What is the difference between religion and the gospel? Religion = Do, do, do! Gospel = Done, Done, Done!! “It is Finished!” There is nothing that can separate you from God’s gracious offer of love and redemption!
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST
by JOEL RICHARDSON
When Joel Richardson was writing the book Mystery Babylon, he gave me the opportunity to review the chapters before the book was published. It was a rewarding experience and I am grateful to Joel for allowing me to share my thoughts and questions. As with many of you, he convinced me, with very sound logic and persuasion, of his truthful conclusion on the identity of Mystery Babylon. As much as I enjoyed Joel and his profound gift of writing, his razor sharp intellect and his phenomenal research skills, it was his AFTERWORD, the very last part of the book that deeply touched my heart. His compelling presentation of the gospel should be shared with all. "There is only one way forward: the way of the cross."
AFTERWORD from Mystery Babylon
by Joel Richardson
WE WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY REMISS if we did not conclude this book with some very practical and proper responses to all of the information that we’ve covered. I want to begin by specifically addressing those readers who have never committed their lives to Jesus Christ. While this book is principally an interpretation of a prophecy from the Christian Scriptures, I know that many who read it may not necessarily be Christian. Perhaps someone handed you this book or you were simply interested by the information about Saudi Arabia and the many profoundly important political implications. Whatever the reason may be, I trust that God Himself had a purpose in getting this book into your hands. If this is you, then quite simply, the first proper response is to get both your life and your soul in right standing with your Creator. This is simple wisdom. The fact of the matter is that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10 NIV). The day is coming when “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14 NIV). As Jesus said, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:2–3 NIV). God Himself will hack Google, as it were, and everyone’s lives will be laid bare before an all-powerful and Holy God.
On its face, this is both terrifying and terrible news. The truth, after all, is that neither you nor I are clean. As the apostle Paul rightly said, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23 NIV), or as Isaiah the prophet expressed it, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way” (Isa. 53:6 NIV). Worse yet, the Scriptures declare that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23 NIV). Then, whosoever’s “name [is] not found written in the book of life [will be] thrown into the lake of fire,” where they “will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night” (Rev. 20:15; 14:10–11 NIV). Jesus Himself described the lake of fire as a place of “eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46 NIV), where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” both anguish and eternal bitter regret (Matt. 13:42 NIV).
GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD . . .
There is good news, however—very good news! It is quite literally the best news that has ever been told—if we will hear it. This good news is summarized well in the famous Bible verse: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). Our Creator loved us so deeply, so passionately, that He sent His very Son, His very essence, His very Heart—He sent Himself into the world to take on human flesh, to actually become one of us, ultimately to be mutilated in our place, and to make atonement for our sins. The Bible says that “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed . . . and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:5–6 NIV.
Peter the apostle appealed to his countrymen:
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call. (Acts 2:38–39 NIV)
If any of us desire to be saved from our sins and to be spared from being cast forever into the lake of fire, then there is only one way of escape. The Bible tells us that we must acknowledge, turn away from, and renounce our sins. This is the meaning of “repentance.” As part of our public confession, we are to be baptized in water, signifying our choice to put to death our old sinful selves, and as we rise from the water, we are raised to new life. As Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16 NIV). We must transfer our faith and confidence from “our righteous acts [which] are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6 NIV) to Jesus Christ, placing all of our faith in His shed blood and the atoning work He accomplished for us on the cross. It is this way, and this way only, that we may be washed clean and forgiven. Whoever does this will receive the Holy Spirit. This is the very Spirit of God, who will testify “that we are God’s children” (Rom. 8:16). He will strengthen you to live a holy life, pleasing to God, and He will confirm that on the day of judgment, you will be raised unto eternal life, “guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Cor. 1:22 NIV). You will be spared from the punishment of “everlasting shame and contempt” (Dan. 12:2).
If you have never done this before, but would like to make this most important decision, please contact me through my website, joelstrumpet.com, and I will be happy to pray with you and help you to get started in your new life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I assure you that though this may be a difficult decision, it will absolutely be the best decision you have ever made. If the Holy Spirit is touching your heart, do not ignore His voice. Do not miss this moment. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us all:
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? (Heb. 12:25 NIV).
Along with the apostle Peter, I appeal to you from the bottom of my heart, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40).
THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
Now, I would like to speak to those who are already disciples of Jesus. I’m sure that a large percentage of those who read this book—maybe even you—did so simply because they were fascinated, or perhaps just interested, in understanding biblical prophecy. The fact is that the study of biblical prophecy is not merely about revealing secret knowledge and unlocking mysteries. Like any other aspect of biblical theology, this topic has very real application and should very legitimately affect the way that we live.
Unfortunately, the most natural, carnal response to what we’ve learned about the role of Islam in the last days is to allow fear and dread of what is to come into our hearts. If the theory presented in this book is true, then the fact of the matter is that until Jesus returns, Islam is not going away. Terrorism is not going to dissipate. Quite to the contrary, Islam will continue to expand and force itself onto the world. It will get worse. Whether we like it or not, there is nowhere to hide from what is coming upon the earth. The relevance of the Muslim world and the Middle East specifically will continue to force itself onto all of us. Whether we are speaking of the war in Syria, the global refugee crisis, the transformation of Europe, or who knows what might come next, the contours of the landscape of the end times as described by the biblical prophets are certainly beginning to come into very clear focus.
REJECT FEAR AND HATRED
Some of the most significant warnings in all of Scripture are found in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse. The first warning concerns the issue of fear. Speaking of the last days, Jesus said, “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25–26; emphasis added). The second warning concerns another heart issue—the most important heart issue of all, in fact. Again, speaking of the last days, Jesus warned, “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12; emphasis added). I am thoroughly convinced that one of the primary reasons the love of so many will grow cold is specifically because of the fear that will grip the world. Quite simply, fear is crippling. When fear gets a hold of the human heart, it snuffs out the ability to truly love as Jesus did.
In this age of increasing lawlessness, wickedness, and bloodshed, my heartfelt appeal to anyone who will listen is to resist the temptation to allow fear or hatred into your heart. Whether we like it or not, we can either live lives of safety or we can live like Jesus. We cannot do both. In the days ahead, the bloodshed is going to explode across the nations. The more it does, the more many voices will arise, claiming to speak on behalf of wisdom, claiming to have all of the answers, to know all the solutions. The push for more conservative legislation and greater military action will increasingly be the cry of many throughout the West. To be very clear, I am a constitutional conservative. I believe in responsible stewardship. Striving to elect leaders of integrity, pushing for righteous laws, and making wise decisions militarily are matters that are all very important to me. No doubt, I could speak extensively about freeing ourselves from dependence on Middle Eastern oil, and breaking away from the corrupting influence of Saudi Arabia. We could speak at length about wise immigration policies and intelligent border security. Certainly all of these things are incredibly important. The truth, however, is that neither military, nor legal, nor political solutions will ever actually solve the ultimate problems that we are facing. The Bible is clear that apart from the return of Jesus, our present situation is rather hopeless. It doesn’t mean we do not do what needs to be done. We do not, however, place our hope in these things. We fix our hope in Jesus and the age to come. The return of Jesus is our only hope. Until He returns, we must move forward as wise as serpents, faithfully stewarding all that He has entrusted to us, but to be blunt, we need to die to the notion that we can save this world. To be clear, in no way am I advocating abandonment or abdication. I am simply saying that our anchor of hope should not be in temporal efforts or solutions. Without giving up on political activism, as Christians Jesus has given us a far greater mandate. Our emphasis is to be on something far more important, and having far more permanence.
PUT THE GOSPEL FIRST
As obedient disciples of Jesus, our primary emphasis must be to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). We are to give a faithful witness concerning the Day of the Lord, the judgment of all mankind, the atonement Jesus has provided, and the glorious kingdom to come. This is the good news! This is “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16). It is only this message that can save anyone from sin. It is only this message that delivers anyone from the eternal lake of fire. This then, more than any other issue, needs to be our driving emphasis, our burning passion. Ten thousand years from now, who won the next election or won the next war will be irrelevant. Those who were won to Christ in these days, though, will be eminently relevant. Now, while most might agree that the gospel is to be premier, the truth is that actually making it a priority is never going to happen unless we are willing to embrace the cross.
EMBRACE THE CROSS
There is only one way forward: the way of the cross. The way of the cross, however, is not a popular message, particularly in American culture, including American Christian culture. Simply stated, the way of the cross is the way of laying down one’s life. This is part of the reason Paul spoke of “the offense of the cross” (Gal. 5:11 NIV). No one enjoys suffering. No one desires to die or to make sacrifices. Yet this is precisely what Jesus has called us to: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35). How much more offensive is it, then, that Jesus calls us to actually lay down our lives for our enemies? As He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. . . . Do good to those who hate you” (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27). The reason is simple. The Scriptures teach that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), and we are called to imitate Him. As Peter wrote, “[we] have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
To be very clear, I fully believe that Islam is that which was spoken of by the Lord through the prophets and that what we are seeing unfold throughout the world right now is the fulfillment of prophecy. I believe that in the days ahead, radical Islam will continue to expand and explode throughout the nations. I also want to state emphatically, however, that if this information leads you to withdraw into fear, hatred, or self-protectionism, then you have not responded as the Lord wants you to. If you are a Christian, then imitating and following Jesus is the only response. As Paul solemnly warned the believers in Rome:
The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. (Rom. 13:11–12)
The more that Satan seeks to raise up an army of his own from among the sons of Ishmael, the more the followers of Jesus should make it their priority to snatch as many from the fire as possible. Now is not the moment to make self-preservation our highest priority. Now is the hour when giving ourselves to see Muslims come to faith must become one the highest priorities of the body of Christ!
If the things that we’ve discussed in this book are true, then yes, the days ahead are only going to become much more difficult. As the great storms of the last days sweep through the nations, we must take comfort in the conclusion of the prophecy. For as much as the things spoken throughout the book of Revelation are real, so also is the Lord’s great victory that will follow. It is for this reason that at the fall of Babylon, the angels break out in such exuberant rejoicing. With the angels, let us also rejoice in the soon-coming day of God’s great victory:
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; Because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond servants on her.” And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever. And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (Rev. 19:1–9)
To which we all shout ten thousand amens.