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There is a lot of talk these days about how to best take care of the planet but Revelation 11:18 specifically singles out those who destroy it for destruction themselves. Here is the citation in its immediate context.

15Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” 16And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18“And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

Are there any clues from the text or the context as to how people would be destroying the earth?

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  • Could Rev 19:2 possibly hold the answer? Oct 30, 2021 at 1:28
  • Thanks, @Constantthin. I think it qualifies as good example. We know what the harlot has been doing. Oct 30, 2021 at 1:33
  • Yes because the two Greek words “diaphtheiro” (Rev 11:18) and “phtheiro” (Rev 19:2) can apparently both interchangeably mean either corrupt or destroy. Which Dottard also seems to have pointed out. Oct 30, 2021 at 3:03
  • @Constantthin I don't know if he said that but dia can be an intensifier so “diaphtheiro” can be stronger that “phtheiro”. It is usually destroy vs. corrupt. I think the implication for the text in question might be "destroy by corrupting". Oct 30, 2021 at 3:35
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    Thank you for pointing it out. I didn’t realize until you mentioned it that it is actually the same word with a dia tucked in front. // Either or in my opinion. It would of course have a clearer meaning if that was the case. But I think the truth is obscured on purpose here, like at most of Revelation is. – Oct 30, 2021 at 4:04

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In terms of responsibility for destroying the earth, every single person on earth today is guilty, to some degree or other. We have all contributed towards global warming / climate change. Even those who advocate drastic steps to stop the world reaching a tipping point are guilty of using cars / aeroplanes, of wasting materials / resources, and I could go on. But this scripture text would draw our attention to a distinct difference God makes between two specific groups of people, for singling out one for destruction, and the other for salvation.

Further, the two categories involve all people who have ever lived, not just people who will be alive at the point of Christ's return (which is still future). The Big Clue lies in, "and the time came for the dead to be judged". We know from John 5:25-29 and Revelation 20:11-12 that all the dead will be resurrected, not just some of them:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."

"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened..."

Notice in Rev. 11:18 that the angry nations are one group, and God's faithful servants / prophets / saints are another group. And notice from John 5:25 that it is only those who "hear the voice of the Son of God" who arise to life, and not damnation. This covers all people, at all times. Therefore, the ones who will be destroyed for destroying the earth cannot possibly be restricted to only the generation that will see Christ's spectacular ushering in of the Day of Resurrection and Judgment.

Destroying God's good creation, in this case, the earth, began with the entrance of sin via disobedient humanity who chose to listen to the voice of the Serpent instead of the voice of God. That holds good throughout all of history. There is one group of people who do not hear his voice, but who hear and follow the voice of the deceiver. Sin is that which first corrupts, then destroys. That is why "the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now... waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:22-23).

Therefore, I suggest that those who will be destroyed on that awful Day, are all those who did not hear the voice of the Lord, but who heard, and obeyed, the voice of the deceiver. Those who will not be included are all those who heard the voice of the Lord, and obeyed him. For, no matter now much they may have contributed towards sin, corruption and destruction, they were forgiven and cleansed with the blood of the Lamb, transformed by grace to newness of life through obedient faith in the Son of God.

Finally, this harmonises with Revelation showing that, just before that awful Day, an angel is sent to fly above the earth, in mid-heaven, to proclaim the everlasting gospel to the whole world of humanity. His message is to fear God, to give him the glory, and to worship him. (Rev. 14:6) But the nations are angry (Rev.11:18). They do not listen to the angelic spokesperson for the Lamb (Rev. 14:1) let alone obey the command! All such will experience the anger and wrath of God. All such are those who do not hear the voice of the risen Christ that enables rising to eternal life, but who discover (too late) that they are judged adversely - because they did not hear and obey the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Their sin remains, their sinful corruption that results in destruction is laid at their feet, and so they are justly brought to ruin, as one translation puts it: "...and to bring to ruin those ruining the earth" (NWT).

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    Hard for me to argue with that literal interpretation, Anne, even though it does sadden me to think about it. God has created an amazingly resilient world which has done pretty well in spite of our irresponsibility. If only people would listen to God... Oct 30, 2021 at 9:58
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    @Martin Hemsley I have not actually given a literal interpretation; I have merely answered your good Q to identify who those people are. I have not said how the judgment on them will come. I believe the whole book of the Revelation is symbolic, apocalyptic literature.
    – Anne
    Oct 30, 2021 at 10:06
  • Glad you appreciated the Q. I was edified by interpreting your answer literally. :) So out of curiosity, what is real in Revelation and what isn't? Oct 30, 2021 at 10:13
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    @MartinHemsley It's all real but numbers are symbolic, not literal: 4=the number of the earth, 6=the number of humanity, 12=the number of covenant, both old and new, 144,000=12x12, old & new covenants, 13=number of times 'dragon' appears in the NT. Also, when it speaks of brass, that is symbolic for God's burning judgment (as typified by the brassy altar in the OT temple). Symbolic rainbows, living creatures, two witnesses, beast out of the earth, beast out of the sea, woman giving birth in heaven, Babylon the Great, the horsemen of the apocalypse, plagues of locusts etc Too much to detail!
    – Anne
    Oct 30, 2021 at 10:23
  • That is a lot. How about eternal judgment, is that real? To be honest, I sure wouldn't mind if hell were only symbolic. Oct 30, 2021 at 10:36
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Taking the text of the BLB, we might set out Rev 11:18 as follows:

And the nations were enraged,

  • and Your wrath came,
  • and the time for the dead to be judged,
  • and to give the reward to Your servants, the prophets,
  • and to the saints,
  • and to those fearing Your name, the small and the great,
  • and to destroy those who are destroying the earth."

There are several things things we can observe about this somewhat enigmatic verse.

The Verb διαφθείρω (diaphtheiró = "destroy")

This verb occurs twice in the final clause of Rev 11:18, as well as the following:

  • Rev 8:9 a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. [Note that this is also part of the 2nd trumpet.]
  • 1 Tim 6:5 - and constant friction between men of depraved [literally "destroyed"] mind who are devoid of the truth. These men regard godliness as a means of gain.
  • 2 Cor 4:16 - Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away [Literally "being destroyed"], yet our inner self is being renewed day by day.
  • Luke 12:33 - Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves with purses that will not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

Note that this word is used in moth a metaphoric sense and a literal sense. Indeed, BDAG recognizes two basic meanings of this word as follows:

  1. to cause the destruction of something, spoil, destroy, eg, Luke 12:33, Rev 11:18a, 2 Cor 4:6, Rev 8:9
  2. to cause to become morally corrupt, deprave, ruin, eg, the eartyh (ie, its people) Rev 11:18b (compare Rev 19:2), 1 Tim 6:5.

Thus, we might paraphraistically translate the final clause of Rev 11:18 as:

... destroy those who corrupted the people of the earth

While this understanding of the respected BDAG lexicon is helpful (especially in view of Rev 19:2 !!), I would not wish to exclude the meaning that God's wrath is also directed at people who despoil the earth in the sense of polluting and wasting the resources of the earth granted by God to man at the creation. See appendix below.

APPENDIX: Environmental Stewardship

While the terms “Environment” and “Ecology” are modern, the ideas they represent are ancient. The Bible sets out moral principles about the responsibility for the environment. Such human responsibility was given to mankind soon after the creation as part of the Edenic covenant of God with mankind:

  • Human kind is responsible for the environment. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Gen 2:15)
  • The world and all else belongs to God alone. “The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1) “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.” (Psalm 89:11) “Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10) This means that mankind does not own the earth but we are placed here as stewards and will be held accountable when Jesus returns. (See Luke 12:22-48, Matt 24:45-51, 25:14-30, Luke 19:12-28)
  • Humans are also responsible for the damage done to the environment. “The earth will become desolate because of its inhabitants, as the result of their deeds.” (Micah 7:13) “There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.” (Hos 4:2, 3) See also 2 Chron 7:13, 14.
  • The wicked will be punished for the damage done to the environment. “The time has come … for destroying those who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:18)
  • Despite the above, forgiveness and healing is possible. “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron 7:13, 14)

Thus, our care and responsibility for the environment was decreed in Eden (Gen 2:15) and remains in force.

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  • Well answered. I think the 2nd BDAG definition is the correct one as well since no one could be destroying the earth as much as God himself does through the seals and trumpets. An interesting corollary to this question is to what degree do we try to preserve the earth when God is planning to destroy it? This, of course would not be a justification to carelessly neglect it. Oct 29, 2021 at 21:50
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REV 11:18 The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

Destroy - diaphtheirō - to change for the worse, to corrupt.

“*Are there any clues from the text or the context as to how people would be destroying the earth?**” -

First, we need to understand what the context is. And, that ‘context’ can not ‘just’ be taken from Revelation. And, neither can it be ‘tainted’ by our western worldview. The ‘environment’ may be a relevant theme for us, but it shouldn’t be read into this verse.

So let’s examine the context …

PSALM 2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

PSALM 82:2 How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked?

The ‘legitimate’ [for now] rulers of the nations have been ruling ‘unjustly’. They have corrupted the earth. Exactly as the Greek word ‘diaphtheirō’ - means … to change for the worse, to corrupt..

The nations were handed over - Deuteronomy 8:32. But those ‘over’ the nations have corrupted the earth. And Revelation outlays how Jesus will ‘win the nations back’. In this, ‘judgement’ is coming to those rulers of the nations. Exactly as Psalm 82 outlines. And, they are not people! But that is another Q.

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  • Thanks for your answer, Dave. Are you saying that the rulers of Psalm 82 are not people? In any case, a lot of hard-hearted unbelievers will be destroyed as part of winning the nations back. Oct 29, 2021 at 22:51
  • @MartinHemsley I’m aware this view is not universal. The rulers in Psalm 82 - are Elohim - Nevertheless, despite this, some argue that despite being ‘Elohim’, this nevertheless in this case refers to ‘people’. This is a well entrenched debate, and not appropriate replicating here via comments. But, yes, because of these ‘behind the scenes’ rulers, very many people will die as a result. But it’s the ‘rulers’ that God holds responsible and judges. (As per Psalm 82).
    – Dave
    Oct 29, 2021 at 23:05
  • Right, there are strong arguments for both sides. I would only say that people who choose to follow the rulers will also be held responsible for their choices. Oct 29, 2021 at 23:17
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The prophesy of Revelation is the fulfillment of the OT prophesies for the woes pronounced against Israel for their sins, and especially Judea /Jerusalem. This was the fulfillment of the destruction of Israel foretold in Deu. 32, and of the 7 woes promised for their sins in Lev. 26:24ff. In prophetic language the "earth" was used for the land and the people of that land to whom the prophet was sent.

Look at Isa. 13 for the destruction prophesied against Babylon. Vs. 1, "the burden of Babylon" sets the context of that chapter.

"5 They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land." (Isa. 13:5, KJV)

The mighty ones God called in vs. 4 to destroy Babylon were coming from outside the borders of that kingdom, from a far country. The end of heaven was the border of the king's dominion as the king's rule and power only extended to the borders of Babylon. The foreign army from outside Babylon would come against the whole land of Babylon.

Vs. 9, "to lay the land desolate, and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it" is still speaking only of the prophesy against Babylon.

"13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger." (Isa. 13:13, KJV)

The heavens that were to be shaken were not God's heaven above, but the king's dominion over Babylon. The king's authority over the air above the land of Babylon was the king's heaven. See previous question and answer here which explains the use of heaven(s) in OT prophesy.

Removing the earth from her place was speaking specifically of the land of Babylon. Destroying that nation would be removing that nation from her place among all the other nations.

Revelation was Jesus' prophesy revealed to John for the destruction of the land of Judea, and the city of Jerusalem. Rev. 11:1 sets the context of that chapter with the instruction to John to measure the temple. The temple was located in Jerusalem.

Vs. 8 confirms it.

"And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." (Rev. 11:8, KJV)

Our Lord was crucified outside of Jerusalem. There can be no doubt that the great city to be destroyed as Sodom and Egypt had been was Jerusalem. The "earth" or land of this prophesy was the same land / people to whom Jesus was sent to prophesy (Matt. 15:24) which was in Judea, and Jerusalem to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Those who were destroying the earth of Rev. 11:18 were those evil, wicked rulers of Judea - the Sanhedrin, the scribes and Pharisees - who crucified Christ and were persecuting the Christians under the full authority and power of the Roman Caesars.

This is not a discussion of modern day pollution, nor the current political atmosphere of earth management. We cannot take the prophesy out of time and place. It was specifically concerning the wicked people of Judea and Jerusalem, and the destruction of that old Mosaic animal sacrificial temple. That judgment day against Jerusalem has already happened when that temple was torn down in AD 70.

For more scriptural proof see my post "Revelation: The Four Corners of the Earth" at ShreddingTheVeil, and "Heaven and Earth Have Passed Away" here, as well as "Frequent Mistakes - Part IV: Where Was All the World?" here.

Revelation was not written to us. It was written almost 2,000 years ago to the first century Christians in the 7 churches of Asia. It is recorded so that we can know and be assured that Christ won, and He has been ruling at the right hand of the Father ever since.

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    Hi Gina, it looks like you have written prolifically on Revelation and it sounds like you are a preterist. You probably guessed that I am a futurist but since there is not much room for debate on this site, we should probably focus on what we agree upon. One is that Revelation is difficult to understand, and another is that regardless of our views on eschatology, we shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for something to happen, but be about our Master’s business. But to understand your view a little better, where are we headed now? Does the world keep getting better and better? Oct 30, 2021 at 4:33
  • All prophesy of the NT comes directly from the OT, and the OT language of prophesy was used by Jesus, and the apostles throughout the NT. That standard is the rule that we have to go by, and it makes it much easier to understand Rev. & 2 Pet. 3, and 1 Thess., etc. We are still dealing with the same problems of wicked rulers that metaphorically feed off their ppl in their lands thru taxes, wars, theft, murder, etc. They r still the "beasts" / tyrant kings / rulers that have been a problem from the beginning. We r to teach the gospel whenever we can, in order to provide the hope ...
    – Gina
    Oct 30, 2021 at 5:06
  • Cont... that is within us for forgiveness of sins, and Jesus' passover from death unto life eternal. It is an on-going process, b/c God's harvest is happening every hour of ever day in Jesus' everlasting kingdom. We who are in Christ & stay faithful unto death r in that race every single day. That is our job, & our duty to reach as many as possible. The wicked r always going to b here on this earth b/c self-interest rules them. Utopia is only to be found in heaven above.
    – Gina
    Oct 30, 2021 at 5:09
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    "That is our job, & our duty to reach as many as possible." As I suspected, we agree on that, which makes me glad. If your view is correct, it won't affect me much because I plan to keep working in the Kingdom until I am called home. But do you believe the world will never come to an end? And have you ever thought about about how you and those who believe like you would react if it suddenly became apparent that there was an Antichrist gaining power in the world? Would that shake your faith or leave you unprepared? Oct 30, 2021 at 5:35
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    Technically, you are correct that the term “the antichrist” does not appear in Revelation, but that doesn’t t mean he doesn’t exist as an entity. In Revelation, he primarily goes by the name “the beast or "to therion”. Rev 13 2 καὶ τὸ θηρίον ὃ εἶδον ἦν ὅμοιον He is distinguished from the dragon (Satan) who gives him power. 13 4 καὶ προσεκύνησαν τῷ δράκοντι ὅτι ἔδωκεν τὴν ἐξουσίαν τῷ θηρίῳ Peter said that the earth and all that is in it will be burned up. God is patient and we please him with faith. If you are interested we can continue this in chat later. Oct 30, 2021 at 9:22

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