“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke; the earth will grow old like a garment. And those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished.” So spoke the prophet Isaiah in 711B.C.
The entrance of sin into our universe cannot be underestimated. It is a vicious destructive virus that contaminates everything that it touches, including people, planets and the macrocosm itself. The whole enchilada, in other words. There is but one solvent able to wash it away from human hearts—the precious blood of Jesus who “reconciled all things to Himself” (Colossians 1:20).
The earth is many things to each of us. It is a temporary home to humanity—the native venue for our work, our relationships, and our fleeting days. And ultimately earth is the setting of a cosmic combat—its peculiar blend of cold hostility and lingering beauty reminders of what happened since the “apple.” As Isaiah said, it is “growing old like a garment” and requires a complete overhaul before we enter eternity.
So how has the earth been corrupted? One increasingly popular view is found in an environmentalist re-interpretation of the Bible. The verse they most often quote is Revelation 11:18. “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.” The last portion of this verse has become the Magna Carta of a rapidly growing green movement, quoted by ham-fisted environmentalists and church-going pie-baking individuals alike. And it is being grossly taken out of context.
“Destroy (diaphtheiro) them which destroy (diaphtheiro) the earth” reads literally “corrupt them which corrupt the earth. Does that sound familiar? It should. Put your finger there and let’s go to Genesis.
“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Genesis 6:11-12). Revelation 11 is connected to Genesis 6 by no less an authority than Jesus Himself “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37; Luke 17:26). The earth is being corrupted by sin/violence in both cases.
The same word—diaphtheiro— is used in 1 Timothy 6:5 to refer to “men of corrupt minds, destitute of the truth….” Jesus used diaphtheiro to describe what moths do to treasure in Luke 12:33. They corrupt, or defile it. So the problems described in Revelation 11:18 is not that people in the end times are using plastic, fossil fuel and SUV’s, they are defiling the earth with violence and iniquity—just as it was in the days of Noah.
Now let’s look at something fascinating in Revelation 19. There is someone leading out in this collective corruption of the earth.
The Great Harlot
“After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! “For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her” (Revelation 19:1–2).
The great harlot has “corrupted the earth with her fornication.” Do you know who the great harlot is? You do. Do you know what fornication is? In this setting it is spiritual adultery and idolatry! That is the corruption that “destroys” the earth, along with violence and shedding innocent blood. Let’s continue.
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, “with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.… And on her forehead a name was written: Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (Revelation 17:1–4). Let’s take this key over to Revelation 11:18— insert and turn—“click.” It opens.
The great harlot is the conductor of this sin symphony; it is through her influence that the earth is being destroyed, or corrupted. “And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth” (Revelation 18:4). Where? On earth. False worship, intoxication with spiritual errors, and a murderous spirit towards God’s righteous children combine to fill the earth with corruption—or destroy it.
Paul agrees that it is disobedience which defiles (corrupts) the earth. “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience...” (Col. 3:4). God will destroy them which destroy the earth.
“For behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity. The earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain” (Isaiah 26:21). Violence and the shedding of innocent blood is particularly offensive to the Lord. As the blood of Abel cried out to Him, every act of violence and murder is marked by Him who created all things. He destroyed the earth once already because of violence and iniquity (Genesis 6), and the judgment of final fire rewards the collective invoice of human wrath with divine wrath. Paid-in-full. It also cleanses the earth of all iniquity and prepares it for re-creation.
Another clue is that "those who destroy the earth" are contrasted in this poetic section with "your servants, the prophets and saints and all who fear your name." So, as the godly are those who by their spiritual influence preserve the earth ("You are the salt of the earth..."), “destroyers of the earth” would be those who destroy the preservers of truth and righteousness.
It is the 24-elders who utter Revelation 11:18. Are these heavenly brethren issuing a death decree on those who don’t recycle; on individuals who drive Dodge diesel pickup trucks, who use Walmart plastic bags, and burn wood to heat their homes? Yes, according to the new green fervor. Absurd. That is not corrupting the earth, that is corrupting Scripture. It is the 24-elders who give assent to God’s judgment in Revelation 19:1-4. “For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication . . . .”
So where does this green reinterpretation of Revelation 11:18 come from? Romans 1:25 declares that we either worship creation or we worship the Creator. These words have rarely been more relevant than they are today as western culture is being hijacked by a neo-pagan revival of ancient polytheistic religions. This false revivalist movement (neo-paganism) is at the heart of radical environmentalism, the more extreme elements of the social justice movement, and theological liberalism. And these concepts are being smuggled into the church through the emergent movement, and a growing number of progressive leaders/pastors whose minds are charmed by this “new spirituality.”
One of these statements below was made by John Harvey Kellogg, the architect of the Alpha apostasy, one was made by a Pope, and one was made by an ecofeminist theologian. See if you can guess which is which. Extra points if you don’t cheat.
"Faith in Jesus Christ can provide rich resources for an ecological ethic that is critically needed at this time of Earth's distress. In union with the love that creates and embraces all reality and is glimpsed concretely in Jesus Christ's incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection, we need to shape our lives in the knowledge that nature is grounded in the sacred. Salvation encompasses not just human life but all life and the whole cosmos itself."
“It is certainly to be hoped that the time may come when there will be preached, not only in civilized lands, but also in heathen lands, that greater gospel which was sent not to save man out of the world, but to save him from himself in the world, and to save, to rescue, to redeem the world itself, — man, animals, plants, the whole creation.…”
“Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”
- There is a strong contextual link between Revelation 11:18 and Genesis 6:5-7. It is the un-renewed human heart that "destroys “the earth by filling it with iniquity and violence” as in the days of Noah" (Matthew 24:37). The earth will be destroyed not because of a lack of eco-friendly enterprise, but because it is filled with unrighteousness (2 Peter 3:13). On this summary point Jon Paulien concurs in his commentary on Revelation. http://www.thebattleofarmageddon.com/fb_com/Facebook%20Comm%20on%20Rev%2011.pdf
- Second, the earth was destroyed by the great harlot in particular, and in general the open rage and hate of wicked people who are against all that is good. This great work of God, destroying the destroyers, under the trumpet of the seventh angel, is ultimately a matter of joy, for which the elders solemnly give thanks (Revelation 19:2; 17:2, 5). “But the wicked will be cut off from the earth, and the unfaithful will be uprooted from it” (Proverbs 2:22) and, “For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait on the LORD shall inherit the earth [made new]” (Psalms 37:9).
- Third, the problem is not with the creation itself, but with sin. Earth is being crushed under the weight of human sin and evil powers. Thus the images of the earth’s passing are those of refinement and purification—to rid creation of evil. God does not redeem elm trees and limestone—it is people that He redeems.
- Fourth, the promise of refinement or replacement does not necessarily mean that one should not exercise stewardship over the present creation. I point to the resurrection as a parallel. The body is destroyed and raised with a new resurrection body; but this does not mean that one is no longer to care for the present physical body. Man is given dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26-28), and we must avoid all elements of false worship – including attempts to “green” Bible passages into a utopian environmental ethic. Failure to make that distinction will unite us to the fastest growing false religion in the earth—environmentalism. http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/155698/
- In conclusion, the attempt to invest Revelation eleven with an environmentalist worldview is fraudulent— disguising the real causes and consequences of iniquity. It redefines sin in a way that God has not done, substituting an auto-developed green righteousness for the white robes of the saints (Revelation 6:11; 7:9; 7:13). To claim that using fossil fuels, electricity and technological advances compels The Lord to place you on a divine death-row is an extraordinary departure from scriptural honesty. Revelation 11:18 has nothing to do with ecological environmentalism but rather our Father’s divine response to the works of the flesh/sin outlined in Colossians 3 and Galatians 5. His promise to destroy sin, redeem the righteous, and purify the universe is the future given to the saints (Luke 12:32).
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy” (Psalm 115:17-18).