Sermon: Christ Our Champion: Revelation 19:11-21

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 63:1–6

The Lord’s Day of Vengeance: “Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? ‘It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.’ Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? ‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.’” (Isaiah 63:1–6, ESV)

Sermon Text: Revelation 19:11-21

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” (Revelation 19:11–21, ESV)

Sermon

Brothers and sisters, you notice that we are rapidly approaching the end of our study of the book of Revelation. I have mixed emotions about this. I do look forward to what’s next (a carefully study of the book of Genesis), but I’ve grown to love this book that, at one time, seemed intimidating and impractical to me. Now when I think of the book of Revelation I think of a book that is relatively clear, and immensely helpful to the people of God. The thought of the book of Revelation warms my heart and encourages my soul. That is something that I could not say five years ago. Continue reading

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Hallelujah!

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 148

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 148, ESV)

Sermon Text: Revelation 19:1-10

“After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ Once more they cried out, ‘Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’ And from the throne came a voice saying, ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.’ Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’ Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.’ For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:1–10, ESV)

Introduction 

The thing that differentiates the people of God from those who are of the world is that those who belong to God worship God, whereas those who belong to the world worship the things of this world.

All people worship. Even the most devout atheist worships. The atheist, though he may deny the existence of God, has a god of his own. Someone or something owns his heart. He lives for something. He finds his pleasure and satisfaction somewhere. He has some source of hope. Even the atheist worships as he looks to this thing or that, saying, “this is of ultimate worth.”

The questions is not, “do we worship?”, for all do. Instead the question is, do we worship aright. Do we worship that which is truly worthy of worship? And do we worship that one aright?

You’ve noticed, I’m sure, that the book of Revelation is all about worship. When we began the study of this book over a year ago you probably assumed that the book was about the future. What we have found is that, although the book does reveal some things about the future, it is really a book about worship. It reveals what it reveals in order to urge the reader to worship aright – to worship, not the things of this world, but God who made the world, and the Christ, who is the God-man, and our redeemer.

Really, those are our two options. Either we worship the things of this world, or we worship the God who made the world and all things therein. That we will worship is unavoidable! To worship is to be human, and to be human is to worship! The question is, will we rightly worship our Creator, or will we wrongly give worship to something in his creation?

One way for us to talk about the fall of man and the entrance of sin into the world is to describe it as worship gone wrong. The first sin, and indeed all sin, can be described as worship misdirected, or worship bent out of shape. To sin is to transgress God’s holy law. And the summary of God’s holy law is to, first, love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and second, to love our neighbor as ourself. Every sin that we commit is committed because we have, in some way, failed to love God supremely and as we should. We have looked to some other thing in God’s creation and have loved it more than God. To sin is, therefore, to fail in worship.

Some worship their possessions. Some worship their entertainment. Some worship their food, others their drink. Some worship other people and the relationships that they have with them. Some worship sex. Some money, power and fame. Some worship demons. And some worship god’s that they have made for themselves, either god’s carved out of wood and stone, or ideas about God that come, not from him, but from themselves, based, not upon divine revelation, but upon human reason.

Those who belong to God worship God as he has revealed himself to us in history, through his Son, and by his word. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1–2, ESV). It is the wholehearted and faithful worship of this God that the book of Revelation is urging. We are to worship this God, the one true God who created the heavens and the earth. He is the God who speaks. He has given us his word. He has graciously disclosed himself to us. We are to worship this God, the one true God, through faith in Jesus the Christ, who, because of our sin and our alienation from God, has been graciously given as the only “mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5, ESV).

What do you worship?

Whom do you worship?

To whom or what do you look to and say, “that is of ultimate worth and is worthy of my devotion, my trust, my heart, indeed my very life?”

Notice three things about Revelation 19:1-10.

We Are Seven Times In This Passage Urged To Give Worship To God

First of all, notice how we are seven times in this passage urged to give worship to God.

The word “hallelujah” appears four times in this passage. In verse 1“a great multitude in heaven” is heard by John “crying out, Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God” (Revelation 19:1, ESV). In verse 3 they again cry out, saying, “hallelujah!” In verse 4 it is “the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures [who fall] down and [worship] God who was seated on the throne, saying, ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’” (Revelation 19:4, ESV). And in verse 6 John again hears the voice of a great multitude “like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns’” (Revelation 19:6, ESV).

The word “hallelujah” here is a Greek transliteration of a Hebrew compound word which means, “praise YHWH”, or, put all in English, “praise the LORD”. So when you say “hallelujah” you are in fact speaking Hebrew. You are urging the praise of YHWH! “Praise the LORD”, is what it means.

It was appropriate for us to read Psalm 148 at the beginning of this sermon for the first and last words of that Psalm are, in Hebrew, “הַ֥לְלוּ יָ֨הּ”. And the throughout the repeated refrain is, “praise the Lord!”

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created.” (Psalm 148:1–5, ESV)

PsaLm 148 and Revelation 19:1-10 share this in common: both urge the praise of YHWH using the word “hallelujah”.

The praise of God is urged also in Revelation 19:5 where we read, “And from the throne came a voice saying, ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great’” (Revelation 19:5, ESV). Also, we should consider verse 7 where the multitude says, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory…” (Revelation 19:7, ESV). And then seventhly, and lastly, in verse 10 we read John’s words, “Then I fell down at his [the angel’s] feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God” (Revelation 19:10, ESV).

Do you see, then, that the objective of this passage from beginning to end is to urge the worship of the one true God, YHWH, the Creator of heaven and earth, Lord Most High. And do you see how easy it is for our worship to be misdirected. Even John the Apostle, being perhaps overwhelmed with the vision that he saw, did bow down before an angel, bring upon himself a swift and firm rebuke: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.”

You see God is the only one who is worthy to receive worship. Nothing in all of creation – not even holy and righteous angels – are worthy to receive praise, for they are creatures, and not the Creator. Angels and men, though a different species, share much in common. Both are volitional creatures made for the service of God. Not even they, holy as they may be, are to be worshiped, but God only. So the distinction is not between things holy and things sinful, nor is the distinction between things spiritual and physical, but it is the distinction between Creator and creature that is useful in determining who is worthy to receive worship. It is the Creator only who is worthy to receive worship from his creation.

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created.” (Psalm 148:1–5, ESV)

If you are alive today you owe God worship for he is your Maker. And to refrain from giving him the worship he so rightly deserves – worse yet, to take the worship that he deserves and to give it another –  is a most terrible thing. I have a hard time finding the words, to be honest.

The comparison that comes to mind is that of a child, who having been brought into this world by his parents, and having been nurtured by them – sheltered, clothed, fed, loved, disciplined and protected – he goes on only to dishonor them. He cares little for them. When he does speak to them, he speaks rudely. He calls only when he wants something. His love he will not give to them, but he will gladly give to those who are unworthy. He responds to his parents love with hatred, but those who have not true love for him, those he loved. The son, having been shown love, responds by spitting in his parents face. There are hardly words to describe just how terrible this is.

But it is far worse for a creature to do this do the Creator. And yet this is what all men do in their natural state and apart from the saving grace of God. They, in one way or another, spit in the face of their Creator. They repay his goodness with hatred, his kindness with contempt, his faithfulness with faithlessness, his patience with stubborn pride.

Friends, if you are a worshipper of God today do not forget that this is how you once were, but God has been merciful to you. He determined from before creation to bring you to himself. And though you were a child of wrath, he has made you a beloved son. This he did through the shed blood of Christ who paid for the sins of his people. This he did by calling you to faith by his word and by his Spirit. When God’s word called out to you to trust in Jesus – when God’s word called put to you saying, hallelujah! Praise the Lord! – you responded to that call with a “yes” and “amen”, not because you were by nature one who was a worshipper of God, but because God has been gracious to you. Seven times in this passage we are urged to give worship to God. It is those predestined, called and justified who have, do, and will.

This Passage Stands In Contrast To The Preceding One

Secondly, notice how this passage stands in contrast to the preceding one.

Chapter 18 and verses 1-10 of chapter 19 share this in common: they both describe responses to the judgement of Babylon.

Remember the way that the earth dwellers responded. They wept and mourned over her. “They threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, ‘Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste’” (Revelation 18:19, ESV).

But even in chapter 18 we heard a call for a different response. In verse 20 we read, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” (Revelation 18:20, ESV).

This is precisely what we have in 19:1-10. Here heaven responds to the call of 18:20 and rejoices, saying, “After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants” (Revelation 19:1–2, ESV).

The two responses to the judgement of Babylon could not be more different. But this only further shows how different the kingdom of God is from the kingdoms of this world. These two kingdoms stand in stark contrast to one other. The citizens of these kingdoms value entirely different things, so that what causes one to weep and mourn, causes the other to shout for joy and to give glory to God.

Babylon will be destroyed, friends. And if this is where your treasure is, you will be found weeping in the end. But the kingdom of heaven is eternal. God is everlasting and unchanging. If your treasure is stored up with him, in the end there will be rejoicing.

Notice the Reasons Given For The Worship Of God

Thirdly, notice the reasons given for the worship of God.

God will be worshiped in the end for the glory of his righteous judgments.

Verse 1: “After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants” (Revelation 19:1–2, ESV).

God will be worshiped in the end for the glory of his salvation.

Verse 6: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” (Revelation 19:6–8, ESV)

The bride of Christ is the church.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:25–32, ESV).

Christ shed his blood, not for the world, but for his church. He gave himself up for her. He died for his bride, that is to say all of the elect, so that “he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

Here in Revelation 19 we have symbolized the consummation of these things where Christ and his bride do enjoy their wedding feast. This will happen at the end of time when the Lord returns for his betrothed and judges her enemies.

When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he spoke this way, saying, “I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:1–2, ESV). When Paul preached the gospel and saw men and women come to faith in Christ he saw them as betrothed to Christ. His objective in teaching the church was to prepare the church for her wedding day, so that he might present the church to Christ as a pure virgin.

Notice that two different perspectives are presented side by side concerning the churches preparation to meet Christ.

First we are told at the end of verse 7 that “his Bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7, ESV). This emphasizes the responsibility that we have to persevere in the faith, to contribute to our sanctification, and to work our our salvation with fear and trembling.

But to protect us from thinking that we can, in any way save ourselves, or to prepare ourselves for salvation, we are told in verse 8 that “it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Revelation 19:8, ESV).

Indeed, we come to faith in Christ because God has granted it. We persevere in Christ because God has granted it. We will be able to stand before God and Christ on that last day “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing”, not because we have provided this clothing for ourselves, but because God has provided for us in Christ Jesus. Indeed we do receive the fogginess of sin and Christ’s righteousness by faith. But has been granted by our God by his grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9, ESV).

Conclusion 

Brothers and sisters, what should we do in response to the things that we have heard?

Let us worship God!

Individually

May he have your heart.

Trust in him.

Hope in him.

Find your pleasure in him.

Give him glory with your tongue.

Pray to him.

Give thanks always.

Testify to his goodness.

Obey him in all that you do.

Do not do that which he has forbidden.

Do that which he has commanded.

Have his word as the lamp which illuminates your path and directs your steps.

In Families

Corporately with the Church

Keep the Lord’s Day Sabbath; rest.

Do not neglect the assembling of yourselves.

Engage in the means of grace from the heart.

Let us worship him through faith in Jesus the Christ, for there is no other way.

Sermon: The Harlot Introduced: Revelation 17:1-6

Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 50:1–20

“The word that the Lord spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by Jeremiah the prophet: ‘Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, conceal it not, and say: ‘Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed. Her images are put to shame, her idols are dismayed.’ For out of the north a nation has come up against her, which shall make her land a desolation, and none shall dwell in it; both man and beast shall flee away. ‘In those days and in that time’, declares the Lord, ‘the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, ‘Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.’ My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the Lord, their habitation of righteousness, the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’ Flee from the midst of Babylon, and go out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as male goats before the flock. For behold, I am stirring up and bringing against Babylon a gathering of great nations, from the north country. And they shall array themselves against her. From there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. Chaldea shall be plundered; all who plunder her shall be sated, declares the Lord. Though you rejoice, though you exult, O plunderers of my heritage, though you frolic like a heifer in the pasture, and neigh like stallions, your mother shall be utterly shamed, and she who bore you shall be disgraced. Behold, she shall be the last of the nations, a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert. Because of the wrath of the Lord she shall not be inhabited but shall be an utter desolation; everyone who passes by Babylon shall be appalled, and hiss because of all her wounds. Set yourselves in array against Babylon all around, all you who bend the bow; shoot at her, spare no arrows, for she has sinned against the Lord. Raise a shout against her all around; she has surrendered; her bulwarks have fallen; her walls are thrown down. For this is the vengeance of the Lord: take vengeance on her; do to her as she has done. Cut off from Babylon the sower, and the one who handles the sickle in time of harvest; because of the sword of the oppressor, every one shall turn to his own people, and every one shall flee to his own land. Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured him, and now at last Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has gnawed his bones. Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing punishment on the king of Babylon and his land, as I punished the king of Assyria. I will restore Israel to his pasture, and he shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and his desire shall be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead. In those days and in that time, declares the Lord, iniquity shall be sought in Israel, and there shall be none, and sin in Judah, and none shall be found, for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.” (Jeremiah 50:1–20, ESV)

Sermon Text: Revelation 17:1-6

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.’ And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” (Revelation 17:1-6, ESV)

Introduction

Brothers and sisters, as we journey deeper into the book of Revelation it is important for us to remember that this book was originally written, not to us, but to seven churches in Asia Minor in the first century A.D. Specifically Revelation was addressed to the church in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These churches, being seven in number, do represent all churches (their struggles being common to all), but we must remember that these were actual churches, and that the book of Revelation was given first to them.  Continue reading

Sermon: The Seven Bowls Of God’s Wrath Poured Out: Revelation 16

Sermon Text: Revelation 16

“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.’ So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea. The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, ‘Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!’ And I heard the altar saying, ‘Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!’ The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (‘Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!’) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.” (Revelation 16, ESV)

Introduction

I decided to devote two sermons to Revelation chapter 16. In the first sermon we considered the bowl judgements broadly, giving special attention to the things that John heard in this vision, and four observations were made: One, a reminder was given that it would be an error to interpret this passage in a literal fashion as if John were shown video footage of the last days ahead of time. No, here we have truth communicated through symbolism. Two, we recognized that the key to the symbolism of the bowl judgments is found in the Old Testament, particularly the ten plagues of Exodus 7 and following, and Leviticus 26. Three, we learned that the bowl judgements reveal something of the final judgment, particularly the outpouring of the wrath of God upon the ungodly alive upon the earth on the last day. And four, we did see that the heavenly opinion concerning the judgments of God is that they are perfectly right. This point was drawn from what John heard the angel and the alter say in verses 4-7. Finally, and in conclusion, we did look at the words of Christ in verse 15 where he warns,  “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” Indeed, this is what the thought of the return of Christ and the wrath of God poured out should do within us – it should move us to live with a sense of expectation, and to be always prepared, having put away our sin stained garments through repentance, and being properly clothed with the righteousness of Christ received by faith.

Today I wish to look at each of the bowl judgments themselves and to show how their symbolism, one, draws from the plagues of the Exodus, two, advances what was revealed earlier in the book of Revelation, and three, does, in some instances, prepare for things to be revealed later in this book.  The end result is that we have, here in the bowl judgements, a symbolic description of the wrath of God poured out on immediately preceding and leading up to the the return of Christ upon the kingdom of the beast, and all who are in it (all who have received his mark) who, evidently, at the end of time will be hell bent on overrunning the people of God (those sealed by him). God will, on the last day, rescue those who belong to him and pour out his fierce wrath open his enemies. As it was with the Egyptians at the Exodus, so will it be with the kingdoms of this world on the last day. As is was for Israel at the Exodus, so will it be for all who in Christ on the last day, the great and awesome day of the Lord.  Continue reading

Sermon: Seven Angels With Seven Plagues, Which Are The Last: Revelation 15

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 15:1–18

“Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea, and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea. The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone. Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble. At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’ You blew with your wind; the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode. The peoples have heard; they tremble; pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia. Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; trembling seizes the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone, till your people, O Lord, pass by, till the people pass by whom you have purchased. You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. The Lord will reign forever and ever.’” (Exodus 15:1–18, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Revelation 15

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished. And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’ After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.” (Revelation 15, ESV)

Introduction

I’d like for you to notice three things about this text before we go on to make application from it to our lives.

First of all, notice again the presence of recapitulation. Secondly, notice how this passage prepares us for the judgment scenes to come. And thirdly, notice how this passage pauses to gives us a glimpse into the world of the redeemed.

Recapitulation 

First of all, let us simply recognize the presence of recapitulation.

Recapitulation is the fancy word used by Bible scholars to describe the repetition that we encounter in the book of Revelation. The book is not ordered chronologically, as some suppose, so that what is said in chapter 15 will actually happen after what was said in chapter 14. No, the book moves in cycles, telling, and retelling the story of redemption, giving special attention to the time between Christ’s first coming and the time of the end. But we should recognize by now that the repetition that we encounter in Apocalypse is far from monotone. The book does not simply say the same thing over and over again,  but with each cycle reveals something new. With each pass some aspect of the history of redemption is emphasized that was not emphasized before. Here is one of those places where the presence recapitulation is very obvious.

In verse one we read, “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished” (Revelation 15:1, ESV).

For now simply notice that this new heavenly vision shown to John will describe to us the outpouring, or finishing, of the wrath of God at the end of time. And if you are paying careful attention to book of Revelation you should say, “but haven’t we already been told about the outpouring of God’s wrath?” And the answer would be, yes.

In fact the vision of Revelation chapter 14 concluded with a depiction of the outpouring of the wrath of God upon the ungodly. Look at 14:19:

“So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.” (Revelation 14:19–20, ESV)

The final judgment was also depicted back in Revelation 11:15-19 with the sounding of the seventh trumpet. The song that the twenty-four elders sang in 11:17-18 proves the point. They sang,

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” (Revelation 11:17–18, ESV)

The final judgment was also depicted with the breaking of the sixth and seventh seals back in Revelation 6:12-17 and 8:1-5. Listen to 6:12:

“When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Revelation 6:12–17, ESV)

What is this except a description of the last day when the wrath of God will be poured out upon the ungodly? In 8:1 the description of the final judgment is more subtle, but it is there. “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1, ESV). I argued that the silence in heaven was the kind of silence appropriate for those witnessing something as terrible and awesome as the final judgment. No celebrating, on the one hand. No objections on the other. But only solemn silence. 8:5 says, “Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:5, ESV). This is a portrayal of the final judgment.

And so it is not hard to see that the book of Revelation does recapitulate, not only in its portrayals of the final judgment, but in other respects too, particularly its portrayals of the redemption of God’s elect. The book is constantly giving us different view points on the preservation and salvation of God people, and also the judgment, both partial and full, of those not in Christ who do stubbornly persist in their sins.

By this time you might be tempted to complain, saying, “Pastor, you also recapitulate often on the subject of recapitulation.” I do so because it is important. I would argue that most of the errors made in the interoperation of the book of Revelation are made because people fail to recognize this literary feature. Also, I do it because I believe it to be beautiful. God, in his grace, shows us what is true concerning the time between Christ’s first coming and the time of the end over and over again. And with each pass more texture and detail is added to the story. Truly, the book of Revelation is like a painting wherein the artist comes to the canvas time and time again, first to lay down a base, then to add detail, then to shade, and then to texture.

Preparation

Secondly, notice how this passage prepares us for the judgment scenes that are to come.

In verse one John describes “another sign in heaven”. This sign, he says, is “great and amazing”. And what does he see? “Seven angels with seven plagues”. These, he says, “are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished” (Revelation 15:1, ESV).

These seven plagues, as they are here called, will differ from the seven seals and the seven trumpets which we have already encountered in that some of those – the seals and trumpets – described, not the final judgment, but partial judgments – the kind of judgments that come upon men as they live in this world, but are not the final judgment. Indeed, the sixth and seventh seals did describe the final judgment, but seals one through five did not. Seal five provided us with a glimpse of the “souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne”, crying out for justice from beneath the heavily alter. Seals one through four described wars and famines and plagues. And these, we were told with the breaking of the fourth seal, were limited to 1/4 of the earth. And so while the judgments of God were indeed portrayed there in the breaking of the first four seals, it was not the final judgment that was portrayed.

The same can be said of the first six trumpets. The seventh trumpet did indeed take us to the time of the end, but the first six did not. The judgments of God described there were restrained by God to affect only one third of the earth. And so intensification is communicated, but trumpet judgments one through six were not about the full and final judgment to be poured out on the last day.

Not so with these seven plagues. These “are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished” (Revelation 15:1, ESV).

In verses five we read, “After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests.” (Revelation 15:5–6, ESV)

These angels that John introduced in verse one are now described in verse five as coming out of “the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven” which was opened.

Remember that the tabernacle that Israel constructed in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses and after the exodus was constructed according to the heavenly realities shown to him on the mountain. Exodus 25:40 says so. Acts 7:44 and Hebrews 8:5 emphasize this. So the earthly tabernacle and temple were not the originals but were earthy copies which represented heavenly realities. Here John is seeing the heavenly reality.

These angels are seen proceeding from “the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven”. The tabernacle was called the “tent of witness”, or “tabernacle of testimony”, because it was there that Ten Commandments were kept, and these Ten Commandments did serve as a testimony or witness against the people of Israel concerning their sin. Indeed, they function as a light unto their path, but also as a witness against them. The tabernacle was, therefore, both the place where God’s people were to approach him in faith (it was also called “the tent of meeting”), but it was also the place from which the judgments of God did flow when the people were found living in perpetual and unrepentant disobedience to the commandments of God. And so this one place – the tabernacle – was both a place of worship and refuge for the faithful (a tent of meeting), and the place from which the judgments of God did flow (it was a tent of witness).

The same is true of the heavenly tabernacle. Better yet, the earthly tabernacle was simply a visible representation of that which is true in heaven. God is a place of refuge for his people. He does meet with and shelter those who come to him through faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. But it is also from him that judgment flows.

And what will be the basis for his judgment? He will judge all who have transgressed his holy law. This law is contained within and summarized by the Ten Commandments, and it is also written upon the heart of man. The fact that these angels come out of “the sanctuary of the tent of witness” to pour forth “the seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished”, does show us that God will judge all who have transgressed his holy law.

God will judge all who have failed to give him the worship he so rightly deserves and have given to another instead. He will judge all idolaters. He will judge all who take his name in vain. He will judge all who violate his sabbath day. He will judge all who dishonor parents; all who murder and have hatred for others in their heart. He will judge the adulterer and the one who lusts. He will judge the thief and the one who is dishonest. He will judge the one who covets that which belongs to another. And he will send his angels before him as his ministers.

Notice that these seven angels who came forth from the sanctuary were “clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests” (Revelation 15:6, ESV). This is the way that Jesus was described as being dressed in Revelation 1:13. They are dressed like him because they represent him.

Verse seven: “And one of the four living creatures (do you remember them from earlier in the book of Revelation?) gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever….” (Revelation 15:7, ESV). The seven plagues are now described as “seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God”. We will witness these seven bowls being poured out, one at a time, in chapter sixteen.

Verse eight: “And the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished” (Revelation 15:8, ESV). Clearly the outpouring of this final judgment will be very awesome and great.

Can you see, then, how all of chapter fifteen is preparatory. No judgement is actually poured our here, but preparations are certainly made. Literarily this serves to create a sense of anticipation leading up to this great and amazing event. Also, it seems to communicate something of the mercy of God. He, by his mercy, does not give us what our sins deserve now, but is patient and long-suffering.

A Pause

Thirdly, let us recognize how this passage pauses to gives us a glimpse into the world of the redeemed.

Verses two through four seem out of place, don’t they? But this is intentional. In verse one the seven angles with seven plagues are introduced. In verses five through eight they become the focus again, as they are prepared to pour out the wrath of God upon lawbreakers. But in verses two through four the focus is on the redeemed. There we read,

“And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’” (Revelation 15:2–4, ESV)

You should be used to this kind of thing by now. Remember the interludes that we found inserted in between seals six and seven and trumpets six and seven? The focus in both the seal and trumpet cycles was mainly upon the ungodly and God dealings with them, but before the end of these cycles we encountered a pause where the focus of attention was shifted to the redeemed of God and their salvation in Christ Jesus.

Between the breaking of the sixth and seventh seals we found, inserted in chapter seven, a vision of the 144,000 sealed by God, and then a vision of “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9, ESV), giving praise to God – the vision was of the redeemed in heaven. Between the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpets we found, inserted in chapter eleven, a vision of two faithful witnesses, preserved by God as they ministered on earth. These interludes, or pauses, served two purposes. One, they gave a sense of delay, as if to say, the end is not yet. Two, they gave an answer to the question, “what about the people of God? How will they fair in the midst of these trials, tribulations and judgments?” The answer is that God knows and is able to keep those who belong to him.

Something similar is happening here in 15:2-4. Preparations for the outpouring of God’s wrath are being made. We will see the outpouring of God’s wrath portrayed in chapter sixteen. But before we get there, God’s word does provide us with a picture of the redeemed. And where are they? They are safely home and at peace.

God’s people are “not destined…for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9, ESV). As God’s people we will indeed experience tribulation in the world, but we will not come under his wrath. Why? Because Christ has stood in our place, has taken upon himself the punishment that we deserved, and we do trust in him! If you are in Christ – if you are sheltered by his wings – you will not come under the wrath of God.

This, I think, was the thing being symbolized in the previous passage too. In 14:14-16 we saw a depiction, first of all, of the harvest of the righteous unto salvation on the last day, and then we saw a depiction of the harvest of the wicked unto condemnation.

And here in this passage preparations are being made for the outpouring of the wrath of God by the “seven angels with seven plagues”, which are the “seven bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.” But before even one of these bowls of the full and final wrath of God is poured out, we see that God’s people are safely home.

These are seen standing beside (or upon) “a sea of glass mingled with fire… with harps of God in their hands.”

Think about the imagery here. It is really quite beautiful. And you must think about the imagery, not only with the rest of the book of Revelation in mind, but the whole of scripture. Where are these worshippers of God standing? They are standing beside (or upon) “a sea of glass mingled with fire”.

Remember that this sea of glass was first mentioned in Revelation 4:6 as being before the throne of God in heaven. On earth there is turmoil, but in heaven there is perfect tranquility. The turmoil of this world cannot effect heaven. God is not disturbed by his enemies. God is not affected from without. His heavenly kingdom and his heavenly purposes are never in danger.

Also, remember that not long ago in the Apocalypse John saw “a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads” (Revelation 13:1, ESV). Again, the seas of this world are tumultuous. The beast rises from there, works for the dragon, and represents political powers that persecute the people of God. And so the people of God do suffer as they sojourn in this world. They are threatened constantly by tumultuous seas and the evil that rises from there.

But here the saints are seen, no longer battered by stormy seas, no longer at war with the beast who rises from there, but they are peace. The sea that they now stand upon is like glass. All is right. All is as it should be.

The sea is said to be “like glass mingled with fire.” Fire symbolizes judgment. The picture is that of a tumultuous sea made calm because the one who stirred up the sea by rising out of it has been judged by God and eternally condemned. And so there the people of God stand. They are peace. No longer are they threatened or persuade. They have harps in their hand to give worship to God. These are the ones “who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name.” These are the elect of God as seen in glory.

And they sing a song. Notice that it is said to be “the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb…” (Revelation 15:3, ESV).

The original song of Moses was read at the beginning of this sermon from Exodus fifteen. But do you remember what happened in Exodus fourteen? It is there that we find the story of God’s parting of the Red Sea at the hand of Moses so that the people of Israel could pass through to escape Pharaoh who had pursued them into the wilderness with his army. The song of Moses was a celebration of God’s deliverance of his people through tumultuous waters and from Pharaoh, who, in Ezekiel 29:3, is referred to as “the great dragon”.

But the song sung here in Revelation fifteen is not exactly the same as the original song of Moses. For one, it is called “the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:3, ESV). This song is ultimately about Jesus. Secondly, this song is about the accomplishment of things far greater and far more universal than what was accomplished at the Exodus by the hand of Moses.

The ten plagues leveled against the Egyptians at the hand of Moses, as awesome as they were, were nothing at all compared to the seven plagues given by God and Christ to the seven angels, for they are the last, and with them the wrath of is finished.

Moses delivered Old Covenant Israel from Egypt. Christ delivered New Covenant Israel from sin and death.

Moses defeated Pharaoh. Christ has overcome the dragon himself, the beast and false prophet.

Moses led the people through the tumultuous waters of the Red Sea. Christ will still all waters at his return so that nothing will threaten his people at all for all eternity.

The deliverance brought about through Moses did cause the Egyptians to give glory to God as well as the sounding nations, but at the return of Christ all will bow the knee to confess that he is Lord, either willingly or by compulsion.

This is why we hear the redeemed sing: “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3–4, ESV).

The salvation provided for Old Covenant Israel by the hand Moses pales in comparison to the salvation provided for the elect by Christ. The first Exodus was but a precursor to the second. It served as a shadow of better things yet to come.

Application

How then should we apply these truths?

I wonder, how will you fair when the seven angels with the seven plagues of God come forth from the heavenly tent of witness to judge fully and finally on that last day? How will you fair when your life is compared with God’s holy law? Will you stand or will you fall?

If you are trusting in your own righteousness, you will not stand, but will fall, “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one…Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19–20, ESV). But if you are found believing in Christ you will stand. You will be made to stand by the grace of God, being justified in Christ, having been washed of yours sins and covered in his righteousness. Be sure that you are in Christ on that last day. Be sure that you are in Christ before you breath your last, for there is no room for repentance after death.

Friends, acknowledge your sin, turn from it, and look to Christ today for the forgiveness of your sins, and then remain in him. Your sins will be judged.  The question is, who will take the judgment? The cup of God’s wrath will be poured out upon your sins. God’s wrath will either be poured out upon you, or it has been poured out upon Christ. The cup of God’s wrath will be drunk to the dregs. Will you drink it? Or has Christ absorbed it in your place? You must believe upon him, friends. You must turn from your sins and cry out to Christ, saying, “have mercy upon me!”

And for those of you who are in Christ I wonder, do you stand in awe of the salvation that has provided for you in Christ Jesus?

Imagine standing amongst the freshly redeemed Israelites under the Old Covenant. Imagine standing on the opposite side of the Red Sea, having just passed through, and having witnessed the waters fall in upon the mighty Egyptians. Imagine looking upon Moses by whom your deliverance was accomplished. Remember the plagues. Remember how you did plunder the Egyptians as you left. Indeed, you would have stood in awe of the salvation that the Lord had provided for you.

How much more should we stand in awe of the redemption accomplished by Christ, for it is far greater. Christ has redeemed us, not from Egypt, but from the domain of darkness. He has defeated, not Pharaoh, but the evil one himself. He has led us through, not the Red Sea, but the waters of God’s wrath. And he brought us, not into the promised land, but has guaranteed our place in the new heavens and the the new earth. How could we not stand in awe of the salvation our Lord has provided, and give thanks?