The Just Judge
Our culture today does not like to talk about the justice of God. They would rather talk about the love and mercy of God. They want to make them mutually exclusive, but they both are attributes of God and cannot be separated. They are both equally part of who God is.
Evangelists use the illustration of the person you are closest to (father, mother, spouse, etc.), being brutally attacked and killed. The person who killed your parent or spouse stands before a judge. He tells the judge that he has done a lot of good, until he killed the person. The judge agrees with the defendant and releases him. Would you consider the judge to be a good or bad judge? We would all agree that the judge would not be a good judge. God, however, is a good judge. He will rule justly with everyone, not based on how good they have been in their life, but based on whether or not they have turned from their rebellion against Him and accepted Jesus as their Savior from sin. He will judge them based on whether or not they have revered, glorified, and worshiped Him as the Creator of the world.
Works for salvation
I know that I can easily fall into a works mentality about my salvation
I can become legalistic about my faith and the disciplines associated with it
I work hard to do what’s right and expect others to do the same things I do, to prove that they are saved
But, that’s not what Scripture teaches
Works because of salvation
When my attitude is right and my focus is on Jesus, then I work hard as a result of my salvation
I practice the various disciplines out of love for God instead of obligation
I don’t judge others if they aren’t doing the same things I’m doing with the same amount of enthusiasm or commitment
I work as unto the Lord, because He is the One I’m working for
Writing a paper in school
We can write a school paper one of two ways
We can either do it how we think is best, or we can follow the rubric given to us by the teacher
If we do it the way we think is best and not how the teacher requires it to be done, then we’ll get a bad grade
We can argue with the teacher, but there was a standard that was expected from the beginning and was clearly communicated in the rubric
The paper may be very good (done the we way we think was best), but it doesn’t meet the standard
That is the same with salvation through faith in Jesus Christ
We may think that we have the best way to get to heaven and so we live our lives according to what we think is best
Yet, God has given us a standard and a way to spend eternity with Him in heaven
If we continue down the road of doing it the way we think is best, the result will be eternal separation from God
We have to follow His standard and way of salvation
Standards at work
There are standards that we have to follow at work in order to be successful
Just imagine for a moment that everyone did their job according to what they thought was best
What if everyone on the assembly line decided to go the speed that was best for them
There may be one guy who is really fast and constantly pushes product down the line
The next person in line decides that going a slower pace is what is best for him
We can already see what the results will be
It would be total chaos, because no one would be following a standard
The standard pace is set for the entire line and everyone has to comply with that pace
John sees three angels flying in midair, each one following the one before it. They each have a message for those on earth. All three messages are communicating the same thing . . .
BIG IDEA – God will be just in His treatment of all people.
GOD (Revelation 14:6-13)
Final chance (vv. 6-7)
The last time John saw an angel was in Revelation 11:15 (the seventh angel that sounded his trumpet)
There is no real significance to this angel being identified as another angel
This was perhaps another angel that John had not yet seen before
Flying in midair
This angel is flying in midair, which simply means that everyone will be able to see him
In verse 7 we read that he will speak with a loud voice, meaning that everyone will hear him
No one will be able to claim that they did not see or hear the message that this angel is bringing – no one will have an excuse
The message he’s bringing is for everyone on earth, which is communicated by the phrase, to every nation, tribe, language, and people
So, what is the message?
John writes that it is the eternal gospel
The angel is not sharing the Gospel that we are familiar with, as found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures . . . He was buried and came alive again, according to the Scripture)
Keener expresses correctly that there are two sides to the Gospel [Keener, The NIV Application Commentary, Revelation, 372]
God restoring His people (Isa. 40:9; 41:27; 52:7; 61:1)
God is announcing judgment on the enemies of His people (Nah. 1:15)
Paul expresses these two sides in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?
What we see in verse 7 is the eternal gospel
It is God’s judgment on those who have chosen not to repent and turn to Him
The angel gives three imperative commands to all the people of the earth
This is not to be afraid of God
Because God is sovereign we should revere Him
It is recognizing His sovereign power in our lives
That’s what the people of the earth should be doing instead of revering the beast
Give God glory
His is the good and just Judge
As such, we should pay Him respect and honor
The people of the earth would have to honor Him instead of the dragon
Worship God the Creator
The people of the earth will worship the image of the beast, because the false prophet will perform miraculous signs and wonders
Yet, God is the only One worthy of our worship, because He created the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water (in essence what John is saying here is, He created everything)
“God has therefore revealed Himself both in Scripture (special revelation) and in nature (general revelation).” [Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 243]
We see this general revelation in Romans 1:18-20
Romans 1:18-20, The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
The reason for the three commands is that the hour of God’s judgment has come
Next week we will see the harvest of the earth
Then in chapter 15 we will learn about the seven angels with seven plagues
In chapter 16 we see the seven bowls of God’s wrath
It’s all coming to an end
And yet we see an incredible principle here
PRINCIPLE – God provides opportunities for people to repent until the very end.
We can rejoice in this fact as followers of Jesus Christ, as we pray for and share the Gospel with family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers (it’s not too late for them)
This is also incredible news for those who have, and continue, to reject God’s plan of salvation
It’s not too late for you!
You haven’t done too many bad things
Remember what we’ve learned about the inhabitants of the earth throughout the book of Revelation to this point
The second seal unleashed the red horse and its rider who was given power to take peace from the earth and make men slay each other
There are multiple references to followers of Jesus Christ who are martyred throughout the tribulation period at the hands of the inhabitants of the earth
They are given to idolatry and sexual immorality and probably much more
Those individuals are in view here, and God is offering them one final chance to repent and show their allegiance to Him through revering Him, giving Him glory as the good Judge, and worshiping Him as Creator
The same is true for you today
You have not done too many bad things that God will not accept you
That’s a lie from Satan to keep you from being set free from the bondage of sin
All humanity is born with a desire to go their own way and to reject God as their Lord and Savior (Rom. 3:23)
Because God is holy and just, He has to punish our sin (Rom. 6:23)
Notice that He doesn’t just tell us what the punishment is, but He also tells us how to deal with our sin problem
Romans 3:25-26, God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Justification has been defined as “just as if I’ve never sinned.”
Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
Today is the day of salvation – don’t wait any longer
You don’t have to clean up to come to God, because He is the One who will do the cleaning
My Next Step Today Is To: Accept God’s free gift of salvation and eternal life by believing in Jesus by faith.
The first angel has shared his message with the people of the earth and now John sees a second angel following behind him
Destruction and Judgment (vv. 8-11)
The second angel’s message is one of destruction (v. 8)
The form of the verb in the Greek is pretty fascinating (aorist active indicative)
It is not repeated by chance, but rather the repetition brings attention to the importance of the announcement
“The aorist indicative in this case may be what is known as a futuristic or proleptic aorist, which views an action, while future, as so certain that one can speak of it as complete.” [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 291]
There is no doubt that this will take place – Babylon the Great will fall
PRINCIPLE – God will defeat, once and for all, the idolatrous and adulterous systems of this world.
What does Babylon represent in this text?
Babylon the Great
First, let’s look back to what Babylon represented in its day
Ancient Babylon was located in Mesopotamia, which is modern-day Iraq
It was the seat of political, commercial, and religious life for the world at that time
At its pinnacle it was “known for its decadence, gross immorality, and idolatry.” [Akin, 244]
King Nebuchadnezzar was the epitome of the attitude and arrogance of the Babylonia Empire
Daniel 4:30, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?
God’s punishment of Nebuchadnezzar was immediate (he was stripped of his royal authority and sent to live with wild animals)
In the first century, the Jews saw Rome as a modern Babylon, because it too had a system that opposed God in all areas of life (politically, economically, and religiously)
“It is a symbol of the spirit of godlessness that in every age lures people away from the worship of the Creator.” [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 271]
It is evident in our culture today
There is a push to remove prayer and the Bible from every public arena
The Biblical account of how God created the world has been under attack for years (society would rather settle for the theory of evolution instead of the facts about creation)
Our culture wants to live by moral relativism (what’s right for me is right for me and what’s right for you is right for you) instead of moral absolutes, until something heinous happens that pricks the moral conscience that God has placed in every human being (that’s when they say, “that’s wrong!”)
Understanding that Babylon represents a system of godlessness, helps with the final phrase in verse 8
Drinking the wine of her adulteries
Drinking represents participation in and/or agreement with something
In this text it is participation in and agreement with the lifestyle of godlessness
That is what the people of the earth will be doing – they will be participating in the political, economic, and religious systems that the antichrist will establish
That whole system will be in opposition to God, yet people will be drawn to it and willingly participate in it
We’ll spend more time on Babylon the Great in chapter 17, but for now John sees a third angel following behind the second one
The third angel’s message is pronouncing judgment on those who have rejected God and have chosen to follow the beast (vv. 9-11)
The angel identifies who he is pronouncing judgment on (v. 9)
It is the people of the earth who have done two things
They have worshiped the beast and his image
They have received the beast’s mark on their forehead or hand
Another wine to drink (v. 10a)
We see here a contrast of two wines
The second angel was acknowledging that the people of the earth had enjoyed drinking deeply of the wine of the beast’s adulteries (they will enjoy this cup of wine)
But, they will also be required to drink the wine of God’s fury
Throughout Scripture we see God’s cup as representing His judgment temporarily on His people and against the wicked nations [Keener, 374]
This wine will be poured out in full strength
The literal translation of this phrase from the Greek is “mixed unmixed into the cup.”
To understand the mixed portion of this text we have to look at Psalm 75:8, In the hand of the Lord is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs.
So, the mixed part is the addition of spices
Perhaps the spices, added to the wine, made the flavor stronger
The unmixed portion of the literal translation is much easier to understand and apply
It was a common practice in the ancient world to dilute wine with water
The proportions were at least one-to-one, but could be as much as two to three parts water to wine
The only time that wine was consumed undiluted was if the person wanted to get drunk – they wanted the full strength of the wine coursing through their veins
For God to require the people of the earth to drink the wine of His fury at full strength, means that He will not temper His fury with the usual grace and mercy He is known for
The final judgment has come
What we see next is what God’s fury will look like on those who have worshiped the beast and taken his mark
Results of drinking the wine of God’s fury (vv. 10b-11a)
Tormented with burning sulfur
What the angel communicates here is the reality of hell – a place of constant, ongoing, neverending torment
Hell is for real!
Easley explains what the torment may be like, “When sulfur burns, it produces sulfur dioxide, a gas that burns eyes and lungs.” [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 251]
Imagine having your eyes and lungs burning all the time
God used burning sulfur to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24-25)
Jesus spoke about hell as a place of fire that never ends and cannot be extinguished
Matthew 18:8, If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.
Mark 9:43, If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.
Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Their torment with burning sulphur will be in the presence of God’s angels and Jesus Christ
It seems as though they will understand, at this point, who the God, they rejected, is
Jesus taught about a rich man who had a beggar named Lazarus that sat at the gate of his house (Luke 16:19-31)
Both men die
Lazarus was taken to heaven, but the rich man was taken to hell, where he was tormented
When he saw Lazarus with Abraham, he asked if Lazarus could dip his finger in some water and put it on his tongue to cool it
A great chasm divided them and prevented Lazarus from helping the rich man
He was aware of heaven and those living there and that he had rejected God
This is not a short term tormenting that is taking place, but it will never stop, which is expressed in the idea of the smoke of their torment rising for ever and ever
There is one more result of drinking the wine of God’s fury
No rest day or night (v. 11b)
They will not find rest day or night
It doesn’t take many sleepless nights for us to understand this idea
Mothers and sometimes fathers understand this when there is a newborn baby in the house (there can be multiple sleepless nights until the baby gets into a routine)
Pet owners also understand this, especially when they are training a new puppy (again there can be sleepless nights until the puppy gets into a routine)
Imagine for a moment what it would be like to never get rest again – that will be the eternal status of those who worship the beast and his image and receive the mark of his name
PRINCIPLE – God will punish those who refuse to repent and turn to Him.
Sometimes that’s hard for us to understand when we see ungodly people getting ahead
Remember, they are embracing the world system completely
We’re not the only ones who are wondering when God is going to judge the ungodly
The saints under the altar in Rev. 6:9-11 were asking the Lord when He was going to judge the inhabitants of the earth
It is going to happen, but we have to be patient
That’s the encouragement the third angel is giving the believers
Encouragement for believers (vv. 12-13)
It requires the saints to be patient
Those who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus will have to be patient as they endure persecution by the godless people on the earth
They will have to wait for God’s just judgment
The same is true for us today
We have to have an eternal perspective, while living in the present culture
We may not understand God’s timing, but we can trust that it’s perfect
He will judge the ungodly
He will also judge the godly
God will be just in His treatment of all people.
We see the justice of God for His people in the final verse this morning – verse 13
John hears a voice from heaven telling him to write down what is being said
While it is not stated directly, most scholars believe this is the voice of God, because the Spirit agrees with Him
The message is clear – those who die in the Lord will be blessed
From now on, would be from the time of John’s writing until the final consummation
That includes everyone who has remained faithful to Jesus, but has already passed away
It will include those who are martyred during the end times
The blessing comes in the fact that they are now with the Lord and no longer suffering persecution and hardship on earth
This is the second of seven beatitudes in Revelation
Contrast with the ungodly
While the unbelievers torment will include no rest, the saints will experience eternal rest
Labor is talking about “diligent and difficult work.” [Patterson, 294]
That’s what will be required of the saints as they patiently endure persecution – they will have to work diligently through the difficulties
God will recognize that these believers were faithful, obedient, and patiently endured
That is there reward – their deeds will follow them
“There deeds follow them in the sense that there can be no separation between what a person is and what that person does.” [Mounce, 277]
PRINCIPLE – God promises to recognize and give rest to His people who endure and are obedient and faithful.
This is an incredible promise that we can claim today
It requires us to patiently endure persecution and hardship
It requires us to be obedient to God’s commandments
It requires us to remain faithful to Jesus Christ
My Next Step Today Is To: By God’s grace, patiently endure, be obedient to His commandments, and remain faithful to Jesus Christ.
In his most recent book What Good Is God?, Philip Yancey writes:
This is a true story from Afghanistan that took place in the early 1970s, before the Russian occupation or the Taliban regime. At the time, the government allowed a small Christian church to service internationals who worked there, though no Afghans could attend.
A friend of mine named Len organized a musical team of young people to tour countries in the Middle East. With some trepidation, he also accepted an invitation to extend the trip to Afghanistan for a concert in downtown Kabul. Len made the teenagers write out exactly what they would say, subject to his approval. "This is a strict Muslim government," he warned them. "If you say the wrong thing, you could end up in prison and at the same time jeopardize every Christian who lives in this country. Memorize these words and don't dare stray from them when you perform." The teenagers listened wide-eyed as he described the ominous consequence of a slight misstep ….
The night of the official concert in Kabul, almost a thousand Afghans filled the hall and spilled outside the open doors to listen. All went well until one teenager on the team put down his guitar and started improvising: "I'd like to tell you about my best friend, a man named Jesus, and the difference he has made in my life." From the side of the stage, Len motioned wildly for him to stop, drawing his finger across his neck. Ignoring him, the teenager proceeded to give a detailed account of how God had transformed his life.
"I was practically beside myself," Len told me. "I knew the consequences, and I sat with my head in my hands waiting for the sword to drop. Instead, the most amazing thing happened. The Minister of Cultural Affairs for Afghanistan stood and walked to the stage to respond.
"'We have seen many American young people come through this country,' he said. 'Most of them come for drugs, and most look like hippies. We have not seen nor heard from young people like you. God's love is a message my country needs. How thrilled I am to hear you! You are a prototype for the youth of Afghanistan to follow in the future. I would like to invite you to expand your tour so that you visit every college and faculty and also give this same message on Kabul Radio. I will make it happen.'"
Len was dumbfounded. That night he gathered the musical group together. "Did you hear what the man said? We're changing our tickets, of course, to lengthen our visit. And he wants you to give this same message— you'd better not change a word!"
Over the next few days, the musical team held other performances. After each event Afghan young people crowded around with questions. Tell me more about this Jesus—we know of him through the Qur'an. You speak of a personal relationship with God. Can you describe it? How does your faith change you? Some asked to pray with the teenagers. Nothing like it had ever happened in Afghanistan.
On the last day, after a triumphant tour, the teenagers met J. Christy Wilson, a revered figure in Afghanistan. Born of missionary parents in Iran, he … [had] spent 22 years in Afghanistan, serving as principal of a government high school and teaching English to the Crown Prince and Afghan diplomats. He also led the Community Christian Church and founded the School for the Blind in Kabul.
Wilson drove the teenagers to an unusual tourist site, the only cemetery in Afghanistan where "infidels" could be buried. He walked to the first, ancient gravestone, pitted with age. "This man worked here 30 years and translated the Bible into the Afghan language," he said. "Not a single convert. And in this grave next to him lies the man who replaced him, along with his children who died here. He toiled for 25 years, and baptized the first Afghan Christian." As they strolled among the gravestones, he recounted the stories of early missionaries and their fates.
At the end of the row he stopped, turned, and looked the teenagers straight in the eye. "For 30 years, one man moved rocks. That's all he did, move rocks. Then came his replacement, who did nothing but dig furrows. There came another who planted seeds, and another who watered. And now you kids—you kids—are bringing in the harvest."
"It was one of the great moments of my life," Len recalls. "I watched their faces as it suddenly dawned on these exuberant American teenagers that the amazing spiritual awakening they had witnessed was but the last step in a long line of faithful service stretching back over many decades."
From What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith that Matters. By Philip Yancey, pp. 219-222. Reprinted by permission of FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.