The Wrong Side of the Glass

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God's judgment gives time for repentance.

Revelation(41) (Part of the Jesus Unveiled(40) series)
by Stuart Johns(56) on July 29, 2018 (Sunday Morning(69))

Grace(2), Mercy(4), Repentance(4)

Jesus Unveiled

The Wrong Side of the Glass

(Revelation 9:1-12)

 

INTRODUCTION

“An episode of the television western Gunsmoke once featured a huckster who traveled from town to town with a huge rattlesnake in a glass cage. ​​ He collected bets that no one could place his hand against the glass and keep it there when the rattlesnake struck.

The gullible townspeople bet on their fellow citizen who volunteered his courage. ​​ After all bets were collected, the huckster tore the cover off the glass cage, revealing a huge reptile coiling and buzzing his rattles. ​​ The man moved his hand toward the glass and the snake coiled even tighter. ​​ As soon as the hand touched the glass, the snake struck with fury. ​​ Involuntarily the man jerked his hand away. ​​ The huckster collected his money from the bets and left for the next town. ​​ He knew the glass would hold. ​​ There was nothing to fear but fear itself. ​​ He played on that fear to earn a living.

That story is a great picture of spiritual warfare. ​​ The snake is the devil and the forces of evil. ​​ The glass is Jesus. ​​ As long as we stay on the right side of the glass, we have nothing to fear. ​​ Real danger lurks on the wrong side of the glass, but we are safe on the right side of the glass, no matter how fearful things appear (adapted from Max Anders, Spiritual Warfare, 11-12) ​​ [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 164].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Living in Florida and snorkeling

        • Judy and I lived in Florida right after we graduated from college

        • She had gotten a teaching job at a Christian school and I worked for a bank

        • We spent a lot of weekends at the beach, since we only lived a mile away from it

        • Our best friends, the Smith’s, would go with us to the beach

        • Steve and I would spend time snorkeling and using our Boogie Boards

        • One day while we were floating just off the shoreline over top of a manmade break under the water (they used highway dividers) he began to flail his arms and legs wildly

        • I thought this was hilarious and started laughing until he took his mask off and told me why he was flailing around

        • He said, “I don’t know what just went under us, but it was huge!”

        • He had been lying flat on his Boogie Board, while I had my arms draped over my Boogie Board with my legs hanging down in the water

        • You guessed it, I started flailing around as I scrambled to get on top of my Boogie Board

        • I felt like I was on the wrong side of the water

        • We both decided that snorkeling for the day was  done and headed back to the beach

        • We saw the warning signs of something potentially harmful and made the decision to remove ourselves from the situation before either of us got hurt – we choose to move to the right side of the glass

 

  • WE

    • Choosing the side of the glass we’re on

        • Perhaps we have all experienced something that has placed us on the wrong side of the glass

        • It could be an addiction (alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, work, video games, etc.)

        • It could be a moral or ethical situation that we’re confronted with at work, school, church, or in our neighborhood

          • While doing what our boss says, guarantees that we will keep our job, it may compromise our character and conscience

          • Not doing what our boss says will maintain our character, but cost us our job

          • The same is true in our friendships – doing what is right may cost us a friendship, but our character remains intact

        • We can trust the Lord to take care of us when we choose the right side of the glass – it may not be easy, but it’s right

 

In Revelation 9, we’ll see two demonic attacks that take place against those on earth who do not have a relationship with Jesus. ​​ These are both under the total control of God, as Sovereign. ​​ These judgements are an expression of God’s love for His creation. ​​ He wants the unbelievers to repent and turn to Him for salvation. ​​ In today’s passage, we’ll see that God has given them more time to repent. ​​ John wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – God’s judgment gives time for repentance.

 

Let’s pray

  • GOD (Revelation 9:1-12)

    • Star and Abyss (vv. 1-2)

        • Jason shared the first four trumpets and how the results of those affected the earth

        • This week we’re looking at the fifth trumpet where God’s wrath begins to affect a certain group of individuals on the earth

        • As the fifth angel blows his trumpet, John sees a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth

          • There is debate concerning who the star represents

          • Most scholars agree that it is representative of a being and not an actual star or meteor

          • Who this being represents has the scholars split, which tells us that we really don’t know for certain (that’s alright, because what the star does is more important than who the star represents)

          • Two views

            • Satan/Devil

              • Most modern translations correctly translate the Greek word used for fallen

                • In the Greek it is a participle in the perfect tense, which emphasizes an event that happened in the past but has continuing results

                • The falling that John is talking about is something that had happened in the past and not immediately during his vision, but the results of the falling still have results during his vision and even in to the future

              • Some scholars associate the perfect tense with Satan’s fall [Akin, MacArthur, Courson, Wiersbe, and Patterson]

                • In Luke 10:17, the seventy-two messengers, that Jesus had sent out, have returned and they are excited because even demons had submitted to them in Jesus’ name

                • Jesus then responds in vv. 18-20 by saying, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. ​​ I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. ​​ However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

              • In Isaiah 14:12, Satan is identified as a star, How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! ​​ You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

              • Ezekiel explains why Satan was thrown out of heaven, You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. ​​ You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. ​​ You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. ​​ Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. ​​ So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones (Ezekiel 28:14-16)

              • The star could certainly represent Satan, but others believe it is one of God’s angels

            • One of God’s angels

              • We see in Revelation 1:20 that stars are often a symbol of angels

              • In the Old Testament and other extra biblical writings we see stars personified as angels (Judg. 5:20; Job 38:7; 1 Enoch 88.1; T. Sol. 8.2-11; 18.1-42) [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 362]

              • We know that God has angels who carry out His will

                • In Revelation 20:1-3 we read these words, And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. ​​ He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. ​​ He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. ​​ After that, he must be set free for a short time.

                • This passage makes it clear that this angel is from God, coming down from heaven and he has the key to the Abyss

                • So, if stars are often symbols of angels and the angel in 20:1 has the key to the Abyss, it could very well mean that the star in 9:1 is the same angel

              • Some question how Satan or a fallen angel/demon could be entrusted with the key of the Abyss, but I like what Martin Luther has been credited with saying, “The Devil is still God’s Devil.” ​​ [Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 178]

              • God is still sovereign and the final authority over Satan and his minions – Satan has no power or authority that God has not given him

          • Both of these viewpoints are logical and have backing from Scripture, so who does the star represent? ​​ (That is not for us to know)

          • What is important is what the star is given

        • The star was given a key

          • The key that this being was given was for the shaft of the Abyss

            • While it’s not directly stated in verse 1, we know from all of Revelation that God is sovereign and in control of the judgments that are being poured out on the earth

            • So, it’s logical to believe and understand that God is the One who is giving the key of the Abyss to the star

          • Abyss

            • We know from other passages in the Old and New Testaments what the Abyss is

              • Place of dead

                • Romans 10:7, ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). [NASB]

                • Romans 10:7, And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again). [NLT]

              • Prison for demons/evil spirits

                • Luke 8:30-31, Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” ​​ “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. ​​ And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

                • 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 also talk about how God has bound demons with chains and placed them in dungeons until the final judgement – these are references to the Abyss

            • I like how Easley describes what John is seeing, “To follow John’s imagery, you must imagine the Abyss as something like a huge underground cavern, perhaps like an old California gold mine. ​​ Then imagine a narrow shaft going up to the surface, with a locked door at the top. ​​ Finally, picture the cavern filled with choking blue smoke created by a sulfurous, crude-oil burning furnace.” ​​ [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 157]

            • As the Abyss is opened the smoke that has been building behind the door is finally released

              • The sheer volume of smoke that is released from the Abyss is incredible

              • It cause the sun and sky to darken

              • We already saw last week after the fourth trumpet was sounded that a third of the sun was struck and turned dark

              • Now with the remaining two-thirds are being darkened by the smoke that has been released from the Abyss

        • Using the smoke as a screen, we see that demons, described as locusts, come down upon the earth

          • Throughout the Old Testament, locusts symbolized destruction

          • We see this in Joel 1:4-7, What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. ​​ Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! ​​ Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. ​​ A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. ​​ It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. ​​ It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white.

        • John uses many descriptive words to share what he is seeing, but the mighty force that springs from the smoke of the Abyss are not actually locusts

    • Demonic force (vv. 3-11)

        • Description (vv. 3a, 7-11)

          • Read Revelation 3a, 7-11

          • John uses the word “like” seven times in four verses

            • He is trying to put into human terms what he is seeing

            • The 1st Century believer would have understood the significance of a demonic force that destroyed and devoured like locusts

              • Throughout the Old Testament locust were a symbol of destruction (Deut 28:42; 1 Kings 8:37; Ps 78:46) [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 186]

              • Those living in Israel and the surrounding region understood how powerful a swarm of locust could be, especially from spring through late summer (five month dry season), when millions of them could come out of the desert and completely destroy all the vegetation [Easley, 157]

              • So, John is describing a demonic force that has the same kind of destructive power that a swarm of locusts have

            • He is describing demons as Aune points out, “These are demons in the guise of locusts, for their king is Abaddon, the angel of the abyss [Rev. 9:11].” ​​ [Aune cited by Osborne, 364]

              • We could spend a large portion of our time explaining each of the figurative descriptions for the demons that John saw, but what they looked like is of less importance than what they are doing

              • Easley does an excellent job of summarizing the various images used to describe this horde of demons [Easley, 158]

                • Looked like horses prepared for battle – Battle horses are bred for strength and equipped with bridle and saddle. ​​ This was no slipshod host but was well prepared

                • They wore something like crowns of gold – They symbolize victory. ​​ They will succeed completely in their appointed mission

                • Their faces resemble human faces – There was cunning and intelligence in these creatures

                • Hair like women’s hair – This may be their antennae waving in the wind. ​​ Some ancient warriors, particularly Parthians, wore long flowing hair as a symbol of fierceness (not effeminacy)

                • Teeth like lions’ teeth – Such teeth tear apart. ​​ Again, fierceness and strength come to mind with such an image

                • Breastplates like breastplates of iron – This further specifies the military preparation of this evil horde. ​​ Ancient Roman breastplates were usually leather and bronze, so these were much stronger and much more invincible

                • Sound of their wings like the thundering of many horses – The military imagery continues as John turns up the volume for us. ​​ In times of war, battle lines sometimes advance with as much noise as possible. ​​ This army is no exception

                • Tails and stings like scorpions – normal locusts do not attach humans, but these locust demons are supernatural

            • John’s imagery is designed to strike fear into those who are reading his letter – this is something to take seriously

          • King over these demonic locusts

            • This is an interesting play on words

              • In the animal kingdom, locusts do not have a “king” or leader

              • Proverbs 30:27, locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks

              • This is another reason why we can rest assured that these are not actually locusts, but rather a demonic force

              • They obviously need a leader to direct them as they carry out their task

            • Abaddon/Apollyon

              • Here again, scholars are split on who this “king” is

              • Satan/Devil (Courson, Wiersbe, Akin, Patterson)

                • Those who believe it is Satan reference the fact that the two names used both mean “destroyer”

                • They look to John 10:10 which describes Satan, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy

              • Arch demon (Keener, Mounce, Easley, Osborne)

                • Those who believe that it is some arch demon directed by Satan, mention that Satan is identified later in the book of Revelation, chapter 12

                • They also believe that this arch demon was imprisoned with the demonic horde in the Abyss and is released at the same time

              • Whether it is Satan or an arch demon doing his bidding, they are under the total control of God and His sovereign plan

              • PRINCIPLE – God is in control of everything, including demonic forces.

          • John has described for us a demonic force, with a leader, that has been released from the Abyss to accomplish a specific task

        • Torture (vv. 3b-6)

          • Throughout this section of Scripture we will see that this demonic force is given power to do one certain thing, but is also restricted from doing a couple of things

            • God’s sovereign control and plan may seem antithetical to us – even hard to understand

            • PRINCIPLE – God even uses demonic forces to accomplish or carry out His judgment on the wicked.

              • We’ll see that God uses evil to judge evil

                • We see this throughout the Old Testament

                • When the Israelites were in rebellion against God – worshiping idols – He sent them into exile

                • The countries where they were exiled were not following God, but were also worshiping idols and false gods

                • God allowed them to be separated from the Promised Land so they would repent and return to Him

                • When they repented, He restored them to the Promise Land

                • We see in the Old testament that the Israelites were exiled multiple times

              • What we have to understand is that the purpose behind God’s judgment here is to bring His creation to repentance

              • God’s judgment then is an expression of His love for humankind – He doesn’t want them to be separated from Him for all eternity

          • Power they were given (vv. 3b, 5b-6)

            • The imagery is that the locust were given power like that of scorpions of the earth

              • The sting of a scorpion is not lethal to most human beings, but can be for a small infant

              • While the sting is not lethal, the numbing, aching, and pain associated with the sting are intense

              • We are not told what kind of torture these demons use against unbelievers, only that the agony they endure will be like the sting of a scorpion

                • It is not inconceivable that these demons will inflict physical pain of some sort

                • The pain they inflict will probably also be spiritual and psychological

                • “Those who have experienced unrequited spiritual and psychological agony would be the first to attest that it can be far worse than any physical pain imaginable.” ​​ [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 221]

              • We know the agony of the torture will be so intense that those who are afflicted will seek death

                • We try to run from death, but it eventually catches up to us

                • Here, those who are running after death are unable to catch up to it – they are too slow

                • John MacArthur summarizes very well what has been happening during the first four trumpet judgments

                • “So intense will be the torment inflicted on unbelievers that in those days (the five month of v. 5) men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them. ​​ All hope is gone; there will be no tomorrow. ​​ The earth people have loved and worshiped will have been utterly devastated, the land ravaged by earthquakes, fires, and volcanoes, the sea filled with the putrefying bodies of billions of dead creatures, much of the fresh water supply turned into bitter poison, the atmosphere polluted with gases and showers of heavenly debris. ​​ Then, worst of all, will come foul smoke from the pit of hell as demons are released to spiritually and physically torment wicked people. ​​ The dream of a worldwide utopia under the leadership of Antichrist (the beast of 13:1ff.) will have died. ​​ Driven mad by the filth and vileness of the demon infestation, people will seek relief in death – only to find that death has taken a holiday. ​​ There will be no escape from the agony inflicted by the demons, no escape from divine judgment. ​​ All attempts at suicide, whether by gunshot, poison, drowning or leaping from buildings will fail (Revelation 1-11, 261-62).” ​​ [Akin, 182]

              • The torture is limited to five months

                • It is interesting that the amount of time they are given to torture unbelievers corresponds to the life span of a locust

                • As was mentioned earlier, God’s purpose behind unleashing this demonic force was to cause His creation to repent and turn to Him

                • In limiting the torture of this demonic force, we see another principle

                • PRINCIPLE – God never stops showing mercy and extending grace to those He has created.

                  • This is an important principle here at trumpet 5, because trumpet 6 will usher in the death of a third of mankind

                  • What unbelievers will experience through physical, spiritual, and psychological agony is another attempt by God to help them see that He is sovereign and all-powerful and that they need to repent

                  • God’s judgment gives time for repentance

                  • Perhaps you feel like God is bringing judgment on you right now

                  • Maybe you feel like you’re on the wrong side of the glass and you are experiencing physical, spiritual, emotional, and/or psychological pain that is so intense you wish you could die

                  • It could be that God is allowing this suffering so you will recognize that He is all-powerful and sovereign

                  • He is giving you more time to repent

                  • But you also have to realize that eventually time will run out

                  • Gospel (sin, punishment, God’s love, Jesus perfect sacrifice)

                  • 2 Corinthians 5:21-6:2, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ​​ As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. ​​ For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” ​​ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

                  • It is not too late; you haven’t done too many bad things; it doesn’t depend on your worthiness or righteousness, but on Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice

                  • Repentance mean to make a 180 degree turn

                  • Acts 3:19-20, Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.

                  • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Repent and turn to God, so He can make me clean by wiping away my sins.

              • Though this demonic force was given power, it was very limited

            • They were only allowed to torture any human being that did not have the seal of God on their forehead

            • They were not given power over nature and those sealed by God

          • Power they were not given (vv. 4-5a)

            • God gave them a divine directive that they were not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree

            • They were not allowed to torture any human being that had the seal of God on their forehead

            • Their power was limited to torturing unbelievers, but they were not allowed to kill them

        • Transition (v. 12)

          • Some scholars include this verse with vv. 1-11, while others include it with vv. 13-21.

          • That leads me to believe that it is transition verse

          • It concludes the first of the three woes (the eagle cried out “woe, woe, woe” in Rev. 8:13)

          • Two more woes are still coming in the sixth and seventh trumpets

 

  • YOU

    • Discipline

        • As a follower of Jesus Christ, you be feeling like God is using evil individuals to discipline you

        • Maybe you are rebelling against His will for your life

        • Perhaps something in your life has become more important to you than God – it has become your idol

        • God does use evil forces to accomplish or carry out His judgment on the wicked

        • He will restore you when you repent and turn to Him

    • Salvation

        • If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, you may be wondering why you are currently experiencing suffering or hardships

        • God loves you and His greatest desire is your salvation

        • He doesn’t want you to be separated from Him for eternity

        • Turn to God today and have your sins wiped away

 

  • WE

    • The Israelites were supposed to model what a relationship with the true and living God looked

    • While they did that sometimes, they often failed

    • As Christians, our responsibility is to model for unbelievers what a relationship with God looks like

    • We should be showing them how to live on the right side of the glass and not be driven by the fear of Satan

 

CONCLUSION

The episode of Gunsmoke only showed failure, but my guess is that somewhere along the line, the huckster lost when a rough tumble cowboy who had handled snakes in the past stepped up and accepted his challenge. ​​ The cowboy who beat the huckster knew all about snakes and did not fear them.

 

God’s Word tells us all we need to know about Satan. ​​ We can stand against him without fear, because we know his tactics and the end of the story. ​​ Jesus has already won and He gives us His Holy Spirit so that we can have the power over temptation, sin, and one day death.

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