“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:8 NIVUK
“But as for the cowards and unbelieving and abominable [who are devoid of character and personal integrity and practice or tolerate immorality], and murderers, and sorcerers [with intoxicating drugs], and idolaters and occultists [who practice and teach false religions], and all the liars [who knowingly deceive and twist truth], their part will be in the lake that blazes with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Revelation 21:8 AMP
What are “intoxicating drugs”, as described in the Amplified version of this Revelation 21:8? It used to be the fact that alcohol-based beverages were the only way intoxication could be achieved. The first mention we can find of wine in the Bible was when Noah got drunk. We read in Genesis 9:21, “One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent.” But I would think that fermented drinks must have been around before then. Throughout the Bible there seems to be an acceptance of alcohol but accompanied by warnings to avoid excess. Proverbs 20:1, “Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.” Paul wrote to the Ephesians, as recorded in 5:18, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit”. But in it all, and especially in societies where clean water was scarce, a beverage with an alcohol content was considered to be acceptable.
Sadly, in modern times, a whole wealth of products that cause intoxication have become available. Just the other day I discovered an empty canister of nitrous oxide, a gas used for anaesthesia, amongst other things, on a park bench near where I live. An example of a medical substance being abused for recreational intoxication. And then there is the illicit manufacturer and trade in natural and synthesised products, all of which are collectively called “drugs” and which cause varying effects including intoxication and addiction. In my home country of Scotland, fondness for alcohol is endemic in some sectors of society, to the extent that social and health problems abound, with a shortened life expectancy being common. And Scotland has gained the dubious distinction of being referred to as the drug capital of Europe.
In the Amplified version of Revelation 21:8, sorcerers assisted by “intoxicating drugs” are singled out for God’s judgement. It is a fact that substances that affect our minds will lead to all sorts of unacceptable results, and the openness to things of the occult is just one of them. The use of drugs of any kind will lead to a breakdown in inhibitions and will open a door for the devil to enter with his nefarious arts and acts. The ingestion of drugs will lead to mental aberrations and illness, hallucinations being one of them. People start taking drugs to try and relieve their symptoms of stress, misery, and to try and forget their problems. But the root causes of their distress are still there when the effects wear off. And a cycle of taking drugs develops, leading to addiction and worse. Thankfully, God is bigger than any drug and people have been miraculously healed from a lifetime of drug addiction. If they want to be.
In our verse today, God warned John about ”all the liars [who knowingly deceive and twist truth]”. Ouch! Who has never told a lie? Why is it that human beings try and get out of a difficult spot by lying about it? We know what is right and yet we do what is wrong. There are plenty of Biblical warnings about the dangers of telling lies. Proverbs 12:22 is just one example, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.” Colossians 3:9, “Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.”
But there is another insidious development of lying that seems to have emerged in recent times. And that is disinformation. Social media has presented an opportunity for people to express their opinions on anything they choose, and much of it can be twisted to present a conclusion which is a lie. It goes something like this. A few words can be taken out of context from a scientific report on, for example, a vaccine, and developed into a theory that is different to what the author of the original report intended. And then this theory is presented on the internet as fact, and this soon attracts a huge following of readers who believe it. So we end up with the anti-vaccine movement, peddling conspiracy theories about dark government actions against society. All because of misinformation. All based on lies.
Another problem comes from our news bulletins and newspapers. To try and get a balanced view of, for example, world events, involves a knowledge of who wrote the article, and what their political persuasion is. We pilgrims need to be discerning when it comes to reading the news, sifting facts from opinions. More potential misinformation. More potential lies.
God was quite clear about the need to always tell the truth. We won’t get it right all the time, but, thankfully, we have a loving Heavenly Father who cares for us and to whom we can take our sins and ask for forgiveness. Revelation 21:8 is a verse that does not fit well in modern society. The steady drip drip of the devil’s influences warp and twist society drawing it away from God and His ways. There is only one way to stand firm in God’s truth, and that is to read, follow and implement His Word in our lives. There is no other way. When Jesus’ teaching become too counter-cultural for the people of His day, many left Him. But with Peter, we echo John 6:68-69, “Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
Dear Lord. You indeed are the only One who has the Words of eternal life. We praise and worship You today. Amen.