Intro – I don’t if you’ve seen this bumper sticker before. But I find it quite interesting and telling. It says “coexist” and it contains the religious symbols representing Islam with the crescent and star, pentagram for Wicca, the relativity formula for science, the star of David for Judaism, the Karma wheel dotting the “i” for Buddhism; the Tao symbol for Taoism, and lastly the cross for Christianity.
As a friend of mine recently asked regarding the bumper sticker, “Does ‘coexist’ now mean ‘agree’??” That must be the implication of the message. Isn’t it true that all these religions represented currently coexist? Certainly! But is there a possibility that there will be peace among these different religions? Probably not!
I’m probably not telling you anything new when I say that objective or absolute truth is unpopular in our times. People today will talk of personal and subjective truth. I believe this is largely because we don’t want to think that we are accountable to anybody. We want to live life for ourselves. And ultimately this allows us to cater to our sinful desires. We think that life is about us. We begin to look at truth as relative. And so many may think that all religions are equally valid and true. And who are we to judge? This is the mantra of the day. These themes will be addressed in our text this morning. We will talk about the Judge and truth, judgment, revelation, and salvation. You see, what we have in this passage are two dinner parties. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?? Well, as we will see, that all depends on which one of the two you participate in.
Please turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter 19. If you’re unfamiliar with finding your way around the Bible, you will find the Book of Revelation at the back. Just turn back a few pages from the end and you will find chapter 19. If you are using our supplied Bibles from the back, you will find our text on page ???
We are in the latter sections of the Book of Revelation where history is coming to a close. We are seeing glimpses of what the end holds. We have seen indictments against the churches of the first century and then shot forward to see glimpses into the throne room of heaven. We have seen great calamity and judgment through the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments. We have witnessed believers in Jesus Christ being murdered because of their faith. We have seen the prostitute who deceives the nations into her seductions. And then a call for God’s people to separate from her.
And now God’s people are told to rejoice because judgment is pronounced on Babylon. Babylon was the great harlot who was responsible for the murder of God’s prophets and saints. And you are forced to wonder, where is God? Why does he allow this wicked world system to harm those who are His children? When you realize that this is all part of the plan that originated from the beginning, there is no cause for alarm. In fact the angelic host in heaven seems to know what is to come and they also realize that the time is short for evil.
Let’s read the first 5 verses of chapter 19 as we begin. READ. The angels burst forth in praise for they know that the return of the Lord Jesus is imminent. Chronologically speaking, this section serves as a bridge from the Tribulation to the establishment of the millennial kingdom on earth that we will discuss next week. In these first 5 verses we see the First Retribution. God himself has judged this wicked prostitute. She is responsible for corrupting the world with immorality and self-indulgence. She has deceived the nations to pursue the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh. She has seduced them to believe that they are gods and are to live for things of this world. Accountable to no one. And for this, there is judgment.
We learn quite a bit about God in this passage. You will notice that those closest to Him cannot help but to repeatedly exclaim, “Hallelujah (in verse 1), Hallelujah (in verse 3), Hallelujah (in verse 4), and Praise our God (in verse 5)!” These expressions mean the same thing – Praise be to God! The angelic host praises God because they know his character and his deeds. We see that salvation comes only from him. The multitude in heaven recognizes God as glorious and powerful. And they go on to say why this is so. God’s judgments are true and just. We will talk a bit more about truth and justice when we talk about the rider on the white horse in a little bit.
We no longer have to question why God allows evil in the world or why things appear chaotic. We see that God has always been in control and he will judge with truth and justice. And he has done so here. God knows the crimes of the great prostitute. Nothing has escaped his notice and nothing has happened that he didn’t foresee or allow. He has indicted her according to her corruption of the earth in immorality and has murdered his people. There will be hell to pay – literally.
Verse 3 indicates this. Our text reads that “Once more they cried out, ‘Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” This is a clear indication of an eternity in hell. Revelation 14:8-11 also reads, “8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” 9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” It will be those who are deceived by the prostitute that bear the mark of the beast that will be consigned to the lake of fire for all eternity.
The doctrine of hell has come under scrutiny. There are some who consider themselves evangelical who have convinced themselves that there is no such thing as eternal, conscious torment in hell. They would assert that upon death, those who do not profess the name of Christ simply cease to exist. This is call annihilationism. The wicked are destroyed - but do not face the eternal lake of fire.
The way I see it, this investigation originates with human sensitivity. It is extremely difficult for our minds to grasp such a concept. And because it is so difficult we seek to explain it away. But we also have to understand that merely because a teaching doesn’t sit well with us does not give us the liberty to alter it. We need to continually seek out Scripture like Matthew 3.12, “12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” And Luke 3.17 which says basically the same thing. And Mark 9:43, “43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” And verse 48, “48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ And Hebrews 6.2 speaks of eternal judgment.
In our passage here is the Greek rendering of “into the ages of the ages” which always refers to eternity. The identical expression also identifies the entire scope of eternity future. In our text, the smoke going up is in the present tense which indicates an ongoing activity and not annihilation. We will talk more about why the doctrine of hell is necessary when we talk about the judgment of the nations.
All the while the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fall down in worship to God who is seated on the throne. They agree with the judgment by saying “Amen” or “so be it” and praise be to God for He is worthy.
Let’s jump down to verse 11 for the moment and look at the Second Retribution. Let’s read verses 11-21. “I saw heaven opened”. Can you imagine?? The coming of Jesus Christ!! The Messiah is returning! And He is the One who carries out this retribution. He rides a white horse. At His first coming, Jesus humbly rode on a donkey. Upon His return he will be riding a white horse that portrays the victorious general in the triumphal procession.
And He is called Faithful and True. Faithful and true… Do you realize how important these character traits are? Jesus Christ is Faithful! If there’s one thing you want in your Lord and Savior is that He is faithful. When He says He is going away to prepare a place for you and then to return, you want to know that He is faithful to this promise. When He says in John 10:27-28 “27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand”, you want to be confident that He is not just feeding you a line.
And He is true. We live in an interesting day. We are bombarded and immersed in information. Well, we Google. If we have a question, within moments we can search for instant answers. The information age also provides us the ability to communicate on a grand scale. Again, we are bombarded with people’s opinion. We have blogs and comments, Facebook discussions, Twitter discussions which all provide us with a vehicle to communicate our opinion. And here’s some earth-shattering revelation that you paid good money for this morning. Are you ready? People don’t always agree! I know. I know. That may take some time for you to process. But it’s true.
We have ideologies that differ. They can be political, financial, moral, sociological, and even spiritual. And when we deal primarily in opinion, we are immersed in subjectivity. And this goes back to where we began. “Truth” becomes relative and everybody’s opinion is valid.
I tried to think and pretend as if there was no truth. And this was very disturbing to me. What would it be like if God did not exist and this was all an accident? What is the purpose of this intricate and magnificent creation?
Now I can only speak for myself here. But don’t we all yearn for truth? Don’t we all need assurance that we are here for a reason? I know that this is getting a bit philosophical. But try to stick with me for a minute. I have heard a pastor suggest that he didn’t have answers to people’s problems but he could walk the path of discovery with people. Now I admire the humility of the suggestion but I am also concerned that this man could not point people to Truth. This is the difference between living life deductively and inductively. Still with me?
I believe that we are called to live both ways. And I think that many people today live more inductively. Let me explain. To live deductively is to understand that there is an overarching reality in which we reside. This is what Scripture teaches. We possess the revelation of God where He shows us the origins of creation, history of the world and redemption, and how all things will end. And this knowledge we use to interpret the details of life. This serves as our guide and our filter.
Conversely, many people will investigate the details of this life in order to determine the overarching reality. This is more complicated because it deals in much more subjectivity because we all experience different circumstances. So it would be much more difficult for a child who grew up with an abusive Father to see God as good and as Father. And I am not trying to minimize the difficult circumstances in life but things are clearer when we begin with God working all things for His glory. And when God uses abuse in order for the child to cry out to God out of despair and ultimately to become His child, we can make more sense of the suffering.
Even believers may sometimes have doubts about their faith. And doesn’t this usually happen when we distance ourselves from our Maker? But when we again look at the magnificence of His creation and again pursue Him through His Word and prayer, these doubts fall away and we realize He is Truth!!
Jesus Christ is faithful to carry out the will of the Father. And He is the true judge. In our earthly judicial systems we again deal with a great amount of subjectivity. Many lawyers are good orators and manipulators and can make you believe lies. And even those who operate with integrity deal only with observable facts and cannot know with absolute certainty. Jesus Christ is the only One who can judge faithfully and truly for He knows all things and is himself righteous. There can be no accusations of manipulation or lack of integrity. Because He established truth and knows all things, nothing escapes his notice. Verse 12 reminds us that His eyes are like a flame of fire. This recalls for us the beginning of this book when the angel of the church in Thyatira writes that the Son of God has eyes like a flame of fire and He knows their works.
Now for those who are walking in sin, this can be very disturbing! But for those who experience persecution in this life, this is very comforting!! Our text indicates that in righteousness he judges and makes war. Jesus is coming back and he is going to repay the evil of this world. So for the Christians who are persecuted and even killed because of their faith, Jesus will righteously judge the oppressors and murderers. For those who have been abused in relationships, slandered by friends and family, wronged and mistreated by employers, God sees all and will judge accordingly. This is often difficult for us to understand in the immediate, but we should be encouraged that nothing escapes the One who has eyes like a flame of fire! In the first coming, Jesus was judged by wicked men. When He returns, He will judge the wicked.
In preaching classes I have taken and books I have read, we are strongly exhorted to make sure that Jesus shines through in all our sermons. Because we believe that the Old Testament prophecies and points toward Him, the New Testament describes His life, ministry, and His church, Jesus Christ should be the focal point of our preaching. Some texts are sometimes a bit more difficult to connect the dots. But this certainly isn’t one of them! This passage is saturated with Jesus Christ! He is faithful, true, righteous, omniscient, Judge, and much more. Let’s see.
On His head are many diadems. This points to the authority that He possesses. He has a name that no one knows but himself. Now this is curious. Many commentators speculate on this. This probably just means that some things will not be revealed until the end. Some things will remain a mystery and are not necessary to know. Our Scriptures contain everything we need to know about who God is and what He expects of us – but not everything about Him. And John reminds us in his gospel in chapter 21 that Jesus did many things that were not written down because the world itself could not contain them. I think the same is true regarding our understanding of God. Were we to understand completely, He would no longer be God.
Jesus is clothed in a robe dipped in blood which could either mean that it looks forward to the destruction He will carry out on the enemies or it could look backward to his own blood shed on the cross. Or it could be both.
Jesus is also called the Word of God. He is the revelation of God. John’s gospel describes Jesus in this light when he writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” - John 1.1, 14.
Jesus is the commander of a great army – actually armies of heaven. They are dressed in white and pure linen and riding white horses. These are likely the saints in heaven joined with the angels.
There is a sharp sword that protrudes from His mouth which is used to strike down the nations. It is likely that this represents the words that will strike down the enemy. We know that the earth was spoken into existence. And we know that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. So it would appear that Jesus will speak, and destruction will come upon the enemy as though a sword were wielded. But what we will also see is that it will not be a symbolic or spiritual reality but real bloodshed will result.
He will strike down the nations with a rod of iron. This is not merely a shepherd’s implement for protection, but destruction. Verse 15 says that he will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. This imagery is quite graphic. In the same way that wine was produced by stomping on the grapes, so will this destruction be. Only this time the garments are stained with blood. Isaiah 63:1-3 reads, “1 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.” 2 Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? 3 “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.”
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. There is no one more elevated than Jesus Christ. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, CEO’s notwithstanding, all are under the authority of our Lord Jesus. We have seen that God’s plan often includes using evil authorities such as Pharaoh of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Herod, Nero, Domitian and many others. But Scripture is also clear that God uses them to carry out his purposes. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”
When we recently visited our friends in the States, there was a real concern that the nation was digressing from Christian values. In fact, there was also concern over possibility of Christian persecution. I don’t think this is far-fetched. North America is going the way of Europe in that it will soon be post-Christian. As much as there may be concern over such things, the comfort in all of this is that none of this takes God by surprise. In fact, God uses all of this to carry out His plan. Jesus is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords and human rulers can do nothing about it!
Next, we see an angel standing in the sun. It would appear as though he stands in a prominent position so that all will see and hear the declaration. But the message isn’t what we might expect. He invites the birds in flight to participate in a great feast – a feast that will includes multitudes of people. There is certainty in the invitation. Victory is promised and the angel has invited the birds to have their fill of these armies. The battle seen was set. This is the army that was assembled in the sixth bowl of chapter 16 at Armageddon. There is great anticipation! It is here that my mind envisioned the battle of Tolkien’s Helm’s Deep. But that’s not what we get. Look at verse 20.
All we get is the beast and the false prophet are captured and thrown into the lake of fire. And the rest were slain by the sword from His mouth. It appears as though the battle is over instantaneously and judgment has been rendered. But the results are horrific. It is so bad that all the multitudes are slaughtered, left in the open for the birds to feast on. And the text says that they were “gorged” with their flesh. Not a pretty picture!
When we consider such devastation and annihilation and gore, it causes us to shudder. Just like the idea of eternal torment in hell. Our human sensitivities cannot understand such punishment. As finite human beings, the problem with these concepts originates in our inability to understand God fully – more specifically his holiness. None of us on earth can truly understand how pure, holy, and righteous he actually is. As a result, we don’t truly understand our sin. Sin is an affront to God’s holiness. And because we can’t comprehend fully either of these concepts, we cannot understand His justice. So when we read of these judgments in the Book of Revelation and all throughout Scripture, they appear a bit over the top to us. Now we wouldn’t say that. But they are hard for us to get our minds around.
But thanks be to God because He didn’t allow us to be utterly confused about such things. God has chosen to reveal himself through creation, through his Son Jesus, and through His written Word – the Scriptures. God has seen fit to allow us to see a glimpse of who He is. And as we seek to understand His nature and become more familiar with his holiness, we see more clearly – not fully, but more clearly. If there is one thing that we need, it is to become more familiar with him.
Proverbs 2:1-10 says, “1 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, 8 guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. 9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; 10 for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
When we see his holiness more clearly, we see sin more clearly. And we see the need for justice more clearly. AND we see grace and mercy more clearly. How can someone understand grace until they understand sin? And how can they understand sin until they understand holiness??
Hell is necessary because God is holy and sin is serious business. But there is grace. Punishment for sin has already been poured out on the Lamb. And when we appropriate that forgiveness, we participate in another Dinner Party. READ vv. 6-11.
Those who have trusted in Jesus Christ are considered his bride. I understand that being identified as a bride may not sit well with the men here this morning. You probably want to go back to Jesus the Warrior… By faith in Christ, we have a far better feast to participate in. God has purified us through the blood of the Lamb so that our sin no longer separates us from Him.
There are two dinner parties in this passage. My challenge to each of you is to consider which of the two you will be participating in. If you have not trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation from your sin, you remain alienated and an enemy of God. You may consider yourself a good or religious person. But if your sin has not been dealt with, you are not reconciled to a holy God. Many consider talk of fire and brimstone, sin and punishment as intolerant and unloving. I would suggest that such talk is one of the greatest expressions of love and concern for your soul. It is because of love for the lost that Squamish Baptist Church is committed to declare God’s holiness, our sinfulness, and his perfect provision for us. We all need Jesus!
The "Coexist" Bumper Sticker says that it celebrates those who work toward, hope for, and believe that peace is the way. The Stickers feature various Religious Symbols with a Peace Sign. It's such a wonderful message! Jesus is the way. It might be a wonderful “concept” but is not the truth.
For those of who call Jesus our Savior and Lord, there is work yet to be done. One thing that we often say is that we want to be like Him. What Would Jesus Do? According to our text, Jesus is faithful and true. In light of the persecution the Christians may face in the future, I exhort you to be faithful to Christ. One thing that persecution does is that it often clears up the confusion. Presently in North America it costs us little to follow Christ. But when hardship and adversity comes those not fully committed will fall away. Recall the beatitudes in the book of Revelation: Blessed is the one who overcomes! Take your faith seriously and live fully for Him in the face of persecution.
Jesus is true. Are we characterized by our truthfulness? Or do we continue to fabricate and manipulate stories, lie and slander in order to make ourselves look better? Let’s be characterized by our truthfulness so that we make Him look better!! The world is excellent at self-enhancement. Let’s make Jesus famous!
There are lots of things that we can take from this text for our spiritual maturity. I’ll leave you with one more. Jesus, as the Word of God reveals the Father to us. Do we “reveal” God to a world that doesn’t know Him? I understand we are not a member of the trinity and don’t reveal in the same sense. But do we tell of Him? He is the Lord God Almighty who has sent his own Son as the sacrifice, the Lamb, to take away the sin of the world! And if we trust in Him, the Holy Spirit changes us and makes us a child of God! That news is too good to keep to ourselves! Let’s Pray.