Category: Marriage

The Consequences of Hatred

Unfulfilled Desires 

Post-holiday depression is felt by many people, yet rarely has it been so prominent in our daily consciousness as in the present time.  Due primarily to the influence of today’s social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, people are freer than ever to convey their resentments without consequence.  Posts such as, “I hate my life!” or “I Can’t Do This Anymore!”  are common.

Other reasons for the visibility of depression are also probable, however, not just the ability to vent one’s emotions and feelings so freely without any repercussions, events that are extremely contagious in today’s “connected” society.

Since many people have believed the promises made to them in childhood, such as, “You can do anything you set your mind to do!” or “Your dreams can all come true!” they have grown discouraged and resentful when their life goals and desires do not seem to be coming true.  

This despair may lead to expressions and feelings of “hate,” including “hatred” towards others, such as public figures, including politicians and authority figures, whom they often see as the ultimate sources of their depression due to unfulfilled promises.

One reason hatred is increasing in the world today is that some are promoting hatred as a means of obtaining what they feel they deserve or has been promised.  Hatred is seen as the motivator, the “leverage,” that makes one make changes that promote success, fulfillment, and happiness.  Here is how one blog writer validates his hatred:

Finding that sweet spot, where I know what I hate, and why I need to challenge that hatred is central to my ability to succeed with my goals. That is what will spur me to act. Drive me away from pain. Towards pleasure. Ultimately, that is what it all boils down to. Reducing my pain. And increasing my pleasure.

So, the key is to hate the status quo with all our heart. Hate it so badly, that not acting will only take me down the hole even further.

This is also called the leverage. A point in my life where I cannot stand the pain any further. Where the misery of my painful existence is unbearable making my goal the only option to survive.

But for the leverage, I would never push myself to climb out of the pit of agony. . .I turn to my hatred towards the status quo [to] fuel my passion to succeed (Source).

A Story From Long Ago

King David of Israel committed a grievous sin, taking the life of Uriah the Hittite in order to claim the man’s wife for himself, Bathsheba.  Nathan, the prophet, confronts David, admonishing the king and foretelling the woes that would come to the royal family:

“Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight” (II Samuel 11:9-11).

Nathan’s prophecy began to be fulfilled through Amnon, King David’s oldest son.  Amnon was heir to the throne of Israel, one of the privileged few, intent on seeing all of his desires fulfilled, even those that were forbidden by the laws of Jehovah.  Under the Mosaic law, it was forbidden to have sexual relations outside of marriage, particularly with a relative. Amnon desired Tamar, his half-sister, with whom he believed he was in love.

Now it was after this that Absalom the son of David had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar, and Amnon the son of David loved her. Amnon was so frustrated because of his sister Tamar that he made himself ill, for she was a virgin, and it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her (II Samuel 13:1-2).

It was not only “hard” for Amnon to possess his half-sister, but also forbidden, yet Amnon is so lovesick that he listens to the advice of Jonadab, a counselor to the king.  Jonadab is described as a “shrewd man,” but his advice results in horrendous consequences. We later see this same man’s “shrewdness” brought into the story in the end when King David is faced with his own son’s treachery and Jonadab presumes to counsel the king.  Here is what Jonadab tells Amnon:

But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother; and Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so depressed morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Then Amnon said to him, “I am in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.” (II Samuel 13:3-4).

Jonadab advised Amnon to pursue his sinful lusts by first pretending to be ill, then requesting that his Father King David send Tamar to him to minister to him, a request that Jonadab knew would be difficult for David to refuse.

Jonadab then said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill; when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me some food to eat, and let her prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat from her hand’” (II Samuel 13:5).

Amnon assents to Jonadab’s plan, and when King David came to see his supposedly ill son, Amnon asks his father to send Tamar to him so he could regain strength through the food that she prepared for him.

When Tamar arrives and prepares food for Amnon, however, he asks her to bring it to him where he is lying in his bed.  He takes hold of her, demanding that she lie with him.

Tamar refuses his request, saying,

“No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this disgraceful thing! 13 As for me, where could I get rid of my reproach? And as for you, you will be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you” (II Samuel 13:12-13).

Amnon is not moved by Tamar’s suggestion that they marry, and he easily overcomes Tamar’s opposition to his lusts: “However, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her” (II Samuel 13:14).

Once he has taken her virginity, Amnon’s guilt turns his love for Tamar to hatred:

 Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up, go away!” (II Samuel 13:15).

Ironically, Tamar does not feel so violated, for she finds solace in the Mosaic law commanding that a raped woman shall be able to marry the one who has violated her.  Thus, she refuses to leave Amnon. Her response relates to Deuteronomy 22:28 which states that a man who rapes a virgin must marry her.  

“If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

In addition, Tamar realizes that no other man will marry her since she has been violated:

“But she said to him, “No, because this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you have done to me!” (II Samuel 13:16).

Amnon calls his attendant, however, to take Tamar away and lock the door behind her so she cannot return.  Subsequently, Tamar goes into mourning; she “put ashes on her head and tore her long-sleeved garment which was on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went” (II Samuel 13:19).  

Absalom’s Hatred

Tamar then stays and lives in the home of her brother Absalom, where she remains in extreme sorrow and distress.  She has no apparent future since Amnon has taken away her promise of a happy life.  

When King David hears what has happened, he is exceptionally angry at Amnon, but perhaps because David realizes how he himself may have opened the door to Amnon’s lust for Tamar by sending her to him, David chooses not to exact punishment on his son, the heir apparent to the throne.

Absalom, however, Amnon’s half-brother, decides to take revenge in spite of his advice to Tamar not to make Amnon’s rape known: 

Then Absalom her brother said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? But now keep silent, my sister, he is your brother; do not take this matter to heart.” So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother Absalom’s house (II Samuel 13:20).

Nevertheless, we can only imagine the intense hatred Absalom has for Amnon, as he witnesses the sorrow and depression of his sister, Tamar:

But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar (II Samuel 13:22).

After two years, Absalom hatred grows, until he plots Amnon’s death, enticing him away from King David’s protection through an elaborate plot:  inviting all of the king’s sons and servants to help with and celebrate his sheep shearing. 

When Amnon joins Absalom’s company, Absalom commands his servants to murder him:

Absalom commanded his servants, saying, “See now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant” (II Samuel 13:28).

Subsequently, King David is erroneously told that Absalom has murdered all of his sons:

Now it was while they were on the way that the report came to David, saying, “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.” 31 Then the king arose, tore his clothes and lay on the ground; and all his servants were standing by with clothes torn (II Samuel 13:30-31).

King David’s nephew, Joab, who is the commander of the king’s armies, intervenes as a peacemaker. He plots with a woman, asking her to pretend to be a widow whose two sons have quarreled, resulting in the death of one of the sons.  Asking for help, she relates to King David that now the rest of her family is calling for the death of her other son.  

David assures her that “not one hair of her son will fall to the ground” (II Samuel 14:11).  

Joab has contrived this pretense, however, to show David why he must forgive Absalom for killing Amnon.  When David sides with the widow, she responds according to Joab’s instructions:

“Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in speaking this word the king is as one who is guilty, in that the king does not bring back his banished one. 14 For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from him (II Samuel 14:13-14). 

Seeing the justice of his own judgment for the woman, David sees also that he must forgive Absalom. He calls Joab to seek out Absalom and to bring him home to Jerusalem.  The division between David and Absalom continues, however, for many years: “However the king said, “Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face” (II Samuel 14:24).

Ultimately, Absalom becomes the leader of a rebellion against his father’s reign:

But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron’” (II Samuel 15:10).

King David flees from Jerusalem as Absalom advances, leaving his house in the hands of his concubines.  Ultimately, in another fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy, Absalom commits his own sexual sins on the advice of Ahithophel, David’s advisor.

Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father. The hands of all who are with you will also be strengthened.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel (II Samuel 16:21-22).

Conclusion

What a story!  The sins of one man, Amnon, led to the sins of many others, all resulting in even more sins and divisions in King David’s family, and finally the dissolution of David’s kingdom, resulting in warfare among the people:

Then the people went out into the field against Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. The people of Israel were defeated there before the servants of David, and the slaughter there that day was great, 20,000 men. For the battle there was spread over the whole countryside, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured (II Samuel 18:6-8).

Finally, Absalom, famous for his beautiful, extremely long hair, is ensnared in the branches of an oak tree, where he hangs helplessly until Joab stabs him with three spears, and ten young men (who carry Joab’s armor) surround Absalom and kill him.  

When King David hears the news of Absalom’s death, he is stricken with grief:

The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Samuel 18:33).

Hatred is Contagious

Living a life of resentment, descending into depression, and hating one’s life, or having any kind of hatred, leads to more hatred, especially hatred for other people.  

When I was growing up, many years ago, I never heard the term “hate crime,” but this designation is increasingly heard and printed today. Clearly, the causes and consequences of hatred are growing in today’s world.   

In this story of Amnon and Tamar, we can also see how hatred is severely infectious. By pursuing sinful thoughts and lusts, Amnon only ends up hating Tamar, the woman he has supposedly once fervently loved. Even if they were to continue to live together and be married, she likely would only have reminded him continually of his evil plot to take her virginity through lies and deception.

It is also likely that Absalom blames his father King David for Tamar’s rape, for Absalom ends up plotting treason against his own father, attempting to overthrow King David to become king himself.

These stories, beginning with Amnon and Tamar, extending through Absalom’s murder of Amnon and his rebellion against King David, resulting in Absalom’s death and David’s grief, all exemplify why we must follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts” (Romans 6:12).  And we must not allow resentments over perceived injustices to lead us to hatred, a condition that only leads to more sin.

Love, Not Hatred

Of course, the ways of the world are the opposite of what the Word of God tells us.  The Apostle Paul wrote the following admonition in his letter to the Corinthian Church:  

“Let all that you do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:14).

Rather than hatred in any form, whether spoken or felt, love must be the source of our motivations in our lives.  And our all-knowing God is the provider of true love in our lives, for “God is love.”   

 

The Marriage Covenant

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The Genuine Article

The Apostle Paul gave clear affirmation in his teaching letters that God’s design for marriage was not limited to a certain time period, but was the enduring pattern we must continually follow (Matt. 19:4–6; Eph. 5:22–33). The uniqueness of the one-flesh union experienced by a man and woman through sexual intimacy is a gift given to married couples and also a radically beautiful signpost to the union He shares with His people.

This spiritual mystery sounds strange to many people, but it’s amazingly true. In Ephesians 5:30-32 the apostle Paul calls the “signpost” reality of Christian marriage a “mystery” that is a reference to Christ and the Church (followers of Jesus):

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:28-32)

Even many Christians in the Church today have been misled about the nature of true biblical marriage.  According to the spiritual, mystical understanding that St. Paul gives, marriage is not merely a legal document or just a “piece of paper” that may be thrown into the garbage can when it no longer seems genuine or binding.

Many young adults no longer desire a marital relationship in their lives, having been misled and deceived by our popular culture and the many broken marriages so prominent in the media and in the Church.

Just to use an appealing metaphor, or analogy, consider how the Mercedes Benz or BMW automobiles have become two of the most desired vehicles seen on the road today.  Most people will never drive, much less own, one of these automobiles, yet they are depicted constantly as the most coveted means of transportation, in spite of their enormous cost:

Consequently, numerous copies or imitations exist today in the new car lots, vehicles that look much like the original models in the Mercedes or BMW lots.  

Here is  a Photoshopped creation with a BMW grille and the rest from a Kia (source):

Richard Lentinello, for example, writes the following in Hemmings Classic Car,

I have very little interest in new cars, mainly because they all seem to be made from the same mold — well-made, yes, but boring in terms of design, nonetheless (Source).

Lentinello’s comments appear in a website that develops these ideas further, so it is worth looking at.  I can closely identify with the following quotation that certainly describes the culture I lived in while growing up, especially since my father purchased a 1958 Chevy station wagon:

The high-water mark for individual-looking cars was probably the 1950s and 1960s, when any schoolkid could tell a ’59 Chevy from a ’58. There were indeed a lot of great designs back then. But yearly model changes were incredibly inefficient and mostly happened with very little upgrade to the engineering under the skin. (Source)

Likewise, while young adults today may admire those who have what appear to be loving and solid marriages, they more and more are deciding that such marriages are impossible, for half of all marriages end in devastating divorces. Consequently, they have decided either not to form a marital union with another person at all, or instead merely attempt to form a good “copy” of what they think a good relationship is, usually based on the all-too-observable pleasures of having sex with another person and just living together, or the superficial appearances of what they consider a true marital union.  

Love (and thus, sex), rather than a solid commitment, are the BMW grill and chrome tire rims that are superimposed on a relationship that is extremely lacking in solid covenant commitments.

This propensity is far different from Scriptural admonishions. First of all, by faith, Christians enter into a spiritual union with God, becoming one with Him. This union is symbolized in the covenant we have with Jesus as represented in the communion we celebrate when we come together.  We remember His sacrifice as we partake of the communion meal, eating the bread and drinking the fruit of the vine, which symbolize His body and blood, while becoming one with Him.   

Christian marriage, like the celebration of communion, is also a mystical picture of this union, and, likewise, sexual intimacy uniquely provides a picture of the oneness that God shares with His people: two distinct and very different beings, joined together as an expression of covenantal love.

God first demonstrated His love for all human beings by making a covenant with Abraham.  These promises were sealed by God in the “cutting” of a covenant, a mystery we studied in another blog article titled  “A Great Mystery” (click to read about David’s covenant with Jonathan and God’s covenant with Abraham).  

The First Marriage

In the Book of Genesis, we read of the first marriage between Adam and Eve.  

The man [Adam] said,

“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:22-24).

The “oneness” depicted in this account is significant, for it describes not only the “mystery” of marriage itself, but also the oneness that occurs in any true covenant.  The two parties become unified as they join together in marriage, a unique unity that only is possible for a man and a woman.  Adam recognized this unity for he realized that Eve was formed from his own flesh.  Therefore, the unity they had was real and vital.

A marriage ceremony, therefore, is more than a “rubber stamp” on a certificate.  Instead, it is the making of a covenant, witnessed by family and friends.  There is no “cutting” or shedding of blood, as with most covenants, yet the vows depict the kind of union that occurs in any covenant relationship.  

“Till death do us part,” or “for as long as we both shall live,” therefore, as parts of most marriage vows, are significant, for they reveal the main components of a “blood covenant” relationship.  It was believed that a covenant could only be broken if one of the parties died.

Today’s Degradations of Marriage

It is not surprising, therefore, that along with the substitutions and “copies” of true marriage relationships in today’s cultures, the ceremony of the marriage covenant has also been degraded into mere parties with raucous and meaningless dancing and alcoholic frolic.

Too often, the man and the woman have already formed relationships with others, becoming “one” with them, to the point where many young women have already had children.  Thus, they may have already been “married” to one or more persons.  

What About Divorce?

Does this mean that divorce cannot ever legitimately occur?  Jesus’ response to His disciples’ questions about divorce seems to say it cannot occur without resulting in the sin of adultery:

[Jesus] said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:8-9)

However, I find two places in the New Testament that reveal when divorce may be permissible without sin (for the innocent party) in a marriage).

“It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. (I Corinthians 7:12-15)

These passages relate that the only valid reasons for divorce are adultery (unchastity) and desertion.  Even so, such cases are not absolute, for even broken marriages may be saved through prayer, devotion, commitment, and spiritual warfare.  And in the case of desertion, the Apostle Paul says that a believer is “not under bondage in such cases,” which should be interpreted as follows: “A believer is not prohibited from marrying again after a divorce.”

 

 

Advice for Young Adults About Premarital Sex

RISKY SEXUAL BEHAVIOR REDEFINED:

COUNSELING TIPS for TEENAGERS ABOUT PREMARITAL SEX

by

David Kanski

Pastor at Emmanuel Community Church

Jersey Shore, Pennsyvania

Within the helping professions of social services, health care, and psychology exists a genuine and legitimate concern for what is commonly referred to as “high-risk sexual behaviors” among adolescents. High risk behaviors are usually defined as unprotected sex (sexual activity without condom use), having multiple sex partners, or sexual activity under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These behaviors are risky because they may result in contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or an unplanned pregnancy. Therefore, the underlying assumption is that not all sexual activity by young people is risky, and that by responsible behavior the hazards of sexual behavior are expunged.

However, this paper will attempt to show that any sexual engagement outside of a monogamous, life-time commitment introduces other grave risks which are beyond the scope of much of the current discourse: risks to emotional well-being and risks to a young person’s future ability to form a permanent attachment to a life partner. With an understanding of these emotional and relational risks of sexual activity, parents will be better equipped to help adolescents and young adults avoid repercussions that are often pernicious and far-reaching.

EMOTIONAL RISKS

“For human beings, of course, sex is about much more than the body. Our entire person is involved. That’s why sex has uniquely powerful emotional and spiritual consequences. And there is no condom for the heart” (Lickona, 2004a, p.56).

Thomas Lickona, a developmental psychologist, has identified numerous dangerous, emotional consequences of premature sexual involvement that, most often, “last a long time, even into marriage and parenting” (Lickona, 2007, para. 12).

  • Regret and self-recrimination are among the most common repercussions sexually active teens experience (Lickona, 2007). Teenage boys and girls can both experience painful regret following a sexual relationship, but girls are usually more vulnerable because research shows that there are gender differences when it comes to sexual scenarios: “Women are likely to have sex to strengthen relationships and increase intimacy, whereas men are likely to have sex to gain physical pleasure” (Davis, 2008, p.468). A girl is more likely to approach sex to prove her love, leading her to experience the terrible pain of feeling used when, after having had sex, the boy is no longer interested in her. “According to a 2000 survey conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 72% of teenage girls and 55% of boys who have had sexual intercourse say they wish they had waited” (Lickona, 2004a, p. 86). A large number of young people are burdened by sexual regrets for many years after their sexual encounters.
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-respect is another consequence (Lickona, 2007), and sometimes that loss of self-respect makes a person vulnerable to further uncommitted sex, resulting in a devastating downward spiral.
  • The corruption of character is a likely result when we treat others as objects to be used for sexual pleasure (Lickona, 2007). Personal character is deformed when our selfish desires lead us to lie (“I love you”), or use coercion (“I’ll break up with you if you don’t”), to get sex.
  • Damage to the ability to trust can also occur. “Young people who feel used or betrayed after the break-up of a sexual relationship may experience difficulty trusting in future relationships” (Lickona, 2007, para 76).
  • Stunted personal development is another consequence Lickona identifies (2007). When a romantic relationship becomes sexual, teenagers tend to become so absorbed that other important relationships are neglected, and opportunities are missed which may never come again.
  • Depression is one of the most serious consequences of adolescents’ becoming sexually involved (Lickona, 2007). New research in the area of neuroscience has revealed that sexual activity triggers the release of powerful bonding hormones in both males and females (Bush, 2008; see also McElhaney, 2010). When the sexual partners are in a committed relationship, these bonds promote harmony and joy; but for non-committed couples, such bonding becomes the source of pain and despair. When these relationships come to an end, at least one of the partners will most likely experience a profound sense of loss, betrayal, and abandonment.

Most adolescents begin to engage sexually in the context of a romantic relationship because they believe they have found their one true love with whom they will share the rest of their lives. The likelihood is that the relationship will end before long, however, because throughout adolescence and early adulthood, the human personality changes rapidly. The biggest changes in personality traits occur from childhood through the 20s (Dahl, 2014, para. 7). The brain, also, is not fully developed until people reach their mid20s (“Understanding”, n.d., para. 2-3). Studies have shown that the median duration of adolescent romantic relationships is between 12 and 16 months (Karney, 2007, p. 20).

The powerful emotional bonding that occurs when romantic relationships become sexual, together with the transient nature of teenage romances, has resulted in a drastic increase in depression among sexually involved teens. Teenage boys who are sexually active are more than twice as likely to be depressed compared to those who are not sexually active (Rector, 2003). The outlook is even more dismal for sexually active girls, who are more than three times more likely to be depressed than are girls who are not sexually active (Rector, 2003).

A full quarter (25.3 percent) of teenage girls who are sexually active report that they are depressed all, most, or a lot of the time. By contrast, only 7.7 percent of teenage girls who are not sexually active report that they are depressed all, most, or a lot of the time. (Rector, 2003a, para. 11)

In the two charts below, Rector (2003a, para. 11) breaks down the data taken from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, Wave II, 1996:

Kanski #1        Kansk;i #2

  •  Lickona also warns about the clear link between sexual activity among teens and attempted suicides (2007). Girls who are sexually active are almost three times more likely to attempt suicide than are non-sexually active girls. Over 14 percent of sexually active girls report having attempted suicide, compared to only 5.1 percent of sexually inactive girls. Boys who are sexually active are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than are non-sexually active boys. Six percent of sexually active boys have attempted suicide, compared to only 0.7 percent of sexually inactive boys who have attempted suicide (Rector, 2003a).

RELATIONAL RISKS

  • Another of the most serious repercussions of teenage sexual involvement is the negative effects on marriage (Lickona, 2007). As detailed above, when people engage sexually with another person, their brains release hormones that cause them to bond and emotionally attach to the person with whom they engage. However, if they unattach from that person and reattach to another sexual partner, once or perhaps even multiple times, the ability to stay attached is significantly weakened, and “it is common for the first bond to haunt all future relationships” (Joy, 1985, p. 59).

Studies have shown that when people have had multiple sexual partners before marriage, they are more likely to divorce because they actually weaken the pathways that are necessary to attach at the deep and necessary emotional level important for marriage. (Bush, 2008, para. 13)

With repeated attaching and unattaching, the brain actually gets molded not to

accept the deep emotional bonding that is necessary for a lasting commitment.

“One huge result for the permissive is that when they do marry, they’re more likely to have a divorce than people who were virgins when they got married” (McIlhaney, 2010, para.13).

Sociologist, Jay Teachman, conducted a study to determine the association between premarital sex, premarital cohabitation, and the risk of divorce among women. Teachman concluded that “intimate premarital relationships with other men are associated with a substantial increase in the likelihood of divorce” (2003, p. 445).

TIPS FOR COUNSELING TEENAGERS ABOUT SEX

Faced with a cultural environment in which casual sex is the norm, how can we equip our teenagers and young adults to make good sexual choices which will promote happiness and emotional well-being, while protecting their futures and their future marriages? Lickona quotes the rationale of one college senior, who expresses a moral ambiguity common in our contemporary culture, “I got sexually involved because I couldn’t answer the question, Why shouldn’t  I have sex?’” (Lickona, 2004b, p. 5).

In order to abstain from premature sex, young people need internallyheld convictions about why it makes sense to save sexual intimacy for a truly committed relationship, with support from their families and their faith communities to live out these convictions (Lickona, 2004b, p. 4).

Kanski #3

1. Link to personal happiness

First of all, young people should be told that sexual activity in teen years is clearly linked to reduced personal happiness. Teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly less likely to be happy, compared to teens who are not sexually active. The next “Depression and Sexual Activity” table illustrates the findings of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, Wave II, 1996 (Rector, 2003a).

Rector notes that “a full 60.2 percent of sexually inactive girls report that they “rarely or never” feel depressed. For sexually active teen girls, the number is far lower: only 36.8 percent” (2003a, para.13). For either gender, however, the data makes it clear that adolescents who are not sexually active are markedly happier than those who are active.

The impact of sexual activity on personal happiness persists even into adulthood. A report entitled, “The Harmful Effects of Early Sexual Activity and Multiple Sexual Partners Among Women,” found the following:
“an inverse relationship between personal happiness and the number of lifetime non-marital sexual partners. The greater the number of non-marital sex partners, the lower the probability of personal happiness” (Rector, 2003b, p. 20).
Fifty-six percent of women who have had sex only with men they married report that they are “very happy, while only 37 percent of women with five non-marital sex partners report that they are very happy (2003b).

The report also found that delaying sexual activity is linked to greater happiness. More than half the women who waited until their mid-20’s to have sex reported that they are “very happy(Rector, 2003b, p.13). The younger a woman was when she began sexual activity, the less likely she was to report high levels of happiness. Only a third of women who began sexual activity as young teenagers reported that they were currently “very happy” (2003b, p.13).

2. The Link to a happy marriage

Most teenagers report that they dream of being happily married someday (Lickona, 2007). In light of this fact, teens need to be told about the link between abstinence and the prospects for a future happy and stable marriage.

They should be taught to ask themselves the following question, before they consider engaging in any sexual activity: 

“What sexual decisions at this point in my life will help me realize my dream of a happy marriage? What problems might this sexual intimacy cause for me or my eventual marriage? What precious gift am I stealing from my future spouse?” (2007, para 14).

The Bible exhorts, “Let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Heb. 13:4). Fornication, or pre-marital sex, is one way the marriage bed is defiled. Many married men and women, report having flashbacks to earlier sexual encounters, along with the tendency, sometimes beyond their control, to compare their spouse with previous partners (McDowell, 1987, pp. 285-288). As McDowell observes, “Our sexual experiences seem to be written in ‘indelible ink’ in our memories, never to be erased” (1987, p. 286).

The following chart illustrates that over 80% of women who never had a sexual partner other than with their husbands were in a stable marriage. By contrast, women who had even one sexual partner prior to her husband were significantly less likely to have a stable marriage. The greater the increase in the number of non-marital sex partners, the lower the probability of marriage stability (Rector, 2003b, p. 18). 

                 Kanski Big Chart

The emotional and spiritual bond that is created between two people through the sexual act is too precious to be exploited for the sake of a transient, uncommitted liaison. “Marriage is essential to provide an adequate protection for the jewel of pair bonding in a relationship” (Joy, 1985, p. 54).

3. Don’t believe the hype

Young people need to be told not to believe the hype that “everyone’s doing it.” Joe McIlhaney, MD, founder of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, excoriates the Planned Parenthood organization for bombarding kids and parents with the distortion that “essentially all high school students will be having sex by the time of graduation” (McIlhaney, 2015). The truth is that “nationwide stats show that the majority of kids in high school are still virgins” (2015, para.6).

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s latest data: High school students who have not had sexual intercourse are now in the majority (53%), and have been for the past 15 years (“Trends,” 2013). And of those who have had sex, nearly three-quarters of teen girls and nearly two-thirds of all teens admit that they wished they had waited longer before becoming sexually active. (Rector, 2003a).

Young people also need to be told not to believe the hype that virgins are looked down upon or stigmatized by their peers. In 2014, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy conducted a survey of attitudes and opinions of young adults regarding virginity and sexual experiences (“Virginity,” 2015). The survey found that young adults’ attitudes toward virginity are positive ones. Less than 1 percent of young adults say they think less of someone their age who has not had sex, and 46 percent of young adults say they “feel respect” for other young adults who have not had sex. Eighty-six percent say it is important for young teens to know that “it’s okay to be a virgin when you graduate from high school” (2015, para. 2).

4. Explain the benefits of waiting

It’s important to help teens realize the physical and emotional dangers of premature sex; however, too often, we leave them ill-equipped to face the inevitable temptation because we have not also made them aware of the rewards of saving sex for a truly committed love relationship.

  • Waiting will improve the quality of a couple’s relationships because they will spend more time getting to know each other.
  • Waiting will increase a person’s self-respect.
  • Waiting preserves a clear conscience and provides peace of mind, with no guilt,  conflicts, and no regrets.
  • Waiting will help people to find the right mate, one who will value them for the person they are.
  • By waiting, people develop character, and they will be able to attract a person of character, the kind of person people want to spend their lives with.

When a young adult does find the right person, waiting will allow the bond between the couple to grow deep and strong enough to last a lifetime.  Finally, Likona makes the following observation:

  • Waiting results in a better sexual relationship in marriage — free of comparisons and based on trust. By waiting, a person is being faithful to his other spouse even before meeting him or her. (Lickona, 2007)

Professional Counselor, Debra Fileta, elaborates this last point on her blogpost entitled, 5 Reasons Married Sex is Best!:

1.) Married Sex offers Unmatched Emotional Intimacy:

The commitment of marriage provides a safety that allows two people to be totally vulnerable to one another, which leads to great emotional intimacy, and the deeper the emotional connection between two people, the greater the sexual intimacy.

2.) Married Sex Provides An Ongoing Psychological Connection:

The beautiful thing about marital sex is that it’s not actually about the sex; it’s about something so much bigger, and greater, and more meaningful. It’s about a constant connection with another human being throughout the journey of life. This deep psychological connection between two people who truly know, love, serve, and sacrifice for one another spills out into sex and turns it into something more meaningful than anything Hollywood can muster.

3.) Married Sex Thrives in the Safety and Security of a Forever Commitment:

 Like anything worthwhile in life, a deep and meaningful sexual relationship takes time, effort, and a whole lot of practice. The beauty of marital sex as God intended for it to be is that there’s no rush. There is time to learn, time to grow, time to savor, and time to enjoy.

4.) Married Sex Maximizes the Physical Pleasures of Familiarity:

To know and be known is one of life’s most amazing gifts. Within the familiarity of marriage, we are more than free to try new things, but we’re also free to enjoy the same things again, and again. Gone is the pressure to “look perfect” or to “be an expert” because within the familiarity of a healthy marriage you are already known, already loved, already desired, and already accepted just as you are.

5.) Married Sex Involves a Supernatural Spiritual Oneness:

The beauty of sex within the framework of a loving, committed, God-honoring marriage is that there is a love present that surpasses all understanding. It’s an unconditional love between two people that overflows into their life, into their marriage, and into their bedroom. (Fileta, 2015)

5. Parental involvement.

The final tip for parents in counseling their teenagers about sex is, don’t underestimate your influence in their lives. It is hard to believe, sometimes, that you have any impact on their behavior, especially when they don’t seem to care or even want to hear what you say, and may at times seem to be ignoring you altogether, but the research indicates that parents do strongly influence their teens’ sexual behavior (“Parents,” 2015).

In survey after survey, children report that they want to talk to their parents about their sex-related questions, that it would be easier to delay sexual activity and avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents, and that parents influence their decisions about sex more than friends do. (“Tips,” 2015, para. 4)

  • Parental Guidance: Teenagers whose parents discussed the social and moral consequences of being sexually active are more likely to be abstinent, and youths whose parents talked to them about what is right and wrong in sexual behavior are far more likely to be abstinent than those whose parents did not (“Parents,” 2015). Research also shows that teens are significantly affected when parents strongly disapprove of their being sexually active (“Parents,” 2015), so it’s important to be clear and specific about family beliefs and values about sex, and to communicate those plainly. Also, be ready to explain why you have those beliefs and values.
  • Parental Monitoring: Children whose parents monitor them more closely are less likely to be sexually active when they are in their teens” (“Parents,” 2015). Rules and curfews should be clear and lovingly reinforced. Openly and respectfully discuss with your teenagers the standard of behavior you expect from them. And know what your kids are watching, reading, and listening to. TV shows, movies, music videos, magazines, and the internet are saturated with material sending the wrong messages. “Young adults list Mediaas the main source of pressure to be become sexually active(“Virginity,” 2015, para 5).

It is common in our current culture to hear people talk about “safe sex. A recent Google search brought up websites entitled “Safe Sex for Teens,” “A Woman’s Guide to Safe Sex Basics,” and, “10 Ways to Make Safe Sex Fun.” The truth is, however, there is no such thing safe sex outside of marriage. Sex is too powerful to ever be “safe,” because with every sexual encounter we give a part of ourselves to another person.

In the current culture, sex may often seem like a casual thing. But sex is an act that is full of consequences. Sex, as one philosopher observed, is essentially deep. That’s a very good reason to save it for marriage, the deepest and most loving commitment two people can make to each other. (Lickona, 2004b).

REFERENCES

Bush, F., & McIlhaney, J. (2008) “Hooked: The Bonding Power of Sex.” Retrieved December 9 2015, from FamilyLife Web Site:mhttp://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/parenting/challenges/sexua -purity/hooked-the-bonding-power-of-sex.

Dahl, M. (2014, November 24).  “How Much Can You Really Change After You Turn 30?” Retrieved December 9 2015, from NYMag.com Web Site: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/11/how-much-can-you-really-change-after-30.html#.

Davis, S. F., & Buskist, W. F. (Eds.) . (2008). 21st Century Psychology: A Reference Handbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Fileta, D. (2015). “5 Reasons Married Sex is Best!” Retrieved December 9 2015, from True Love Dates Website: http://truelovedates.com/5-reasons-married-sex-is-best/.

Holy Bible, English Standard Version. (2007). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Joy, D. (1985). Bonding: Relationships in the Image of GodWaco, TX: Word Books Publisher.

Karney, B., Beckett, M., Collins, R., Shaw, R. (2007). Adolescent Romantic Relationships as Precursors of Healthy Adult Marriages. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation.

Lickona, T. (2004a). Character Matters: How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgment, Integrity, and Other Essential Virtues. New York: Touchstone.

Lickona, T. (2004b). How to Talk to Kids About Sex, Love, and Character.

Retrieved December 9 2015, from The State University of New York Cortland Website: https://www2.cortland.edu/dotAsset/20ec200d-f585-4968-b1d2-c439fb2622e3.pdf.

Lickona, T. (2007). “The Neglected Heart: The Emotional Dangers of Premature Sexual Involvement.” Retrieved December 9 2015, from Catholic Education Resource Center Website: http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/marriage-and-family/sexuality/the-neglected-heart-the-emotional-dangers-of-premature-sexual involvement.html.

McDowell, J., & Day, D. (1987). Why Wait?: What You Need to Know about the Teenage Sexuality Crisis. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

McIlhaney, J. (2010) “Sexually Indulgent Now, Marriage Ruined Later?” Retrieved December 9 2015, from CBN News Website: http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2010/march/sexually-indulgent-now-marriage-ruined-later/?mobile=false.

McIlhaney, J. (2015). “Comprehensive Sex Ed Curricula Distorts Truth.” Retrieved December 9 2015, from the Medical Institute for Sexual Health Website: https://www.medinstitute.org/2015/07/comprehensive-sex-ed-curricula-distorts-truth/.

Mintle, L. (2011). “Helping Your Young Adult Resist Pre-marital Sex.” Retrieved December 9 2015, from CBN Family Matters Website:http://blogs.cbn.com/familymatters/archive/2011/09/01/helping-your-young-adult-resist-pre-marital-sex.asp.

“Parents Influence on Adolescents Sexual Behavior.” (2015). Retrieved December 9 2015, from The Heritage Foundation Website: http://www.familyfacts.org/briefs/42/parents-influence-on-adolescents-sexual-behavior.

Rector, R. E., Johnson, K., & Noyes, L. R. (2003a). “Sexually Active Teenagers Are More Likely to Be Depressed and to Attempt Suicide.” Retrieved December 9 2015, from Center for Data Analysis Website: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2003/06/sexually-active- teenagers-are-more-likely-to-be-depressed#_ftn1.

Rector, R. E., Johnson, K. A., Noyes, L. R., & Martin, S. (2003b). The Harmful Effects of Early Sexual Activity and Multiple Sexual Partners Among Women: A Book of Charts. Retrieved December 9, 2015 from The Heritage Foundation Website: http://s3.amazonaws.com/thf_media/2003/pdf/Bookofcharts.pdf

Teachman, J. (2003). “Premarital sex, premarital cohabitation, and the risk of subsequent marital dissolution among women.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 65(2), 444-455

“Tips for Parents.” (2015). Retrieved December 9 2015, from Office of Adolescent Health Website: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/teen-pregnancy/tips-for-parents.html.

“Trends in the Prevalence of Sexual Behaviors and HIV Testing National YRBS: 1991—2013.” Retrieved December 9, 2015 from YRBSS CDC Website: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/trends/us_sexual_trend_yrbs.pdf.

“Understanding the Teen Brain.” (n.d.). In University of Rochester Medical Center Health Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 9 2015, from University of Rochester Medical Center Web Site: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=3051.

“Virginity Revisited.” (2015). Retrieved December 9 2015, from Medical Institute for Sexual Health Websitehttps://www.medinstitute.org/2015/06/virginity-revisited/.

 

The Kingdom of God: Revelation, Part VI

The Sixth Vision: Chapters 17-19

The Sixth Vision John describes in the Book of Revelation begins in Chapter 17 and continues through Chapter 19. This vision shows only the end of the cyclical tableau of seven visions John is shown. Rather than beginning with the first coming of Christ and revealing the warnings and judgments of the Gospel’s being sent to the world, however, this vision focuses on the end result of the judgments of God against Babylon.

Please understand that our purpose is not to dissect the text and try to understand every symbolic meaning and metaphoric element. Instead, it is more productive to get a comprehensive overview of the entire book to see how it relates not only to the Church today, but also to the Church of the whole Body of Christ that has come before us.

Two overriding metaphors are used in this vision to reveal the ultimate purposes of God.  Two women and two cities appear: first, the Bride of Christ, the Church, and the Harlot, Mystery Babylon; second, two cities also are in evidence, the New Jerusalem and Babylon. Just as the figure of the harlot and the virgin are seen as contrasting opposites, the Book of Revelation also speaks of two contrasting cities: Babylon and New Jerusalem.

The Harlot in Proverbs

John first compares Babylon to a “harlot,” and typical of a woman who sleeps with many men in exchange for money, this “woman” personifies spiritual corruption and contrasts with the purity of the other woman in the Book of Revelation, the Bride of Christ, or the Church.

The book of Proverbs portrays a harlot as a seductress to the vulnerable young man, seeking to lead him astray from wisdom and understanding. She uses the cover of darkness and the temptations of love and sexual pleasure to lead a young person to depart from wise behaviors.

Above all, the harlot in Proverbs is an advocate for false wisdom, a wisdom that leads to destruction rather than blessing. Spiritually, the harlot offers false wisdom as a means of obtaining wealth and power.

Lucifer’s deception in the Garden of Eden was that Adam and Eve  would not die as a result of disobedience, but they would become “like God,” knowing good and evil, and hence become the masters of their own destiny.

This deception has become the basis for all false religions, including atheism and agnosticism, as well as the false religions of both the past and the present, particularly occultism and sorcery.

Harlots in Isaiah and Jeremiah

The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah both referred to Israel, Judah, or Jerusalem as a harlot or an unfaithful woman who commits adultery, for she was judged faithless and filled with selfish unrighteousness and even murder.

How the faithful city has become a harlot,
She who was full of justice!
Righteousness once lodged in her,
But now murderers. (Isaiah 1:21)

Then the Lord said to me in the days of Josiah the king, “Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there. I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:6-10)

Babylon, the Harlot

Since the Bride in Revelation is a clear portrayal of the Church of Christ Jesus, numerous attempts have been made to identify the harlot in Revelation as representing some religions such as Catholicism or Islam, for example.

Unfortunately, many expositors of John’s Book of Revelation typically interpret the mysteries too narrowly, according to their own perspectives, rather than understanding that Revelation was written for the whole Church of all ages.

In this case, therefore, the vision is interpreted by the angel speaking to John himself. Although the angel declares that the  harlot is  a mystery, the angel provides the meaning of the mystery:

And on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Revelation 17:5)

The angel further explains the mystery of the woman, saying,

The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.  (Revelation 17:18)

This interpretive key, along with the name of the harlot, tells us that Babylon is related not only to the stories of ancient Babylon in the Book of Daniel, but also to the story of Babel’s tower in Genesis 11:1-9:

 Mystery Babylon

In the original Hebrew texts, the names for “Babel” and “Babylon” were the same, essentially “Bbl,” since no vowels were used.  We can conclude, therefore, that the two cities were the same.  Thus, the Hebrew word translated “Babylon” is bâbel, which is the same word used in the book of Genesis that refers to the tower of Babel.

Using this story as a backdrop, therefore, we see that Mystery Babylon in Revelation represents the great city of historical Babylon, a city that symbolically depicts the attempts of humans to be equal with God and to elevate themselves to the sphere of divine beings.  They had swallowed the lie that they would be like gods, and their hope was manifested by building a tower they believed would reach into heaven.

Thus, Mystery Babylon in Revelation represents both a city and a harlot of false religion, one that supposedly helps humans find the divine from within themselves, rather than finding justification and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

The Tower of Babel

After the flood of Noah, the city of Babel was ruled by Nimrod, under whose leadership the tower was built.  Despite God’s desire that the people separate and inhabit the whole earth, Nimrod collected the people to himself, even building a ziggurat, or tower, to negate the possibility of a future flood in defiance of any future judgment of a flood from God.

Nimrod was the son of Cush, the grandson of Ham, and great-grandson of Noah.  Genesis describes him  as “a mighty one in the earth” and “a mighty hunter before the Lord” (Genesis 10:8-9).

Here is the story of the Tower of Babel as it is found in Genesis:

Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.

An interesting article by biblical archaeologist Dr. David P. Livingston attempts to show that Nimrod was a fierce opponent of Yahweh.  Livingston proposes that Nimrod is not the man’s true name, which was a derogatory pseudonym, but that he was the one named Gilgamesh in the ancient epic.

First, what does the name Nimrod mean? It comes from the Hebrew verb marad, meaning “rebel.” Adding an “n” before the “m” it becomes an infinitive construct, “Nimrod.” (see Kautzsch 1910: 137 2b, also BDB 1962: 597). The meaning then is “The Rebel.” Thus “Nimrod” may not be the character’s name at all. It is more likely a derisive term of a type, a representative, of a system that is epitomized in rebellion against the Creator, the one true God. (See http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/nimrod.html)

Another legend concrning Nimrod is detailed by Josephus, the Jewish/Roman historian, who claimed that Nimrod’s city of Babel was constructed in defiance of Yahweh:

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. . . . He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to reach. And that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nimrod)

Thus, the stories of Nimrod and Babel lead us to the image of “Mystery Babylon” in Revelation, particularly the associations with autocratic governments, rebellion against God, blasphemy, and religious occultism. Consequently, we are able to understand more fully the symbolic images of Babylon, as the great city and the harlot, in the vision that John sees in Revelation.

The Harlot Rides on a Beast

The angel in John’s vision relates that the citizens of this Mystery Babylon will wage war against the Lamb and those who are with Him, those called “chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. (Revelation 17:8)

This description is uniquely mysterious.  I suggest that it relates to a parallel story about Lucifer.

We understand that Satan became the prince of this Earth after Adam’s sin, for Adam gave him his authority over the earth.  The three temptations of Christ confirm this assumed authority, for Satan the tempter declares that he will give Jesus the kingdoms of this world in exchange for His worship (see Matthew 4:1-11).  Of course, Jesus does not succumb to the lies of the devil, choosing instead to use the sword of the spirit, the Word of God in opposition.

Satan was then ultimately defeated by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and the kingdoms of this world were indeed given over to the Messiah, who declared that “all power is given to me in Heaven and Earth (Matthew 28:18-20).  Though Satan fell “like lightning” from Heaven, he will arise from perdition for just a little while, only to be defeated again and finally imprisoned in Hell.  (We will study this in a future chapter of Revelation, specifically Chapter 20.)

Victory for the Lamb

Again in John’s vision, the sixth we have studied, there is a call for repentance and for all who are redeemed to come away from the spiritual domains of the Harlot:  

I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Revelation 18:4-5)

The kings and merchants of the earth will mourn over Babylon, the Harlot, for they will no longer be able to access her luxuries or sell their goods to her.

“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.” Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer. (18:20-21)

The destruction of Mystery Babylon, the Harlot, is decreed not only because of her corruption and rebellion, but also because of her persecution of the saints of the true Church of Christ:

And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24)

The Bride of Christ

I’m constantly amazed at how perfectly God’s plans merge together into an astounding harmony throughout the Scriptures.  For example, just as Eve was formed out of the side of the first Adam in Genesis 2, the Bride of Christ, the Church, was formed out of the side of the second Adam, Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:45).

The Body of Christ, or the Church, was formed, therefore, as a result of Christ’s willingness to give His life through crucifixion and even to take the penalty in Hell for our sin.  At the time of His death, out of His side flowed water and blood to give us life in Him.

In Chapter 19 of Revelation, therefore, we see the Bride of Christ, the Church, ready to be married to the Lamb, or Christ Jesus.

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 true words of God.” (Revelation 19:7-9)  

Our union with Christ as a marriage is a great mystery, wrote the Apostle Paul, for we are members of His body, having been formed from His resurrection. (Eph. 5:32).  We next see in Revelation, therefore, the second coming of Christ, not only to receive His Bride, but also to defeat finally the forces of Satan.

 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, brightand clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:7-8)

Christ appears with His saints, also riding white horses, and the name written on His robe and on His thigh was “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.  From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

Forces of Satan Defeated

We then see the forces and powers of darkness defeated, represented by the beast and the false prophet, the symbols of religious and secular opposition to the Kingdom of God.

And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:20-21)

Thus, the sixth vision ends with the destruction of the forces of Satan and the blessed union of Christ with His Bride.

 

A Great Mystery

A Man and a Woman

One of the more enigmatic passages in the writings of the Apostle Paul concerns his teachings on marriage.  In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reveals a mystery to the church and instructs the believers concerning the marriage relationship, stating that it is like the relationship between Christ and His Body, the Church:

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:28-33)

In many places in the Old Testament, the Old Covenant, the Lord God is described as a “husband” to Israel, as in the following passage:  

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like thecovenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

This new promise is fulfilled in the New Covenant, the New Testament, where Jesus Christ is compared to the bridegroom, and the Church is compared to His bride.  Even Jesus compares Himself to a bridegroom, such as in the following passage from Luke’s Gospel:

And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” (Luke 5:33-34)

The Covenant Relationship

The basis of this comparison, I believe, is the nature of the covenant relationship portrayed in the Scriptures.  One of the clearest examples is the covenant Jonathan, King Saul’s son and heir, makes with David, who at the time was merely a shepherd:

Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt. (I Samuel. 18:1-4)

The making of a covenant is portrayed in many other places in the Scriptures.  This sealing of a covenant literally means “to cut,” and the cutting entails the bleeding or shedding of blood as the basis of this sealing.  A covenant was “cut” when two people passed between the cut carcasses of slain animals after making an agreement together.

This ceremony is described in the Book of Jeremiah, where the prophet speaks against those Israelites who have violated God’s covenant by not releasing their captives:  

Yet you turned andprofaned My name, and each man took back his male servant and each man his female servant whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought them into subjection to be your male servants and female servants.. . .I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not fulfilled the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between its parts— the officials of Judah and the officials of Jerusalem, the court officers and the priests and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf.  (Jeremiah 34:16, 18-19)

Such a ceremony describes the making of a covenant in the Old Testament, and the parties might also have shared a meal as well, such as when Laban and Jacob made their covenant promising not to do harm to one another:  “I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.”(Genesis 31:52-3).

 

God’s Unilateral Covenant with Abram

For example, God’s covenant with Abram is sealed by the cutting of animals in two pieces.  God has made many promises to Abram, but Abram wants assurance.  How can he know for certain that God will do what He promises?  The following passage is lengthy, but well worth the reading, so think about reading the entire chapter when you can:

And He said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?” So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds.The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away. (Genesis 15:8-)

Abram is weary from making the preparations for the sealing of the covenant and defending the pieces of the animals from predators.  Therefore, Abram  falls into a sleep slumber.  Then God speaks to him:

“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:13-16)

After making these promises to Abram, the Lord seals the covenant by moving between the pieces of the animals.  He does this alone, and Abram does not pass through the pieces, revealing that the covenant is unilateral.  It is a promise of God, to be fulfilled by Him alone:

It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. . .”  (Genesis 15:8-18)

Again, this covenant was essentially unilateral, or one-way, because Abram did not himself pass through the separated pieces.  Only God alone in the form of the oven and the torch passed through the animals.  Thus, it was only necessary for Abram to accept God’s offers by faith and allow the Lord to fulfill His promises.  

The covenant was renewed in subsequent renderings due to the disobedience of Abram’s descendants.  The covenant relationship between God and Israel is described as a “marriage,” but ultimately because of Israel’s “harlotry,” God divorces Israel, yet declares that He will make a new covenant:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

 

Christ’s Covenant With His Bride, the Church

In a similar way, Jesus Christ made a covenant with all who would accept Him.  In fact, Jesus Christ was the “mediator” of this better covenant Jeremiah describes, one better than the one made with Abraham (See Hebrews 7:22, 8:6, 12:24).  Jesus Himself was the “lamb of God,” sacrificed to establish this covenant by giving His life for us.  

This covenant is revealed in many places in the New Testament, particularly in the Book of Hebrews, but also in the Gospels where Jesus shared a meal with His disciples, when He said, “This is the new covenant in My blood” (Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20).

When Paul recited the account he had received from the Holy Spirit concerning the Last Supper, he quoted these words of Jesus speaking about the cup as “the new covenant in My blood” (I Corinthians 11:25).  This new covenant accomplished what the old could not, for it was made on the basis of better promises, including the removal of sin and the cleansing of the conscience:  

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

 

The Marriage Covenant

Today, one rarely hears about two people cutting a covenant to become blood brothers.  The closest comparison we have to a Bible blood covenant today is the one Paul describes in Ephesians, a marriage between a man and a woman.

Just as in the more usual bilateral biblical covenants, in a marriage one party making the covenant with the other says, “What I have is yours and what you have is mine.”  Everything is shared, even the hardships and difficult times, hence the “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” vow recited at ceremonial marriage “covenants.”

Unfortunately, today the marriage covenant has been diluted by “prenuptial agreements” and tacit understandings that “If things don’t work out, we will separate.”  

In a true covenant, the parties are “all in,”  and both parties can fully count on the resources of the other participant if they have need of them, just as David received Jonathan’s weapons and armor, and Jonathan’s son was received as a son into David’s house.  This was how Bible covenants worked, and this is how marriages should work today.

Unfortunately, while sexual practices today have descended into the depths of depravity and have led to the diminishing of the marriage covenant itself, the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, the Husband of the Body of Christ the Church, is everlasting for all who will call upon Him and turn to Him in repentance and loving commitment.

 

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