Saturday, 22 July 2017
Judgement is Coming (Rev. 14:6-20)
Having given to the church the encouraging description of the church triumphant, John now receives details about the Day of Judgement. Those details are given first through the messages of three angels and second through the imagery of two harvests.
The messages of the three angels
The first angel has a message of good news even although the Day of Judgement is about to happen. This is a reminder that sinners will be saved even shortly before Jesus returns. Who is this message of hope designed for? We see from verse 6 that it is for everyone. Here is evidence that the Lord is not willing that any should perish.
The account focuses on the required response rather than on the contents of the message. All that is said about the message is that it is everlasting, which could mean that it is changeless or that it deals with eternal matters. We are also told how the angel announced it – he did so loudly, which is an obvious reminder that God wants everyone to hear the gospel.
What does the angel tell people to do? First, they must turn to God. They must reverence him, show him the honour that he requires, and praise him because he is a God who judges sinners. Second, they worship because of his greatness which is seen in the ways that he is the Creator of everything. This is similar to the messages that Paul preached at Lystra (Acts 14:15) and Athens (Acts 17:24-27).
The message of the second angel is that the earthly system, summarised here as Babylon the great, has fallen. Later chapters in the book go into the significance of Babylon in more detail. It is sufficient to recognise here that she symbolises what the people of the earth trust in. Babylon covers everything that takes people away from worshipping God – it is the city that is against him. We should note that it affects every nation, which means that it describes the alternatives to the gospel that is also declared to all nations. Sadly, what Babylon provides seems sweet (wine), but it stupefies people and prevents them from seeing the danger they are facing. Imagine the devastation that people will feel when what they trusted in turns out to be false.
The third angel refers to the image of the beast mentioned in the previous chapter. We noticed when looking at that chapter that the situation described illustrates how the political and the religious powers combine to attack the kingdom of Jesus. What will happen to those who chose to side with them rather than with Christ? In these verses, we have an awful description of a lost eternity. It will involve drinking the full amount of divine anger, of experiencing indescribable torment, and of never having a moment’s rest in eternity. We should note where Jesus is here – he will administer the judgement. Paul said in 2 Thessalonians that Jesus will take vengeance on them that know not God. The intensity and extent of the judgement shows to us the seriousness of sinning against God.
John then applies the three messages to the believers he knew as well as to believers in subsequent times. His application includes an exhortation to and a description of true believers. The exhortation is to keep going, because whatever difficulties they might face as believers, a great reward is promised them.
How can we tell a true Christian? Or, to put it another way, what does it mean to endure? It means to live as a servant of God keeping his commandments because it is the path of blessing. And it means remaining loyal to Jesus in all the circumstances of life.
It is not clear whether verse 13 describes Christians in general or if it is a personal encouragement to those who would be put to death for their faith. Of course, the experience is true of all who reach heaven, however they reached it. The encouragement mentions four things about the heavenly experience.
First, they are conscious in heaven. They are not in a dreamy kind of experience, but are fully alert as far as their souls are concerned. Second, they are united to Jesus, which is what ‘die in the Lord’ means. No doubt, this illustration depicts the security that dying believers have and points to the comfort that they should know when it comes to that time. Third, they are resting, which is a reminder that heaven is the place of perfect peace. Fourth, they will be rewarded: the activities they did for Jesus on earth will have consequences for them in heaven (the word translated labour means hard work). In heaven, we will see that everything we did for Jesus was very worthwhile. This description is of believers who are now in heaven and is not a description of their post-resurrection life.
We are not told who spoke the benediction, but we are told who makes a comment on it. The commentator is the Holy Spirit. In chapters 2 and 3, the Spirit speaks to the churches as they listen to the heavenly assessment of what they were truly like. Here, he wants believers to know the certainty of the place of bliss that they are travelling towards, even if their journey is full of pain. I suspect we should deduce from his words that he is the one who provides them with heavenly rest and rewards.
The great harvest
Who is described in verse 14? It is obvious that the description is connected to the vision of the Son of Man in Daniel 7. Given that the vision concerns the exaltation of Jesus, it means that we should regard this individual as Jesus as he will look on the Day of Judgement. We can see from the description that he will be very glorious.
First, he is seated on a throne of glory (white cloud); second, he is wearing the crown of glory; and, third, he has the instrument of judgement in his hand (sickle). The description is of him waiting to act, waiting for the moment which the Father has put in his own authority, the day of the second coming of Jesus. Here is Jesus gathering his people to himself. It only takes him a moment to do so.
In verse 18, in a second description of the harvest, an angel comes from the altar and tells another angel to deal with those whom he will throw into the place of judgement. The altar here is probably the altar of incense, and here we have a reminder that in some ways the Day of Judgement is connected to the process by how God answers the prayers of his people for vindication.
Again, the description of the judgement indicates that it is very severe. Such an amount of blood is very difficult to imagine. The point that John is being shown is how awful the judgement will be. This image could be taken from Isaiah 63 where the Messiah is said to crush his enemies as if in a great winepress. Where is the winepress? It is outside the city of God. What a terrible location to be in, experiencing the judgement of God.
Take a look from above. This is the message of the three angelic announcements. What is most important now and what will be most important on the Day of Judgement? Will it be the gospel or will it be the city of man with all its failures or will it be the opinions of the political and religious leaders? A look from above will reveal to us that the gospel is the only one of the three that is important.
There is only one safe city. People come into cities for security. They did that in the ancient world because they assumed that the city walls would keep them safe. Millions have placed their hopes in the abilities of Babylon and all will be disappointed. In contrast, those in the city of God will be safe for ever.
Troubles are never a reason for quitting. The temptation to do so is always there. But we should endure. Endurance is basically taking one step after another. There is no other way but to persevere. As far as most of us are concerned, we are probably two-thirds and more through life. Fifty years from now, we will be in the eternal world. Therefore, persevere.
Jesus will yet judge the world. We must remember this. He spoke about it often when he was here. His apostles and others preached about it in the Book of Acts. This is part of his exaltation, to be the Judge of all at the end of the day. How significant Jesus is!