it says in Numbers, your own sins will correct you, chastise you, and punish you. Universally speaking, this principle is similar to karma. What goes around comes around.

This lesson was delivered at Culbertson Baptist Church on June 18, 2008 on a Wednesday evening as per the invitation of Mrs. Nora Newman, an outstanding leader in the education department at CBC and in the churches of Indiana at large. She asked me to review the following DVD and give a talk on it.

DVD: "Six Degrees Could Change The World" by National Geographic, 2008. Adapted from the book "Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet" by Mark Lynas, 2007.

This DVD deals with the topic of the environmental impact of from one to six degree changes in the temperature. A summary of the changes by degree has been extracted from the special feature section as follows. If the planet changed by:

    One degree:
  • Sand dunes spread across Nebraska as a new mega drought spreads across the Great Plains
  • Kilimanjaro loses the last of its snow and ice.
  • Tropical coral reefs mostly wiped out due to bleaching in hotter oceans
    Two degrees:
  • Whole marine food chain is endangered as oceans gradually acidify from the extra atmospheric CO2
  • Every summer sees heat waves as hot as the extreme summer in 2003, when 30,000 died in Europe
  • Greenland ice sheet is doomed to eventually melt, though how fast this happens depends on rapidity of warming
    Three degrees:
  • Open ocean at the North Pole as the whole Artic sea ice cap disappears completely
  • Category 6 hurricanes strike tropical coastlines around the world (Note: category 6 will have to be created as a new category.)
  • Amazon rain forest crosses the tipping point and burns down, replaced by desert and savannah
    Four degrees:
  • Siberian permafrost crosses the tipping point releasing huge quantities of the powerful greenhouse gas methane
  • West Antarctic ice sheet in danger of collapse as warming oceans penetrate underneath, flooding coastal cities with sea level rise
  • New deserts spread in southern Europe as the last snow and ice vanishes from the Alps
    Five degrees:
  • Temperatures in the Artic Ocean as warm as the Mediterranean, and all glaciers disappear
  • Hundreds of millions of climate refugees are on the march searching for food and water
  • Searing heat waves make sub-tropical regions uninhabitable, and all rain forests are destroyed elsewhere
    Six degrees:
  • Huge uninhabitable areas span the entire global surface
  • Human civilization collapses due to the pressure of conflict and diminishing resources
  • Mass extinction of natural life, perhaps the worst in a quarter of a billion years

At a four degree temperature change, the National Geographic DVD says it all becomes highly speculative, but one thing is for sure the planet becomes hotter. It says if the temperature change was negative six degrees, it would result in an ice age.

In line with the book of Revelation, we see, for example, a hotter planet, in fact, a planet where everything seems to be on fire, burning or burned up. Also, in line with Revelation, we see that the economy and the environment are so bound up together! The DVD warns about social breakdown due to people foraging for food and migrating all over as climate refugees. Revelation has more environmentally related scriptures than we can examine in one sermon, but the point will be that the earth suffers economically and environmentally. I will only emphasize the plagues of fire.

What: A sample of what will happen according to Revelation: Chapter 8. As I mentioned, everything is on fire, burning or burned up. 8:6-7, 8-9, 10, 12, 9:1, 9:18.

This next paragraph is not critical to the discussion, but may add insight into its theological – hermeneutical aspects. According to recapitulation theory first espoused by Victorinus of Pettau, 4th century & held by Gerhard A. Krodel and Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, modern scholars, the woes or plagues given upon the earth with the release of each broken seal, blown trumpet, or poured bowl are not diachronic but synchronic, not over time but at the same time. The events that happen during the breaking of the seals happen at about the same time as the events related to the trumpets and the bowls. This spiral theory approach goes against the popular Dispensationalist or charted timeline approach of John Nelson Darby, Cyrus Scofield, Hal Lindsey, and our contemporary Tim LaHaye. If you have ever noticed, how many times does Jesus return in the book of Revelation? Definitely more than once. His parousia is given from several different angles, like the 2008 movie "Vantage Point."

Why: A sample of why it will happen: Please read chapter 18 (NIV).

1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.
2 With a mighty voice he shouted:
"Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!
She has become a home for demons
and a haunt for every evil[a] spirit,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.
3 For all the nations have drunk
the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries."
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say:
"Come out of her, my people,
so that you will not share in her sins,
so that you will not receive any of her plagues;
5 for her sins are piled up to heaven,
and God has remembered her crimes.
6 Give back to her as she has given;
pay her back double for what she has done.
Mix her a double portion from her own cup.
7 Give her as much torture and grief
as the glory and luxury she gave herself.
In her heart she boasts,
'I sit as queen; I am not a widow,
and I will never mourn.'
8 Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her:
death, mourning and famine.
She will be consumed by fire,
for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
9 "When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.
10 Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:
" 'Woe! Woe, O great city,
O Babylon, city of power!
In one hour your doom has come!'
11 "The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more—
12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble;
13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men.

14 "They will say, 'The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.'
15 The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn
16 and cry out:
" 'Woe! Woe, O great city,
dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet,
and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
17 In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!'
"Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off.
18 When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, 'Was there ever a city like this great city?'
19 They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out:
" 'Woe! Woe, O great city,
where all who had ships on the sea
became rich through her wealth!
In one hour she has been brought to ruin!
20 Rejoice over her, O heaven!
Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets!
God has judged her for the way she treated you.' "
21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said:
"With such violence
the great city of Babylon will be thrown down,
never to be found again.
22 The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters,
will never be heard in you again.
No workman of any trade
will ever be found in you again.
The sound of a millstone
will never be heard in you again.
23 The light of a lamp will never shine in you again.
The voice of bridegroom and bride
will never be heard in you again.
Your merchants were the world's great men.
By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.
24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints,
and of all who have been killed on the earth."

Chapter 18 suggests capitalist type greed is punished with the fall of a mythic Babylon, a.k.a. Rome, a.k.a. New York, or some unknown world class city, why not Shanghai? Actually, why not all of humanity as a global city? (Chapter 17 dealt with the rulers of Babylon). Based on this scripture and the reality of science as presented in the book Revelation And The Environment: AD 95 – 1995, our economic system is the chief cause of environmental harm and disasters. Unless humankind changes the way it buys, sells, and gets gain, this planet will be destroyed. The book advocates returning to a village type economy because this method does not have a harmful impact on the globe. I hardly see that as a total solution. In addition, for what it's worth, Karl Marx has been predicting the collapse of capitalism since about the 1840's. My personal view is that the antichrist will arise as a wonderful and amazing genius in economics, to whom the world community will find temporary solutions to critical economic issues, and whose policies will also result in environmental devastation.

The sin lists of Rev 21:8 and 22:15 give another reason why the planet will suffer, but they are not economic based causes, but rather spiritual or moral causes. The New International Version has 21:8 as:

8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

And 22:15 as:

15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

A quote from the Qur'an says it better than I could ever say it as taken from Revelation And The Environment, p. 145.

//Begin extended quoted source

According to the Qur'an:

Corruption has appeared on earth and sea, as an outcome of what men's hands have wrought, and so He may give them a taste of some of their deeds in order that they may return (from evil and corruption).8

With such corruption of the earth, man betrays the trust (amana) given to him by God, and abandons his vicegerency of this world (khilafa, an important Qur'anic concept). By doing so, he closes himself to the God-given bounty which is expressed in the Revelation by the term taskhir, that is, the subservience of nature to humans for the purpose of moral and aesthetic perfection, and never to be exploited for corruption.9 Any one familiar with the contents of the Qur'anic revelation knows well how the theme of 'corruption on the earth' (fasad fi'l-'ard) occurs there again and again. Muhammad Asad, the well-known Austrian convert to Islam, rightly interprets the above verse as a now verifiable prophecy:

The growing corruption and destruction of our natural environment, so awesomely - if as yet only partially - demonstrated in our time, is here predicted as "an outcome of what men's hands have wrought", i.e., that self-destructive - because utterly materialistic - inventiveness and frenzied activity which now threatens mankind with previously unimaginable ecological disasters.10

There is no doubt that the 'corrupting hands' are only the external instruments of people who are themselves inwardly, that is morally, corrupted. Corruption thus starts within man's inner life, then extends to the social and eventually the natural order. 'There is a kind of man', says the Qur'an, 'who whenever he prevails, goes about the earth spreading corruption and destroying agricultural land and offspring. But God loves not corruption.'11

8 Qur'an 31:41

9 See I.R. al-Faruqi and L L al-Faruqi, The Cultural Atlas of Islam, New York 1986, p.314 ff.

10 M.Asad, The Message of the Qur'an, Gibraltar, 1980, p.623. Significantly the primary meaning of fasad is not ethical but biological degeneration, that is, putrefaction.

11 Qur'an 2:205

//End extended quoted source

Summary Questions:

Is it a sin to generate electricity? To operate a vehicle?

No. The sin is the lack of stewardship as a people on this planet, Genesis 1:18 allows for using the earth as a resource; but we are using the earth's resources to such a degree that we are committing suicide!

The sin is to sit back and wait for God to save the planet like most dispensationalists do. We must seek justice and be part of the solution. It is the evil in the world that causes pollution and we must not be evil. We don't want to be part of the explosion of evil at the end of the world that worships the economy as symbolized in the beast and "666" and that brings upon the disasters. It is a sin to disregard the planet and the creation.

Action Items:

1.We must not sit idly and allow the earth to fall apart just because Revelation ends with a restored earth and heaven. This is like agreeing to commit suicide. Go green.

2.We must realize that according to the images of Revelation, the earth will eventually reach a catastrophic state, which will last a short time, but we do not want to be guilty of bringing it about any more than we would have wanted to be guilty like Judas Iscariot who also was foreordained to do the things he did in betraying the Christ.

"The Gospel": (based on Revelation And The Environment):

pp. 86 – 87 Science saves religion from fantasy. Yet, progress and science have become like idols, sacred and inviolable, which may bring the ruination of humanity. Worshipping science leads to death by science.

p. 8 The pantokrator is a key idea in Revelation. The creator must be worshipped. When the creatures are not obedient to the creator, creation is effected.

p. 13 Revelation is actually a positive book and we must look at the lamb not the beast. In Jeremiah and Isaiah it is the small minority that is preserved. In John it is the majority. There are always survivors, twice as many as perish. Ultimately, the new Jerusalem comes down to earth. Humans live with God on earth in this vision!

p. 16 Revelation shows that life depends on interrelationships and interconnectedness and ultimately on a relationship with the living God.

p. 18 The purpose of prophecy is to make us act in a way of repentance and towards the edification of believers and the world at large. … p. 21 It is not merely a matter of management and technicalities, but of changing our understanding of sin. There is also sin against nature. … We may need a revival of village life, which are the most earth friendly systems. Also village life is good for communities because the power of shame is imposed on the guilty.

p. 64 Religious persons animated by belief in a Creator God, yet happily participating in the destruction of creation constitute an interesting subject for study … God's world is loveable and ironically scientists often fall in love with it much more deeply than theologians! The book of Revelation offers an affirmation of cosmic purpose. As I mentioned already, to end the world prematurely by our actions is like committing suicide.

End Notes:

Victorinus of Pettau in his commentary on Revelation showing that he is the originator of the recapitulation hermeneutic:

... The Apocalypse here shows, therefore, that these reapers, and shepherds,
and labourers, are the angels. And the trumpet is the word of power.
And although the same thing recurs in the phials, still it is not said
as if it occurred twice, but because what is decreed by the Lord to
happen shall be once for all; for this cause it is said twice. What,
therefore, He said too little in the trumpets, is here found in the
phials. We must not regard the order of what is said, because
frequently the Holy Spirit, when He has traversed even to the end of
the last times, returns again to the same times, and fills up what He
had before failed to say. [2284] Nor must we look for order in the
Apocalypse; but we must follow the meaning of those things which are
prophesied. Therefore in the trumpets and phials is signified either
the desolation of the plagues that are sent upon the earth, or the
madness of Antichrist himself, or the cutting off of the peoples, or
the diversity of the plagues, or the hope in the kingdom of the saints,
or the ruin of states, or the great overthrow of Babylon, that is, the
Roman state.

Most of the book called Revelation and the Environment AD 95 - 1995 can be accessed from the 1995 link at www.rsesymposia.org (Religion, Science, and the Environment Symposia). Backup copies can be accessed here at ../special/rsesymposia.htm

The best commentary, ever, on Revelation is by Gerhard A. Krodel, Revelation: Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament, Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, 1989.

I have been blessed by dispensationalism but I tend to think it is a "comic book" approach.

Sources:

Michael Crichton, State of Fear, 2004, Avon Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. New York. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-101573-1. ISBN-10:0-06-101573-3.

National Geographic, DVD: "Six Degrees Could Change The World" 2008. Adapted from the book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas, 2007.

Sarah Hobson and Jane Lubchenco, Editors. Revelation And The Environment AD 95 – 1995, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., 1997. Singapore. ISBN 981-02-3238-1.

The New Testament

The Qur'an

T. J. de Ruiter of the Netherlands on http://home.tiscali.nl/tdruiter/7bowls.htm or http://www.j-e-s-u-s.org/special/TJdeRuiter.htm

Victorinus of Pettau, Early Church Father on the Apocalypse of John, chapter seven, paragraph 2.

 
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