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A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20


I realize with what I'm about to say that I'm going to date myself, but when I was about six, seven years old, we got our first television. It was a little black and white television that had the rabbit-eared antennas and, you know, me being the youngest, when it didn't properly pick up the signal of the three local stations, the only stations there were, then I was supposed to go over and hold it. Just stand there. That's right. Keep it right there. And when I let go, the signal would begin to fade and it's like, "Hold the antenna, we want to see the game."

Well, it's interesting when you look at the history of television, when you look at how many people have watched various events, to note that most of the time the largest events are sporting events. The Super Bowl is coming up. Historically, it's one of the greatest. The World Cup, other sporting events. It's hard to know the exact numbers, but some have estimated that among the largest audiences in history, of course brought together by television, you have these: The Apollo 11 moon landing, in which it's estimated some 600 million people watched; the 2018 World Cup final between France and Croatia, it's estimated 1 billion people watched; Prince Charles' and Lady Diana's wedding, 1 billion; the September 11 terror attacks, they estimate some 2 billion people around the world watch those events unfold; the funeral of Lady Diana, again, 2 billion people; and to date, one of the very largest was the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, when they estimate over 3 billion people tuned in to watch. Tonight, in our study of the book of Revelation, we will get to watch with the apostle John. We will get to witness three compelling supernatural events, three angelic announcements that every single living person at that time on this planet will see and hear.

We're in the middle of Revelation 14. It's part of a three-chapter interlude that falls between the sounding of the seventh trumpet in chapter 11, which announces the seven bowl judgments, and the actual pouring out of those seven bowl judgments introduced in chapter 15 and described in chapter 16. So, think of chapters 12 to 14 like happens in my household. I have three daughters and I have to be thoroughly versed in such things as Jane Austen's works. And so we're watching the five-hour Pride and Prejudice, and I have to hit the pause button and get my daughter to give me a commentary: "Help me understand what just happened here."

Think of chapters 12 through 14 like that. It's a pause button in the middle of the chronological events that are unfolding, where John hears and has explained to him some of what's happening throughout that time period to help him understand further what's unfolding. When you look at chapter 14, as I noted for you last week, Revelation 14 provides a powerful preview of the Lamb's final victory, with the eternal defeat of His enemies and the eternal reward of His followers. So, chapter 14 looks ahead. It gives a preview of what's coming. It's a kind of trailer for the rest of the tribulation.

This preview of Jesus' ultimate victory unfolds in five dramatic scenes. Last week, we examined the first scene: Jesus returns and gathers with His 144,000 Jewish witnesses. That's the message of the first five verses in chapter 14. John, in those five verses, looks ahead. He looks ahead to the second coming, which doesn't come till chapter 19. He looks ahead and he sees Jesus standing victorious on Mount Zion, surrounded by those who faithfully witnessed to Him during the tribulation, specifically the 144,000 Jewish witnesses. Tonight, we begin a second dramatic scene. Through His angel, Jesus preaches the everlasting gospel to the world. That's the point of verses 6 and 7 that we need to begin this evening in our study.

The scene in verses 1 to 5 will occur at the end of the tribulation in conjunction with the second coming. But, beginning in verse 6, with these two verses, we actually step back into the tribulation period, toward the end of the tribulation, an event that actually occurs before the events described in verses 1 to 5. Here's how it sort of unfolds.

After Christ breaks the sixth seal earlier in the tribulation period, the entire world will know that the God that they have rejected and denied is in fact the One who is bringing these horrific catastrophes unfolding on this planet. Go back to chapter 6. John makes this clear, Revelation 6:15, this is after the breaking of the sixth seal:

Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and freeman hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"

So, after the breaking of the sixth seal, people on this planet will know. There'll be no mystery about the source of these catastrophes. But still, they will refuse to repent. Go over to [Revelation] 9:20. This is after the sixth trumpet:

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.

So, mankind knows, he knows that God is bringing these catastrophes, but he remains absolutely set in his rebellion against God. In fact, they will believe antichrist's lie and worship him. Go over to [Revelation] 13:16, the false prophet will cause "all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either of the name of the beast or the number of his name."

And what's the point of all of that? It's marked those who worship the beast, back in [Revelation] 13:4, and "they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast," they worshiped Satan, and they worshiped antichrist, "saying 'Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?'"

So just put yourself into this situation: They have seen these catastrophes sweep the globe that absolutely make what we experience in our day look unimportant and inconsequential. They've watched it unfold. They've experienced it. They've suffered with the loss of water, the loss of food, the skyrocketing inflation. They've experienced all of those things, death, unimaginable death. And yet they refuse to repent.

How does the Lord Jesus Christ respond? Christ and His grace will make three great announcements, through His angels, to the entire world. In [Revelation 14] verses 6 and 7, the first angel will proclaim the everlasting gospel. In verse 8, a second angel will announce the destruction of antichrist's empire. And in verses 9 through 13, the third angel will announce the impending judgment of mankind. These three announcements — don't miss this — these three announcements are Christ's gracious warnings in preparation for the final climactic judgments to unfold at the end of the tribulation. They will graciously offer sinners yet another chance to repent. You see the heart of Christ in these announcements. Let's look at the first.

We first meet, in this first announcement, we meet the messenger. In verse 6, the messenger: "And I saw another angel flying in midheaven." Now, in verses 6 through 20, we're going to meet six different angels. And the key to understanding these events is to remember that angels are, by their very nature, by definition, they are messengers. They are servants. They initiate nothing on their own. They are commissioned by God. One of my favorite scenes in all the Bible is when Gabriel shows up inside the temple, when Zacharias is there, to offer incense in Luke chapter 1. And he says, "So how do I know that what you're telling me is true?" And Gabriel responds, Luke 1:19, "I am Gabriel." You can just picture him rolling his eyes, right? "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news." But the point I want you to see is he says, "I have been sent." I have been sent. That's the nature of angels. And in Revelation, the angels are sent and directed specifically by God the Son, the Central Character of this book. Go back to Revelation 1:1, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place." And notice this: He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.

At times Christ spoke directly with John as these events unfolded. You can see that in chapter 6. But often, Christ spoke to John through an angel. It's not surprising. The New Testament tells us angels were involved in the revelation of the law at Sinai. Stephen mentions that in his sermon in Acts 7, Hebrews 2:2 and other places. But this is the only New Testament book given to its author by an angel. Look at Revelation 22:16, "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."

So, angels are messengers, servants, sent, in the case of Revelation, by the Son, God the Son. And they are prominent throughout this book's events. They appear in every chapter except chapters 4 and 13. The words "angel" and "angels" occur 71 times, far more than any other biblical book. In fact, 25% of the biblical references to angels occur in Revelation, so it's not surprising then in Revelation 14:6, John sees another angel.

Now, the last reference to an angel was back in [Revelation] 12:7, to Michael and his angels. So, John likely means here he now sees another angel and it's not Michael. And this angel was flying in midheaven. In astronomy, the word for "midheaven," here the Greek word, is used for the meridian. It refers to the zenith of the sun, its position at midday. So, this powerful angel is flying in the middle of the sky. And the point is, he is visible to everyone. Verse 6 says "having an eternal gospel to preach."

It's interesting. This is the only time the word "gospel" occurs in Revelation. But that is the message this angel brings. It won't be the only time the gospel comes during the tribulation. In fact, God will graciously proclaim the gospel through the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, through the two witnesses, I think likely Moses and Elijah, through the countless others who will be saved through their ministries. But most people on this planet will reject their testimony and the world will still need the gospel.

So, in grace, yet again, Christ will appeal to the people of this planet to repent of their sin, their idolatry and their rebellion against Him before He finally judges them. This angel, sent by Christ, flies in the heaven, visible to everyone, unreachable by antichrist, proclaiming the eternal gospel. The eternal gospel.

It's the same gospel that there always has been. It's the same gospel preached to Adam and Eve in the garden in Genesis 3:15, that there would be a unique male human who would come and destroy Satan and deal with sin. It's the gospel preached to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, according to Galatians 3, when God promised him that through one of his offspring people, through all the nations, would experience spiritual blessing. It's the gospel preached through Isaiah and the song of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53. It's the gospel our Lord proclaimed in Mark chapter 1 and throughout the gospels. It's the gospel His apostles preached. It's the only gospel there is. It's the eternal gospel. It's the gospel that teaches that every person has sinned against God, their Creator, and therefore will face eternal judgment in hell forever. But God has provided for forgiveness and eternal life through the atonement for sin, purchased in the sacrificial death of God's own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And that to receive that gift of grace, we must repent of our sins, turn from our sins and our rebellion against God, lay down our arms, as it were, of rebellion, and believe in Jesus Christ. That's what this messenger will bring.

Notice the audience in verse 6. He will bring this message of the everlasting eternal gospel to those who live on the earth and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people. This angel will proclaim the eternal gospel to everyone on this planet.

It's not too surprising when you think about it. I mean, Jesus promised in the Olivet discourse that this would happen. Matthew 24:14, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." The ministry of this angel will ensure that the gospel reaches everyone who has not yet heard. It amazes me, I hope it amazes you, when you think about how mankind has responded during those seven years. If I were Christ, I would wipe them out with a word. But what does He do? Yet again, He declares the gospel through His angel. Even as the end draws dangerously near, this angel sent by Christ will tell the people of this world that there is still time to repent. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

What is the message? Look at verse 7: "And he said with a loud voice..." He said with a loud voice. He wants this message to be heard worldwide. And I think the fact that he speaks with a loud voice also stresses the importance and urgency to hear and to believe. And we're provided with a summary of the angel's message.

It's interesting, as I mentioned this morning, the gospel is an announcement to be believed. It's an invitation to be accepted. But, oh yes, it is a command to be obeyed. And here again, the gospel is stated as a series of commands.

First of all, fear God. Fear God. This is a call to turn from idols and to trust and fear the true and living God. Makes perfect sense when you think about the context. The unbelievers alive at that time will fear Satan. They will fear antichrist, they will fear the false prophet, they'll get the mark of the beast, and this angel will call them to fear God instead. Psalm 111:10 says, "The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom." As Solomon wraps up the book of Ecclesiastes, he writes in chapter 12:13, "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person." And Jesus couldn't have been more blunt. In Matthew 10:28 He says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

What is it you fear? Jesus says what you ought to fear above all things is the God who has the power to condemn you to eternal hell because of your sins. The true and living God, whose personal name is Yahweh, eternally existing as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the only One who is worthy of your fear, and He is feared only when His Son is accepted, and His Son is honored. That's what Jesus said in John 5:23: "He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." Fear God. If you're here tonight and you don't know the Lord Jesus Christ, this is where it begins. You better fear the One who, to use the words of Daniel to Belshazzar, holds your life breath in His hands.

Secondly, he says, glorify God. Verse 7: "Fear God, and give Him glory." Man's proud, stubborn refusal to give glory to God lies at the very root of his sinful condition. Look at Romans 1:21. Let's go back to verse 18. Let me get you a running start here: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." How do men on this planet suppress the truth? Well, verse 19: "Because that which is known about God is evident within them." Well, how? Because "God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made" so that everyone on this planet is without excuse. So how do people respond to the revelation of God in creation? Verse 21: "For even though they knew God," that is, they knew that God existed through the creation, they suppressed that knowledge, and "they did not honor him as God." Notice, if you have a version of the Scripture with marginal notes, you'll notice that literally the Greek word there in verse 21 is "they did not glorify him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened," and they basically exchanged, verse 23, "the glory of the incorruptible God" for some other object of worship. Listen, you were hardwired to worship, and worship something you will. And if it's not the true God, it'll be everything else if it's not yourself.

But notice the indictment. This is man's root problem. And throughout Scripture, the command to give God glory is understandably, then, really a command to repent. Let me show you this just one example. Revelation 16:9, when the fourth angel pours out his bowl of judgment and men are scorched with fire: "Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues," and notice this, "they did not repent," what? "so as to give Him glory." So, the call here by this angel to give God glory is really a call to repent, to give God what is due Him, what you have intentionally withheld from Him, the knowledge you have intentionally suppressed about Him, thinking, kidding yourself that all of this stuff just came into being on its own, or that matter itself is eternal.

Those are illogical conclusions. But that's where man goes to avoid the reality that there is a Creator who made them, who owns them, and therefore has a right to tell them what to do. [Revelation] 14:7 goes on, here's the reason to repent, "because the hour of his judgment has come." In other words, the opportunity for repentance is coming to an end. The seven bold judgments will soon be poured out on this earth. The Lord Jesus Christ is about to return as Judge.

Notice the word "judgment." This is the first time in Revelation the word "judgment" appears. The Greek word is "krisis," from which we get our English word "crisis." It's a crisis indeed. John does not say, notice, that the "time" or the "season" of judgment has come, but the "hour" of judgment has come. He's saying the fixed moment in history is now. Now, from this point forward in this book, the word "judgment" is going to be used interchangeably with the words "wrath" and "anger." Christ's judgment against the world and its sinners will be the pouring out of His furious wrath and anger on those who ignore Him, ignore His offers of grace, ignore the angel preaching the eternal gospel, and who continue in their rebellion. The hour has come, and it is the entirely just and right decision of a holy God against mankind's rebellion.

This is not some fit of temper by Jesus Christ. This is the settled, righteous disposition of a holy God saying "it is time for justice to be done." So, the angel says, "Fear God and give him glory, repent." And he adds, "and worship God." Worship him. And here's the reason.

Verse 7 goes on: "...who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and springs of waters." Now, that's a fairly typical description of creation, except for the last element, the addition of "and springs of water." Why does he include that here? Probably because of the life-giving, life-sustaining importance of freshwater springs that have already been affected in the judgments that have happened. And, in addition to that, we're going to get to the bowl judgments which are about to unfold. And the second bowl will affect the oceans. The third bowl judgment will affect all fresh water on this planet.

This reference to creation, to God as Creator, is a familiar one [in] so many places in Scripture. For example, Nehemiah 9:6, "You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You." The angel says that's God, non-antichrist. Worship the true God. Psalm 33:6-9, "By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host." You just read that and kind of skip over it. Don't. Think about what he just said. God didn't have to form and shape everything. He spoke, and everything that is came into existence out of nothing. "He gathers the waters of the seas together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast."

So, this angel, in addition to appealing to the fact that judgment is about to fall, the other reason that he uses to appeal to sinners, to repent, to worship the true God, is that He is the true and only Creator. And it makes sense. I mean, God has intentionally put Himself on display in the creation. The creation provides evidence for the existence of God. We just saw it in Romans 1. It's evident, they see it, they understand it and they suppress it, but it's there.

The creation provides a reason to worship God. I remember in Hebrew class in seminary, yes, that was a long time ago, but I still remember learning Psalm 19:1 in Hebrew, "The heavens" — this isn't Hebrew, by the way, I'm not going to bother you with my Hebrew — "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." Just look up, for goodness sake, and see the greatness and the glory of the Creator.

It's interesting, when you read the book of Acts, you find that whenever and wherever Paul evangelizes pagans; when he evangelizes Jews, the Jewish people, where does he go? He goes to the Hebrew Scriptures. But when he evangelizes pagans, whether they are plain, simple, basic people or whether they are the philosophers on Mars Hill, where does he go? He goes to God as Creator. He reminds them — he begins by reminding them — that the true and living God is the Creator. He made everything, and therefore He deserves to be feared. He deserves to be worshipped. This angel reminds the world that they have a Creator, and He is about to be their Judge. As one author expresses it, and this is chilling to me, he writes,

Here is the bitter irony of their lot: Though they damned themselves eternally by their refusal to face the truth, one day they will be forced to face it. Sooner or later, the glory they refuse to give the Creator willingly will be torn from them by the spectacle of His wrath. As the world stands on the very precipice of being destroyed by Jesus Christ, in an amazing condescension of His grace, Christ again offers Himself to them in the gospel.

I just can't help, when I think about that, but be reminded that this angel's preaching of the gospel reminds us of the very heart of our God. He is by nature a Savior. I love Isaiah 45:20-22. Listen to God's invitation. I love this. You can look at it if you want, Isaiah 45:20:

Gather yourselves and come; draw near together, you fugitives of the nations; they have no knowledge, who carry about their wooden idol and pray to a god who cannot save. Declare and set forth your case; indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me.

And then listen to this invitation: "Turn to Me" and be rescued, "be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other." This shows the heart of God. He is, by nature, a Rescuer or a Savior. He finds joy and delight in saving those who have destroyed themselves.

There's another lesson, I think, here for us, and that is, this angel's preaching of the gospel also underscores the necessity of the gospel message being preached for people to come to genuine faith. Paul begins Romans, in Romans 1:16-17, by saying that he was not ashamed of the gospel, the basic simple message of the gospel. Why was he not ashamed of it? He says because "it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." And you remember what he says in Romans chapter 10, where he says, "How shall they believe unless they hear the message?"

And that brings me to a third reminder here, and that is, this gospel-preaching angel reminds us of the priority, for us, to be evangelists. First Peter 2:9 says, speaking of the Church, speaking of all of us, "you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." Listen, it's more our job to tell of the Savior than it is in angels because we have experienced the salvation He brings.

So, that's a pretty dramatic scene. There's a third dramatic scene that John sees unfold in chapter 14, and that is, through his angel, Jesus proclaims the imminent fall of antichrist's empire. Look at verse 8, and another angel, a second one followed, the second angel now follows the first, not only chronologically, but logically. The implication in the message of the second angel is that most of the world's population will again reject the first angel's preaching of the gospel. In light of that, here is the message of the second angel, [Revelation] 14:8, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great." It's a warning about what's coming, but with yet another implied invitation to repent.

This is the first time, by the way, that Babylon is mentioned in this book. What exactly does Babylon the great in the book of Revelation represent? Well, there are several common interpretations. There are some, a few, who say that Babylon is actually a code name for Jerusalem. The only ones who really hold this view believe that John wrote Revelation before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. And so, because of that, he was forced to use a code name so that he could avoid being hunted down by the temple guard. There's no valid evidence for that date of writing and there's no valid evidence for this view. So, let's just mark that one off the list.

Secondly, the city of Rome. This one is fairly common. When I was growing up, this one was often taught by people around me. In extra-biblical writings, Rome is described as Babylon [in] several Sibylline oracles and other extra-biblical writings. Peter uses Babylon to mean Rome. Likely, we can't be absolutely certain, but many believe that he uses the name Babylon to mean Rome. In 1 Peter 5:13, when he writes, "She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark," and many think he was referring there to Rome. In light of that, some argue that John must mean Rome here as well.

A third argument is that it means the Roman papacy. Certainly, they're going to be thrown into the mix of all of this, and we'll talk about that when we get to chapters 17 and 18. But I think that's too narrow a meaning to fit the description that we're going to read and study in chapters 17 and 18.

I think far more likely is the fourth view of Babylon the great. And that is, it is the capital city and the empire of antichrist. At times it stands for the city where his kingdom is based, his empire is based. Other times, it stands for the entire empire. This view best fits what we're going to discover when we get to chapters 17 and 18. Until then, you'll just have to take my word for it. But I think when we get there and you see it, you'll understand why this view makes the most sense. And it also makes sense biblically. I mean, think about where Babylon began. In Genesis 11:9, we read of the founding of the city of Babel. It was founded by Nimrod according to Genesis 10:9, a powerful ruler who rejected God. It was there in Babel that the first organized system of idolatrous worship began, recorded in the first four verses of Genesis 11. It was there that they built the tower of Babel, a ziggurat, to facilitate their worship and as a symbol of their proud humanistic rebellion. You remember, God confused their language and scattered them across the world in different people groups as a judgment on their idolatry and their rebellion. So Babylon, then, became a kind of metaphor for human pride, for pagan worship, for a city and an empire in rebellion against God. And that's why antichrist's kingdom, his future kingdom, is called Babylon the great. It is the final Babylon.

So, in [Revelation] 14:8, Jesus proclaims, through his angel, the imminent destruction of antichrist's political, economic and religious empire, including the destruction of its capital city. Notice what he says: "Fallen, fallen." Its destruction is described as if it's already happened, but it doesn't actually happen until the seventh bowl judgment, recorded in chapter 16.

Look at [Revelation] 16:17: "[Then] the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne saying, 'It is done.'" And then verse 19: "The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath." So, the actual destruction of antichrist's empire doesn't come until the seventh bowl, but it's described as if it already happened.

I think the reason — in fact, I'm confident — the reason the angel says it has fallen already is to underscore that its fall is imminent and that it is certain. Can you imagine, just again put on your sanctified imagination and imagine, God forbid, you are still living, and you are there on this planet when suddenly, in midair, there is an angel proclaiming that antichrist's empire is soon to be destroyed. And it is so certain, it's as if it's already fallen. That news, I promise you, will be shocking to the inhabitants of the earth because they will have already witnessed the apparent invincibility of antichrist. They will be convinced that he is their hero, he is their warrior champion, the invincible one. And here's an angel saying, "Listen, you better get ready, it's coming, it's going to be destroyed."

They will have yielded their allegiance to him based on their confidence in him. But this angel now announces that the worldwide powerful empire of antichrist, the most powerful ruler and world empire in human history, is about to be absolutely destroyed. Here it's announced in brief, verse 8, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great." But its destruction is described in detail beginning in chapter 16:17, all the way through the end of chapter 16, chapter 17 and chapter 18.

Notice the reason Christ will destroy antichrist's empire, verse 8: "She who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality." That same reason is repeated again in [Revelation] 18:3: "For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality." Now in this expression, John is really combining two thoughts. On the one hand, he's picturing a cup of wine that a prostitute gives to someone she's about to seduce. If you go over to 17:2, you see this picture, "With whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality." Look down in 17:4, "The woman" — and you get this picture of a prostitute — "The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality." Antichrist's kingdom is pictured as a prostitute who seduces the nations of the

world with every kind of excess in order to entice them, to seduce them, to become involved with her. That's the first picture.

But there's another picture, back in [Revelation] 14:8, in this picture of the wine. And it's the picture of the cup of God's wrath that He gives to those He punishes. Look at 14:10, speaking of the one who worships the beast, "He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb."

So, you have these two metaphors: One, a cup of wine that's used by antichrist's empire, posing like a prostitute to seduce the nations, to get involved with him and his kingdom. And then you have the cup of God's wrath that He gives to those He punishes. The point of these mixed metaphors is that the people of this world will willingly drink the wine of Babylon and engage in spiritual immorality with her. But God will turn that cup into the cup of the wine of His wrath.

But this brings up a larger question. When you look at verse 8, the question that comes to my mind is, why? Why would Christ proclaim to the entire world through His angel the imminent collapse of antichrist's kingdom and reign? It really follows up on the first angel, doesn't it? It's yet another gracious warning. It's another call to turn and to trust in the living God, to fear Him, to give Him glory, to worship Him. Because everything they put their trust in, everything they put their confidence in, the one they worship, will soon be destroyed. Again, you see the grace of Jesus Christ.

So, what are the lessons for us from this amazing passage? Let me just give you three quick ones.

First of all, God finds no delight in the death and the eternal punishment of the wicked. God is so clear about this. He's just and He will do it, but He finds no delight in it. Listen to Ezekiel. Why don't you turn with me to Ezekiel? You read it with me together, Ezekiel 33:10: "Now as for you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, 'Thus you have spoken, saying, "Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we are rotting away in them; how then can we survive?"'" What can we do? This is determined. God's got His mind made up. What can we do? "Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord GOD," in other words, I'm swearing by myself, God says, "'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'"

Listen, if you're here tonight and you're not a believer in Jesus Christ, your destiny, apart from repentance and faith, is sealed. You will suffer for your sins and your rebellion against your God forever in hell. But God finds no joy. He finds no delight in that. He cries out to you, as He does in this text, "Turn from your evil way. Be saved." It's like that invitation we saw in Isaiah, "Turn to me all the ends of the earth and be saved." Why would you die? Why would you perish? Turn to God.

Second lesson we find is that God freely and genuinely offers the Gospel to all. As you know, in this church, we believe the Scriptures teach, and we teach very strongly, the sovereignty of God and salvation that God, in eternity past, chooses, without any condition in us, those whom He will save. But that does not mean that God does not freely and genuinely offer the Gospel to all. Look at Revelation 22. This is how this book ends, Revelation 22:17: "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." That's God's invitation to you, just like will happen during the tribulation, when an angel sent by Christ will proclaim the eternal gospel to this world. The gospel you have heard tonight, the gospel you read in the Scripture, the gospel perhaps you've heard your whole life. That is God's genuine invitation, announcement and command to you.

Number three: Christ sovereignly orchestrates the rise and fall of the world's empires, including the final destruction of all the kingdoms of men. You remember, back in Daniel chapter 2, where Nebuchadnezzar has that dream, picturing the successive empires of this world and it ends this way, this is Daniel 2:44: "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever." And in chapter 7, we meet the person who will rule over that kingdom. He's like the Son of Man, and He comes up to the Ancient of Days and He is given a kingdom and dominion and glory. That's our Lord Jesus Christ. He's in control. He's in control of the kingdoms of this world, the rise and fall of nations, the rise and fall of empires, including the last one, the greatest one. And so, my question to me and to you is, "Why do you worry about your life? Why do you worry about the details of what happens to you when we have a Savior who, at His very wish, kingdoms rise and fall, who is in charge of all things?" That's the kind of Lord we serve. That's the kind of — to borrow the words of David — that's the kind of Shepherd King who's ours.

Let's pray together: Father, thank you for our study together tonight. Lord, I pray that You would remind us again of Your true heart, a heart that beats with grace. Your goodness is Your glory. And that glory is that You are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and that You are one who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. And yet, at the same time, those who hate You, You will repay to their face. Father, thank You for what You have done for us in Jesus Christ, for the grace, the compassion, the mercy, the forgiveness that's ours because of our Shepherd King. Lord, help us to trust Him in the details of our lives, and help us to trust Him in the sweeping rise and fall of nations and kingdoms. We pray in His name. Amen.


A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

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