Revelation: Scene Four – Part Three

TITLE: Revelation: Scene Four – Part Three
PREACHER: Marcus Herbert
DATE: 4 AUGUST 2013 – Sunday AM

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Last week we looked at the beasts in Revelation 13. The first beast which rises from the sea represents pagan government while the second best, which rises from the earth, represents false religion. False religion tries to stick as close to the truth as it can but is always a degree or two off. It uses deception, false signs and wonders. It’s important to note that we’ve attached all kinds of sci-fi and myth and fantasy to what these beasts mean, but they’re simply about pagan government and false religion uniting against the saints.

This section we’re dealing with right now, Revelation 11:19 to 15:4, is all about “seven visions of victory”. By the end we see how all these weapons of the enemy fall to pieces and God’s people are victorious in Jesus. We see in Revelation 12 that the enemy first tries to destroy Christ but fails and is cast down to earth. Now in his cast-down state, he is waging war against you and I and he uses these beasts of pagan government and false religion to wage his war. In many countries people are dying for Christ under pagan government. When that meets false religion all hell breaks loose. Those who follow these two beasts and are caught up in them, refusing to believe in the Gospel, are represented by the number ‘666’ – a code for the height of human evil.

The Illuminati and those kinds of secret societies are not the beast. This scripture shows us that behind the governments of the world there are controlling forces like mammon (the love of money) which takes a lot of people captive.

But in line with that there’s a third weapon that the enemy uses against us and that is the harlot (or Babylon).

Revelation 14:

1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgement has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

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 sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!”

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

This passage ends with a picture of how God finally destroys evil. After we read about the two beasts in the previous chapter, we read about the seeing the Lamb in verse 1. After reading about these two beasts you might be scared and wonder, “What else is coming?” and then you see the Lamb, who is victorious.

The 144,000 is a representative number of the vast majority that have received Christ. They have the name of God on their forehead. Then in verse 4 it talks about them being virgins and this means that they have kept themselves from idolatry (it’s not talking about physical relationships). They have not committed spiritual adultery.

So this is the third vision of victory and it shows us how God’s people are safe. In God, it doesn’t matter about beasts that rise and take control, making life difficult. In Christ we are safe and we thank God for that. If your name is written in that Lamb’s book of life you don’t have to build a shelter and stock up with bully beef and torch batteries, because you’re worried about zombies or something else taking over this earth. No, the only way we’re going to make it through these trials and beasts and the harlot is in the safe place we have in Christ. If you’re not in Jesus today, if you don’t know him, it’s easy to be safe in Jesus – just surrender your life to him and ask him to be your Lord and Saviour. That means that you will take his name and belong to him and bear his characteristics, righteousness and love.

We see that God’s people in this vision are a powerful worship team (verse 2 & 3). There’s power and loud thunder but it’s beautiful and full of melody. When we’re caught up in worship (and not thinking about who’s leading the worship) we reach a place of unity. Worship is our weapon and we worship because we can. All these evils can be bearing down on us but we’re worshipping the King. This is a lovely picture of the Church – steady and persistent, loud like thunder, spontaneous, creative and real.

We are pure and holy in Christ – that’s why it says God’s people were blameless in verse 5. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling as a result. We’ve got to constantly fight the beasts and the harlot with the Word of God. We don’t get entangled in those things and succumb to the seduction of the harlot.

Who / what is the harlot in verse 8?

Revelation 14:8

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

In scripture, Babylon represents wicked seduction and sensuality – the seducing nature of the enemy. Another way the scriptures represent this is through a picture of a harlot. We see here in verse 8 that the harlot will fall and we’ll read later that the beasts fall as well. But the word ‘fallen’ is apt as it talks of Satan and the way he works. He has fallen power. In verse 9 we see that those who serve the beasts and the harlot (Satan) are punished along with Satan and will drink the cup of God’s wrath.

The three angels

Verse 6 – 9 shows us three angels and moves into the next vision of our “seven visions of victory” in this section of Revelation. The first angel declares the eternal Gospel. In this age where all this turmoil is taking place, the Gospel is declared through us, and we see it has two aspects to it.

The first aspect is good news for the Gospel’s recipients – total forgiveness of sin and us being made brand new, being born again. But the second aspect is punishment on the wicked, those who refuse this Gospel. Wickedness will come to an end and be judged. There will be a punishment. The fact is that in his justice God loved us and his son died so we may be free. But justice will come. This isn’t a scare tactic, the appeal of the Gospel is “God loved the world” not “God hated the world!” But the consequence of not accepting the good news is eternal punishment.

The second angel speaks out doom for Babylon (the harlot) and this shows us that this aspect of Satan and his attack, this seducing, will come to an end. What does Babylon – the harlot – seduce us with? Worldly indulgence – the love of money; of ease; the desire of the eyes; the pride of life; the sins of the flesh. So we see that Satan uses these three weapons against us – pagan government; false religion; and the seduction of sin. This is always going to be an issue for us in the gospel age.

We have been saved and are justified with Christ. But we also are being saved, which we call sanctification. Finally, we will be saved, which is when we will be glorified. But it’s in this process of ‘being saved’, of being sanctified, where we must apply the Gospel because this harlot is seducing us into places where there is bondage. Many Christians are in bondage to mammon (the love of money), sex, pride, the pleasures of the flesh and so on. Therapy is never going to make us overcome these things. Good intent will never work. No, we need the Gospel applied to overcome this harlot.

We apply the Gospel (being saved) and then there is a wonderful inheritance in Christ. In and through that we receive rewards (will be saved) at the second coming. We need to trust God for freedom from these bondages, which are designed to pull us down. We must walk in his grace and forgiveness.

This modern day disease of depression is another area where the enemy has seduced us and even whole churches into places of ineffectiveness. Churches have also been seduced into believing that Christianity is about sitting and enjoying. But God can deal with this.

The third angel warns of the punishment to come at the second coming. There is reward for believers in Christ but punishment for the wicked. Punishment will come and it’s something God has ordained from the beginning.

Why does the verse talk of drinking wine (verse 10)? Because, in those days, people would drink diluted wine and the ‘real stuff’ was the full-bodied, undiluted wine. This is showing us that up to now God’s judgements have been like diluted wine, but there’s coming a day when his judgement will be full-bodied.

There are those that say that this life, with its difficulties, is hell. But we ain’t seen nothing yet. God’s anger against the wicked is hell. We have not seen his wrath yet. His wrath is unbroken, unmerciful, eternal torment. Hell has been trivialised and the state after death has been softened because commentators want it to be a whole lot better. But we must never forget that God’s justice and judgement is always a part of this Gospel.

 

Revelation 14:

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

Why does the angel look “like a son of man”? (Verse 14.) Because the angel looks like Jesus. The word for ‘sickle’ in the original Greek in the same verse refers to a sickle that’s used for harvesting wheat. But the second sickle in verse 17 is one used for vines. That sickle is smaller, sharper and more specific.

This is showing us two harvests, which are two resurrections. The first is a harvest / resurrection of the righteous, done with a wheat sickle. But the second harvest / resurrection is of the wicked, done with that small, sharper sickle for vines. So numbers-wise, there’s going to be a huge harvest for the Kingdom but there is going to be a harvest of those who resisted Jesus and the Gospel. This sixth vision of victory ends where we see the wrath of God finally being finished – blood flowing from the wine press.

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 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.

2 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. 3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant[a] 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!
4 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.”

Here we move into seventh vision of victory. Every scene in Revelation ends with a seventh vision where God’s people triumph and eternity with God begins. We cannot comprehend what God has for us – we’ve had plenty who try to guess and put forth what a “sea of glass mingled with fire” means and all that extra-biblical stuff is worthless. Throw that stuff away! The reality is that, in our fallen nature, we cannot fully comprehend or understand what God has prepared for us. Ask God to heal you from those images burned into your mind from extra-biblical sources on what heaven is about. They destroy our understanding.

The seventh vision also shows us that we will never again have to battle with beasts and a harlot. All that has come to its end.

Challenges

If we look at this there are challenges for us to apply. We see how Satan works in this passage of scripture, with pagan government which will always rise and fall; false religion that comes to destroy the saints; and the seduction of sin. Twice we are called to endure (Revelation 13:10 and 14:12). We endure by having faith in Christ. Work out your salvation right until the end – that’s the message!

We’re told over and again that there might be extreme times of difficulty but we win in Christ at the end. He leaves us with no “ifs”, “buts” or “maybes”. He is preparing us for tough times and the systems of this world will get worse until the end. But we faithfully persevere and we win in the end. All of us can say thank you Lord Jesus!

Many of us are caught up in the seduction of the enemy and we need that broken in our lives. It could be depression, a love of money, pornography, or any number of things. These things are not God’s plan for our lives. God will break the cycle of not being able to break through – let’s pray and ask him right now to do that.

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