A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20


I don’t know if you saw it, but just a couple of weeks ago there was a news article that was published online on several sites. And this is what it said: “The founding member of the bands Crosby, Stills and Nash, and the Byrds died Thursday, January 19th, at age 81. Crosby was first inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 as a member of the Byrds and a second time in 1997 as a member of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Crosby cracked a joke about heaven the day before he died. Early Wednesday morning he took to Twitter and wrote, “I heard the place is overrated.”

Sadly, many unbelievers, if they’re honest with themselves, share his flawed perspective of heaven and they really have no desire to be there. And all unbelievers share a very distorted view of hell. Many simply cannot countenance the possibility that there is a place of eternal, conscious punishment. Some reject the idea, frankly, as immoral. In his book “Why I’m Not a Christian” Bertrand Russell, the famous British philosopher and atheist, wrote this, “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is, that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.”

Others, who don’t reject the reality of hell outright, have terribly mistaken ideas about it. In fact, and you’ve heard this, they use the word hell to describe the difficult circumstances they find themselves in, in this life. With many others, frankly, it’s just kind of a joke. Unbelievers have told me on a number of occasions through my life that they actually look forward to hell and plan to have a good time with their friends.

The tragic news for them is that hell is not an eternal frat party. Scripture clearly teaches that there is a real place where every sinner who refuses to repent of his sins will endure conscious, eternal punishment of both body and soul. But the good news is, on the other side, there is also a real place where those who have trusted in Christ will live with Him forever, a new heaven and a new earth eventually in which there is absolute unending, unmitigated joy.

In the passage that we come to tonight in Revelation, Jesus Himself describes, through His angel, what eternity will be like, both for those who have rejected God’s gracious invitation in the gospel and for those who have embraced it fully and who follow Him as Savior and Lord.

We’re in Revelation 14 and just to remind you, here is really an overview of the entire chapter. 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. Chapter 14 really looks ahead. It’s not part of the chronology of Revelation. There’s a break in the chronology. Instead, it’s a preview of what’s coming, and this preview is like a kind of trailer for the rest of the Tribulation.

And the preview of Jesus’ ultimate victory unfolds in five very dramatic scenes. We’ve seen several of them. Let me just remind you. In the first scene, Jesus returns and gathers with His 144,000 faithful Jewish witnesses. That’s verses 1 to 5. John looks ahead to the Second Coming that doesn’t come till chapter 19, and he sees Jesus victorious, standing on Mount Zion, surrounded by the 144,000 faithful witnesses who served during the Tribulation. Then, following that scene in verses 1 to 5, we learned that Christ will make three great announcements through His angels to every person on this planet. They are Christ’s gracious warnings in preparation for the final climactic judgments to unfold at the very end. He graciously tells sinners on this planet it’s coming and offers them yet another chance to repent.

Last time we began to consider these angels and their announcements. We learned in the second dramatic scene in this chapter that, through His angel, Jesus preaches the everlasting gospel to the world. Look at verse 6: “And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people...” This angel flies in midheavens, at the apex of the sky, visible to everyone, proclaiming the eternal gospel. And he states the gospel in a series of commands. Look at verse 7: “and he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.’“ So, Jesus preaches the gospel to every person on this planet through His angel - another chance, another expression of grace, more patience, another demonstration that He is by nature slow to anger.

The third dramatic scene that we looked at in this chapter is in verse 8: through His angel, Jesus proclaims the imminent fall of Antichrist’s empire. Look at verse 8: “And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great...” Jesus proclaims, through this angel, the imminent destruction of Antichrist’s political, economic, and religious empire including its capital city. Here it’s announced in a single verse, but it’s described in great detail starting in chapter 16:17 including chapter 17 and chapter 18.

Verse 8 goes on to say, “...she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.” That’s a description of what Antichrist’s empire has done. Basically, what we learned there is the peoples of the world will willingly drink of the wine of Babylon and engage in spiritual immorality with her. To use the vernacular, they’re more than happy to get into bed with the Antichrist. But God will turn that cup, the cup of seduction, into the cup of His wrath. This is yet another warning of what’s coming and yet another implied invitation to repent.

Now, that brings us tonight to a fourth dramatic scene in verses 9 to 13, and that is, through His angel, Jesus announces the impending judgment of mankind. Let’s read it together. Part of this passage, let me just warn you, is incredibly difficult to read and for me to preach, but there’s also a wonderful part of it. Let’s read it together. Verse 9: “Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 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. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.’ And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.’”

So, through His angel, in these verses, Jesus announces to all mankind, the coming judgment, the impending judgment of mankind. Look at verse 9, how it begins: “Then another angel, a third one, followed them...” This third angel follows both chronologically and logically the other two. And this angel proclaims essentially two messages. The first message is that Christ has decreed everlasting punishment for unbelievers. Christ has decreed everlasting punishment for unbelievers. That’s verses 9-11.

Now, he starts in verse 9 by identifying who he means, who these unbelievers are. Verse 9 goes on to say, “...saying with a loud voice”. Again, this angel cries out with a loud voice, stressing the universality, the importance, and the urgency of this message. And he says with this loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand...” Notice “if anyone”. You remember the previous angel announced judgment on an empire. This isn’t judgment on an empire. This judgment will be on individuals - “if anyone”.

Who are these people? Well, clearly, it’s everyone who worships the beast and his image. And the evidence of that fact will be that he or she has been willing to receive the mark of the beast on his forehead or hand. As we’ve learned, during the second half of the Tribulation, all unbelievers will be forced to receive the mark of the beast and to worship him. That’s how all unbelievers will be identified during that time. Sadly, as we will discover shortly, the fate described here for them is actually the destiny of every unbeliever.

He moves on in verses 10 and 11 to describe the judgment itself, the judgment of unbelievers. And first of all, he pictures it as a cup of wine. Verse 10: “he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God...” Again, notice it’s individual: “he [or she] also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger...” Every unbeliever, during the Tribulation, is condemned to drink of the wine of the wrath of God.

There are two different words here for God’s wrath, His anger. The Greek word for anger is orgē. You can hear the English word that forms a number of different words in English. And this word is a strong indignation directed at wrongdoing with a focus on retribution. It is a settled divine disposition. The Greek word for wrath is thymos. It’s a state of intense displeasure, anger, rage, indignation. It is the fierce, passionate, intense response of God’s holy nature against sin and rebellion. And here it’s described as a cup. That image comes from the Old Testament. Often in the Old Testament, the wrath of God is described as a cup of wine that those, who rebel against Him, will be forced to drink. Here’s Psalm 75:8: “For a cup is in the hand of the Lord, and the wine foams; It is well mixed, and He pours out of this; Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.”

Verse 10 goes on to say this cup of the Lord’s anger, “which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger.” You know, in the ancient world, wine was sometimes mixed with water, sometimes to extend it because it was more expensive, other times to weaken it. John says that when God’s wrath comes, it will - literally, the Greek text says, “It will be mixed unmixed.” He’s not saying two different things. It’s a way of saying really strongly, “It will not be diluted in any way.” When it’s mixed, it’ll be unmixed. There’s nothing added. It’s full strength. It’s John’s way to say that when God’s wrath finally comes... You know, God is patient, so amazingly patient. How often have you thought, if you were God, you would end mankind’s rebellion today? But He’s so patient. But that patience doesn’t last forever. John says when God’s wrath finally does come, it will be undiluted, unmixed. There won’t be a trace of mercy or compassion. Unbelievers will have to drink it straight, full strength. God’s punishment on unbelievers is pictured as a cup of wine that they have to drink.

Secondly, he leaves really the pictures and goes right to the description of God’s judgment as eternal suffering. In unmixed fury, Christ will condemn unbelievers, first of all, to unbearable torment. Look at verse 10: “And he...” Again, we’re talking about individuals. “...and he [this person who has rejected the gospel that’s been proclaimed in the heavens, who continues to worship something other than the true God] will be tormented with fire and brimstone. Tormented - the word means to endure severe distress. At times in the New Testament, it’s even used of torture. It’s intense, conscious suffering. And that torment will be accompanied by, notice - will come from fire and brimstone. That’s a familiar expression that’s often used by the enemies of Christ in the gospel of the Scriptures to sort of ridicule those who talk about this. Well, Jesus Christ talked about this. This is His revelation. And He says, this is what’s going to happen. What exactly is brimstone? It’s simply burning sulfur. It’s what happened when God destroyed Sodom. Luke 17:29 says, “but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.” Fire and burning sulfur, thrown and belched out of the earth, there near the southern end of the Dead Sea and raining down like a volcano’s burst all over the landscape.

A modern incident with brimstone actually happened in 2014 when burning sulfur poured out of a volcano on the island of Java in Indonesia. A number of photos were taken of it. It’s an eerie site, a blue flame. According to National Geographic, this is what happened. The glow is actually the light from the combustion of sulfuric gases. Those gases emerge from cracks in the volcano at high pressure and temperature up to 1100 degrees Fahrenheit, and when they come in contact with the air, they ignite, sending flames up to 16 feet high. Some of the gases condense into liquid sulfur, which continues to burn as it flows down the slopes giving the feeling of lava flowing.

Hell, and the eternal lake of fire are both described as burning with fire and brimstone or sulfur. Fire itself is used more than 20 times in the New Testament to describe hell or the lake of fire. Matthew 18:8-9, the eternal fire and the fiery hell. Luke, or excuse me, Matthew 13:49-50: “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire...” Matthew 25:41: “Then He will also say to those on His left [these are Jesus’ words], ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels...” Revelation 20:10: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone [burning sulfur], where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Now, that raises a question that many ask and that is, “Is the fire of hell literal?” Well, there’s a lot of debate about that, to be honest with you. It’s certainly possible. We can’t know absolutely for sure. Many orthodox scholars take the fire to be literal. Many others take the fire as metaphorical or symbolical. But regardless, listen to this. God chose fire to help us understand the terrible reality of hell. It is a real place of intense physical and mental suffering. As we’ll learn later in the book of Revelation, when unbelievers are resurrected, they will be united with bodies that will last forever. It is mental and physical suffering. John MacArthur writes, “If the fire is symbolic, the reality it represents will be even more horrifying and painful.”

You remember the parable Jesus tells in Luke 16. Turn back there with me. Luke 16 - Jesus describes the suffering of hell. Verse 23. Well, let’s go back to verse 19 and catch the running start here. ”Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.” Now don’t misunderstand, Jesus is not saying that the wealthy are going to hell and the poor are going to heaven. He’s counteracting and contradicting what the Pharisees believed, and that is, if you were wealthy in this life, then God loved you and had a wonderful plan for your life and had a great eternity for you as well. On the other hand, if you were poor in this life, then it showed that God was somehow displeased with you; He was somehow dissatisfied with you. And so, Jesus tells this story to throw all of that on its head and say, your situation in this life, poor or rich, has no relationship to your eternity. And He says, here are these two guys. And in the minds of the Pharisees, there’s no question which of these guys goes to heaven. The guy God has blessed in this life, clearly, God’s pleased with him. And Jesus shocks them all. Verse 22: ”Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house - for I have five brothers - in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’“

Notice how Jesus describes hell. Verse 23: ”In Hades he lifted up his eyes [he was conscious, fully aware of his circumstances], being in torment... Verse 24: “...I am in agony in this flame.” Verse 25: “ are in agony.” Verse 28: “...this place of torment.” This man was suffering physically, mentally, and emotionally. And verses 24 and 25 say he didn’t receive even a drop of water or a moment’s relief. It may be worse. Verse 25 says, “Remember, remember”. He could remember his earthly life with all of its joys, with its missed opportunities. Verse 26 says, “...there is a great chasm fixed...” His fate was fixed. His circumstances were permanent, eternally. Those are very sobering words told by our Lord.

Hell, he also described as a place of never-ending darkness. Matthew 22:13: “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’“ Darkness, of course, references the permanent separation from God who is light. Weeping or sobbing reflects the deepest most profound sorrow. Gnashing of teeth speaks of extreme suffering and remorse. Folks, hell will be a place of unspeakable suffering. The torments of hell will be intense mental and physical suffering created by the actual conditions in which they will find themselves, a complete awareness of their circumstances, memories of the past with its joys and its opportunities, pangs of conscience, and awareness of eternal separation from God their Creator and from all that’s good and an insatiable, unrelenting lust for sin that can never be satisfied. Hell is a place of unimaginable torment, unbearable torment.

Secondly, unwavering justice. Verse 10 goes on to say, in our text: “ the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” Unrepentant sinners will be banned from God’s presence in the sense of interaction and relationship. For example, Matthew 25:41, at the judgment Jesus says, “Depart from Me, accursed ones...” “Leave Me!” In 2 Thessalonians 1 Paul writes, “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power...” But sinners still suffer in His presence in the sense that it will happen under His sovereignty and in the presence of His omnipresent spirit. The point - don’t miss the point. The point is their punishment will come from Jesus Christ and from God the Father. That’s why Jesus, when He was on earth, said in Matthew 10:28, ”Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him [fear God] who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Unwavering justice.

Thirdly, unending duration. Verse 11: “And the smoke of their torment goes up...” Literally, the Greek text says is going up forever and ever. That is a frightening, frightening phrase. You see, when a fire has fully consumed its fuel, the fire and eventually the smoke die out. With those in hell, the smoke of their torment rises forever. That means the fire never fully consumes its fuel. Their suffering never ends. And then he adds, “forever and ever”. Literally, the Greek text is ages of ages. Ages of ages. That expression, by the way, “ages of ages” is used elsewhere in Revelation to describe the eternal existence of God. It’s used to describe the eternal existence of Christ’s reign. It’s used to describe the eternal glory of the Lamb. It’s used to describe the reign of unbelievers, or of believers rather. It is also used to describe the doom of the devil. And here, the same expression that’s used of Christ’s kingdom and of God Himself is used of the punishment of the lost. Their torment will be eternal. The Old Testament and Jesus quotes the Old Testament, uses images picturing endless duration. Here’s Jesus in Mark 9:44, 48. He speaks of hell this way. It’s a place “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Again, in our world, when a maggot consumes its prey, it dies. And when a fire has burned up its fuel, it goes out. But in hell, the maggot doesn’t die, and the fire never goes out. That’s a figurative way to say the duration of hell is forever. It’s eternal.

Now, let me just confess to you, this is really hard for us to think about and consider. And because of that, some have come up with an alternative. They’ve come up, some attached to the Christian church, teach annihilationism. The idea that unbelievers will at some point simply cease to exist. Some say this happens immediately at death. This view is also called conditional mortality, meaning that God didn’t promise humans would live forever. It’s conditioned on whether or not you believe the gospel. So, believers live forever, and if you don’t believe, then boom, you’re done at death. Another expression of this is after enduring God’s wrath, from the moment of death until the time of the final judgment, at the final judgment then it’s done. You’re annihilated; you cease to exist. Folks, those are just unbiblical substitutes for the doctrine of hell. They can’t be found in the Scripture. They are well-intentioned, sentimental responses to the realities of hell. Cults such as the JWs, the Jehovah’s Witness, and the Mormons teach these things.

Sadly, some, even evangelicals, have eventually convinced themselves of this position, this annihilationist position. Here are their most common arguments, those who argue for the cessation of being for those who are lost. They say the Bible speaks of the destruction of the wicked, which implies they cease to exist. Destroys, they say, is language that implies they go out of existence. A second argument is that eternal punishment is inconsistent with the love and goodness of God. A good and gracious God would never do that. That was essentially Bertrand Russell’s argument. It’s inhumane. A third argument is that God would be unjust to punish temporal sins for eternity. I don’t have time to fully respond to that but let me give you two arguments to that against that. Number one, the magnitude of the crime is always measured by the magnitude of the person against whom it’s committed. Killing the president of the United States is a much greater crime in our laws than killing an ordinary citizen. When you sin against the God of heaven, your Creator, the Sustainer, the One who offered His own Son to save you, when you sin against Him, you cannot sin against any greater. In addition to that, it’s true, 70 years of sins. How is that worth an eternity of suffering? Well, we’re going to find out later in the book of Revelation that the filthy, John says, will be filthy still. In other words, people in hell, it’s not remedial. They don’t get better. They don’t repent. They keep on sinning. They keep on rebelling against God. They express their sin in every possible way they can. And they continue to rage against God, their Creator. So, the punishment lasts forever because the sin lasts forever. That’s their heart. Besides that, I love the way Hodge responds to these arguments. He says, “It is obvious that this is a question which can only be decided by divine revelation. No one can reasonably presume to decide how long the wicked are to suffer for their sins upon any general principles of right and wrong. What the infinitely wise and good God may see fit to do with His creatures is not for such worms of the dust as we are to determine. If we believe the Bible to be the Word of God, all we have to do is to ascertain what it teaches on this subject and then humbly submit.”

So, what does the Scripture teach? Scripture teaches the eternal punishment of the wicked. Jesus called hell eternal. Matthew 18:8-9: ”If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.” Jesus also equates the length of heaven and the blessedness of the saved with the length of hell and the punishment of the wicked. In Matthew 25:46, Jesus says, ”These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Notice He uses the same word, same Greek word, same language. There is no difference for the eternal existence of the righteous and the eternal existence of the wicked. That prompted, many years ago now, St. Augustine to write this, “The phrases ‘eternal punishment’ and ‘eternal life’ are parallel, and it would be absurd to use them in one and the same sentence to mean eternal life will be infinite while eternal punishment will have an end. Hence because the eternal life of the saints will be endless, the eternal punishment also for those condemned to it will assuredly have no end.”

The doctrine of eternal punishment has been nearly the unanimous consensus of the church for 2,000 years. Here’s just a couple of examples. Tertullian, in the early days of the church, writes this, “If therefore anyone shall violently suppose that the destruction of the soul and the flesh in hell amounts to a final annihilation of the two substances and not to their penal treatment, as if they were to be consumed not punished, let him recollect that the fire of hell is eternal, expressly announced as an everlasting penalty.” Here is John Calvin, the phrase which he adds in apposition, “Eternal destruction from the face of the Lord explains the nature of the punishment which He had mentioned. It is eternal punishment and death which has no end.” Jonathan Edwards wrote, “The Scripture is very express and abundant in this manner. Notice the word express, it’s clear and abundant. There are lots of places where this is taught that the eternal punishment is sensible misery and torment and not annihilation.” So, it’s tragic to think about, but it will be unending duration.

Also, it will be unrelenting misery. Verse 11 says, “They have [literally, they are having] no rest day and night” - those who worship the beast and his image and whoever (the individual) who receives the mark of his name. “No rest day and night” - that implies both ongoing and conscious existence. Not only will their torment be eternal, but it will be constant. It will be unrelenting, uninterrupted suffering. And that’s different because think about this life. In this life, when God acts in punishment, His judgment is often tempered with mercy (Habakkuk 3:2). But in eternity, God will show no mercy, no grace to the wicked, only strict, everlasting justice. It won’t be unfair. It will be justice and only justice.

The same fate will befall not only those who get the mark of the beast during the Tribulation, but Revelation goes on later to say that every single person who ever lives, who refuses Christ in the gospel will receive the same fate. Turn to Revelation 7, I’m sorry, chapter 20:7. Revelation 20:7. We find ourselves after the Millennium, after the thousand-year reign of Christ, at the final judgment for unbelievers, the Great White Throne of Judgment. And here we learn that Christ will condemn all unbelievers of all time, permanently to the lake of fire. Look at chapter 20:7: “When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also...” But then you come down to verse 15, and here is the judgment of every unbeliever: “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

So, through His angel, Christ announces the impending judgment of mankind. And the first part of that announcement is that Christ has decreed everlasting punishment for unbelievers. That’s the really bad news, and the hard part for us to even consider.

But there is also a wonderful part. Secondly, we learn that Christ has decreed everlasting rest for believers. First of all, they will persevere. True believers will persevere to the end. Saving faith cannot be lost, it cannot be destroyed, it’s eternal. Those who turn away from Christ were never truly saved at all. Look at verse 12. Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. The Greek word for perseverance is hypomonē. It’s composed of two Greek words, one which means under, hypo. We even bring that to English. And monē which means to remain. The word literally means to remain under something, some weight, some difficulty, to endure. Saints endure. Saints persevere.

What does the perseverance of the saints consist of? What does it look like - those who keep the commandments of God? In other words, they’re true believers. Like Jesus says in John 8:31, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine...’” True saints, true believers, they just keep on persevering. They just keep on obeying. They just keep on through whatever comes, even if they find themselves having come to Christ during the Tribulation and enduring all that unfolds during that time. And notice the perseverance of the saints not only consists in keeping the commandments of God, but who keep their faith in Jesus. They just keep on believing. Whatever comes, they just keep on believing in Jesus. Their confidence never wavers in Him.

Every true believer perseveres. Just keeps on believing, keeps on obeying until the end. Every true believer. You say, “How does that happen? I don’t feel like I have that strength in me.” Do you feel like you have that strength in you? Of course not. But that’s not the issue. In 1 Peter 1:5, we’re told how we persevere. There, Peter says, “who are protected by the power of God through faith...” So, He keeps us. How does He keep us? He just keeps us believing. We just keep on believing, keep on obeying, keep on living our lives faithful to Him, waiting for Him to intervene. All Christians will persevere to the end, and they will have rest for eternity.

Verse 13: “And I heard a voice from heaven [this is likely the voice of God or possibly of Christ] saying, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…” “In the Lord” obviously means we’re talking about believers; we’re talking about Christians. And “the Lord” could mean here, this blessing is only on those who die from this point in the Tribulation to the end of the Tribulation. That’s possible. But I tend to lean toward those who say, “No, he’s saying all of those in the Lord who are already dead as well as those who will die through the final days of the Tribulation.” Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.

Verse 13 goes on to say, “‘Yes,’ says the Spirit...” This is one of the two places in Revelation when the Holy Spirit is quoted directly. The other is in Revelation 22:17 where we read, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’” But here, in verse 13, the Spirit adds His affirmation to the blessing of verse 12. And then He adds the reason that they are blessed. “‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘so that they may rest from their labors...’” Do you see the juxtaposition? We just read it a moment ago. The wicked won’t experience a single moment of rest forever. Verse 11 says they have no rest day and night. But those in the Lord will experience rest from their labors. The Greek word for labors means hard, exhausting toil. For eternity, we will serve the Lord in a variety of ways. We’re not going to sit around playing harps on clouds. In fact, let me just dispossess you of that. We’re going to see it in Revelation. Eternally, we don’t live in the sky somewhere. We live on a new earth in which righteousness is at home. We will serve the Lord in a variety of ways. You will not be bored in eternity. But here’s what this voice is saying. All of that work, all of that labor, all of that service to the Lord in eternity will never be work. It’ll be like the best moment of refreshing, invigorating rest you have ever experienced in your life for eternity.

The Spirit adds that this blessing is also because their deeds follow with them. I love that. He’s basically saying this. All of their individual acts of service to the Lord, those little things that nobody else saw, those big things when they invested all of their time and energy to serve a family or to serve the Lord or to serve in a ministry of the church, when they cared for others, little and small, those things will follow them into eternity. In other words, it means God’s not going to forget one of them. I love that picture in Matthew 25 when Jesus has the believer standing before Him in the judgment there and He says, “You know, I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink. I was sick and you visited Me. I was in prison, and you came and you cared for Me.” He’s talking about individual acts of service to people. He noticed. He didn’t forget. And in fact, the believers forget - “Lord, when did we do that for You?” And He says, “When you did it to one of these little ones of Mine, you did it to Me.” He won’t forget.

I often attach to notes that I write, Hebrews 6:10. I love what it says there: “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” He’s not unjust to forget it. And those deeds, small and great, those little things, those meals you dropped off at someone’s house, the hospital visits you made, the kind word you spoke to encourage someone, the notes you wrote, the prayer you offered, God will not forget a single one of them. They will follow you into eternity. Blessed because of their rest.

So, what are the lessons from this passage for us? Well, there are several. First of all, embrace the biblical realities of eternity. You know, we sit here in Southlake. We have our normal lives. God has not shown up visibly. Jesus Christ wasn’t here on the platform today. These realities can seem almost surreal, unreal, ephemeral. It’s not true. Eternity is forever. Judgment is coming. It is appointed to man once to die and after this, the judgment. Heaven and hell are real places. Your existence, your existence doesn’t end at death. You are eternal and you will live either in heaven or hell forever. And whether you spend eternity in heaven or hell depends entirely on one thing and that is whether you have repented of your sins and believed in Jesus Christ and His gospel or not. You better embrace the realities of eternity because this is what the Bible says, this is what Jesus taught. I suspect He’s right.

Number two: prepare your soul for eternity. Prepare your soul. You know, what I just walked through with an angel declaring the reality of hell for every person on this planet, that might seem harsh. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When this angel proclaims this message in the future, it will be Christ’s gracious call to those who are alive then to repent and believe the gospel and be saved from the wrath that’s coming. And the fact that He sent this message to John and had John write this down for us means that what we’ve studied tonight is Christ’s gracious call to every unbeliever who hears it to repent and believe in Christ. If you’re here tonight and you’re not a believer, listen, this isn’t done solely to frighten you. It’s Christ’s grace saying, “Don’t go there. Don’t do that. Don’t stay in your rebellion. Come to me. Be saved from the wrath that’s coming.” Your eternal destiny will either be one of unbearable, unending, unrelenting torment, or it will be one of everlasting joy and rest. Christ knows that, and He announces this to the entire world.

He announces it to you tonight, and He pleads with you to repent and believe in the gospel today. You see, we are all sinners. God created us, He gave us life, He sustains us, He laid down His law in writing, He laid in our hearts. And we are sinners. We rebel against that law. We constantly violate even our consciences. We sin against God again and again and again. We know what’s right, Romans 1 says, and we keep doing the wrong anyway. And that deserves God’s wrath. It deserves His punishment. What’s described in this text is just justice. That’s what we deserve. But the good news is God is amazing in His grace. And He sent His Son into the world, His eternal Son, into the world as one of us. He took on full humanity. He became everything that you are except for sin. And He lived on this planet. You can visit the place where He lived. You can go and see the places He walked. He walked on this planet, but He lived a perfect life, the life God commanded you to live, me to live, but we haven’t. And the only perfect person who’s ever lived, then died for sin, but not His own - He had none. He died bearing the sins of every person who would ever believe in Him. Why? So that God could still be just and forgive your sin. If you will repent of your sin and you’ll believe in Jesus, then God can still be just and yet pardon your sin so that as we sang it tonight, “The debt is paid in full!” That’s the gospel. And then He died for sin and God raised Him from the dead. And He’s at the right hand of God today having ascended there. And He will return, and He will do what we have studied tonight. He will consign every person who continues to repent or continues to fail to repent in spite of the invitations, in spite of His grace, in spite of His announcements, who walks over His blood, He will be forced by His justice to do just what we’ve read tonight. So, my plea to you is turn to Jesus and believe in Him, believe in that gospel, repent of your sin, and cry out for mercy. Prepare your soul for eternity.

Number three: share the gospel with those headed to a Christless eternity. What we studied tonight should fill our hearts with genuine concern for the people around us - family, friends, loved ones, coworkers, fellow students who are headed to this destiny. Share the gospel.

Number four: trust Christ’s power and promise to ensure your final salvation. We read some awful verses tonight. There’s some awful wrath that’s coming. But guess what? For the believer, it’s not for you. Romans 5 says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God...” He goes on later in Romans 5 to say that we will be saved, rescued from the wrath to come because of Jesus Christ. In Romans 8:1 he says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Christ will preserve all who believe in Him by ensuring that they persevere in their faith. Look at John 6. John 6, I love this. This is Jesus’ promise. John 6:37: “All that the Father gives Me...” He’s talking about an amazing love gift the Father gave the Son in eternity past and that is a redeemed humanity, people who would be redeemed, whom He would save by His death and who would be His worshippers forever. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me...” Have you come to Christ? Have you repented? Have you come to Him in faith and repentance, crying out for forgiveness, saying you want to follow Him with your life, you want Him to be your Lord? “‘...and the one who comes to Me’, He said, ‘I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.’” And then He puts it this way in verse 40: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have [currently] eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” You can trust Jesus Christ. This is His promise. You will be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

Number five: live in anticipation of perfect, eternal rest and joy. Christian, Christ has promised that if you persevere, if you remain faithful to Him through this life, He will give you everlasting rest. That’s in the passage we just saw. And He will give you everlasting joy. Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 25:21. We always quote the first part of this verse. You know, a person shows up and as Christ is evaluating their life and service, He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But listen to the rest: “You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” He says, “Come and share My joy forever.” What a Savior!

Let’s pray together.

Father, we have experienced the full range of emotion tonight, the celebration that our Lord wins, incredible grief and heartbreak at what will happen to those who refuse your grace, and yet, full hearts of love and joy for the rest, the eternal rest that’s ours in Christ. Lord, I pray for all of us who know and love You through Your Son. Help us to truly live in anticipation of those days. Help us to live looking for what’s coming. Don’t let us sink our roots too deeply here. But Father, at the same time, as long as You leave us here, as long as our Lord delays His coming, help us to share the gospel, even as Christ Himself will do from the skies through His angel. Help us to do that with our friends and family and coworkers and neighbors, fellow students. Lord, how can we know what’s coming for them and not have a heart to simply tell them the only saving message there is? Thank You. Thank You for the promise that our Lord will preserve our faith, that He will bring us through this life faithful, that He will be the anchor of our souls until we are ushered into His eternal presence. We thank You, in His name, Amen!


A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 2

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A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 3

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