Similarly, I think we can see the power behind the system of the world as well. We can see what this power is like by the tracks he leaves behind. The contrast of the two systems is really seen in Revelation 14:8. “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” John is using the word Babylon here for the system of the world. In other words, worldliness. This system of the world is what encourages sexual immorality. The system of the world encourages drinking in the wine of passion. Here, in Revelation 14, John is seeing the moment at which the system of the world is being destroyed. Those who worshiped the beast in Revelation chapter 13 and those who received the Mark of the Beast, this is their last stop on the train. This is why the third angel explains that if anyone worships the Beast and receives the mark will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, where the smoke of their torment rises forever.
The system of heaven is found in verse 12: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” John is telling us what the word saints means, and he is telling us what we should be doing. Namely, that we should be keeping the commandments and our faith in Jesus. There is an extreme contrast between Babylon and the saints. I know this might seem obvious, but it seems that Christians seem to frequently have a problem realizing such a contrast. So, what are some ways we can identify the systems of the world?
I think that we have a saying that points to much of it… money, sex, and power. Jesus says in Matthew 6:24, that “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” There is a clear distinction between the two systems here. Jesus is saying that you can either serve God or money. Not both. One of them will be your master. It is an interesting contrast because often people place money at the place where only God should be. In other words, in a person’s life, money is often shrouded in idolatry. When this is the case, it is the most extreme distance from the system of heaven.
In Hebrews 13:4, the author says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” This is likely the largest area where people misidentify their lives. Sex sells. People know this fact. Not only in producing sexually alluring marketing, but also in controversy. In other words, when people find a controversy, it is like free advertising. This seems to be one of the corrupt ways of the world as well. That they use controversy to market products or beliefs. For instance, with the issue of transgenderism, there are two sides to it. People who believe that it is wrong, and people who believe that gender is a choice. What is interesting is that there is no one in the middle ground, so to speak. It is a blood bath on both sides. This is why it is so controversial, and controversy brings in numbers. This is part of the system of the world. It is a discussion of a combination of sex and power. We know that according to Hebrews 13:4 that any sexual relationship outside of one male and one female under God is dishonoring the marriage bed. This includes (but is not limited to) homosexuals, transsexuals, and even heterosexuals who are not in a covenantal marriage—one man and one woman under God.
Power. Jesus says a big NO to the disciples who ask for power to sit at his right hand. Matthew 20:20-23 says, “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” Again, The reason Jesus is so clear on this is because it is clear to Him what the difference is between the system of heaven and the system of the world. The mother of the sons of Zebedee and the sons themselves, were likely influenced by the Romans. They were surrounded by the Romans and became like them.
Other Signs of the Two Systems
Vengeance vs patience. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15. “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” The system of heaven tells us to be patient while the system of the world says the opposite and to seek vengeance.
Consider repentance for a moment… Repentance is turning 180 degrees from sin and moving toward Jesus. It is moving in the exact opposite direction from the system of the world. There are only two directions. A person is either moving toward God or moving away from Him. James 4:7-8 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” I think the opposite is also true in verse 8, which is if you draw away from God, He will draw away from you. Consider Romans 1:25-28. The phrase “God gave them over” is found three times in a very short passage. Drawing away from God is exactly what this passage is talking about. There are only two directions. Toward or away from, and the system of heaven or the system of the world.
In Galatians 5:19-26 Paul spells out the acts of the sinful nature, as well as the acts of the spiritual nature. The two systems are in clear view.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
"Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to attest and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing, and perfect will. ~Romans 12:2
What is love? 1 Corinthians 13 tells us…
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I think there is one verse that stands out against the definition that the world uses for love. This verse is that “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Love is not the same thing as tolerance or acceptance. Think for a moment that a sick person goes to a medical doctor for healing an ailment. Probably most people today when they feel sick, they will “research” online their symptoms, and try to self-diagnose and see if they need to actually go see a medical professional. When the sick person after causing himself anxiety over his ailment, finally decides that it is time to go see the doctor, and when he gets there he tells the doctor what he thinks it is and that he is certain that this one thing is the issue, and all of his experiences and presuppositions tell him that this is what is wrong with him, and the doctor just needs to listen and write the prescription required. But the problem is, the doctor knows many things that the patient does not know. For instance, he can observe the mechanical issues with the body that is before him and see that the self-diagnosis of the patient is incorrect. Now, would it be more loving for the medical doctor to write the prescription that the patient wants, or what the doctor knows that the patient needs? Obviously, the latter. But why? Wouldn’t the doctor be unloving if he didn’t give the patient what he wanted? The thing about this is that love requires truth. It is much the opposite the way we think about love. If I offer love alone without truth, and say, like the doctor, I give the person what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear, then I would argue that this is not love. Love demands truth. Truth is required in the definition of love. It would be less loving for the doctor to give what the patient wants, because he knows what is wrong, and to simply appease the patient by giving the prescription from the patients self-diagnosis would be a lie.
Similarly, when we have discussions with our LGBTQ friends, or anyone for that matter, we must speak the truth to them. When we cave and condone sinful actions, we are essentially lying to them. This is not love. For a person to let someone live out their life believing something false, would be unloving. I would argue that this is the opposite of love. But this is what the world does today. “You be you!” means more like, “Do what you feel is good.” The Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things, so how can we use feeling to determine what is true? The answer is that we cannot. This is why the truth hurts sometimes. Pain in true love exists. This is why it hurts when someone who we truly love and who truly loves us does something to damage the relationship. When the Doctor tells you that your self-diagnosis is wrong because it is wrong, this is love. Why? Because it is true. Sometimes, the truth hurts. But when we deliver the painful truth in love, this is real love. People do not like to be told that they are wrong. But often people are wrong, and this can be painful for some. For instance, the gospel is painful for some, because what it tells us is that we are sinners. By nature, then, the gospel is offensive. But it needs to be offensive. The message from God to His people is the epitome of love, and it contains the truth. The truth is that all fall short of God’s glory. The truth is that the love of money is the root of all evil. The truth is that sex is a gift from God for one man and one woman in covenant with Him to fulfill our sexual appetite. The truth is that fornication is sin. The truth is that if you look at a woman with lust in your heart that you have already committed adultery with her. I think that Jesus is saying here, “See how desperately you need me.” The truth is, sometimes the truth hurts, but that shouldn’t stop us from communicating it, even to our loved ones. That said, as Christians, we must also offer forgiveness. We have all sinned against a righteous God, and He offers through His love for us, the gift of Christ. Romans 5:8 says that "God demonstrates His own love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." He took our place of punishment for our sins on the cross, and we are no longer enemies of God because of His work and because of Him. the Bible says in John 3:16, the motivation for the work of Christ on the cross: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but will have everlasting life."
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” 1 Corinthians 13:13
Love is the greatest of all things, but what is love? Love is true, and truth is loving. Tell your friends, relatives, and neighbors about the true love of Christ for them, through which we find true hope, and real faith.
Written by Nace Howell through the grace of our Lord Jesus
Written by Nace Howell through the grace of our Lord Jesus
© Nace Howell, 2023