************ Sermon on Revelation 14:6-13 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 1, 2009
"Three Judgment Proclamations"
Let me remind you of the context. Revelation 12 & 13 makes clear to us that the church is the target of the dragon, who is also known as the serpent, the devil, or Satan. Satan tried his best but he was not able to stop either Jesus' birth or ministry of atonement. Now that He is in heaven, Jesus is untouchable. So, Satan turns his hatred upon the church through the persecution of the beast out of the sea, and through the deception of the beast out of the earth. Remember how Revelation 12 & 13 end? Every person has either the mark of the beast or the mark of God.
Revelation 14 answers two questions. First, what happens to those people who wear the mark of God? We learned last time, as we looked at verses 1-5, that they are overcomers who stand with the Lamb, on Mount Zion, singing songs of victory. Second, what happens to those who wear the mark of the beast? This is the question we will be answering this time and next time.
What happens to those who wear the mark of the beast? Judgment falls on them. John tells us about this judgment through the use of 7 distinct persons. This week, he tells us about 3 angels who pronounce judgment; next time, he tells us about 3 other angels who execute judgment; and, between these two sets of 3 angels, is the Son of Man Himself, Who alone is worthy to open the scroll of destiny and put into motion God's plan for salvation and judgment.
Let's start with the first trio of angels, each of whom proclaims judgment upon those who have the mark of the beast.
I The First Angel
Listen to what Scripture says to us about the first angel and his proclamation of judgment:
(Rev 14:6-7) Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth--to every nation, tribe, language and people. (7) He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."
Who is he? He is "another angel." This assumes other angels. What other angels? All the other angels we have seen earlier – the seven angels blowing the seven trumpets, the angel who served the altar and mixed the prayers of the saints with the smoke of incense, the mighty angel holding the little scroll, and on and on.
Where is he? He is in "midair." Directly overhead. Everyone can see him and hear him.
Notice his job, his calling, his ministry? To "proclaim."
To proclaim to whom? "To those who live on the earth ..." He doesn't proclaim to the church. Nor does he proclaim to other angels. He proclaims to those who live on earth. We have come across this expression before. He proclaims to earth dwellers (Rev 3:10; 11:10). Earth dwellers are those people who live only for this earth and the things of this earth.
The proclamation is universal. He proclaims to earth dwellers of "every nation, tribe, language and people."
What does he proclaim? He proclaims the "eternal gospel." Eternal because it is planned from eternity to eternity. Gospel – which means Good News – because it is Good News if you listen.
What is the content of the eternal gospel? Fear God – fear God rather than fear the beast. Give Him the glory – give glory to God instead of to the beast. Worship Him – worship God instead of worship the beast and the dragon. Nothing wishy-washy here. It is a command. Nothing new here. It is the same command given by the prophets of the Old Testament and by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament. It is the command to repent and believe.
How does he proclaim? In a "loud voice." Why? Because it is urgent. Every unbeliever needs to hear what is being said. And every unbeliever needs to act on this immediately, before it is too late.
Why the urgency? Verse 7 tells us: "because the hour of his judgment has come." It is now or never. God's last judgment day is already in motion, it has already begun, it is already inaugurated. In my Revelation series, I have been using the image of D-Day and V-Day to talk about salvation and victory in Christ. But you know, this image applies to judgment too. At the cross and the grave, the decisive battle has already happened but the war still continues. Judgment, like salvation, is already here but not yet fully here. Remember the 7 seal judgments followed by the 7 trumpet judgments? The judgment of God has already begun upon an earth which defies the Gospel. Jesus has already ascended to heaven, He has been seated at God's right hand, the unbelieving nations are a footstool for His feet, and He will dash them to pieces like pottery (cf Ps 2, 110). So fear God, give Him the glory, and worship Him before it is too late. Repent and believe before it is too late. If you are an unbeliever, judgment is hanging over your head like a sword ready to fall.
Already, right now, the day of God's judgment has begun. So, "fear God and give him glory ... worship him." What gives Him the right to make these kinds of demands? What gives God the right to judge? Notice the reason: He "made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water." These are the same places mentioned in the trumpet judgments. He made them. He is the Creator. God is the judge, not the beast, not Satan. God has the right.
II The Second Angel
A Listen, now, to the proclamation of the second angel as we find it in verse 8:
(Rev 14:8) A second angel followed and said, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries."This is a quote from Isaiah 21:9. Isaiah speaks a prophecy against Babylon – the city and empire that conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and took the people into captivity. He announces that the Babylon which conquered Judah will itself be conquered and destroyed.
The second angel of Revelation 14 picks up on this imagery. But he doesn't have the same Babylon in mind. He is not speaking of a literal Babylon on the banks of the Euphrates river. Rather, he is talking of Babylon as a symbol of human society organized in opposition to God. This Babylon, this worldly Babylon, this Babylon that opposes God, is going to be destroyed. Instead of Babylon, John could have said Rome – for, in the first century, it was Rome that represented human society in opposition to God. Today, John would have said Moscow, Washington, San Francisco, London, even Visalia. It is every city, every community, in opposition to God.
What does the second angel says about Babylon? "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great ..." Do you hear the tense of the verb? The second angel doesn't use the future tense. He doesn't say "Babylon will fall." Rather, he speaks of it as though it has already happened. "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great ..." He is saying judgment is a sure thing. As far as the angel is concerned, the pagan culture of the earth dwellers has been overthrown.
B "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great ..." Why? Why such vengeance on Babylon? Because she "made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries." Throughout the Revelation, the idea of adultery is used to speak of idolatry. It speaks of the world's attempt to keep people away from the Gospel. Babylon has made the nations drink the wine of her idolatries. Think of Nebuchadnezzar's golden statue – everyone was commanded to bow down before it.
There is a contrast here between the earth dwellers on the one hand, and the 144,000 on the other hand. Earth dwellers are seduced into idolatry. Do you remember what was said about the 144,000? They "kept themselves pure" (Rev 14:4). In other words, they remained true to the Gospel and did not worship other gods. But Babylon, human society in opposition to God, has beguiled all the nations of the world into idolatry. Because of this she is the target of divine punishment. "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great ..." As far as God is concerned, this is as good as done.
III The Third Angel
A The first angel announces that God's judgment has already begun. The second angel announces that God's judgment is a sure thing, it is inescapable. What does the third angel announce?
(Rev 14:9-11) A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, (10) he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. (11) And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name."
Do you notice the change in audience or pronoun compared to the first two announcements? The first angel made his announcement to every nation, tribe, language, and people. The second angel made his announcement to Babylon. But the third angel makes his announcement to individuals – to "anyone." It is almost as if John has specific people and faces and names in mind.
Let's put the announcement of the third angel in context. Revelation 13 ends with the cost of not taking the mark of the beast. The cost is economic – you can not buy or sell. The cost is physical – persecution and deception. It is costly to NOT have the mark of the beast. But, the cost of having the mark of the beast is far greater than the cost of NOT having the mark of the beast. What is the cost of having the mark of the beast?
(Rev 14:9-10) "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, (10) he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury ..."This makes me think of the words of Jesus:
(Mt 10:28) Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.Too often we are afraid of the wrong thing. We are afraid of the world and the beast when we should be afraid of God. We are afraid of persecution and deception rather than of everlasting hell fire. We are afraid of what people think of us rather than what God thinks of us.
B The third angel tells us that those who wear the mark of the beast will "drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath." This should be obvious, but let me say it anyway: we are not to think of a literal cup; the language is metaphorical.
Christians know all about the cup of wrath. This is the cup emptied by Jesus on the cross. Remember Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane?
(Mt 26:39) "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."You and I are sinners. We do chase after other gods. We do allow ourselves to be seduced by the idolatries of Babylon. So, like the earth dwellers, we deserve to drink from the cup of God's wrath. But we don't! Why not? Because Jesus has drank from the cup in our place. Jesus is like Pharaoh's cupbearer – He drinks what we should drink, He takes the poison meant for us.
What happens to unbelievers, to earth dwellers, to those with the mark of the beast? They "drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath." The image is simple and easy to understand. In the Ancient World, wine was frequently cut with water to dilute the full effect of the alcohol. But this time it is undiluted, "full strength." Which means what? Which means that all of the prior judgments of God – the seal judgments, the trumpet judgments – they are like mixed wine: cut, weakened, diluted, dampened. But the final judgment is unmixed, uncut, undiluted. People will experience the wrath of God in all its fullness, strength, and ferocity. In other words, there is no more grace, no more mercy, no more long-suffering.
Do you know what unbelievers end up doing? They end up exchanging one cup for another. They were drinking from Babylon's cup "the maddening wine of her adulteries." Now they will drink from God's cup "the wine of God's fury." The two cups go together. If you drink the wine of Babylon's cup, you will be required to also drink the cup of God's wrath.
C What else happens to unbelievers, to earth dwellers, to those with the mark of the beast?
(Rev 14:10-11) He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. (11) And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. Torment, sulfur, smoke ... What does this sound like? Doesn't this sound like Sodom and Gomorrah? But it is Sodom and Gomorrah with a difference: "the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever." The torment never ends. The torment is eternal. The third angel is talking about hell, of course. Hell is a place where the fire is never quenched, where smoke always ascends, where torment never ends.
Notice that word "torment." It is not a nice word. It means conscious pain. People are aware. It is not a case of dreamless sleep, of going out of existence.
D What else happens to unbelievers, to earth dwellers, to those with the mark of the beast?
(Rev 14:11) There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.No rest. We aren't talking about vacation time here. We aren't talking about a day off here. The Biblical concept of rest means security, well-being, relief from anxiety and trouble. Those with the mark of the beast get none of this.
E What happens to unbelievers, to earth dwellers, to those with the mark of the beast? He will drink the full and undiluted cup of God's wrath, he will experience physical and conscious torment for ever and ever, he will have no rest. And he will experience all of this – did you catch this – "in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb."
What does this mean? It means that the angels and the Lamb (and the saints too – see 1 Cor 6:2-3; Mt 19:28) are the executioners; they are the ones who will carry out the judgment. But it appears to mean more than this. The torment of the earth dwellers is in "the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb." Is this text saying that Jesus and the holy angels are in hell with the earth dwellers? Of course not! It is saying that the worshipers of the beast are aware of Jesus and the angels as they suffer the torments of hell. They know what they are missing out on. They see the One they refused to worship while on this earth. We have a saying: "Misery loves company." People feel better when they know what they experience is what everyone experiences. But what happens when you see a group of people whose experience is not the same as yours, when you see a group of people whose experience is not misery and torment? Doesn't that make your own experience far worse, much worse? This is what the third angel is announcing. You will see the Lamb and the holy angels. You will see Him Whom you have rejected. You will see His holy messengers – for that is what angels are. You will see their bliss and joy in the midst of your own torment.
The first angel announces that God's judgment has already begun. The second angel announces that God's judgment is a sure thing, it is inescapable. The third angel announces that followers of the beast will endure eternal wrath.
So, what does this mean if you are a Christian? What does this mean if you have the mark of God rather than the mark of the beast? Our Scripture reading tells us three things.
We find the first application in verse 12 of our Scripture lesson:
(Rev 14:12) This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.Saints need to endure. Or, let's put this negatively: saints can't make peace with the beast, they cannot compromise the Gospel, they can't give up the faith. They need to endure or they end up facing the very judgment pronounced by the three angels.
To die in the Lord is better, far better, than to die in the beast.
We find the second application in the first part of verse 13 of our Scripture reading:
(Rev 14:13) Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."
"Blessed." This is the second of seven benedictions found throughout the Revelation (Rev 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14). "Blessed" because they endure. "Blessed" because they have not compromised the faith. "Blessed" because they die in the Lord. "Blessed" because they wear the mark of God rather than the mark of the beast. "Blessed" because they experience God's salvation rather than God's judgment.
"From now on." Let's make sure we know what "now" stands for. "Now" stands for the time of attack by the dragon through the two beasts. "Now" stands for the time between the two comings of Christ. "Now" stands for the time between D-Day and V-Day. In other words, every Christian who dies is pronounced blessed.
To die in the Lord is better, far better, than to die in the beast.
We find the third application in the second part of verse 13 of our Scripture reading:
"Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."Remember what happens to the earth dwellers? They have no rest, no security, no comfort, no well-being, no relief from anxiety and trouble. But Christians do. Remember the words of Jesus:
(Mt 11:28) Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Jesus blesses the believing dead with rest, security, comfort, well-being, and relief for those who come to Him, for those who worship Him instead of the beast.
To die in the Lord is better, far better, than to die in the beast.
So endure. Fear God. Give Him the glory. Worship God. Remain faithful to Jesus. Obey God's command to repent and believe. And experience the blessedness of dying in the Lord.
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