How a Prepositional Phrase Encouraged my Heart

“What?” you say. A prepositional phrase? How can something so mundane and ordinary be a source of encouragement? Good question. Here’s a good answer.

Revelation 17 is an ugly chapter. I’m not being critical of God’s inspired and infallible Word. I’m just being honest. When you read Revelation 17 you encounter a “great prostitute” with whom “the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk” (Rev. 17:2). There’s simply no getting around the fact: this is ugly.

But it gets worse. This “great prostitute” is portrayed as “holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality” (Rev. 17:4). She is also “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17:6).

This “great prostitute” is most likely a symbolic image of the religious embodiment of the Beast. She represents all false religions and idolatry and especially the false, apostate “church” of the present age, and uniquely of the end times just before the Second Coming of Jesus.

The “scarlet beast” (Rev. 17:3) on which she rides is likely the political and military embodiment of the Beast. This “scarlet beast,” together with the “ten kings” (Rev. 17:12) will eventually “hate the prostitute” (Rev. 17:16a). In fact, “they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire” (Rev. 17:16b).

Like I said, it’s ugly. And yet there is profound, heart-lifting, soul-celebrating joy in something that is said in conjunction with this horrific portrayal of the religious and political embodiments of the Beast and their judgment that will occur when the Lord Jesus Christ returns.

The angel tells John, and John tells us, that these enemies of truth and righteousness “will make war on the Lamb,” that is, on Jesus. But “the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev. 17:14a).

In other words, in the midst of this horrific and ugly portrayal of Satan and the Beast and the Great Prostitute whose aim collectively is to seduce and destroy the people of God and thus to undermine the kingdom of King Jesus, we should be encouraged by the reminder that our Lord is the “Lord of lords” and that our King is the “King of kings” and that he “will conquer” (v. 14) and “his purpose” (v. 17) will be fulfilled.

But more than that, we will participate with Jesus in his defeat of the Beast. Here is where that wonderful prepositional phrase comes into play.

Listen again closely to Revelation 17:14. “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” Did you see it? Jesus isn’t alone when he conquers. “With him” are his people, those whom he has “called.” We who are the “chosen” of God, we who by God’s grace are “faithful” are there to share in Christ’s victory! Thus we see that in the midst of all this ugliness and idolatry and immorality the people of God stand firmly in their identity. No matter what the Beast may do, he cannot reverse our calling. He cannot negate our being chosen. He cannot undermine our faithfulness to Jesus. No matter how bad conditions may get, no matter how ugly and idolatrous and immoral our society may become, never lose sight of who you are! You are “called and chosen and faithful.”

But there is more to this than simply the fact that we will be witnesses to the victory of Christ over Satan and his henchmen. I think this glorious prepositional phrase (“with him”) suggests that we will be participants or co-combatants with Jesus in his defeat and judgment of his enemies. I don’t know how that will work. I do know that, as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4, when Jesus returns to this earth “God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess. 4:14b). That is, those who have died in faith and are now present with Christ in heaven will accompany Jesus at his return. Paul also says that the generation of Christians who are alive when Christ returns “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17a).

Then what? Then the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of lords, and King of kings, will, together with all the saints of every age, continue his descent to earth and bring final judgment on all his enemies. And we will be “with him”! With him! There not only to watch but to be utilized in some manner to secure his victory.

This scenario is confirmed in Revelation 19. There we read of the Second Coming of Christ in these terms: “And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses” (Rev. 19:14). Again in v. 19 John says, “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army.”

Surely the “armies of heaven” arrayed in fine linen is a reference to the people of God, to us, to the redeemed of all ages, against whom the Beast wages war. And we are “with him,” that is, with Jesus, at his return when he executes judgment against Satan and the Beast.

Do you see now how and why this mundane yet marvelous prepositional phrase (“with him”) is the source of such incomparable encouragement and excitement and gratitude? For all the ugliness and depravity and abominations that we read about in Revelation 17, the angel reminds us that there is beauty and glory and joy in being “with” Jesus, not only on that climactic day but for eternity! Praise be to God for his amazing grace!

 

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About Sam Storms

Sam Storms is the Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Sam is on the Board of Directors of both Desiring God and Bethlehem College & Seminary, and also serves as a member of the Council of The Gospel Coalition. Sam is President of the Evangelical Theological Society. Visit http://www.samstorms.com