Make Earth Great Again (Revelation 21:24-22:5)

“I sometimes think we really shouldn’t have even done it. There was a lot of pressure on us at that time to do one big last show, but big is always bad in comedy.”

The show was Seinfeld, and Jerry Seinfeld shared that regret in an interview.

Series-ending episodes are more often than not panned by critics and fans alike.

You’ll find The X-Files, Star Trek Enterprise, Lost, and Roseanne on that dubious list.

Who can forget the last episode of beloved Little House on the Prairie? Spoiler alert: The little house was reduced to smithereens, along with the rest of Walnut Grove. In the TV special, The Last Farewell, the residents destroy their property to stop it from falling into the hands of a sinister development tycoon. Fans hated it.

The Revelation has come to its last episode.

There is more to chapter twenty-two, sixteen verses, and one more Bible study, to be exact. Nevertheless, in verse five, John says, “and they shall reign forever and ever.” It brings to a conclusion the future Revelation he has received. The rest is encouragement, application, and exhortation for the church through the ages.

The final episode has us checking out activity on New Earth and strolling around New Jerusalem. All is good.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Will Have A View Of The Perfect Earth, and #2 You Will Have A Vista Of The Pure River.

#1 – You Will Have A View Of The Perfect Earth (21:24-27)

Luxury hotels often offer you a view for a premium. If you can afford a room at Disney’s Grand Californian, you may as well shell out the extra dough for a view of California Adventure.

Think of yourself in your mansion in New Jerusalem, enjoying a perfect #PastorsPour, looking out over the renewed planet orbiting below.

Rev 21:24  And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.

The “it” is the fantastic New Jerusalem described earlier in the chapter. The city comes down from Heaven to hover over New Earth.

John told us a couple of times that there is no sun because the Lord is the light for the new heavens and New Earth.
The citizens and governments of New Earth “shall walk in its light,” and that light is the radiant glory of God.

There are “kings” over “nations” on New Earth.

John Walvoord wrote,

If Abraham is to remain Abraham throughout eternity and David is to remain David… So also will it be with those who are saved among the Gentiles. There is no indication that nationality of individuals will be stressed, but the fact that they belong to a nation is revealed in the description of New Jerusalem.

Jesus will return to Earth to end the seven-year Great Tribulation. We call His return the Second Coming. The Lord described one of His first acts upon returning. Matthew quotes Him in his Gospel:

When the Son of Man comes in His glory… then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left… Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…” Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

“Sheep” and “goats” are designations for humans who survive the Great Tribulation. Jesus separates believers, the “sheep,” from nonbelievers, the “goats.” Nonbelievers are removed from Earth to await their final judgment.

Believers who survive the Great Tribulation will be the initial citizens of the Kingdom of God on Earth. We call His kingdom the Millennial Kingdom, or the Millennium, because it will last one thousand years.

Human beings who live during this thousand years are the true Millennials.

These surviving believers from all over Earth will retain their ethnicity. They will return to their nations. “Kings” will govern them under our supervision. They will engage in commerce. It will be Earth on spiritual steroids.

Millennials will start having children. They and their offspring repopulate Earth. Conditions on Earth during the Kingdom Age will be pretty near perfect. Resources will be abundant. The ensuing population explosion won’t need Thanos to correct it.

It is impossible to calculate the final population of the Millennium. There are too many variables. I did find one interesting article. The author postulated how quickly Earth might be repopulated after a disaster nearly wipes out the population. He said,

Humanity could bounce back surprisingly fast. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Hutterite community of North America achieved the highest levels of population growth ever recorded, doubling every 17 years. It’s a tough ask, but if each woman had eight children, we’d be back to seven billion people in just 556 years.

The Millennium is one thousand years. The potential population of the Kingdom is staggering.

Millennials will be born in unredeemed human bodies, dead in trespasses and sins, and will need to be born again to have eternal life.

Fast forward to the end of the thousand years. Multitudes of Millennials will reject Jesus, refusing His salvation. Worse, they will be led in a rebellion against Jesus by the devil.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that the majority of the people born in the Millennium reject the Lord and perish eternally. I think I’ve given you enough information to conclude that there will still be billions of believers organized into nations with leaders over them. Billions is a conservative estimate. It could be trillions or more.

We know one more thing about these people. Their human bodies must at some point be transformed into glorified bodies. The apostle Paul said, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption” (First Corinthians 15:50).

“The kingdom of God” Paul in this verse is not the Millennial Kingdom. It is eternity. Millennial believers cannot be anywhere in eternity without a glorified body.

These surviving Millennial saints will be transformed and will be at least some of the people that are inhabiting New Earth in their various “nations,” ruled by “kings.”

Rev 21:25  Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).

No ancient city’s “gates” were open 24/7. Too dangerous. It would be like having no border crossings, having a completely open border. In eternity, however, there are no threats. Folks come and go as they please.

Rev 21:26  And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.

The “glory” of the “nations” is mentioned for the second time. It reminds me of scenes in movies when emissaries from foreign lands bring gifts to the monarch. If my memory serves, there is a scene like that before Moses appears before Pharaoh in The Ten Commandments. Representatives from the nations on New Earth will bring their gifts to the Lord.

Rev 21:27  But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Read this verse as if you are in the first century. It is a reminder, a warning even, that people who defile, cause abominations, or lie, will be excluded from Heaven. There won’t be anyone like this; no sinners at all. It is, therefore, an evangelistic call. Get saved before it is too late.

The Book of Life is mentioned for the sixth time in the Revelation. It initially contains a list of the names of all those Jesus died for. Who are they?

God so loved the world that He gave Jesus, Who is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.

The “world” encompasses everyone ever conceived.

“All men” is the human race. God loves them all, and Jesus died to save them all.

Not all will be saved.

God removes the names of human beings who die in nonbelief, having rejected the gift of salvation. Their names will be, the Bible says elsewhere, “blotted out.”

This is the first time the book is called “the Lamb’s Book of Life.” This last mention seems like it is a presentation. The final draft of the Book of Life is in the hands of the Lamb, Who alone made it possible for anyone to be saved. It’s the conclusive record of the result of His work.

Your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life. It is there right now. It will only remain in the Book of Life if Jesus is your Lamb.

Someone must die for you to have a relationship with God. That Someone was Jesus. Until He came from Heaven to Earth, lambs and other animals were acceptable, but temporary, sacrifices. Jesus died in your place as the final sacrifice, the one that all the lambs anticipated.

The wages of sin is death. The gift of God is eternal life. Believe God that Jesus was the God-man Who died for you, then rose from the dead.

#2 – You Will Have A Vista Of The Pure River (22:1-5)

You’ve been out on your porch looking over the hustle and bustle of activity between the nations of New Earth and New Jerusalem. Time to take a stroll to see what is happening in the city.

Rev 22:1  And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

Bottled water is classified as either still or sparkling. Heavenly water is something beyond those descriptions. It is “clear as crystal.”

I see no reason to think of this as a metaphor. This is water, in a river, from which you will be able to drink. Robert Thomas writes, “Unlimited access to this life-giving water will assure residents of New Jerusalem of an everlasting enjoyment of life.”

The source of this river is “the Throne of God.” At the very least, this tells you it can never run dry. It will never be diverted, never dammed up, never be corrupted.

More than that, it will satisfy you. The prophet Jeremiah said of Israel, “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water” (2:13).

A cistern was an earthen reservoir to hold run-off and rain. Think of the ponding basins that are on properties. Would you rather drink from the stagnant waters of a ponding basin or from the river of water God offers?

Israel consistently chose the stagnant water. Religion, philosophy, psychology, politics, education – all offer to satisfy your thirst. F.B. Meyer wrote, “God has set eternity in our heart, and man’s infinite capacity cannot be filled or satisfied with the things of time and sense.”

Captain Barbosa said, “The drink would not satisfy, food turned to ash in our mouths, nor the company in the world would harm or slake our lust. We are cursed men, Miss Turner.”

The human race is under a curse. Jesus reverses the curse. Only Jesus can satisfy our thirst.

Rev 22:2  In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

There are two main views on the description of the tree in relation to the river:

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The picture presented to the mind’s eye would appear to be that of a wide street, with a river flowing down the center, like some of the broader canals of Holland, with trees growing on either side, all of them of the same kind, all called the tree of life.”

John Walvoord wrote, “The visual picture presented is that the river of life flows down through the middle of the city, and the tree is large enough to span the river, so that the river is in the midst of the street, and the tree is on both sides of the river.”

We remember the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve lost access to it by being exiled from Eden when they disobeyed God by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

From the account in Genesis, it would seem that there is only one Tree of Life. It was initially in Eden. God has it in His heavenly nursery, waiting for its transplanting in New Jerusalem.

I can envision a Tree of Life replanting ceremony. Maybe Adam and Eve can throw in the first handfuls of dirt.

I always think of eternity as timeless, but it isn’t. There won’t be a lunar calendar because there is no luna, but there will be a twelve-month calendar in eternity. No night, always day, yet we will somehow understand and track the passage of time.

In every survival show, the people keep track of the days until their experience comes to a welcomed end. In New Jerusalem, “when we’ve been there ten thousand years… We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.” We will keep track of time looking forward.

I don’t know if you realize it or not but in eternity, we will be fruitarians.

There will be no death, so no butchering animals. No roadkill. Housekeeping will stock a lifetime supply of Cool Whip in every mansion.

The citizens of New Earth will especially desire the “leaves.” The “leaves” are, literally, health-giving. No illness at all in eternity, so I’m not sure how the leaves impart health. I remember the Star Trek episode in which the crew was influenced by plants that shot spores on them. They became euphoric. Of course, in a world with Captain Kirk, you need your pain, so he found a way to break the effect and ruin it for everyone.

The following three verses ought to bring tears of joy.

Rev 22:3  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.

If not yourself, you know someone who has had cancer. If it is a tumor, a surgeon cuts it out. You want to hear him say, “I got it all; you are cancer-free.”

New Earth, New Jerusalem, the universe, will be curse-free.

You will “serve Him.” Think about Jesus before you think about yourself. On Earth, He was the servant of all. He said of Himself that He came to serve, not be served.

Jesus didn’t become a servant when He became human; He was already a servant.

He voluntarily submitted to the plan to become human, to become the God-man, and die on the Cross for a lost and perishing people who would initially reject Him.

Jesus didn’t quit serving when He ascended into Heaven. He serves us, works on us, and in us to change us from glory to glory into His image.

In the Book of Ephesians, we are told that Jesus washes us by the water of His Word. In westerns, the hero will come into town, check-in to the hotel, and take a bath. He sits in the tub, and every once in a while, someone brings in a fresh bucket of hot water and pours it in.

Jesus is the one bringing buckets of the water of the Word. The creator of all things serves joyfully as a water boy.

However we serve, it will be a joy to be like our Lord.

Rev 22:4  They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.

You can see anyone’s face in pictures. Not possible when John wrote the Revelation. This is a declaration we will be face-to-face.

Forehead tattoo? Maybe. Here is another suggestion. The Message Version of the Bible reads, “they’ll look on His face, their foreheads mirroring God.”

In the Old Testament, Moses met with God. Afterward, his face would “mirror God.” It would glow for a while with the glory of God. Moses would wear a veil so the Israelites wouldn’t see the glow fade and become saddened.

The apostle Paul used Moses as an example. He wrote to the church in Corinth, saying, “Moses… put a veil over his face… Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away… we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (Second Corinthians 3:13-18).

As we grow, we glow!

Supernaturals can probably see the glow. You don’t want to look to them like a flashlight needing batteries.

There are times your countenance might reveal to human onlookers the Lord at work in you.

This glow might be what John described. His “name” on your “forehead” could be His glory in your countenance being mirrored.

Rev 22:5  There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

John wrote in his Gospel: “[Jesus] was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (1:9).

Jesus came to offer salvation to the the whole human race, “every man coming into the world.” In the end, those who believe God walk the streets of New Jerusalem, the nations of New Earth, and who can say where else in the universe.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is among the greatest works of literature. Tolkien never lets us down. The ending is no exception. Sam returns home and says humbly, “Well, I’m back.”

The words in verse five, “And they shall reign forever and ever,” are an “I’m back” ending. We will be back to where we began, face-to-face with our Creator. What was lost in Eden is restored in eternity.

You are writing your story as you walk with the Lord. If you were to die today, or be raptured, what would the last line of your life be?

Goin’ Up to the City in the Sky (Revelation 21:9-23)

It has a distinctive name: The Nightingale of Kuala Lumpur.

It is a red burgundy one-of-a-kind gown that is worth $30 million. Malaysian designer Faiyzali Abdullah incorporated chiffon and silk, Swarovski (swaa raav skee) crystals, and 751 diamonds weighing over 1100 carats. A 70-carat teardrop diamond further adorns it.

Egyptian designer Hany El Bahairy created the world’s most expensive wedding gown, $15 million. Several hundred diamonds and precious stones cover the dress. Ivory tulle and silk organza are the fabrics from which it is sewn. The diamonds and stones form intricate patterns from head to toe, glittering over the bride.

You’re probably more frugal. brides.com can help. They have a list of dresses under $100.00 that they say “will make you feel like a million bucks.”

The world has yet to see the most beautiful bride in the most breathtaking setting.

We get a glimpse of her in our verses: “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (21:9-11).

It reads as if this were the moment in an earthly wedding when the bride appears and those gathered see her for the first time.

In case you don’t know, the church is the bride.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Glorified Will Highlight New Jerusalem, and #2 Jesus’ Glory Lights New Jerusalem.

#1 – You Glorified Will Highlight New Jerusalem (v9-21)

Fancy villas, high-rise apartments, lakes, parks, and sprawling road networks. These cities in China have it all. Just one element is missing: People. About fifty such ‘Ghost Cities’ lay desolate across the country.

New Jerusalem would be no more than a Ghost City without its inhabitants. Believers in their resurrection bodies are the highlight of the city. Its true beauty is us made beautiful by Jesus.

Rev 21:9  Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

It is not uncommon for a person to retire then enjoy a second or third career.
The seven angels who poured out the seven last plagues had a short ‘bowling’ career. One of them retired to become a tour guide.

Pray about how you might serve the Lord in your retirement.

“Lamb” is the preferred description of Jesus in the Revelation. He is “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” by His sacrifice on the Cross. He is the only one worthy of taking the scroll from His Father and bring the current dispensation to its end.

What Jesus called “My church” (Matthew 16:18) was a mystery until He and the New Testament apostles revealed it. The church was born on the Day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection when Jesus sent God the Holy Spirit to empower and give boldness to believers to preach the Gospel until He comes to resurrect the dead in Christ and rapture living saints.

One of many illustrations describing the church is that we are the bride of Jesus. The angel invited John to take a look at the church, “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

This is important: John saw the church collectively. He saw us all together, all at once. The city adorns the collective bride.

Just as a bride is adorned with her gown and jewelry, so is the
church adorned by New Jerusalem.

Rev 21:10  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from God,

Jesus promised He would occupy Himself building mansions in Heaven for us. When the heavens and Earth are remade New Jerusalem will be moved from its construction site in Heaven to the atmosphere above Earth.

Rev 21:11  having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

There is something beautiful about an aerial view of a great city lit up at night. All the Earth’s cities combined are barely a match compared to New Jerusalem. It shines “having the glory of God.”

I gotta home in gloryland
That outshines the sun
Way beyond the blue

Rev 21:12  Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
Rev 21:13  three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

The ministry of angels changes dramatically throughout the dispensations of human history. They are everywhere during the Great Tribulation performing incredible deeds. Afterward they stand honor guard in New Jerusalem. There is no reason, no need, to guard. It is a ceremonial posting.

God gifts each of His believers. It doesn’t mean our gifts are ours to exercise when, where, and how we will. You will have postings that test your obedience.

Regardless your gifts, you are first a servant:

A servant does whatever they are asked.
A servant sees a need and meets the need.

The gates have the names of the “twelve tribes of Israel.” In verse fourteen, we will read, “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” The apostles, along with prophets, laid the foundation for the church.

Israel and the church are two distinct entities in God’s plan.

Israel and the church are not one and the same. Roman Catholics and most Reformed Christians, and others, are confused. They teach that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. Not true, proven here.

You cannot understand prophecy, and you will be led into misinterpretation unless you keep Israel and the church separate in God’s plan.

The apostle Paul wrote, “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2).

Commentators and critics make a hullabaloo about the “twelve tribes.” The original twelve were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin.

I said ‘original’ because Joseph had two sons while serving as Prime Minister of Egypt. Jacob rewarded Joseph with a double portion of land by adopting Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, like his own (Genesis 48:5). This adoption technically split the tribe of Joseph in two, making thirteen tribes. The various lists of the twelve tribes in the Bible don’t always match.

Bottom line: We are never told why these lists differ. It is need to know, and we don’t need to know.

Rev 21:14  Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

More commentator-confusion surrounds the twelve apostles. Jesus chose Judas Iscariot to be one of the twelve. After his betrayal and suicide, the eleven drew lots to pick Matthias as his replacement.

Some commentators think they were premature because it seems evident that God meant for Paul to be the twelfth apostle.

After Matthias is chosen, the group of apostles is called “the twelve.” God the Holy Spirit considered Matthias the bonafide twelfth apostle or He would not have inspired the writer of Acts, Luke, to use the title.

Peter and Andrew; James and John; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; Thomas; James, the son of Alphaeus; Jude, aka Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot; and Matthias.

Is it possible that the great apostle Paul will not have his name commemorated in the city? Yes. Let it be a lesson to us. Paul said of himself, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (First Corinthians 15:9). Our rush to honor him for his work reveals a wrong tendency to desire recognition and position. It is a sign we are looking at outward things, whereas the Lord looks at the heart

Rev 21:15  And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.
Rev 21:16  The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.
Rev 21:17  Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.

The angel’s third career is as a surveyor. Although an angel, he uses the “measure” of humans. It solves a great debate. We won’t be using either the metric system or imperial measurements. Cubits and furlongs are in your future. Better read up on it.

The New Jerusalem’s length, height, and width are equal. It is either a cube or a pyramid. A cube is more reminiscent of the Tabernacle and Temple.

Let’s do some math together. New Jerusalem measures about 1400 miles in every direction. One human being takes up minimum space of about 2’ by 2’ by 6’, or 24 cubic feet per person.

Mathematicians calculate that six billion people can ‘fit’ in one cubic mile.
If the city had twenty billion residents, each person would have a cube of space that is seventy-five acres in every direction.

A few more calculations:

New Jerusalem is a multi-story city. In The Return of the King, the city of Gondor is an excellent example of a multi-story city. If each ‘story’ in New Jerusalem were 10’ high, it would have 792,000 floors.
Suppose the mansions on each floor were 250,000 sq.ft. There could be more than one quarter million mansions per floor.
At a vantage point 5000 miles away, New Jerusalem would appear more than 130 times larger than the moon.
The ground coverage would equal the combined areas of all but nine of the states in the United States. Some scholars suggest the city sits on Earth, not hovering in the heavens. It’s pretty obviously too big to be on Earth.

It’s big and will be no Ghost City. A lot of people have gotten saved, and many more will get saved before the city makes its dramatic descent.

The first high-rise building in the Bible was the Tower of Babel. Nimrod & Co. started construction on a brick and slime structure to reach the heavens. He wasn’t building a stairway to Heaven. The finished would be a place to observe and worship things in the heavens.

Archaeologists call these ancient towers ziggurats. They good-guess that the tallest of them was just under 200’.

The tallest building in the world is Khalifa Tower in Dubai. It is just over half a mile tall at 2,722’. It has about 163 stories.

It wouldn’t be a lawn ornament in New Jerusalem.

Rev 21:18  The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.

Striking, vibrant colors will be produced as light passes through and reflects off gems and precious metals.

“Pure gold” is said to be “like clear glass.” In verse twenty-one we will read that “the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.”

Rev 21:19  The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,
Rev 21:20  the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.

I don’t see any reason to get bogged down explaining all these individually. It’s going to be purdy.

Rev 21:21  The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

Oysters that big scare me… But I suppose they’ll be friendly. This description is probably where we get the idea that Peter will meet us at the “pearly gates.” It won’t be Peter; it will be Jesus.

Notice it says, “the street,” singular. No cul-de-sacs, only one winding ribbon of road climbing up 792,000 stories. Once again, think Gondor.

The building materials are precious gems and minerals. What do we do with precious stones and gold today? Or, better yet, what do wives want their husbands to do with them?

They are in the jewelry that we give to the one we love.

New Jerusalem is precious gems in a pure gold setting. The city is an immense jewel that will surround the bride.

Extravagance is a trait of romantic love. You want to be able to give your loved one something amazing. It’s not because you are materialistic, but because you are romantic.

When given to the one you love, things of great value show you care more about him or her than the things in all the world. If you could, you’d give your loved one the world – because the one you love has more value to you than everything valuable in the world.

Charles Spurgeon said, “Let me revel in this one thought: before God made the heavens and the earth, He set His love upon me.”

You, glorified, will be the highlight of the city.

#2 – Jesus’ Glory Will Light New Jerusalem (v22-23)

We’ve encountered several 12’s. There are a lot more 12’s in the Bible, 187 of them to be exact. In most of those instances, the number 12 conveys God’s perfect government:

The 12 Patriarchs of the 12 tribes were the leaders governing Israel.

The 12 apostles had the authority to lay the church’s foundation, govern it, and establish its future governing leaders.

The 12’s of New Jerusalem tell us that it will be more than big and beautiful. It will be perfectly governed.

Rev 21:22  But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

The sense I get of John’s statement, “I saw no Temple in it,” is that he was looking for one. The Temple at Jerusalem had been a constant in his life. For many years he had visited it at least twice annually as was required of every male Jew.

The lack of a Temple in New Jerusalem would have been a stunning realization for John. Stunning in a good way because he was immediately inspired to understand that “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its Temple.”

God met with Adam and Eve face-to-face. Adam and Eve’s sin broke their face time with God. The penalty for sin, for them and their offspring, was and is death.

The sacrificial death of an animal as a substitute could temporarily restore fellowship. The Law of Moses eventually codified a system of substitutionary sacrifice. God put His glorious presence in the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple. He met with His people through a mediator after the shedding of blood.

The New Testament Book of Hebrews proves that Jesus was better than the Temple system of sacrifice in every way. He is our mediator, and since we are in Him, we have immediate access to come boldly to God the Father.

Please do not get involved with rites, rules, and rituals that distance you from the intimacy made possible by Jesus shedding his blood.

Rev 21:23  The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.

Who doesn’t enjoy a good sunrise or sunset? Better get that out of your system.

The city will be constructed so that the light of Jesus Christ will reflect throughout it. It will be like no light we’ve ever experienced before. No one will miss darkness.

I was watching an old Pawn Stars episode. They discussed how they were fooled when cubic zirconia first hit the streets in the late 1970s.

John knew his gems. He knew as well that the Lord would never build with sub-standard, faux materials. He mentioned “pure gold” when, in fact, on Earth gold cannot be 100% pure.

Neither ought we to build with “wood, hay, stubble,” but with “gold, silver, precious stones” (First Corinthians 5).

How?? Do everything as unto the Lord, in His empowering, and you are building with the best materials.

You earn rewards from the Lord while building. John earlier likened your rewards to adornments you add to your white robes of righteousness. He wrote, “And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (19:8).

Be beautiful. Walk with Jesus and receive His rewards for stuff He asks you to do, then enables you to perform.

Gals, you will never wear The Nightingale of Kuala Lumpur.

Guys, you’ll never build anything like the Khalifa Tower.

Compared to New Jerusalem, building for Jesus far exceeds anything mankind could ever accomplish.

It isn’t the city that looks mahvelous. It is the church within it that the city adorns.

One final thought, this from A.W. Tozer:

“An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children. He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.”

Surfless City, Here We Come (Revelation 21:1-8)

“Have you ever seen it, Aragorn? The White Tower of Ecthelion, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, its banners caught high in the morning breeze. Have you ever been called home by the clear ringing of silver trumpets?”

The city of Gondor was in Boromir’s heart as he was dying from many orc arrows. He wished for its glory to be renewed with the return of the rightful king.

We look forward to the city whose builder and maker is God and to the forever rule of the rightful King of kings.

The “holy city,” New Jerusalem, will come “down out of Heaven from God.” It will be a permanent, prominent feature in eternity.

Before an angel reveals to John what and who is in New Jerusalem, he tells the wide-eyed apostle what and who is not.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Will Never Sorrow In The Golden City, and #2 You Will Never Sin In The Golden City.

#1 – You Will Never Sorrow In The Golden City (v1-7)

If you could live anywhere on Earth, where would it be? You can’t say Riverdale; that’s too obvious.

The place you’ve chosen isn’t free from tears, death, sorrow, crying, and pain.

On the other hand, New Jerusalem will be absent from all those and every other experience that is a result of sin wreaking havoc on God’s creation.

Where the Savior is there can be no sorrow.

Rev 21:1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

Heaven with a capital “H” is God’s domain. The heavens above us – the earth’s atmosphere and what we call space – will pass away.

The apostle Peter was inspired to write a description of the “first heaven and the first earth” passing away:

But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men… the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up… all these things will be dissolved…(Second Peter 3:7, 10&11).

Newsweek posted an article titled, Who Will Control the 21st Century? Whoever Controls Space. Go, Space Force.

Who controls space? One of Satan’s titles is “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). The atmospheric heavens and space are where he operates.

J.R.R. Tolkien might have described the devil’s presence in the heavens as “fell.” It is a favorite word of his, an old use of the word, meaning fierce, ferocious, deadly, savage.

Our prayers rise as incense through the devil’s war room. He must be incensed!

Now for the really big question of the day. Why is there “no more sea?”

We are genuinely troubled by the disclosure that there are not going to be any oceans. Especially those who believe surfing is next to godliness. Maybe you can be like the Silver Surfer, tooling around the universe on your longboard.

Nowhere are we told why there is “no more sea.”

Anything we say would be a guess we can’t substantiate. We can suggest why its absence troubles us.

Some instinct in us causes us to refer to beachfront property, or tropical islands, as Paradise.

Not even close. Jesus told the believing thief crucified with Him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Geographically speaking, the thief would be in Hades, in the comfort section called Abraham’s Bosom. It is where the souls of the righteous waited for the coming of the Lord to lead them to Heaven. Jesus would descend there after His death to lead all the righteous to Heaven.

I think it is OK biblically to say that Paradise is being with Jesus. Paradise has never been a place; it is a Person. Luther said, “I would not give one moment of Heaven for all the joy and riches of the world, even if it lasted for thousands and thousands of years.”

Rev 21:2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

New Jerusalem is, quite literally, the crowning jewel of the new creation. In subsequent verses, we’ll see that it is made chiefly of gems and precious stones. Gold paves its streets, hence, The Golden City.

It will come “down out of Heaven from God.” It could not be built on-site because of the devil’s temporary hold on the heavens. It has been under construction in Heaven and will be moved into position when the prince has become the pauper.

The New Jerusalem is being “prepared” in Heaven “as a bride adorned for her husband.” The Contemporary English Version of the Bible reads, “It was like a bride dressed in her wedding gown.”

The New Testament uses marriage as an illustration of our intimacy with Jesus. He is the Bridegroom, and we are His bride. A bride desires to look her best. Hair, make-up, jewelry, maybe a veil, and a bouquet adorn her. Her gown is her primary adornment.

Just as her gown and other preparations adorn a bride, so is the bride of Jesus adorned by New Jerusalem. Looking at the bejeweled city, you see the bride “having made herself ready” (19:7).

Before we get lost in the beauty of New Jerusalem in subsequent verses the Lord establishes that it is merely a showcase for His bride.

The Lord is excited to put us on display. It gives Him pleasure to draw attention to His finished work in us. I dare say that the church is a trophy bride.

Jesus saved us. He committed Himself to setting us apart, to performing a good work in us every moment of every day. He is described as washing us by the water of the Word of God. We will be presented without spot or blemish to our heavenly Father.

I can only imagine how beautiful each of you will be in eternity, let alone myself.

Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from Heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

The “tabernacle” was the tent in the wilderness where God was present among the Israelites.

It consisted of two chambers, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, separated by a thick veil. It was 45’x15’, or 675sq.ft. People who get deeper into the dimensions suggest that New Jerusalem may be a pyramid shape. The earthly tabernacle, however, was a cube. It doesn’t matter; it’s simply interesting.

God will “dwell” with mankind. After Adam and Eve sinned, everything in the Bible is God providentially forwarding His plan for redeeming the human race to restore the fellowship our parents forfeited for a fig.

Charles Spurgeon wrote,

I do not think the glory of Eden lay in its grassy walks, or in the boughs bending with luscious fruit-but its glory lay in this, that the ‘Lord God walked in the garden in the cool of the day.’ Here was Adam’s highest privilege, that he had companionship with the Most High.

We talk about serving God… Fearing God… Obeying God… Submitting to God… Praying to God… Giving to God. Those should all be done in the context of enjoying God.

You say, “It’s hard to enjoy in my suffering, in my struggles.” Hey – that’s when you can enjoy God the most. To paraphrase the Twilight Zone movie, “Do you want to hear something really scary?”

Consider enduring suffering without God.

C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 ESV).

The apostle Paul was told by God that his suffering would not end. He was to endure it. Paul reacted, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (Second Corinthians 12:9-10).

Fellowship with God makes all the difference.

Revelation 21:4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Planet Earth is overrun by “death,” “sorrow,” and “pain.” It produces “tears” and “crying.” Jesus will “wipe away every tear.”

Have you ever had someone wipe away your tears when you were crying? It’s a tender gesture that only someone very dear to you should attempt. It is symbolic of their desire to alleviate your sorrow.

Jesus’ death on the Cross in your stead makes Him your tear-wiper.

“Every tear” emphasizes each one – not just crying in general. Just as the hairs of your head are numbered, so your teardrops are counted. God saves them in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).

Tears, death, crying, sorrow, and pain epitomize the human experience. We live our lives. One day we’re not feeling so well. We get the news: Your condition is chronic, maybe terminal.

Many tears lead up to death. So much crying and sorrow follow death. “How great the the pain of searing loss.”

You have a friend in Jesus. He sent the Holy Spirit to be in you and with you, calling Him the “Comforter.” He wipes away your tears as you realize life is but a vapor. One day the blurring of your vision from tears will clear forever. You’re in Heaven.

Looking back at the Cross, I can look forward with overcoming faith to my final redemption and the forever city. There is no greater realization, no better life verse, than “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

One writer said, “God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile.”

Revelation 21:5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

“Behold” is a magnificent command.

We can become more attuned to hear God say to us, “Behold.” He daily gives us observations and opportunities to behold. They are subtle, and we must expect them.

The apostles Peter and John daily walked by the beggar at the gate called beautiful. One day the Lord had Peter and John behold him. They “fixed” their eyes on him. The Lord had them “behold” him. God used them to heal him (Acts 3).

“All things” will be made “new.” The word is fresh, brand new. Everything about the new creation will remain fresh, always brand new to us.

Consumers love ‘new car smell.’ Alas, it doesn’t last. I should tell you that there is some evidence that new car smell may be toxic. It is produced by “offgassing of volatile organic compounds.” Sorry to ruin that for you, but hey – I care.

New Jerusalem ‘smell’ will last.

“And he said to me, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’ ” John may have been so overwhelmed that he stopped taking notes.

John’s ministry on Patmos was to record the Revelation of Jesus Christ. There was work to do.

Have I stopped taking notes? Have you?

I don’t mean writing insights in the margin of your Bible or keeping a notebook. I mean stopped using your gift or gifts.

Christians grow weary in well doing, or apathetic waiting for the coming of the Lord. We fall asleep on the job.

Awake! Arise! Stir up your gifts.

God is “faithful.” We fail; we fall. Other people let us down, and we them down. He Who began this good work in us will see it through to the end.
God is “true.” There is a use of the word “true” we have lost. It means to make level, square, balanced, or concentric. Bicycle wheels have adjustments on each spoke. A cyclist adjusts them to ‘true’ the rotation of the wheel. God is a ‘truer,’ and you are being ‘trued.’

I’m getting ahead of myself but let me say this about our mansions in the heavenly city. They each will be ‘trued’ to your personality. Everything they are made from and all the things in them will display the Lord’s knowledge of the desires of your heart.

Benny Hester sang, “Though some know me well, still nobody knows me like You, Lord.”

Revelation 21:6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.

Jesus identifies Himself as the “Alpha and the Omega” four times in this book. They are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It is a way of saying that we ought to listen, get counsel, and seek guidance from Him.

Everything needed to live a godly life is in His Word, ready to be applied by God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus promises “the water of life freely to him who thirsts.” He first made that offer in the Gospel of John. It is the offer of the Holy Spirit to those who receive Him as Savior and Lord.

“Thirst” is a longing we all identify with. The Bible tells you that God has put eternity in your heart. You have a deep longing that can only be satisfied by being filled with God the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 21:7 “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

We use the word “overcome” to describe great effort with constant failure. We think ‘Overcomer’s Anonymous,’ populated by folks desperate not to relapse, working on their steps.

Believers are Overcomers Victorious.

First John 5:4 says overcoming is having “faith” in Jesus Christ. You are an overcomer by virtue of receiving Jesus and having the indwelling Holy Spirit.

You give-up overcoming when you give-in to your flesh.

You are a son who will “inherit all things.” Only in our case we get to enjoy it all with our heavenly dad.

Our first bullet point is that in New Jerusalem, we will never again “sorrow.” Replace “sorrow” with anything hurtful, hopeless, hateful, helpless, debilitating, depressing, discouraging… You get the idea.

#2 – You Will Never Sin In The Golden City (v8)

The list of words and phrases that are considered inappropriate or offensive grows daily. Some I understand. But these? Hysterical… ghetto… mumbo jumbo… fuzzy-wuzzy… peanut gallery… gyp… paddy wagon… long time no see… man hours… ethnic restaurant… and hun.

Check out the eight terms in our next verse:

Revelation 21:8 “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Not only do the descriptors offend, but the verse finishes by saying the person is going to “fire and brimstone.”

I am not suggesting that we be insensitive. Let’s just say I grew up in an insensitive home. There are words that are highly charged with racism, sexism, ageism, and the like.

Also, just because the Bible uses a word or term, it doesn’t permit us to use it maliciously.

There is nothing insensitive or malicious about the use of words in verse eight. They might get us kicked off of media just for reading them, but they are there for at least two good reasons:

First, the terms are representative of some of the ways sin manifests itself. Eternity will be free from these sins (and from sinners). It will be glorious.
Second, a person who recognizes him or herself in these words and terms is being evangelized.

Have you ever lied? Then you are a liar. You can’t go to Heaven, not on your own. You must receive Jesus. These words convict you of sin so that you will seek the Savior.

A third reason John was instructed to write these words has to do with their meaning in the context of the Revelation.

“Cowardly,” in the context of the Revelation, refers to the people who refused to follow Jesus because they were afraid of persecution and martyrdom. Spiritual cowardice is evidence there is no indwelling Holy Spirit to supply boldness.

“Unbelieving” reminds us of the great lengths God went to save people during the Great Tribulation. Those who remain lost were willfully unbelieving.

“Abominable” reminds us of the mid-tribulation event Jesus called the abomination of desolation. The abominable are those who worshipped the Beast.

“Murderers” of the two witnesses and of faithful believers who refused the Mark of the Beast were abundant in the Great Tribulation.

We saw rampant sexual immorality, sorcery, and idolatry, especially in the discussion about Babylon in chapters seventeen and eighteen.

With that, “It is finished!” The great Romance of Redemption ends its lengthy run on the stage of the universe and Forever begins.

No sin & no sinners. Admittedly it is hard to wrap our heads around that. I mean, if Satan sinned, and Adam and Eve sinned, why won’t we?
Ask and answer this: “Can Jesus sin?” No, no, no, of course He can’t sin.

Neither will we sin anymore forever.

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (First John 3:2).

Dungeons And Dragon (Revelation 20:1-15)

A top five of prison break movies would include The Great Escape, Papillon, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Fugitive.

The #1 prison break movie of all time: Toy Story 3.

When the lovable crew are donated to a daycare run by a tyrannical teddy bear, they devise a plan to break out and return home to their beloved Andy.

Satan is imprisoned in the Abyss for one thousand years.

He won’t escape. He will be released to lead one final failed campaign to defeat Jesus. The Lord wins, easily.

We will be part of that end days drama as judges. I’ll point us out in the text.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Work As A Judge Until The Thousand Years Are Over, and #2 You Watch Jesus Judge After The Thousand Years Are Over.

#1 – You Work As A Judge Until The Thousand Years Are Over (v1-6)

“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?… Do you not know that we shall judge angels?” (First Corinthians 6:2-3).

The apostle Paul revealed our future role as judges to inform the saints in Corinth that they should stop their lawsuits against one another and settle their differences within the church.

“Do you not know?” sounds rhetorical. The saints did know that they would in the future serve as judges. They were guilty of thinking more about the here-and-now and too little about the future.

Present circumstances need not shape our beliefs and behaviors.

We can respond biblically, spiritually, righteously, always desiring to bring glory to Jesus. You will sometimes be taken advantage of, be wronged. God might ask you to give up your rights for the greater good of the Gospel.

In chapter nineteen, Jesus returned to Earth and immediately defeated the world’s combined military might in the Valley of Megiddo. First on the Kingdom agenda: Deal with the Devil.

Rev 20:1  Then I saw an angel coming down from Heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

“Bottomless pit” is translated from one word in Greek, “Abyss.” Previously in the Revelation, we’ve seen the Abyss as a prison for evil supernaturals.
It is the place the Beast (aka, the antichrist) is thrown into and comes out of after his assassination.

An “angel” serves as jailor. He carries a “key” and a “chain.” They are real and represent the authority and power delegated to him by God.

Rev 20:2  He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

Four titles describe four of his favorite strategies over the centuries:

He was called the “dragon” in chapter twelve in his efforts to devour the Savior at His birth. The dragon has a long history of trying to interfere with the Savior’s coming into the world.
He is the “serpent of old” who, in the Garden of Eden, tempted mankind to disobedience.
As the “devil,” he accuses God before men.
He is “Satan” accusing mankind before God.

“Thousand years” repeats six times in chapter twenty.

The Latin word for thousand years is a compound word, milli and annum, millennium.

We commonly refer to Jesus’ Kingdom on Earth for one thousand years the Millennium or the Millennial Kingdom.

Every other person and place in chapter twenty are real. So is the duration of the Kingdom. If someone wants to suggest it means something else, then it can mean almost anything else.

Rev 20:3  and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

The devil will ask to go down to Georgia. (That’s according to Charlie Daniels). He is locked away, chained, with God’s “seal” on him and cannot break out or be broken out.

The devil “must” be released because he has an endgame that will be exposed momentarily.

Rev 20:4  And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them…

The apostle Paul meant these “thrones” and “judgment” when he wrote to the Corinthians. You and I are going to judge angels and mankind. Don’t worry. You will be in your glorified body, incapable of sin, tapped into the pure and peaceable wisdom of God. You’ve got this.

Rev 20:4  … Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

“Beast,” “image,” and “mark” are a three-word summation of conditions from mid-Tribulation to its end. Tribulation martyrs fit these descriptive phrases.

Although “beheaded” and dead, they will “live.” “Live” means they will be resurrected from the dead to “reign” with the Lord for the thousand years.

Rev 20:5  But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

People in both the Old and New Testaments were raised from the dead but not resurrected. They were raised in their earthly body and had to die again. Resurrection is the transformation of the body into its final spiritual state

The Bible describes a first resurrection and a second resurrection.

The first resurrection is the resurrection of all those from the world’s creation until its remaking after the Millennium who believe God and are justified by grace through faith.

The second resurrection is the resurrection of all those throughout history who did not believe God for salvation. The second resurrection is called the “second death” later on in this chapter.

The first resurrection does not happen all at once but is spread out over time.

The physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus is fundamental to the faith. Don Stewart writes, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central truth of the Christian faith. Without it there is no such thing as the Christian faith.”

Jesus Christ’s resurrection marks the beginning of the first resurrection. He was first among many. First Corinthians 15:20 says, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Firstfruits of a harvest indicate a greater harvest to follow. A few saints were resurrected along with the Lord. “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:52-53). Jesus first, then resurrected saints as firstfruits to declare what was to come.

Next in order in the first resurrection are the saints of the Church Age. First Thessalonians chapter four informs us that Jesus is coming in the clouds for His church and, “the dead in Christ shall rise first.”

There will be living believers when Jesus raises the dead in Christ. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them.” Deceased believers will be resurrected, then living believers will be raptured in resurrection bodies.

Next in order in the first resurrection are the two witnesses we met in chapter eleven. “Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them” (v11).

Revelation twenty tells us that the martyrs of the Great Tribulation will be resurrected at Jesus Christ’s Second Coming at the end of the Great Tribulation.

Not mentioned here, but elsewhere, we learn that Old Testament believers also will be resurrected at the Second Coming.

There is one more group of believers we need to account for, and they are the Millennials:

Believers who survive the Great Tribulation will be the only humans allowed in the thousand year Kingdom on Earth.
Children will be born to these believers, and Earth will be repopulated. These will choose to receive or reject Jesus. There will be multitudes of believers at the end of the thousand-years. The apostle Paul has made it clear in First Corinthians chapter fifteen that eternity is inhabitable only by those with resurrected, glorified bodies that are no longer mortal and are not able to decay. We can safely presume that God will transform Millennials for eternity.

Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Believers are “blessed” and made “holy.” You may not feel “blessed” in your life. I know I don’t always feel that way. God is working for your good, to make you “holy.”

The “second death” sounds like the title of the latest horror movie. It’s much worse than that, and we will see why in a moment.

God’s desire for His people in both Testaments was that they be a kingdom of priests. I’m sure king-ing and priest-ing will involve a lot, but it boils down to sharing Jesus with humans born in the Millennium.

I skipped a phrase in verse three.

The devil “deceive[s] the nations” of the world.

What an incredible insight. We could spend years discovering his strategies with former and current empires. Mick Jagger sang about it:

Stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed Tsar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

The devil is deceiving nations right now. It explains the haphazard evil, violence, selfishness, and general unreasonableness of the times in which we live.

In Proverbs, we read, “Righteousness exalts a nation” (14:34). Righteousness ultimately depends upon the Gospel being proclaimed and received. There is a lot we can do as citizens but nothing more significant than to witness.

#2 – You Watch Jesus Judge After The Thousand Years Are Over (v7-15)

Dystopia is defeating utopia hands down.

We are fascinated with dystopian visions of the future. Whether it is zombies, aliens, pandemics, or environmental disasters, we have surrendered to the idea that the End is Near and it will be dystopian.

Jesus’ coming will bring utopia.

The risen Lord, Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord God omnipotent, will be physically on Earth, ruling from Jerusalem. Nonbelievers will see us in our glorified bodies and understand it is what Jesus intends for them. Conditions will be altogether perfect.

What could go wrong?

Revelation 20:7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison
Revelation 20:8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.

Satan is released on his own recognizance with no ankle monitor. He immediately foments rebellion.

The identity of “Gog” and “Magog” is debated by scholars. The uncertainty derives from them being named 700 years prior in the prophecy of Ezekiel. 38&39. There are some similarities, e.g., each passage mentions they are part of a coalition of nations that attack God’s people.

If you get out a yellow pad and write down the details of each of those passages, however, you’ll pretty quickly determine they describe two different rebellions. One glaring difference: The uprising in Ezekiel occurs before the Millennium, probably during the Great Tribulation, while the one in the Revelation is after the Millennium.

Revelation 20:9 They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of Heaven and devoured them.

There is a lamentable emphasis on the sheer number of people who will openly reject Jesus to His face. How can they be so blind?

The devil is involved, but we can’t let anyone say, “The devil made me do it.”

Eve used different words in the Garden of Eden, but she meant, “The devil made me do it.”

The devil don’t make you do it .

Nonbelievers gather in staggering numbers. Jesus and us sit this one out. God the Father sends “fire” to “devour” this hoard of barbarians.

Revelation 20:10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The devil never rules in Hell. He is not its jailor. He torments no one. He is tormented day and night for eternity.

Notice that “the Beast and the False Prophet” are there, alive after one thousand years. Eternal, conscious torment is literal.

Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

The phrase, “the earth and the heaven fled away,” might be telling us that the judgment takes place after the current Earth and heavens are burned up and restored. “The heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (Second Peter 3:10).

There is a terrifying piece of business to attend to before eternity begins. Nonbelievers from creation to the end of the Millennium are crowding Hades awaiting their resurrection. This is that second resurrection.

Unlike the first resurrection, the second occurs all at once and is called the second death.

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

Robert Thomas writes, “The Bible makes consistent reference to a register of human actions. The greater focus of this passage [however]… is on another book, the Book of Life.”

John Walvoord explains,

[The Book of Life] originally contained the names of all for whom Christ died, i.e., the whole world, but at the judgment of the Great White Throne many blank spaces will signal the removal of many names who never believed in Christ for salvation.

Revelation 20:13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

The “sea” and “death” refer to the physical location of the remains of deceased nonbelievers. “Hades” is the location of their souls.

God keeps a careful record of the works nonbelievers perform. In the end, He will review them. They will prove insufficient to gain access to Heaven. No amount of good works can atone for sin. The work of God is to believe in His Son, Jesus (John 6:29).

Revelation 20:14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Revelation 20:15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

A result of all nonbelievers being “cast into the lake of fire” is that there will never again be “death” or a need for “Hades.” It is in that sense they, too, are “cast into the Lake of Fire.”

Nonbelievers die twice. They die physically, and then they die spiritually – meaning they live for eternity separated from God in conscious torment.

With that, the curtain closes on the drama of redemption that plays out on Earth for several millennia. Eternity in the new heavens and on the new Earth begins, to never end.

We will see the curtain rise on eternity as the book closes.

Back In The Saddle Again (Revelation 19:11-21)

Nothing Will Ever Top the Independence Day White House Explosion.

One movie critic described it as, “Six spectacular seconds of cutting-edge annihilation. The ice-blue laser stabbing through the top of the building like a straw through a plastic soft-drink lid, the portico flying apart in every direction, the inferno blooming out and swallowing the escape helicopter whole… It’s the most iconic moment in action-movie history.”

We win in the end. We probably wouldn’t if it was real. Dr. Stephen Hawking pointed out the obvious. The aliens leading the invasion would be so advanced that they would obliterate mankind before we knew what hit us.

Nevertheless, two of our president’s held out hope that we could prevail if humanity united together against the common enemy:

In 2014, as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live, former president Bill Clinton talked about the possible existence of aliens. “It may be the only way to unite this increasingly divided world of ours,” he said. And by “it,” he meant an alien invasion from outer space.
Thirty years earlier, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly in 1987, President Ronald Reagan said, “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside of this world.”

Clinton and Reagan were right. In the Valley of Megiddo, the world’s combined military might will unite to face their common threat. The danger will come from the sky and descend to Earth.

Stephen Hawking was also correct. The invaders win. Easily.

The Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, Prince of the kings of the Earth, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the beginning and the end, the Lord God omnipotent, will come in the clouds to claim Earth.

It isn’t an invasion, however. It is a triumphant return, a liberation.

One more thing that ought to thrill you. We are coming with Him as liberators.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Will Be Astonished At His Appearance When You Return With Jesus, and #2 You Will Be Awestruck At His Power When You Return With Jesus.

#1 – You Will Be Astonished At His Appearance When You Return With Jesus (v11-14)

Jesus promised that His coming for us would precede the seven-year Great Tribulation.

That day cannot overtake us as a thief. He will “keep [us] from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the Earth” (Revelation 3:10).

The first three chapters of the Revelation described the current Church Age.
Chapters four and five brought us to Heaven to witness Jesus opening the seven-sealed scroll.
Chapters six through eighteen chronicled the seven-year Great Tribulation. There is no mention of the church on Earth in those chapters.

In chapter nineteen, Heaven opens and we accompany the Return of the King.

Rev 19:11 Now I saw Heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.

There’s a scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where Shadowfax appears for the first time. He is the magnificent lord of all horses. I crack up at it, but something like that is going to happen at the Lord’s return.

Jesus is “called Faithful and True.” These words describe His character, but here they seem to be shout-outs as the Lord appears.

At His first coming, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. The crowds took up a shout, “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!” Shouting “Faithful and True” reminds us that Jesus completed His mission by offering Himself the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

It is “right” for Him to “judge” the nations and “make war” with them. By the end of the Great Tribulation, these men and women have determined their fate by their decisions to reject God’s free offer of salvation.

This dramatic display of judgment comes only at the end of a long time of grace, patience, and mercy. There is no rush to judgment.

Rev 19:12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.

“Flame of fire” are His eyes fixed upon the wicked for judgment.
I don’t want to diminish Jesus in any way but think of the various superheroes who have a gaze that can kill.

To be “crowned with many crowns” indicates victory after victory. Think of all that Jesus has triumphed over: Sin, death, the grave, and the devil.

We can’t help but be curious about the “name written that no one knew except Himself.” It isn’t very smart to suggest names when the text plainly says we can’t know it.

It is weird to think that the omniscient Father and Holy Spirit don’t know this name. I conclude that It is an endearing name between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Albert Barnes said,

This cannot mean that no one could read the name… It involved a depth of meaning, a degree of sacredness, and a relation to the Father, which He alone could apprehend.

Commentators generally agree Jesus has more than two hundred names. One site I discovered has an alphabetical list of 900 names, complete with the Scripture references (christiananswers.net)

It’s a great exercise to discover His names. Each of them describes some aspect of His nature or character or mission or methods.

Thousands of names could never fully describe our Lord.

Rev 19:13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

The blood isn’t His. Look at this forensically, and it is the blood spatter of His enemies. The writing employs a prophetic tense to show that something is so sure to happen you can portray it as having happened. Jesus is about to destroy them.

The first direct reference to this rider is that He is “called the Word of God.” It’s Jesus.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Only Jesus can be called “the Word.” Jesus is God come in human flesh to show us God.

Revelation 19:14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

Don’t be thrown off by the word “armies.” It is describing us in our return with the Lord at His coming. In the opening verses of chapter nineteen we were the bride accompanying the Bridegroom. “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” The metaphor changes to that of a Commander-in-Chief returning with His armies. We are His bride; we are His armies.

You’ve heard the old joke, “I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out!” At the Second Coming of Jesus, we are coming back with Him “clothed” in “fine linen” wedding garments to our marriage supper, but a fight breaks out.

The first rule of this fight club is that we don’t do any fighting.

Revelation 19:15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

It makes for interesting art, but there is no sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus. Tazerface said to Rocket Raccoon, “It’s metaphorical.” The spiritual power of His words “strike[s] the nations.”

The verb to rule is “to shepherd.” The Lord rules the nations as a Shepherd-King who protects His people and destroys His enemies with His rod.

The rod of the shepherd has three uses:

First, it is used for protection. The shepherd spends hours practicing with this club, learning how to throw it with incredible speed and accuracy. It is a weapon of defense for both himself and his sheep.
Second, it is used to discipline the sheep. If the shepherd saw a sheep wandering away, or approaching poisonous weeds, or getting too close to danger of one sort or another, the club would go whistling through the air to send the wayward animal scurrying back to the bunch.
Third, the rod is used to examine and count the sheep. In the terminology of the Old Testament, this was referred to as passing “under the rod.”Ezekiel 20:37 says, “And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.”

The “winepress” is a terrifying image of judgment. Isaiah described it:

Isaiah 63:2 Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?
Isaiah 63:3 “I have trodden the winepress alone, And from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, And trampled them in My fury; Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, And I have stained all My robes.”

Like grapes being crushed in a vat, so will the armies of men be defeated by the Lord. The apostle John introduced these hostile forces earlier in the Revelation. The location of this confrontation is the Valley of Megiddo, and we call it Armageddon.

Revelation 19:16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

As He sits on His white horse, the part of the cloak covering the “thigh” is the most conspicuous and is visible to all. The title is written upon the cloak.

Jesus was not all that recognizable in His first coming. He didn’t glow in the dark or have a halo. He was an average Jew. There will be no doubt at His Second Coming He is the Lord God – but not because He has a name tag.

The title on His cloak announces that never ever will there be any other king or lord over mankind.

No one has seen Jesus as He will appear at His Second Coming.

We will see Him first, or at least before those who dwell on Earth.

“Astonished” is one of many words to describe our reaction to Jesus at His return. We will be filled with overwhelming surprise and wonder; amazed.
I offer something to consider. The apostle Paul wrote, “When He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (Second Thessalonians 1:10).

Albert Barnes wrote,

The redeemed in that day will be the means of promoting His glory; the universe will see His glory manifested in their redemption. His chief glory as seen in that day will be connected with the fact that He has redeemed His people. He will be “glorified” by the numbers that shall have been redeemed; by their patience in the trials through which they have passed; by the triumphs which religion shall have made on the earth; by their praises and songs.

William McDonald adds, “[When we return with Jesus] amazed onlookers will gasp as they see what He has been able to do with such unpromising human beings.”

It’s all about Jesus, not us. Nevertheless, His glorified bride will elicit a gasp from all creatures when they see us completed in Him.

Astonishing.

#2 – You Will Be Awestruck At His Power When You Return With Jesus (v17-21)

One of the greatest knockouts in UFC history also happens to be the fastest. Jorge Masvidal KO’d Ben Askren in five seconds.

There are too many “I want my money back” fights in the UFC, the MMA, and pro boxing.

The Battle of Armageddon might take longer to say than it lasts.

Revelation 19:17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,

An angel blocks out the sun on account of his brilliance. He commands scavenger birds to gather in the Valley of Megiddo. It communicates to the hostiles that their defeat is a foregone conclusion.

Revelation 19:18 “that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”

There is no description of actual fighting. Jesus instantaneously overcomes the united military power of Earth. We will see Him do the same to the supernatural powers of Earth.

All those gathered against Jesus decided to take the Mark of the Beast. They were warned that there would be no opportunity or ability to repent. They will suffer the earthly and eternal consequences.

Revelation 19:19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

The “Beast” is the superman we commonly call the antichrist. Previously, we learned that God would draw he and his armies, and all the armies on Earth, to this battle to be destroyed.

In any good action movie, there is a showdown between the hero and the villain. They go at it hard. For dramatic effect, the villain nearly defeats the hero, but with some fantastic maneuver, the bruised and bloodied hero prevails. Nothing like that will happen at Armageddon.

Revelation 19:20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

The Beast and his previously introduced sidekick False Prophet will be the first two inhabitants of the Lake of Fire.

The Lake of Fire is the final eternal destination for all those who ultimately reject Jesus Christ. We usually refer to it as Hell, but that is inaccurate. Let’s look at a few terms to describe the afterlife destinations of the dead.

Before Jesus Christ’s resurrection, the souls of the dead, saved and unsaved, went to Hades. (“Sheol” is Hebrew for Hades). It is translated grave thirty-one times, Hell another thirty-one times, and pit three times in King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.

Hades has two compartments separated by an impassable gulf:

One side was and remains the holding cell for the unsaved after they die.
The other side, called “Abraham’s Bosom” in Luke 16:22, was for the comfort of the saved after they died while awaiting their entrance into Heaven.

I said was about believers because the resurrection of Jesus changed everything. When Jesus died, He descended into Hades. When He was resurrected, He led the saved out of Hades to Heaven. Since then, the souls and spirits of the saved go directly to Heaven when they die. Abraham’s Bosom is vacant. A believer is absent from their body and immediately present with the Lord.

The unsaved still go to Hades. All nonbelievers from creation forward wait there for their final judgment.

Then there is “Gehenna.” It is translated as “Hell” all twelve times in the KJV. It is used to refer to the permanent place for the torment of the “… soul and body …” (Matthew 10:28). It is a place of “… fire that never shall be quenched” (Mark 9:45).

Gehenna is the Lake of Fire described in Revelation nineteen and twenty. It is presently uninhabited. The Beast and his False Prophet will be the first to be cast into it at the end of the Great Tribulation.

No mere human being, in a regular body, can exist in the Lake of Fire. Those confined there for eternity are first raised in a supernatural body that is not consumed by the fire.

Since the Beast and the False Prophet are confined there at the Second Coming, we conclude they already have supernatural bodies:

Around mid-Trib, the Beast will be assassinated and come back to life. He probably will do so in a more-than-human body.
We are not told anything about how the False Prophet might receive a superhuman body.

Jesus said in Matthew 25:41 that God made the Lake of Fire for the devil and the fallen angels. We honestly say that God never sends any man to the Lake of Fire. They go there of their own free will, having rejected Christ.

Revelation 19:21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

The “rest” are those on this battlefield. It is a quick knockout. The sick experience of them having their flesh torn off and devoured is an illustration of the rottenness of our unredeemed flesh.

Shock & Awe is a military term to describe achieving rapid dominance on the battlefield.

The Lord is the master of Shock & Awe. Not just in the end, at Armageddon, but throughout the Bible, on many fields of battle. Joshua, David, Gideon, and many others were involved in Shock & Awe.

King David was awestruck. In Psalm 65, he praises the Lord’s military victories then says of Him, “O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places. The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people. Blessed be God!” (v35).

For all that, the most awe-striking thing of all is God’s salvation. In my most spiritual moments, I am awestruck that He saved a wretch like me; and wretches like you.

Psalms 66:5 invites us to “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.”

You & I are “the works of God.” We are works in progress, true. Since God saved you, there is enough about you that a person can “Come and see” Jesus.

The Four Hallelujahs Of The Apocalypse (Revelation 19:1-10)

‘Coca-Cola’ is the second most widely understood term in the world. The first is ‘OK.’

Coke in 1993 launched a soft drink named ‘OK Soda’ so that it could own both the most recognized words. Coke discontinued it in 1995.

‘Hallelujah’ is a universal word understood all over the world.

In the 1980s, we took trips to Beijing to smuggle Bibles. The missionaries told us that if we got separated from our group, or otherwise found ourselves lost, to walk around in public calmly saying “Hallelujah,” and a Christian would hear and help us.

“Hallelujah” resounds twenty-four times in the Bible where you’d expect it to, in the Psalms.
It is proclaimed in only one other place, in chapter nineteen of the Revelation.

The Bible version you are reading might, like my NKJV, use the word “Alleluia” instead of “Hallelujah.” Not to worry:

“Hallelujah” is Hebrew.
“Alleluia” is Latin derived from the Greek transliteration of “Hallelujah.”

They both mean, Praise the Lord.

Why are we “hallelujah-ing” in chapter nineteen? I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Praise The Lord You Are Parted From The Brothel, and #2 Praise The Lord You Are Prepared As His Bride.

#1 – Praise The Lord You Are Parted From The Brothel (v1-5)

The Revelation describes Tribulation Babylon as a harlot:

• Chapter seventeen identifies her as a religious system that is “a great harlot” (v1) and “the mother of harlots” (v5).

• In chapter eighteen, the city of Babylon is where “the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her” (v3).

• Chapter nineteen labels her “the great harlot” (v2).

The Old Testament portrays the nation of Israel as the wife of Jehovah, and exhorts the Israelites to remain faithful to the marriage. The writers of the New Testament consider the church the betrothed bride of Jesus Christ. We are exhorted to remain chaste virgins to Him as we await His coming for us.

Throughout the Bible, being unfaithful to God is illustrated graphically by comparing it to “fornication.” It is the spiritual equivalent of infidelity and sexual sin by a spouse – like someone married or betrothed being with a harlot.
Babylon will be a literal city during the Great Tribulation. It is true, nevertheless, that the world is a harlot and Satan the pimp. Believers in Jesus are bombarded with seductive solicitations to material and spiritual fornication.

Rev 19:1  After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in Heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!

We rejoice that there will be a “great multitude” in Heaven:

• All the saints of the Church Age will be there, from the Day of Pentecost until the resurrection and rapture of the church.

• Multitudes of believers who were justified by faith in the Old Testament will be there.
• The Tribulation martyrs will be there.
• Angels, cherubim, seraphim, and other supernaturals will be there.
• Animals, too. Horses, at the very least.

“Salvation” belongs to the Lord. It is His to offer freely by grace to all, and He can because Jesus is “the Savior of all men, especially those who believe” (First Timothy 4:10).

He is coming in “glory.” The Second Coming will be quite an unveiling. Jesus will break through the clouds, clothed to conquer, riding His great steed.

He will establish His kingdom, be honored by all, with “power” to rule Earth.

Rev 19:2  For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.”

We discussed the destruction of both mystery Babylon and municipal Babylon in chapters seventeen and eighteen, respectively. She is “the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication,” making the entire world a brothel.

God has the undeserved reputation of being haphazard in His judgments. The things that happen to people don’t seem to make sense. Good people, young people, suffer tragedies while the wicked prosper.

Those sufferings are not God’s “judgments.”

We live in a fallen world. Sin is responsible for the seeming haphazardness we witness. God is busy providentially forwarding His plan to redeem sinful men and restore ruined creation.

Bad things happen to good people and God‘s people while God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all would repent and come to salvation.

When God does judge, He is always “true” to His holy and loving nature. His judgments are always just right.

Nonbelievers scoff at the Second Coming. There are something like eight times as many references to the Second Coming in the Bible then there are to the first coming. Ready or not, Jesus is coming.

Rev 19:3  Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”

The atmosphere on Earth isn’t going to be smokey “forever.” This is a way of saying the destruction is final.

The world is quite seductive. Perhaps more so than ever, now that technology has advanced, just as morality is hitting rock bottom.

Rev 19:4  And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, “Amen! Alleluia!”

We’ve previously encountered this combo of “twenty-four elders” and “four living creatures.”

Nowhere in the Bible are we told the identity of the twenty-four elders. Nowhere. Any theory is just that. Our take is that it is not some secret way of referring to the church, but rather a divine council of supernaturals that appear several times in the Bible assisting God.

“Amen” is a statement of agreement. The creatures and elders agree with God’s judgment, praising Him for it.

Rev 19:5  Then a voice came from the throne, saying, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!”

The “voice,” probably of an angel, gives instructions for worship.

It is time for “His servants and those who fear Him” to sing. What an honor and joy to be identified as servants who fear the Lord. Think of it as a job description, and it will help you discover the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life.

“Small and great” reminds us God is no respecter of persons. He saves those who seem “great,” and He saves those who seem “small.” There might be more “small” in Heaven because the “great” have difficulty appearing foolish and humbling themselves.

Allow me a short rabbit trail. Whenever we see worship in Heaven around God’s throne in this book, it is carried out orderly. It is not spontaneous in the sense of humans or angels going off-script shouting or running around or being slain in the Spirit. Yes, there are times when worshippers fall. They do it together, on cue, when appropriate, as part of a very precise liturgy. Think about it the next time someone tells you that God the Holy Spirit came upon them and they could no longer control themselves.

You are constantly being seduced. The devil has the world set up in such a way that it appeals to your fleshly lusts.

He entices you with material things that you covet. He entices you mentally, e.g., by the world’s false religions, psychologies, and philosophies.

The bride has no place in a brothel.

Jesus brought you out from the brothel. Set your affections on things above, bringing your every thought captive to Jesus.

#2 – Praise The Lord You Are Prepared As His Bride (v6-10)

There has been a great deal of singing in the Revelation. One commentator points out, “This [is] the last song of praise in the Apocalypse, [and it] is a divine epith-ala-mium.” Huh? It means a song celebrating a marriage.

Rev 19:6  And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!

“Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” This sequence is the Bible’s Hallelujah Chorus. It involves falling more than standing.

Our God is “the Lord God Omnipotent.” It is a title that ends all discussion. Who is like Him? No one.

God “reigns” now and forever. In the Revelation, we read about Him establishing His reign on Earth.

Rev 19:7  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

“The Lamb” is the Revelation’s favorite title for the risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

He offered Himself on the Cross as the sacrifice for sin, as our Substitute.
Jesus crucifixion occurred exactly when the lambs for the annual Passover were being slain and offered in the Temple.
He let us know that He was the last Lamb, the last sacrifice, crying out with a loud voice, “It is finished!”
In the Temple, the thick veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom, signifying the way into God’s presence was open to all through a relationship with Jesus.

Out of seemingly nowhere, there is a ‘Save the Date’ for a wedding. “The marriage of the Lamb has come.” The word “marriage” is the same one translated as “marriage supper” in verse nine. The supper is the celebration following the wedding – what we might call the reception.

There is a great deal of Bible teaching on the Jewish wedding customs in the first century. In my opinion, some of it is far too rigid and detailed. I consulted an organization of Messianic Jews. If anyone is going to get it right, it’s completed Jews who minister to Jews.

The barebones of the first century Jewish wedding were as follows:

• The father of the bridegroom either selected or approved a bride for his son.

• In the betrothal that followed, the bridegroom gave the bride money or a valuable object such as a ring, and a cup of wine was customarily shared to seal their covenant vows. They were legally married, but they did not live together or engage in sexual relations for at least nine months.

• The groom busied himself preparing a place for his bride. The bride focused on her preparations.

• Although the bride knew to expect her groom anytime after about nine months, she did not know the exact day or time.  He could come earlier or later.  The father of the groom gave final approval for his son to return for his bride.

• The bridegroom came to take his bride home, where a joyous marriage supper ensued.

The parallels to the relationship between Jesus as the heavenly Bridegroom and the church as His bride are wonderfully obvious:

“God so loved the world that He [the Father] gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Jesus is gone to prepare a place for us.
He gave us the Holy Spirit as our engagement guarantee.
We prepare for His coming for us by patiently waiting.
Jesus is coming to resurrect and rapture the church, His bride. His coming is imminent.

Later in chapter nineteen, when Jesus returns with us to Earth, we – His bride – will already be clothed in wedding apparel. The marriage must therefore be in Heaven between the rapture and the Second Coming.

Both the one-thousand-year Kingdom of God on Earth and Eternity constitute the marriage supper.

The words, “His wife has made herself ready,” are amplified in verse eight:

Rev 19:8  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Illustrating God’s gift of salvation using clothing is my absolute favorite. Anyone can understand it.

Let’s start by explaining how we are dressed without this garment. A passage in the Old Testament book Book of Zechariah will explain what I mean.

The High Priest of Israel, at the time, Joshua, was on Earth in the Jewish Temple performing his duties. God was looking down upon Joshua.

Zec 3:1  Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD…

Joshua would have been wearing the garments of the High Priest. They were beautiful and costly – covered with precious gems. You’ve probably seen a version of these garments. At the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the Nazis open the Ark, Belloq, the Nazi archaeologist, is dressed like Joshua the High Priest.

Listen carefully to how the Bible describes the High Priest:

Zec 3:3  Now Joshua [the High Priest] was clothed with filthy garments…

No matter how costly and beautiful Joshua looked on Earth, in Heaven he looked as though he was wearing “filthy garments.”

The Bible describes every human being that way. “All of our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.”

In Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves, the Kevin Costner version, there’s a scene in involving filthy rags. A master of disguise, Robin Hood robed himself with the torn and tattered outer garment of a beggar to avoid detection while visiting Maid Marian in the church. To make it even more believable, he picked up dung from the road and rubbed it all over his robe. He was filthy.

This filthiness is how every human being is robed. None of us are righteous. We all fall short of the glory of God. We are all sinners.

The Lord didn’t leave Joshua in his filthy rags.

“Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”

The exchange was a free gift. It illustrates God’s grace in salvation. It is made possible by the death of Jesus on the Cross. He takes your filthy garments upon Himself and exchanges them for a robe of righteousness. Thus you are prepared by Him for Heaven.

Rev 19:7  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
Rev 19:8  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Something that Isaiah said about our clothing is insightful. Isaiah 61:10 reads, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness. As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

The wedding garment is “granted” to us. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus. It is a gift. There are zero works of righteousness involved.
Simultaneously, we “[make ourselves] ready” by the “righteous acts” we perform serving Jesus on Earth.

You don‘t earn or add to your salvation; you earn rewards that will adorn your robe. You want to adorn your robe to look beautiful for your Bridegroom.

Rev 19:9  Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

The church is the bride; the guests are the rest of the saved from all of time – the Old Testament saints, as well as Tribulation martyrs, along with believers alive in earthly bodies at the Second Coming. Those who get saved in the Millennium will be fashionably late-arriving guests.

Rev 19:10  And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Seeing an angel is terrifying. Think, too, of everything John had seen to this point.

The angel quickly corrected John for his wrong reaction. At least he did react. I’m not suggesting wrong enthusiasm and zeal without knowledge is OK – only that it wouldn’t hurt us to be more excited about Jesus.

Angels consider themselves our “fellow servants.” That’s pretty amazing. From our perspective, they are glorious, but they consider themselves with proper humility.

“Of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus” is better translated, “I am [only] another servant with you and your brethren who have [accepted and hold] the testimony borne by Jesus” (AV).

“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” It is popular today to read the Revelation as what scholars call “Apocalyptic Literature.” It is a type of writing that isn’t meant to be taken literally.

The Revelation is not Apocalyptic Literature.

The angel speaking to John calls it “prophecy.” In chapter twenty-two, the Revelation is categorized as “prophecy” four more times.

From chapter four through the end the Revelation is future prophecy.

All this talk about bridegrooms and brides and betrothals should suggest a romantic mood.

Sadly, the Lord’s coming in the clouds for His bride is sometimes used as a rebuke. You’re sternly warned that you don’t want to be caught doing certain questionable things when He comes and be scolded.

That approach turns a believer into a bridezilla.

Jesus’ attitude toward you is more like that of the beloved in the Song of Solomon. I’m going to read a passage from it. For our purposes today, Jesus is the Bridegroom and you, His betrothed bride.

Song 2:8  The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes Leaping upon the mountains, Skipping upon the hills.
Song 2:9  My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he stands behind our wall; He is looking through the windows, Gazing through the lattice.
Song 2:10  My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away.
Song 2:11  For lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone.
Song 2:12  The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, And the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land.
Song 2:13  The fig tree puts forth her green figs, And the vines with the tender grapes Give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away!
Song 2:14  “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, In the secret places of the cliff, Let me see your face, Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet, And your face is lovely.”

The more you understand that Jesus is your Bridegroom, and you His beloved bride, the better prepared and ready you’ll choose to be.

Come Out, Come Out, In Babylon You Are (Revelation 18)

Disaster movies always feature a chaotic evacuation sequence.

Whether it is a sudden zombie apocalypse or an impending asteroid strike, the roads gridlock, leading to fistfights and shootings.

God will call for an evacuation of the Great Tribulation city of Babylon.

Look at verse four. “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”

Believers living in that wicked city will be forewarned of the pouring out of the wrath of God against it, and they will flee.

We are living in the Church Age that precedes the Great Tribulation. Jesus has firmly promised us that He will keep us out of the entirety of the Great Tribulation. He will accomplish it by coming in the clouds, resurrecting the dead in Christ, and instantaneously transforming living believers. We call this entire sequence the Rapture of the Church. It is an evacuation that will cause global chaos for nonbelievers left behind.

We patiently wait for the coming of the Lord to take us to the place He has been preparing for us. While waiting, we are under a kind of spiritual general evacuation order. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth,

2Co 6:14  Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
2Co 6:15  … Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?…
2Co 6:17  Therefore “COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU.”

Before you act on that directive, Paul also said, “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.” (First Corinthians 5:9-10).

We are to “come out from among” nonbelievers while simultaneously living among them.

We are talking about the biblical Doctrine of Separation.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Separation From The World Is Something You Laud, and #2 Separation From The World Is Not Something You Lament.

#1 – Separation From The World Is Something You Laud (v1-8)

You can apply the Doctrine of Separation in nine words: “Be in the world, but not of the world.”

A theological definition: “Biblical separation is the recognition that God has called believers out of the world and into a personal and corporate purity amid sinful cultures.”

The apostle Paul put it like this to the church he founded in Thessalonica: “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (First Thessalonians 1:9-10).

Three things ought to immediately amaze us:

First, you are saved and set apart to serve God. We are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, [God’s] own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (First Peter 2:9-10).

Second, you are on the path of purity, enabled to resist sin and Satan. You can “be holy as He is holy.”

And third, you have the assurance that we are safe from the coming wrath of God that is the Great Tribulation.

Wowza! The separated life is no burden; it is a blessing. It is liberating. The apostle Peter went on to point out, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (2:11).

In the short time we have on Earth, we can overcome things that would otherwise enslave us and instead live a Spirit-led life of purpose, discovering the good works God has before prepared for us.

Ours is not a purpose-driven life, but rather a Spirit-led life that has purpose.

Rev 18:1  After these things I saw another angel coming down from Heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory.
Thus far in the Revelation:

Jesus took a scroll from His Father and opened its seven seals.

When Jesus opened the seventh seal, seven angels having trumpets to blow were revealed.

When the seventh trumpet was blown, seven angels having seven bowls full of the wrath of God to pour out upon Earth came forward.

“When the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ ”(16:7). The next event will be the glorious Second Coming of Jesus to Earth with His saints.

The seals, trumpets, and bowls take you chronologically through the seven-year Great Tribulation. They are the sequential points on the timeline.

The apostle John often pauses during the sequence of seals, trumpets, and bowls, providing details about certain intervening events.

Chapters seventeen and eighteen are a pause; in them, we discover two Babylons operating during the Great Tribulation.

Chapter seventeen revealed Babylon in its mystery form as a global religious system.

Chapter eighteen describes Babylon in its municipal form as a global political and commercial system embodied in a city, the literal city of Babylon on the River Euphrates.

If you are interested in angels, the Revelation is a goldmine of information. Start there. Angels are prominent, mentioned over seventy times. Don Stewart writes, “From preaching the everlasting Gospel, to the binding Satan into the Abyss, angels are in the midst of the program of God at the end times.

“Having great authority” reminds us that God delegates tasks, and gives us the authority to carry them out. To have the treasure of the Gospel in our frail, fleshly vessels is not a plan we would sign off on. It should humble us. Think of it: You can confidently tell a person that believing in Jesus is salvation, and they will have the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life.

This angel “illuminates” Earth with his glory. Much is veiled to our perception.
We walk by faith and not by sight. In the future, we will behold things as they are, with unveiled senses.

Rev 18:2  And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!

Yes, this is future Babylon in Iraq, thriving as a world capital city. It isn’t a code name for Rome, or New York, or Dubai, or Riverdale.

Author Joel Rosenberg recently wrote, “Ancient biblical prophecies in both the Old and the New Testaments indicate Iraq will become the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world in the End of Days. And the most evil.”

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah said that in the Day of the Lord, the city of Babylon would be destroyed and then never again be inhabited (chapters 13-14).
Jeremiah expressed this same scenario for Tribulation Babylon (50-51).

Here is the opinion of a scholar who takes the allegorical approach to the Revelation: “I do not believe that the city of Babylon in the Book of the Revelation should be seen as representing some single city or nation, but rather for New Testament people it symbolizes the hideous wickedness seen everywhere in the world.”

Preterists are those who teach that the Revelation was mostly fulfilled in the first century. They say, (quote) “Babylon represents first-century Jerusalem and is not a symbol for Rome, New York City, or any city anywhere.”

Amillennialists believe that Jesus is currently sitting on the throne of David and that this present Church Age is the kingdom over which Christ reigns. Donald Guthrie suggests that (quote),“the symbol of Babylon stood for the oppressors of God’s people.”

If you abandon the literal, futurist interpretation, Babylon can mean anything you propose. If it can mean anything, then it means nothing.

The so-called Golden Rule of Biblical Interpretation is, “If the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.”

The futurist position we hold is the only one that obeys the Golden Rule, the only one that considers Babylon throughout biblical history.

The Tower of Babel was mankind’s first attempt to build in defiance of God.
Tribulation Babylon will be mankind’s final attempt to build in defiance of God.

The angel announces what the rest of the chapter will describe – the burning of Tribulation Babylon by God just before Jesus Christ returns to Earth.

The repetition of “is fallen” may reflect that religious Babylon falls first, mid-Trib, then the city falls as the Tribulation nears its end.

Afterward, Babylon will be a prison to incarcerate demons during the one thousand-year reign of the Lord. God has an extensive prison system for evil supernatural creatures:

Earlier in the Revelation, we read about a place called the Abyss.

God incarcerates wicked supernaturals near the Euphrates River; we saw that in chapter nine.

Both Peter and Jude say that a place called Tartarus is a supernatural prison.

After its destruction, Babylon will be overrun by scavenger birds. There is something disturbing about vultures picking away at human carcasses.

Rev 18:3  For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”

Think Pleasure Island in Pinocchio. The boys can drink and cuss and smoke and vandalize and fight all they want. Afterward they are enslaved as beasts of burden.

Rev 18:4  And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.
Rev 18:5  For her sins have reached to Heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

Believers will live and work in Babylon. Undoubtedly some will be like Daniel, and others will be like Lot was in Sodom.

“Share in her sins” doesn’t mean they participate in sins. God calls them out so they won’t “share” in God’s punishment for Babylon’s sins.

Rev 18:6  Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her.
Rev 18:7  In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’
Rev 18:8  Therefore her plagues will come in one day – death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.

We get discouraged in the world that nonbelievers seem to prosper, having this world’s good and goods. In this life, but especially in the next, sin pays its awful wages: death and eternal conscious torment.

Nonbelievers in every dispensation scoff at the predictions of God’s judgment. They misunderstand that “His longsuffering waits” for men to repent.
In the end, nonbelievers will get what they deserve by having rejected belief in Jesus.

Jesus prayed for us, saying to God the Father, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

We are in the world, on assignment from God. Hanford is my posting as a pastor. I’m here unless I receive orders somewhere else.

And so are you. Do you want to get out of Hanford? Out of California? He needs to fill in the blank. You need to be able to say, “Jesus is calling me out of here to (fill in the blank).” He sends you; you don’t bring Him along with you.

One of the brothers here says it homespun: “Was you sent? Or did you just went?”

#2 – Separation From The World Is Not Something You Lament (v9-24)

The Notre-Dame Cathedral fire broke out on April 15, 2019. By the time it was extinguished, the building’s spire had collapsed, and most of its roof had been destroyed and its upper walls were severely damaged. Many works of art and religious relics suffered smoke damage, and some of the exterior art was damaged or destroyed.

The French president went to Notre Dame and gave a brief address there. Numerous world religious and government leaders extended condolences. Through the night of the fire and into the next day, people gathered along the River Seine to hold vigils, sing and pray. I recall seeing people weeping as if a loved one had died.

Rev 18:9  “The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning,
Rev 18:10  standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’

“Fornication” is an all-inclusive term for sexual sin.

“Fornication” describes how God views idolatry. It is spiritual fornication against Him.

Rev 18:11  “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore:
Rev 18:12  merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble;
Rev 18:13  and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.

We don’t need to look at all the MineCraft materials listed. We do need to highlight, however briefly, the “bodies and souls of men.” This is slavery and human trafficking on a scale hitherto undreamt of.

The reign of the Beast (the antichrist) and the rebuilding of Babylon are the apexes of what Satan can achieve. His attempt to “be like God” is a miserable failure.

Rev 18:14  The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all.
Rev 18:15  The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
Rev 18:16  and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls!
Rev 18:17  For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance
Rev 18:18  and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’
Rev 18:19  “They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’

I have probably attended more funerals and graveside services than anyone here. (If you are a funeral crasher… You’ve got a problem).

These verses read like a eulogy for a nonbeliever. All sorrow, no hope, unless it is false hope. The things mentioned are all material, nothing spiritual.

Let’s skip verse twenty for a moment.

Rev 18:21  Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea…

The only thing I miss from Late Night with David Letterman is the segment, “Will it float?”

Great millstones don’t float. The angel will throw one into the sea, and it will disappear to visually dramatize the total, complete, final disappearance of Babylon.

Rev 18:21  Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.
Rev 18:22  The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore.
Rev 18:23  The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.
Rev 18:24  And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.”

A person’s reaction to something says a lot about them. Lamenting Babylon’s destruction says that the world’s final rulers will all be wicked, immoral, malevolent men.

Do you have reactions to things going on in the world that are not quite Christ-like? Probably do. Think about it; talk to the Lord about it.

Tribulation saints in Babylon will flee, but some assigned to Babylon will already have been martyred. Your assignment may not be without danger or hardship.

Let’s look back to verse twenty.

Rev 18:20  “Rejoice over her, O Heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”

I found it difficult to cry when Norte Dame was burning. When things like that happen, I tend to remember the words of the apostle Peter:
2Pe 3:10  … the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
2Pe 3:11  Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
2Pe 3:12  looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
2Pe 3:13  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Peter gives us a ‘burn notice.’ It’s all going to burn.

Back in the sixth century BC, when Babylon was big, Daniel and his three friends – all teenagers – were assigned there by God.

They didn’t just survive; they thrived spiritually.

In-between the Babylons of Daniel and the Great Tribulation, we can survive and thrive in the world.

We do it by maintaining a healthy spiritual separation. By being in the world, but not of it. By turning to God from idols.

An easy example is not to marry a nonbeliever.
Another easy example is not to partner in business with nonbelievers.

Beyond those, you’ll need to ask the Lord.

With Jesus leading, you will discover along life’s journey things that are Do’s & Don’ts for you. Jesus isn’t trying to burden you or keep you from enjoying life. Quite the contrary.

Instead of being unequally yoked with nonbelievers, His yoke is easy.

Ride, Harlot, Ride Upon Your Mystery Beast (Revelation 17:1-18)

Where is Sin City?

You probably thought of Las Vegas. After all, “What stays in Vegas” isn’t referring to content that is family-oriented.

I was surprised to learn that besides Vegas, nine US cities have earned the designation. No less than thirty-four cities in over thirty countries are dubbed Sin City.
If we limit ourselves to the Bible, probably the overwhelmingly popular choice would be the sinister sister cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The city that is the “mother of harlots and of the abominations on the Earth,” is Babylon.

If that comes as a surprise, you are in good company. It surprised the apostle John as well. The angel talking with John says, “I will tell you the mystery” (v7). In the Bible, a “mystery” is always the revealing of something previously unknown.

Sin City Babylon is called out for “committing fornication,” mentioned nine times in the Revelation in chapters fourteen through nineteen. Prostitution and human trafficking will be pervasive in Babylon. Her fornication is also spiritual, leading mankind to worship idols and blaspheme God.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 The Current Ruler Of This World Solicits You To Commit Fornication, and #2 The Coming Ruler Of This World Enables You To Flee Fornication.

#1 – The Current Ruler Of This World Solicits You To Commit Fornication (v1-6)

Chapters seventeen and eighteen of the Revelation require a synopsis before we go verse-by-verse.

For one thing, we don’t realize that the angel is describing “Babylon” until verse five.

For another thing, these two chapters are not in chronological order:

Chapter sixteen ended with the pouring out of the seventh and final bowl of the Wrath of God upon those who dwell on Earth. A voice from Heaven proclaimed, “It is done!” The next thing to happen chronologically is the Second Coming of Jesus in chapter nineteen.

Chapters seventeen and eighteen are an interlude to fill you in on the influence of Babylon before it is destroyed.

There are two Babylons in these chapters:

Chapter seventeen reveals Babylon in its mystery form as a global religious system.

Chapter eighteen describes Babylon in its municipal form as a global political and commercial system embodied in a city, the literal city of Babylon on the River Euphrates.

The mystery Babylon religious system has its origins in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Genesis. Led by Nimrod, nonbelievers began construction at Babel of what archeologists call a ziggurat. It is a tower of successive stories erected to worship heavenly bodies.

The Tower of Babel wasn’t an attempt to build a stairway to Heaven, but a Temple to worship the heavens.

One commentator remarked, “Babylon was the first international, political and religious ecumenical movement in the history of man, and one which has never ceased to exist in one form or another.”

Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and Hollywood are real places. Their names, however, are used as synonyms for Finance, Advertising, and Entertainment, respectively. Religious Babylon describes all false religions and idolatry throughout history.

One more thing:

The Beast (i.e., the antichrist) will make use of Religious Babylon in his rise to power but destroy it mid-Tribulation when he demands the world worship him. We will see Religious Babylon destroyed in chapter seventeen.

The city of Babylon will exist until the great earthquake we read about in chapter sixteen levels all the world’s cities just before the Second Coming of Jesus. We will see its destruction in chapter eighteen.

Rev 17:1  Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,
Rev 17:2  with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”

God considers the nation of Israel His wife. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote concerning Israel, “For your Maker is your husband, The LORD of hosts is His name” (54:5).

The angel depicts Religious Babylon as a harlot. Consorting with her is like infidelity in a marriage.

The harlot representing Babylon “sits on many waters.” We take words literally unless they are otherwise defined. In this case, “waters” is symbolic because in verse fifteen you read, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.”

In the New Testament, the word translated “fornication” comes from the Greek word porneia. It includes any sexual activity outside of biblical marriage.

Biblical marriage is a covenant of companionship between one biological male and one biological female in a monogamous heterosexual union to remain in place as long as they live.

Rev 17:3  So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

The “Scarlet Beast” with “horns” is not the Beast who is the antichrist. The Scarlet Beast illustrates the world government that the antichrist will initially be a part of and eventually control.

From here on, I will attempt to call the antichrist the Beast while calling the government the Scarlet Beast. The government’s “seven heads and ten horns” are revealed a little later in the chapter.

Rev 17:4  The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.

“Scarlet” dominates the image. We can’t help but associate it with sin. “Though your sins be as scarlet,” we’re told in Isaiah 1:18.

Babylon is enticing. There she sits, appealing to your lusts, ready to have a drink with you. But in her cup is a spiritually filthy roofie.

In the New Testament Book of James, he writes, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (1:14). “Drawn away” and “enticed” derive from fishing.

What is on the end of a fishing line? A lure. We’re attracted; we nibble; eventually, we will become hooked.

Rev 17:5  And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Ah. We’ve been talking about “Babylon.” It is a major subject in the Bible.

The Bible reveals the “mystery” that all idolatry and false religions have their origins in ancient Babylon, at the Tower of Babel. It was there that mankind first organized a system of worship in rebellion against God. Her illegitimate offspring are “abominations” that can only rob, steal, and kill, leading a person to perish eternally.

There is Biblical Christianity and there is Babylon, and that is all.

Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, Islam, Hinduism, Existentialism, Humanism, and the rest are Babylon.

Rev 17:6  I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.

The imagery puts the world’s nonChristian religions, godless political systems, philosophies, and psychologies in proper perspective. Following any of them is likened to giving yourself over to bloodthirsty cannibals.

Fornication is a word you don’t hear much. It sounds like one of those King James Version words that needed to be updated.

In polite society we say, for example, that a couple had “premarital sex.” We say they “slept together.”

“Premarital sex” makes it sound OK because the couple is planning on getting married. It comes across as an assignment during “premarital” counseling.

“Slept together” removes any hint of impropriety.

We need to return to calling such sexual activity outside of marriage “fornication.” Those who engage in it, “fornicators.”

#2 – The Coming Ruler Of This World Enables You To Flee Fornication (v7-18)

I don’t mean to sound sensational, but an argument can be made that we are living in the most fornicatious time in history, thanks to the World Wide Web. Factor in the Bible’s prediction that in the last days there will be a great falling away from the faith and you see the dangers we confront.

Rev 17:7  But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.

I don’t think the angel is being condescending. He knows that John cannot understand what the vision means until he tells the mystery to him.

The question, “Why did you marvel?” is an encouragement that God will show us what we need to see if we will ask Him and wait upon Him.

Rev 17:8  The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition…

The Revelation has already introduced the Beast as a world leader who “was, and is not.” He will be assassinated, receiving a fatal head wound, but he miraculously returns to life.

He “will ascend out of the bottomless pit.” Instead of going to Hades when he dies, like every other nonbeliever, God incarcerates the Beast briefly in the Abyss. It is a prison for evil supernatural creatures.

No human being can exist in the Abyss with a normal human body; he will therefore be, in some sense, supernatural.

It reads like the origin story of a supervillain in the comics. Flint Marko comes into contact with sand that had been irradiated by an experimental reactor. His body and the radioactive sand bond, changing Marko’s molecular structure into sand. Sandman.

He will “go to perdition.” The Beast and his assistant, called the false prophet, will be the first inhabitants of Hell.

Rev 17:8  … And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

It is easy to see how nonbelievers will “marvel” at the Beast’s return from the dead with supernatural powers. Add to that, Satan is the power behind him, and he has the false prophet to boot.

We’ve previously encountered “the Book of Life”:

Since Jesus is the “Savior of all men” (First Timothy 4:10), we say that the names of everyone conceived are in the Book of Life.

Since Jesus is the “Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (First Timothy 4:10), we say the names of everyone who dies in unbelief is removed from the Book of Life.

Rev 17:9  “Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.
Rev 17:10  There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.

One scholar offers this simple explanation:

The seven heads and mountains are seven successive empires, with the seven kings of verse ten as heads and personifications of those empires. This view agrees with a common metaphorical use of “mountain” or “hill” in the Bible. [For example, King David in Psalm 30:7 referred to his kingdom as “my mountain”]. This is sensible because the next phrase says the heads are also seven kings (verse ten).

The “seven kings” represent seven Gentile kingdoms: (1)Egypt, (2)Assyria, (3)Babylon, (4)Medo-Persia, (5)Greece, (6)Rome, and (7)the future global kingdom of the Beast.

John wrote late in the first century AD. The first five empires, (1)Egypt, (2)Assyria, (3)Babylon, (4)Medo-Persia, and (5)Greece, had “fallen.” They were in the past.

John was living in the sixth kingdom, Rome, and that is what is meant by “one [kingdom] is.”

The one who “has not yet come” is the Beast ruling over a revived Rome. It was in the future to John. “And when he comes, he must continue a short time,” which we know to be only the last three and one-half years of the Great Tribulation.

I should mention that many commentators insist the “seven mountains” can only mean Rome, known as “the city built on seven hills.” They say “Babylon” is code for Rome.

If you look it up, many cities claim to be “built on seven hills,” including no less than thirty in the US.
“Babylon” was not used as code for Rome until much later. The apostle Peter does say, in one of his letters, that he was writing from Babylon. We take it that he was in Babylon.

Rev 17:11  The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.

Again I’ll quote a reliable scholar:

As one of the seven, the Beast is a kingdom, but as an eighth, he is the king of that kingdom who sustains the wound and ascends from the Abyss after his wound. When this occurs, he is king over an eighth kingdom because his reign following his ascent from the Abyss will be far more dynamic and dominant than before. This is the sense in which he is one of the seven, but also an eighth.

The angel talking with John wants us to know the Beast’s destiny. He is “going to perdition,” eternal conscious punishment in the Lake of Fire.

Rev 17:12  “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.

The Beast will establish ten kings over ten regions of the world. It is the final form of the global government. It is mankind returning to Babylon, you could say.

“One hour” isn’t literal; it means a short time, which we know to be three and one half years.

Wait just a minute! Don’t I stress we are to take things literally? Sure, but that doesn’t mean we are like Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy and cannot recognize common metaphors and figures of speech.

Rev 17:13  These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.

Ten nations, under godlessness, with slavery and injustice for all.

Rev 17:14  These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”

The world’s armies will be gathered together by God in the Valley of Megiddo, in the Middle East, to what we like to call the Battle of Armageddon. When the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, descends, He wins. Easily.

Humans are the only creatures that are “called, chosen, and faithful.”

Human beings are born dead in trespasses and sins. No one comes to God unless they are “called.” The Good News is that Jesus, on the Cross, said that He would draw “all men” to Himself.

God, before the foundation of the world, chose to save believers through Christ and predestined them to Heaven. This grace is received through faith as God the Holy Spirit frees a person’s will that they might believe.

Saved people remain “faithful,” but I like to emphasize that Jesus is faithful and can be counted upon to complete the work of salvation He begins in us.

“Those who are with Him” at His Second Coming is us, the resurrected and raptured church.

Rev 17:15  Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.

The harlot will hold sway over the population of Earth for the first half of the Great Tribulation. It would seem to embrace all faiths and beliefs, not one single religion. It will be the tolerance that all roads lead to God. Except that biblical Christianity will not be tolerated.

Rev 17:16  And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.

The ten-nation confederacy will usurp the harlot. The Beast will declare himself ‘god,’ demanding to be worshipped.

The disturbing imagery of the harlot being hated, desolated, stripped of clothing, then BBQ’d and eaten should remind us that the hearts of men need transforming in a relationship with God. All of the world’s religions, philosophies, politics, and psychologies fall short. Far short.

Rev 17:17  For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.

One writer said, “A divine overruling controls the fate of the world’s political powers, so that at times Satan is an instrument in serving a providential purpose.”

God never causes evil. Neither does He violate our free will. Within His self-imposed limits, however, He sees to it history reaches the end He has written.

My favorite (and therefore overused) example is the story of Esther. She had free will to choose. If she would have refused to be used by God to save the Jews, God would have raised up help from another source.

Rev 17:18  And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”

Verse seventeen is our segue from Mystery Babylon to Municipal Babylon of the future.

Listen to wisdom from the apostle Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth:

1Co 6:9  Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
1Co 6:10  nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

The “unrighteous” are nonbelievers, people who have not been declared righteous by believing in Jesus.
“Fornicators” are called out, along with a list of other filthy behaviors.

People post polls on social media. How many states have you visited? If you were a dog, which dog would you be? You’re stuck in an 80s movie; which one would it be?

We could create a poll out of First Corinthians 6:9-10: “How many of these things have you done?”

1Co 6:11  And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God

“Such were some of us.” When you got saved, you were transformed. The things listed, and many others, were overcome by your becoming a new creature in Jesus Christ.

Take the poll. Are you involved in any of these things? Jesus saved you and He set you free. He can free you again.

And again, and again, and again…

Blah, Blah, Blasphemer, Have You Any Shame? (Revelation 16:1-21)

The world population is closing in on 7.9b.

Despite that hefty number, when trying to emphasize a point, we often claim, “There are only two kinds of people in the world.”

A Portuguese artist created the blog 2 Kinds of People. It is a series of paired illustrations that identify two approaches to a behavior.

Think of two Hershey’s plain candy bars, unwrapped, lying side-by-side:

One of them has a bite mark in the upper right corner.

The other is broken evenly along the indented lines in the upper right corner.

Thus there are only two kinds of people – those who bite the bar and those who break the bar.

Another paired illustration shows two iPhone screens. One has multiple apps with notifications, while the other is free from any pending notifications. Thus there are only two kinds of people – those with notifications cluttering their screen and those with an uncluttered screen.

Indulge me for one more. Do you add milk to cereal or cereal to milk?

There are only two kinds of people in chapter sixteen of the Revelation. Those whom God has blessed, and those who blaspheme God.

In verse fifteen, the Lord speaks, saying, “Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments…”

In verses nine, eleven, and twenty-one, we are told men “blaspheme” the name of God.

God has blessed those of you who are in Christ with the gift of salvation received by faith. Those of you unsaved are blaspheming God. We will discuss what that means.

One more thing. Jesus interjects in verse fifteen, saying, “Behold, I am coming as a thief.”

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Since You Are Blessed By God, Jesus Doesn’t Come Upon You As A Thief, but #2 If You Are A Blasphemer, Jesus Does Come Upon You As A Thief.

#1 – Since You Are Blessed By God, Jesus Doesn’t Come Upon You As A Thief (v1-16)

During their military operations in Lebanon in 1982 and 1996, warnings were given by Israel to the civilian population of southern Lebanon before attacks through the distribution of leaflets and via radio and loudspeakers, as well as by telephone calls.

The measures taken by Israel to warn the civilian population during the operation have been described by some as “probably the most extensive, and most specific, warnings of offensive operations over such a short period in the history of warfare.”

Jesus gives an advance warning to those who dwell on Earth, saying in verse fifteen, “I am coming as a thief.”

Rev 16:1  Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”

You know by now that Jesus took from His Father a scroll having seven seals. Beginning in chapter six, the Lord opened the seals in succession:

When Jesus opened the seventh seal, seven angels were given seven trumpets to blow in succession.
When the seventh trumpet was blown, seven angels were given seven bowls to pour out upon Earth in succession.

We have come to the bowls, late in the seven-year Great Tribulation and on the verge of Jesus’ Second Coming.

The “Wrath of God” is His divine response, in His perfect holiness, to mankind’s disobedience and sin. You could say that from cover to cover the Bible is a display of the Wrath of God, from compassion to condemnation.

The plagues in the following verses are awful. I need not describe them in detail. They speak for themselves. What I will say is that they are literal.

I’ve mentioned before in our studies that it has become popular among Christians to reject the futurist interpretation of this book:

Futurists – that’s us – believe the Revelation is primarily about future events that have not yet occurred but will occur.
The non-futurists claim that the Revelation was mostly fulfilled in the first century with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans.

The plagues in this chapter are reminiscent of the plagues that were meted out upon Egypt before Israel’s Exodus. Question: Were the ten plagues against Egypt literal? Yes, and so will be the plagues we read about today. Nothing like them in their scope and severity has happened anytime in human history.

Rev 16:2  So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.

The “Beast” is the world leader we call the antichrist. He has a considerable number of names in the Bible.
Chapter thirteen described his “image” in a way that reminds us of Artificial Intelligence.
His “mark” is something in or on your hand or forehead by which you to participate in contactless, cashless transactions.

At the very middle of the Great Tribulation, the Beast will enter the re-erected Jewish Temple and desecrate it by demanding to be worshipped.

Angels warn those who inhabit Earth to refuse to worship him or be lost for all eternity. The majority of mankind ignores God’s compassion and worships the Beast.

Rev 16:3  Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.

This is global in its scope. All bodies of water that are “seas” are affected.

The “blood” of a “dead man” pools, then separates. It leaves dark red gunk at the lowest point and a light-colored fluid above that. Add to that the putrefaction of the death of “every living creature in the sea.”

Rev 16:4  Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.

I feel for you folks in Lemoore, struggling in the aftermath of the incident that has affected your water supply. In the final months of the Great Tribulation, there will be no source of potable water on the planet.

Rev 16:5  And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things.
Rev 16:6  For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, And You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.”

Angels are “an eye for an eye” group. Those who “shed the blood of saints and prophets” having only “blood” to drink seems about right to them.

We are not to think eye-for-an-eye in the dispensation of the Church Age. The first Christian martyr was Stephen. We read in the Book of Acts, “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (7:59-60).

We are to expect mistreatment and respond to it with compassion for the spiritual blindness of those who are perishing.

Our Lord “is,” “was,” and “is to be.” It is a way of proclaiming God is eternal in words we can sort of understand. It speaks to us, too, of all things working together for the good of the saints. From eternity past through eternity future, God works on our behalf.

He is “righteous” to judge. It is His right to judge, but additionally, He judges in such a way that He can save sinners and remain righteous. Listen to this passage from the New Testament Book of Romans:

Rom 3:23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Rom 3:24  being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Rom 3:25  whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
Rom 3:26  to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

That is a mouthful. Simply put, we are all sinners, but God can receive us just-as-if-we’d never sinned because the death of Jesus on the Cross satisfied the penalty mankind deserves. God remains “just,” or righteous, while justifying believing sinners.

Before moving on, notice that there is an “angel of the waters.” Revelation 7:1 has four angels in charge of the winds, and in 9:11, an angel has authority over the Abyss. In 14:18, there is an angel with power over fire.

If we wanted to develop a devotional thought, we could talk about how we, too, as believers in Christ have our specific assignments:

Some are general, e.g., saint, husband, wife, son, daughter, employer, and employee.

Some are specific, e.g., our gifting from God the Holy Spirit, our calling in serving the Lord, our place as a living stone in His Temple on Earth, and as a member of His body on Earth.

You are blessed with glorious purpose as a child of God.

Rev 16:7  And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”

We cannot overemphasize that God is “true and righteous” in His “judgments.” There is in Him no unrighteousness. He is perfect in all His ways. Trust these things when you cannot fathom the depths of what He is doing, or allowing, in your life or the world.

God is Father. Earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to their kids. How much more does your Heavenly Father work all things together for good.

Rev 16:8  Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire.
Rev 16:9  And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.
Rev 16:10  Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.
Rev 16:11  They blasphemed the God of Heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.

I read these verses as a unit because they introduce us to blasphemy. The word connotes cursing or foul language, but that is not its meaning here. A good definition is defiant irreverence.

Blasphemy is expressed by refusing to “repent of [your] deeds,” and by not repenting to “give Him glory.”

Whatever else they might say or do to express blasphemy, it is their unbelief that blasphemes God.

There is one, and only one, unpardonable sin. It isn’t murder or suicide, or adultery, or coveting. It is unbelief in Jesus. Die rejecting Jesus in defiant irreverence, and you blaspheme, committing the unpardonable sin.

Rev 16:12  Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.

By an act of God, the Euphrates River is dried up. This makes easy the travel of the massive army of the “kings from the east” to the land of Israel to participate in the conflict.

Is this referring to China? It’s interesting to note that soon India will be the world’s most populous nation. “Kings from the east” is plural. It is a last days coalition.

Rev 16:13  And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Rev 16:14  For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

The apostle John told us a few chapters earlier that Satan is “the dragon.”
The Beast has an assistant whom we met previously, here called “the false prophet.” Together we could call these three the unholy trinity.

Those who inhabit Earth won’t see Satan or “unclean spirits” that resemble “frogs.” John is privileged to see into their realm. It is by the agency of these supernatural creatures that the armies of the world gather “to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” Although they seem to come to oppose the Beast, these armies will forget their conflicts to oppose the coming of Jesus Christ in power and glory from Heaven.

Rev 16:15  “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus said, “But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into” (24:43). The “master of the house” knew a thief was coming, just not “what part of the night the thief was coming.”

Jesus forewarns everyone that He is “coming as a thief.”

The entire seven-year Great Tribulation is a warning that Jesus is coming. He announces shock & awe in advance.

The blessed believe Him and look forward to His return.
Nonbelievers blaspheme Him, believing the dragon, the Beast, the false prophet, and the world’s combined military might can repel the thief.

“Garments” represent your salvation in the Bible. In your natural state, God sees you dressed in what the Bible calls “filthy rags.” You are unfit for Heaven. When you believe God and are saved, Jesus removes your filthy garments, and you receive a garment of salvation, illustrated as a pure white robe of righteousness.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah said, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness…” (61:10).

You are “blessed” by God with the garment of salvation, clothed and ready.

Rev 16:16  And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.

This battle will take place in the Valley of Megiddo, in Hebrew called Armageddon. One commentator said, “This is the day of the Lord’s coming to do battle with the Beast, the climax of human history when God assumes His great power and begins to reign (11:17). It is “the great and terrible day of the LORD” (Joel 2:31).

The Lord isn’t saying it is up to you to remain saved. He is describing two kinds of people.

Are you blessed and robed or are you a naked blasphemer?

#2 – If You Are A Blasphemer, Jesus Does Come Upon You As A Thief (v16-21)

Emergency information networks send out texts or voice messages to warn a population to evacuate in the face of imminent disasters like fires or floods. Some people like to roll the dice, staying put to guard their property. It is materialism at its worst.

Despite centuries of advance warning, and seven years of judgments and invitations, blasphemers hold their ground against God during the Great Tribulation.

Rev 16:17  Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of Heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”

To state the obvious, “air” is what we breathe. Not being told precisely how this plague affects the air we breathe makes it more terrifying.

Ginomai. It is one word translated by three English words in verse seventeen, “It is done!” It isn’t the last word of the book or even the chapter. It is, however, a fitting last word for the pouring out of the seventh and final bowl. A critical movement in God’s plan, the Great Tribulation, is done.

Rev 16:18  And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.

The deadliest, most destructive earthquake ever recorded hasn’t happened.

The worst localized earthquake mankind has experienced will be insignificant compared to this global shaking.

Footnote: It is accompanied by earthquake weather – “noises and thunderings and lightnings.”

Rev 16:19  Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.

The “great city” is Jerusalem. It will be split into thirds.
The “cities of the [Gentile] nations” all around the world will fall into rubble.
“Babylon” will be the subject of a retrospective in the following two chapters. It is Babylon, not New York or Rome or Washington D.C., or any other city.

Rev 16:20  Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

These words describe incredible topographical changes. It will be a different version of the flat earth.

Rev 16:21  And great hail from Heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the record for the largest hailstone in the US belongs to an 8-inch wonder that fell near Vivian, South Dakota, in 2010. It was the size of a volleyball and weighed just under two pounds.

The Tribulation hailstones will average twenty-nine inches and weigh one-hundred thirty pounds.

A.W. Tozer said, “When God is finally ready to refine and restore the earth, everyone in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell will know that no human laboratory could compound the fire that will be poured out on the earth. God has promised that He will not hide His wrath forever. He is prepared to speak in supernatural manifestations in that coming Day of The Lord!”

Blessed or blasphemer… Believer or nonbeliever… Sheep or goat… Wheat or tare… Robed in white or naked… Heaven or Hell.

Unlike a Hershey bar, your iPhone, or cereal, what kind of person you are matters.

Singing’ Of Your Reign, What A Glorious Savior, You’re Coming Again (Revelation 15:1-8)

Wrath of Man. I Am Wrath.

The titles of those feature films signal what is coming. Someone was wronged and seeks revenge. They will take matters into their own hands – violent, vengeful hands that viciously murder those who have wronged them.

We shouldn’t, but we cheer them on. Who doesn’t like a righteous vigilante?

The Wrath of God.

Our popular use of the word “wrath” can leave us thinking God is a cosmic Punisher seeking revenge. He is not. He is compassionate, seeking repentance.

It is an essential doctrine in both Testaments. We are told, “For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).

The phrase “the wrath of God” appears several times in chapters fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen. In the first verse of chapter sixteen we read “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”

Let’s talk about the Wrath of God. I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 God Shows You His Righteousness By Delaying Wrath, and #2 God Shows You His Righteousness By Displaying Wrath.

#1 – God Shows You Righteousness By Delaying Wrath (v1-4)

Here is a simplified but accurate working definition of what we mean by the Wrath of God:

The Wrath of God is His divine response to human sin and disobedience.

The very first time God responded to human sin and disobedience was the afternoon of Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden.

Whatever else we discover about the Wrath of God must be governed by God’s first display of wrath.

God warned our original parents that if they disobeyed Him, the consequences would be death. As you read past Genesis, you discover other consequences:

• All Adam and Eve’s descendants are born with imputed sin, spiritually dead in trespasses and sin.
• All are born with a sin nature.
• Creation was ruined and requires restoration.

What was God’s divine response?

Instead of killing them, the Lord sacrificed animals in their stead to temporarily cover their sin and shame. He promised to come to Earth as a human to offer Himself as the permanent, once-for-all sacrifice for sin. His only ask is that we believe Him.

God delayed His wrath, at least to a certain extent:

• He did curse the ground and tell Adam his labor would be difficult.
• He did tell Eve that her childbirth would be painful and that she would find within herself the desire to overthrow her husband’s authority.
• God did banish them from the Garden of Eden.

He did not, however, kill them. They would die, but not right away.

The Bible tells the story of God’s delay from the Garden of Eden, to the Cross upon which He died, through the Great Tribulation and the Millennial Kingdom, into eternity.

Because God delayed His wrath, we are here today – either saved or lost.

Rev 15:1  Then I saw another sign in Heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.

Previously in the Revelation:

• Jesus opened seven seals on a scroll He was uniquely worthy to receive and execute.
• The seventh seal revealed seven angels with seven trumpets to blow.
• The seventh trumpet revealed seven angels with seven bowls to pour out.

The seals and trumpets take us from the beginning of the seven-year Great Tribulation, past mid-way, into the last half of it. The bowls are poured out rapidly during the months before Jesus returns.

They are “last… for in them the wrath of God is complete.” That is to say the centuries of delay will be over. This is it – the completion of God’s plan.

Has it taken a long time? Only by our standard of measuring time. Seven thousand years are like a single day to the Lord.

Rev 15:2  And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.

There are similarities between this chapter and the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt:

The “sea of glass” in Heaven was represented in the Tabernacle and Temple on Earth by a bronze washbasin called both the Laver of Bronze and the Sea of Bronze.
In verse three, they sing “the Song of Moses,” commemorating Israel’s deliverance. The Great Tribulation is the Day of Jacob’s Trouble when God will deliver Jews to safety and salvation.

The seven angels in Heaven with the bowls are dressed similar to an Old Testament High Priest on the Day of Atonement.

In the Exodus, God delivered the Jews from Pharaoh’s fury. They crossed over the Red Sea on solid, dry ground.

In the future Great Tribulation, God delivers Jews from Satan’s fury. We read earlier in the Revelation that the devil sends a flood to drown Jews fleeing into the wilderness. God has the Earth swallow the waters. Jews will get to safety on solid, dry ground.

“Those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name” are martyrs from the Great Tribulation. Their “victory” was to obey unto death.

God gives you grace sufficient to obey unto death.

Does it not follow that a believer can trust grace sufficient to obey in circumstances less than life-and-death?

Family and government were persecuting the recipients of the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament for believing Jesus. In one place, the author indicates their possessions were being seized. Listen to this piece of godly advice:

Heb 12:3  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
Heb 12:4  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

The author advised them to be more like Jesus because, after all, they hadn’t shed blood yet.

Our advice to one another ought to be that, like Jesus, we can find and follow the leading of God the Holy Spirit. We need to toughen spiritually.

A.W. Tozer said, “We want to be saved, but we insist that Christ do all the dying.”

Have you ever had a nightmare vacation where everything went wrong? A Planes, Trains & Automobiles experience?

Delays, difficulties, even disasters are to be expected. Eventually, you got home.

We are on a nightmarish camping trip as we walk on Earth as strangers and pilgrims. Of course you will have trials and troubles. It would be weird if you didn’t. We need to keep our thoughts and affections on our homes in the future New Jerusalem.

The “Beast” is the person we commonly call the antichrist. He is never called antichrist in the Revelation. Neither is he called by most of his other names, more than thirty of them mentioned throughout the Bible.

In chapter thirteen, we saw him as a world leader coming back to life after being assassinated. He comes directly from the Abyss (11:7), which is a prison for evil supernatural beings. It suggests that the Beast will have a supernatural body because a ‘regular’ body cannot exist in the Abyss.

His “image” seems alive. If I had to guess, I’d say it will be advanced Artificial Intelligence.

We suggest the “Mark” is something on you or in you, a biometric identifier, that will enable a global, cashless, contactless economy. Mid-Tribulation, the Beast will desecrate the re-erected Jewish Temple, demanding to be worshipped. Fail to swear allegiance to him and it will be simple for his government to lock you out of everything, track you down, incarcerate or kill you.

In chapter thirteen, we talked about the dreaded “number of his name,” 666. We suggested it was symbolic of the failure of mankind to establish a permanent kingdom. There are, in the Bible, six nations that impacted Israel in prophecy: (1)Egypt, (2)Assyria, (3)Babylon, (4)Medo-Persia, (5)Greece, and (6)Rome. In the last days, there will be a revived (6-6)Roman Empire. The revived (6-6-6)Roman Empire will be taken over by the Beast.

666 is the sixth empire, Rome, repeating itself.

The martyrs stand on the Sea of Glass in the heavenly Temple.

The Bronze Sea on Earth was a large basin of water where the priests washed themselves and the sacrifices to signify their being “clean” to God. Standing on the Sea communicates they are permanently washed and clean.

Rev 15:3  They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God… (Stop there)

I don’t think of Moses as a singer. After all, he complained to God that he had slowness of speech. Maybe he was like Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle), who talked one way but sang another.

Turns out, stuttering and singing are a right brain/left brain thing. Stutterers are often able to sing clearly.

I do not wish to alienate fans of Dolly Parton, but you have to admit Whitney Houston’s cover of I Will Always Love You is superior.

The martyrs will ‘cover’ the Song of Moses. Scholars split as to which song because the Old Testament records two, one in Exodus chapter fifteen and another in Deuteronomy chapter thirty-two. The Exodus song best fits the context.

Rev 15:3  They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!
Rev 15:4  Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”

The “Lamb” the martyrs sing to is Jesus. A few thoughts about the lyrics:

His “works” include creation. All things were made by Him and for Him. His most significant work, however, is you (and me). We are His workmanship, His masterpiece. Do you ever marvel at the beauty, power, and downright awesomeness of nature? It is nothing compared to what Jesus is making you.

As “Lord Almighty,” He cannot fail to accomplish all He has prophesied and promised.

His “ways” are “just and true.” The death penalty for sin is just and true, and so is His taking our punishment upon Himself. In so doing, He justifies a believing sinner, declaring him or her righteous while remaining just in executing the death penalty.

He is, and is coming, as “King of the saints,” and all the Earth shall bow before Him.

One of the resources I consulted said, “God tolerated those who would remain in evil for the sake of those who would be saved, rather than ending the world immediately.”

God’s wrath could have ended the world in the Garden of Eden. Instead, He revealed His plan to redeem sinners by dying in their place and calling upon them to repent of sin and be saved.

In wrath, our God remembers mercy. The grace of His wrath is calling sinners to repentance.

#2 – God Shows You Righteousness By Displaying Wrath (v5-8)

History reveals moments in which God displayed His wrath:

• Adam and Eve’s exile from Eden (Genesis 3).
• The global flood (Genesis 6-9).
• The confusion of language at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11).
• The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19).

God also meted out wrath upon individuals:

• Nadab and Abihu were incinerated in the Old Testament after offering “strange fire” to the Lord (Leviticus 10).
• God struck dead Ananias and Sapphira in the New Testament for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5).

Rev 15:5  After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in Heaven was opened.

We inaccurately call the entire compound on Earth the Temple. The Temple consisted of two small rooms, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. A veil separated them.

John can see into the Holy Place and Holy of Holies in Heaven. When Jesus died on the Cross, He cried out in a loud, authoritative voice, “It is finished!” The veil that separated us from the presence of God was torn by Him from top to bottom. In Christ, we have immediate access to God.

Do not allow yourself to be drawn into any rite or ritual or religious rule that adds a layer of separation.

Rev 15:6  And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.

The angels didn’t hang out in the Holy of Holies. It would seem that they entered for a specific purpose and will exit.

They wear garments that would remind Jews of the ministry of the High Priest on the annual Day of Atonement. The High Priest entered and exited the Holy of Holies three times.

The vision thus gets us thinking about the Day of Atonement. These “plagues” give those who inhabit Earth their last opportunity to believe the Gospel and be ‘at-one’ with God.

Rev 15:7  Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.

Ceremonies are meant to be moving. The funerals I have officiated that have military honors can take your breath away in their solemnity.

In Heaven, the coming “plagues” are put into “bowls.” It is solemn, for sure, anticipating the coming calamities.

Rev 15:8  The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.

God’s glory filled the earthly Tabernacle, and later the Temple. Here it manifests as “smoke.”

Smoke signals are an ancient form of communication. They are still in use today, e.g., the Vatican’s announcing the election of a new Pope.

The smoke from Heaven ‘signals’ the action of chapter sixteen, “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth” (v1).

“No one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.” Whatever else this may signify, it focuses our full attention on the pouring out of the plagues described in detail in the next chapter.

Earlier I said that His first response to human sin should govern our understanding of the Wrath of God. It may sound as if I am minimizing God’s wrath.

It is a common criticism leveled at evangelicals that we minimize wrath. One Reformed pastor wrote, “God’s wrath [has been] eliminated from many (or most?) twentieth-century pulpits.”

We do not minimize God’s wrath.

It’s sort of difficult to minimize (or maximize) it if we go verse-by-verse through the Bible. Doing so, we get all aspects of the Wrath of God, from its compassion to its condemnation and everything in-between.

We read in John 3:18 & 36, “He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God…. He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Our holy and therefore perfect God will pour out his wrath upon those who have sinned against Him without repentance or faith in His Son. Those who never believe Jesus for salvation face judgment followed by eternal, conscious torment in the Lake of Fire.

On the Cross, Jesus volunteered Himself to drink the full cup of God’s wrath. As we learn from His prayers in Gethsemane, there was no other way for wrath to be removed except through His death on the Cross.

For all those who trust in Christ, this punishment is removed.

For those who refuse Christ, God’s wrath remains.

If you are in Christ, Jesus has taken the Wrath of God you deserved upon Himself.

Furthermore, He has promised you that you will not endure any portion of His wrath in the Great Tribulation. He said, “I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).

You should be Singin’ of His Reign.