A Christian cliché that irks me every time I hear it is, “God is in control.” Really, God is in control? What does that mean? Does that mean that everything that happens is God’s will? Does that mean that everything that transpires is ordained and planned by God? Does that mean that sin, sickness, abuse, injustice, pain, suffering, and destruction are the handiwork of God? Some even venture to say that events like 9/11 and hurricane Karina were the judgments of God on America. Really, somebody knows this to be the case? Is God to blame for all the suffering and evil found in the world? I don’t think so!
This passage from Revelation 11 gives us a clue about such matters. When the seventh trumpet is blown, loud voices in heaven declare: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever” (v. 15). And again in v. 16 we read, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.” It appears from this passage that God’s unobstructed reign, rule, and exercise of power are future, not present, realities. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). The assumption here is that God’s kingdom has not yet come in fullness and God’s will is not being done. God’s kingdom and will must be prayed into earthly existence. How do we explain this?
We have to go back to the beginning. God created human beings to reign and rule over the earth as God’s co-workers. Human beings were created to love and be loved. The possibility of love requires free will. Love must be freely chosen or it is no love at all. This entails the possibility that love might be rejected and makes evil possible. God’s love was rejected in the garden (Genesis 3). Rejecting God’s love was an act of pride, unbelief, and misdirected desire. We call that sin. Sin brought sickness, death, and more sin and evil into the world. The first humans were ejected from the garden. They represent humanity. They lost their rightful place to reign and rule this world. The Bible tells us that presently the world is ruled by the one who tricked them – the serpent, Satan, the devil (1 Jn. 5:19; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 6:12). Satan’s rule and kingdom are at war with God’s rule and kingdom. Satan even enticed Jesus to exchange God’s rule and kingdom for all the kingdoms of this world. That being said, Satan’s rule and reign will not last. Greg Boyd sums up well what Revelation 11 reveals:
Though the war between God and Satan has raged for eons, it will not continue forever. The victory over Satan and the freedom for God’s children that Christ won through his death and resurrection will someday be fully manifested. Then God’s creation will no longer be subjected to the destructive influence of his archenemy.
The ultimate hope that the Bible gives and that Revelation 11 proclaims is that while God’s will is not being done now, it will be done someday. Evil and the evil one will come to an end. God will ultimately reign and rule and exercise His power. And then, all God’s people will rejoice and give thanks to God for “destroying those who destroy the earth” (v. 18).