We hear the expression, “smoke and mirrors” that emphasize situations where things are not as they initially appear, often involving deception, illusion, or manipulation.
“Smoke and mirrors” may have its origin in magic shows, but it also applies to politicians and advertising campaigns.
The war in Ukraine has introduced us to the concept of the “fog of war.” That phrase refers to the confusion and lack of clear information that characterizes the realities of warfare.
With both “smoke and mirrors” and the “fog of war,” it is difficult to ascertain the truth.
The Book of Revelation wipes away the smoke and fog of our world events. It shows the true reality behind the posturing of those in charge.
The “Great Whore” Used, but Hated
The first readers of Revelation recognized the “great whore” as Rome. Modern readers recognize the “great whore” as any world power that exists for its own sake in opposition to God’s purposes.
Rome and oppressive governments use people. This is what is meant by the “whore” being seated above people.
And he said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the whore is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages” (Revelation 17.15).
What is next shown to be true in Revelation may seem strange, but upon reflection will be very accurate.
And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the whore; they will make her desolate and naked; they will devour her flesh and burn her up with fire (Revelation 17.16).
Revelation 13 describes the beast that would have been understood as the Roman Empire. It may seem very odd that the beast (the Roman Empire) would hate the “great whore” (Rome).
In the “smoke and mirrors” and “fog” of this phenomenon, John’s vision presents a timeless truth – evil is self-destroying.
Examples from History
The book “Why Nations Fail” is a detailed historical account of nations that should have thrived, but failed.
Failed nations have one thing in common. The powerful of the nation extract resources of labor and wealth from the less powerful. Here are but a few examples of what the authors call “extractive wealth.”
— Kings demanded that serfs work the land at starvation wages to fill their coffers with more and more money.
— The slave trade reduced Africans to go to war against other Africans to obtain slaves for the slave market.
The extractive economy that took resources from Africa and transplanted them to the West was ultimately destructive in the West, too. The American Civil War is but one example of its destructive effect.
— Fierce opposition to innovation. Inventors of the steam engine, printing press, and railroad were all strongly opposed by vested interests who profited from the status quo.
— The Ottoman Empire (nations like Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, and Turkey) refused to allow a printing press to be used in its realm for centuries. As a result, persons in the empire were 95+ percent illiterate.
“Why Nations Fail” is a detailed, fascinating, and troubling book on how a select few dominate the majority for their own ends.
Two aspects of a destructive world’s system are extractive economies and resistance to creative destruction.
Extractive economies favor a small number of individuals over the majority. Russian oligarchs travel the world in luxurious private yachts, while 2/3 of Russian households still don’t have indoor plumbing.
Creative destruction is a term I learned from the authors. I typed seven years of papers in college and seminary on a manual Underwood typewriter.
The only place where that sort of typewriter can be found is at an antique store or museum. It has been replaced by the computer.
One day, fossil fuels will be replaced by green energy. “Fossil fuel” and “green energy” are highly charged terms. Creative destruction is at play concerning energy.
Billions of dollars are invested in the fossil fuel economy. They see “green energy” as a serious threat to their economy.
Will the fossil fuel industry be like the Ottoman Empire and resist change for years?
Whether you agree with my summary of the book or not, the issue for followers of Jesus is to be aligned with him and to resist the influence of the world’s system. That is not an easy thing to do.
Let’s remember that the world’s system contains within itself the ability to self-destruct.
Verse 17 states that God is behind the destruction of the beast and the “great whore.”
“For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by agreeing to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled
“The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17.17-18).
Why is it that God put it into their hearts to self-destruct? Here are two eternal principles that determine our fate.
(1) Jesus stated an eternal principle when he told his followers, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mark 8.35).
Rome, the Roman Empire, and every powerful entity like them will experience destruction because live to “save their lives.”
Only those who “lose their lives” for the sake of Christ and his gospel will save them.
(2) On a positive note, Jesus said: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap, for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6.38).
Givers become receivers. Self-giving love is the law of God’s universe.
When we live in self-giving love, we create an environment for God’s blessings.
When we live in self-love, self-satisfaction, and all of the other self-orientated behaviors we run contrary to God’s basic principles.
We become like the beast and the “great whore,” destined for self-destruction.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. It is on the Bob Spradling channel.