Might be thinking to yourself – given all apostle John has seen, what could he possibly see that would make his jaw drop in amazement? As matter of fact, several things, eventually so overcome he even tried to worship an angel! (22:8) Have to remember, John didn’t live in digital age with special effects – he lived in real life, probably closer to reality than many of us. Talk about being desensitized to violence, can become desensitized to about anything… including things in God’s creation that should cause us to pause in amazement.
Number of years ago, opportunity to visit Grand Canyon. Stopped at one overlook, stood there drinking in beauty of God’s handiwork, thinking how his judgment by Flood could have left landscape featureless, barren, uninhabitable. Instead are surrounded by breathtaking beauty. While there at overlook, car stopped. Young lady got out, walked to one end of area, aimed her smartphone at the canyon, walked to other end of parking area taking video, got back in car and left. Not out of car much longer than takes to tell. Let us never lose our sensitivity to God’s reality. Instead be continually amazed by what God is doing.
Has already seen this age… from First Coming to Second Coming… presented in two series of images – seals, trumpets. Introduced by powerful scene of heavenly worship ch. 4-5 – gathering of countless saints and angels before God’s throne, giving praise and glory to him. Again we see into heaven, how God intends to bring his plan for this age to conclusion – worship given there and judgment that comes from God himself.
Is an important corrective to wrong way of thinking common among even Christians – if it’s bad, must have come from Satan; only good comes from God. Calamities come from God, have a purpose; so does warning of calamity. If God didn’t care, why send Jonah to Nineveh? If God didn’t have plan and purpose, why tell us in Revelation? He does have plan and purpose, he does care, he warns of judgment so people will turn from their sin, run to him first. And so when judgment comes, people will know what God is about.
A. a great and amazing sign v.1
introduction to ch.15 & 16
introduces sequence of judgments described more detail in following chapter, from perspective of heaven’s throne room
also a conclusion – when this sequence is finished, God’s judgment on sin on earth completed, this age will be over
further detail ch. 17-20, no new events not already described in previous visions
third sign – follows two previous: the woman (12:1), the dragon (12:3) and associates
woman and dragon at enmity since Eden – in new Eden dragon has been thoroughly crushed, gone from sight for sake of God and the woman
is thrilling news for woman/the Church – her most determined enemy completely defeated, no possibility ever of another Fall
don’t forget – is a sign – not intended to be understood in woodenly literal way; but… signs and symbols do have corresponding reality even more real and profound than the symbol
also follows counterfeit signs performed by false prophet (13:13-14)
if Satan’s counterfeit signs and wonders intended to persuade and effective in doing so, genuine sign from God profoundly more so
all of ch. 15, 16, 17 included in this “sign” – will clearly demonstrate to all rational creatures without exception who one true God is, that he has absolute power and authority over all his creation
are last plagues
are typical of things God has done before/is doing now to get attention, bring people to repentance
has worked in past because many still believed there was a God who sent calamities for a purpose; now… have outgrown that primitive kind of god, have a friendlier safer one
but… highly likely when these start in earnest, will no longer be opportunity for repentance – will be plain this is the end
like brothers in story of rich man and Lazarus – have Law and Prophets and countless warnings and reminders… to no avail
when the real end comes, every individual still in their sins will not change, have no desire to change, are confirmed enemies of God and his people
B. amazing worship v.2-4
Red Sea / Promised Land allusions
same sea as in Rev. 4:6 “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal” – placement not a coincidence: God is one issuing orders, God is one being worshiped
worshiped by those who have had victory over Beast – they are on one side of sea, enemies are on other side
reminiscent of ancient Israelites, standing on one side of Red Sea, watching and rejoicing in deliverance as Pharaoh and army drowned by God’s powerful hand while singing song of Moses
Ex. 15:1 “I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!”
remember what God brought them through… and why
series of plagues, much like bowl judgments about to be described
didn’t deliver Hebrew children from Egypt then hammer Egyptians – God intended both believers and unbelievers to get his point
starting with Ex. 7:16 (8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3) 6x “Let my people go that they may serve me” iow, “that they may worship me”
same true for people of God today – he brings us trhough much tribulation so when we stand on other side of sea, can worship him way were designed
conquered the beast… how?
no uncertainty about who is qualified to worship God in this setting – those who have rejected all the Beast promised and stands for, who refused his mark
not those who were passively non-compliant – were active and public in their resistance, perhaps at great personal cost
following example of Moses – Heb. 11:24-26 “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.”
not something anyone accomplishes in own strength or wisdom – requires empowerment from God thru full dependence
martyrs truly victors
often talk/think about what Christian brothers and sisters who serve in foreign places have given up, sometimes losing life for sake of Gospel – super-spiritual because of what they have forfeited
is wrong way of thinking, not anything like Paul thought – “outsider” would say Paul lost much, Paul thought differently
Phil 3.8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”
counted them like things that go into Benson’s compost, worth no more than that, just as happy to see them leave
have everything to gain – victory over the beast and all he stands for… not for this life only, forever!… because of what God has done for us
much material for worship
the great works of God – let’s start with positive one: bringing the dead to life… every time sinner comes to faith in Christ
all of his works are just and true – whether we understand how or not; must be so because God is just and true, does nothing contrary to his character
God alone is holy, worthy of worship, will be worshiped by all nations just as promised to Abraham – through him all families of the earth would be blessed… those blessed by God worship him
C. great judgment v.5-8
sourced in God himself
said at beginning – don’t like to think about calamity coming from God; creation under curse, “subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20) so must be mother nature acting up when floods/earthquakes/volcanoes/hurricanes/tsunamis and more happen
one reason God sends those calamities – warning of immeasurably worse calamity when he judges rebellious mankind at end
ministering angels who deliver 7 last plagues came out of temple, from God’s immediate presence, place “filled with smoke from the glory of God and his power”
aspects of holiness
God is holy in his being and all his attributes – he is holy, all he does is holy… his executing judgment is action of holy wrath against his enemies: dragon/beast/false prophet, all fallen angels, all those with mark of beast
is God’s holiness, purity, perfection that absolutely requires him to take action against sin and sinners – cannot overlook it
God glorified in justice/judgment as well as grace/redemption
verse 8 again – while 7 angels pouring out 7 bowls of God’s wrath on earth, God actively displays his glory/power in heaven
meanwhile, those beside sea sing song of Moses, of the Lamb, praising and glorifying God for his awesome works and holiness
So where does all this leave those who “have the seal of God on their foreheads”? Think back to experience of Hebrew children, time in Egypt. Some of the plagues caused both Egyptians and Hebrews inconvenience – same will be true for us as end approaches. As family/friends/neighbors/coworkers begin to really feel heat of God’s wrath, will have spillover effect on us.
But remember how story plays out – final plague, angel of death visited Egypt. All who obeyed command of God, spent that night under blood of lamb were spared. Were delivered from Egypt, safely crossed the Sea, stood on other side and watched as God overthrew their enemies. Same holds true for us today – those who are under blood of Lamb of God do not need to fear. That Lamb endured the full wrath of God so all those who trust in him need not experience it.
Our own goodness counts for nothing in God’s sight. Must be goodness of Christ credited to us through faith in him that we rest in for our salvation. Can and will have victory over Satan and sin and death but only in Jesus. If our confidence is in Christ and his righteousness, someday we will sing that song of victory with those who have gone on before us.