IT'S ALL ABOUT A KINGDOM, A LAMB AND THUNDEROUS SONG - Revelation 14 & 15 - March 12, 2023
MESSAGE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM
BETHANY BAPTIST CHURCH IN RICHMOND, BC.
Last week we had brief glimpses of some animals – a lion, a leopard, a bear, and one more, indescribable creature. This last one described by Daniel as, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong Dan 7:7. Daniel identifies these as creatures representing powerful kingdoms that will come and dominate the known world, specifically as the Babylonians, the Medo -Persians, the Greeks and finally the Romans.
At first glance this appears to be merely a walk back in history, past events hardly relevant to us. Sure, perhaps important to know God’s word can be depended on – events prophesied coming true, but could it be more? And does this have anything for us? For that, we need to look at the last kingdom spoken of, a kingdom identified as Rome but also speaking of something else, something different. Very different and very terrifying. Different enough for Daniel to say, As for me, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. My thoughts were greatly alarming and my face grew pale :15,28.
This terrifying kingdom - different in power? – not really in that all were incredibly strong. Different in reach? – again, not really – each dominating their known worlds. Different in cruelty? – none known for compassion. In truth, you’d be hard pressed to find any more cruel than Babylon. And predatory? – all having huge appetite for more.
So there’s little to distinguish this last beast from the others having similar characteristics of power, dictatorial control, brutality and worldwide reach.
So how is this last kingdom different? Well 1st by magnitude. This beast is far more beastly, more powerful, more destructive and more arrogant than any of those before, which is saying a lot. The 2nd and most pertinent, this kingdom is undeniably demonic. The earlier kingdoms were just earthly shadows of the demonic. Not this kingdom. This kingdom steps out of the shadows to reveal the demonic’s full face. He challenging God as none of the others have done. We’re told this beast speaks against the Most High, wearing down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law Dan 7:25. Rev 13:5,6 tells us he will, Speak great things and blasphemies and power was given unto him to continue 42 months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. This beast and Satan whom he serves, don’t merely have eyes on an earthly kingdom, their war is against God.
Sounds sort of Star ‘Warsy’, stories of Empires and Clone wars, far removed from real life. Kingdom battles just things of fiction with the requisite themes of good vs evil - good winning in the end. But other worldly kingdoms and real Darth Vaders? Hardly convinced of that.
And not convinced, we spend more time here than there, building our own kingdoms – things we want to achieve, things we want to enjoy, relationships we want to have. Nothing bad in this, just things that occupy our time, our passion and pursuits. Important pursuits that easily preoccupy, consuming time and attention to where we treat God’s kingdom as little more than a Star War special, an occasionally visited ‘add-on’, God set aside from being first priority.
It's one of Satan’s great strategies in his war against God because it gives no appearance of battle as Satan works to gradually distance us from God as he then shifts our kingdom over to his. His loves becoming our loves; his values, our values. And as this takes hold, God and His kingdom completely removed from any picture of real importance in our lives.
Yet the message of kingdom is actually one of the most prominent themes in Scripture, most notably the Kingdom of God where Jesus reminds, Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you Mtth 6:23.
It’s this kingdom battle we are told about in Revelation where the heavenly and earthly are rushing toward a time when all the world kingdoms we’ve known will come to an end and God’s kingdom will forever be established.
His kingdom where no evil exists, no enemy appears, no pain comes, no other kingdom threatens. It’s a kingdom in waiting until God has every member of His kingdom in place. When that occurs, Jesus will return to establish His kingdom and put an end to all who have rebelled against Him.
Last week we looked at the enemy’s kingdom, led by its Unholy Trinity: Satan - wanting to be worshipped as God, the antichrist – presented as the saviour of the world and the false prophet – his role to bring glory and all worship to the beast. This is what we saw:
Rev 12 & 13
The UNVEILING OF:
wearing 666, the mark of everlasting death
In those chapters, a look at the demonic in last gasp efforts to seize control. Chief among them, the antichrist, a dreadful beast who will come out of some form of a restored Roman empire. We’re told this kingdom will have 10 horns 10 nations out of which one will arise and seize control. Daniel describes it this way, a 4th beast dreadful and terrifying ….. having 10 horns. While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and 3 of the first horns were pulled out by the roots … Dan 7:3-8 This little one, the antichrist will at first seem unimpressive until he overcomes 3 of the 10 kings then the other 7 fall under his powerful leadership. His claim to lead made stronger by his skill in doing what others have been unable to do – in the surround of chaos, he appears with authority to bring order. The world’s economy made right; the battles of nations ending; best of all, those 2 witnesses who accuse the world of sin - killed. Whatever problem the world has faced, this beast is there to address. His only stated requirement? that his authority is recognized by all, evidenced by his mark - 666, without which, no purchase can be made; no business transaction entered into. So as Rev 13 closes, the scene is dreadful and terrifying.
Revelation 14 takes us to a different place making it very clear what’s at stake in this kingdom battle. God does so by delivering messages from 3 angels.
The 1st a warning and offer of Hope
An Angel proclaiming the good news of the eternal gospel :6
This warning is given to those who have refused to worship God and instead have aligned with the antichrist yet even now God offering rescue before judgment. “Fear God and give Him glory. Worship Him who made it all”. This is last and final warning. Before this, those spoken to have seen evidences of God’s judgments. They’ve seen the heavens in disarray, the waters turned to blood, the earth shaken and made barren. They’ve see horrendous death. Signs given exactly like what happened in Egypt, when warning after warning was given but every one ignored. What God has warned; what prophets have written; what disciples have said, what Jesus has shown – God’s angelic messenger declaring one last time, Fear God and give Him glory because judgment is coming! The message - there is rescue, there is hope.
The 1st angel giving warning, the 2nd Angel announcing judgment
:8 Babylon the great is fallen, where she’s made to drink of her immorality. God will destroy all that rise up against Him.
1st the strongholds, the center, the ‘city’ from which sin made 1st attempts to take the throne at the Tower of Babel where idolatry was introduced
And the warning to Babylon? - you who have elevated yourself – proud of your wealth; proud of your power; proud of your glory; proud of your indulgence; proud and unrepentant of your sin. You who chose to become gods in your own eyes. You will be cast down.
CITY OF BABYLON DESTROYED BY FIRE
The 1st angel giving warning, the 2nd angel announcing judgment The 3rd Angel delivering sentence for the Judgment that’s been given
:10,11 gives us a description of hell where the wine of God’s wrath is poured out and ….. tormented with everlasting fire and brimstone
We so misunderstand sin. We want to think of it as idols, extreme acts of violence or terrible immorality. With that as our criteria, most of us measure up reasonably well but the truth is, our sin is pride, pride that we can do life without God, that we are the author of our life, that we decide how we live and behave. That we decide how our goodness, our righteousness, our good should measure up to earn God’s favor. But we don’t decide, God does and He tells us, All our righteousness is as filthy rags; there is none righteous, no not one. Is 64:6; Rom 3:10
CITY OF ROME DESTROYED BY FIRE
To tell you differently would be like your doctor telling you, you’re in good health because he wants to spare you the pain of the scalpel. That good health diagnosis is Satan’s kingdom message. So let me state it clearly: as accomplished as you are, as generous as you are, as compassionate as you are, as esteemed as you are, as well liked as you are - without the blood of Christ that cleanses from all sin, our destiny is the same for everyone without Jesus – hell. But Jesus’ eternal gospel is that He paid for our sin so we don’t have to. But that requires each of us to confess our sins and ask Jesus, as Saviour to forgive us and come into our life, so we can be made new. It’s what the Bible calls repentance. That is God’s kingdom message of new life. It’s what we are given in Rev 14 with the revelation of:
the mark of everlasting life
A LAMB STANDING ON MT ZION moments away from Jesus establishing His kingdom
In this view we are taken to a Place of Enthronement Before in Revelation we have seen – a slain Lamb, a glorified Lamb, a redeeming Lamb, a comforting Lamb, but this Lamb is something different – He is an enthroned Lamb. Isaiah writes, the Lord of hosts will reign on Mt Zion Is 24:23. This Lamb, Jesus, standing over and above what the antichrist has set out to rule; over and above what the false prophet has convinced others with fire and wonders. And standing over and above Satan, who has been conquered and thrown down.
And over and above where we find ourselves right now - over things threatening to overcome; over anxiety and fear; over lies and deceit; over pain and the broken, a victorious Lamb that calls us to come to Him where He reigns. To find rescue in Him. To find peace in Him. Not peace as the world gives. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid Jn 14:27
In this view we are taken to a Place of Victory
And in this scene, we see the 144,000 that we are told of earlier in 7:4 – 12K from each tribe of Israel - which I suggest indicates that in a very overt way, God makes it clear, His purposes for Israel have not been forgotten. Not one of these 144K is missing.
We are told that these have the Lamb’s Name and the Father’s Name written on their foreheads. Recognizably the Lord’s, they are protected, servants of the Living God. Contrast this what we are told later in 14:9,10 of those who worship the beast and bear his mark, who will be tormented with fire and sulfur, their torment going on forever and ever.
That wasn’t what we might have believed when we closed the book in Revelation 12 & 13. In that place, the enemy looms large. In that place he speaks loud. In that place he roars and he shouts. Because that’s what the enemy does. And that may be what he is doing in your life right now. He majors in fear and is skilled in destruction. He wounds, he hurts and he kills but despite what we now see, he does not and will not determine final outcome. Because final outcome belongs to the resurrected and resurrecting Lamb who stands on Mt Zion.
In this view we are taken to a Place of Worship
As I dug into this verses, it struck me that Heaven is a noisy place. Rev 4:5 tells us flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder come from His throne; 6:1 one of the 4 living creatures speaks with a voice of thunder; 11:19 God’s temple in heaven opened … and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. And here in 14:2,3 sounds of cascading waters like the rumbling of loud thunder. Mostly doing what? declaring the supremacy of God.
The thing about thunder is that when it sounds, all other sounds are drowned out. And that’s fitting given what we have just read in Rev 13 where it says the antichrist comes on the scene making loud boasts and blaspheming the Most High. No doubt those hearing his voice are impressed - Oh the courage. Oh the power. His amplified voice drowning out everything else. That is, until the Thunder speaks. Then that boasting and blasphemous voice is as nothing.
Yet when the time finally comes for Jesus to speak last word for His enemy, He doesn’t need to speak thunderously. All He needs is to express a mere breath and the enemy is defeated. The disparity no different than a feather fighting a hurricane’s wind.
So what’s with this Thunder in heaven? Undeniably it is a demonstration of power. And it’s incomprehensible not to think of it as something that leaves us in awe of God’s greatness.
Yet here we are told the sound is melodic – like harps. Thunderous? – yes. Celebrative? – again, a definite yes. Filled with exuberant joy and dance? - Absolutely! Because this thunder is the musical underscore for the praise given Jesus – it’s the song of the redeemed. This music not drowning out what the celebrants are singing, but framing and enhancing what the celebrants are singing. As we’re told, this is a new song different from what the angels sing
The angels sing adoration. They sing worthiness. They sing astonishment. Job 38 tells us the angels sang when the foundations of the world were laid. And they sing wonder, awe and praise because of God’s holiness. But what the angels can’t sing is the song of the Redeemed
A victory song only the redeemed can sing knowing they’ve been rescued from death. Again don’t miss that this praise is overpoweringly loud, the sound of many H2Os, of a waterfall and thunder. I think we often miss something important here that when we praise, the powerful impact of that praise is thunderous. But there’s more - because our praise doesn’t have the volume of one voice, it has the power of all of heaven’s voices who join us in that praise. More than that, God tells us, He inhabits the praises of His people Ps 22:3. All of these adding their thunder to ours. God entering into our expressions of praise with power that speaks into our circumstances. Praise where we choose to enthrone God despite what we hear, despite what we see. Praise not where God gets bigger but where things around get smaller as we see and lay hold of our victorious Lamb who stands so much greater than anything else. Praise not for God’s good but for ours.
Thunderous praise not just with more decibels than everything else but sound that’s qualitatively different. Harps tell us the sound is melodic. We need to hold onto this because what surrounds and some of what’s seen in these chapters doesn’t conjure up the melodic. Yet the sound He wants you and I, followers of Jesus, to hear: amidst the chaos – peace. Above the pain - healing. In the confusion – presence. Over the discord – worship. It’s a song you and I are invited to sing – not in small, shaking voice. Not with half-hearted voice but joining the thunderous song of the redeemed in praise for the rescue we’ve been given. A song of awe. A song of joy.
Which brings us to one last glimpse of another song given us in Rev 15:3. Actually these are 2 songs sung together - the 1st, the Song of Moses and the 2nd, the song of the victorious Lamb, the last song sung in Scripture. The Song of Moses, the 1st song we read of in Scripture Ex 15, describing when the Israelites came out of Egypt.
These two songs, songs of deliverance, God’s mission ever since man’s fall. The first recounting a formidable enemy whose intention was to destroy. Escape impossible. And then God. Outcome inevitable. And then God. Waters rolled back and dry ground to walk through. And then God - rolling back waters, killing all who would destroy. A song of, Then God! Here in Revelation, a victory song
Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, doing wonders?
A song of awe – LORD God Almighty
A song of finally understanding - Just and true are your ways -
ALL You do is right
– even the things we couldn’t understand.
A song that takes us to our knees -
King of the nations
Who is like You?
And then the closing verse of the song
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.
You alone. You above. You beyond
All nations will come and worship You,
for Your righteous acts have been revealed.