(I preached from these notes yesterday. Here's the link to the video if you want to watch it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZ05yvnQsYw)
Joshua in these last weeks has been walking us through the seven year Great tribulation period in which awful, but just and righteous judgments are poured out on the earth. These judgments are going to be poured out because mankind will have repeatedly thumbed his nose at the living God – even though God has given humanity multiple opportunities to repent and to be rescued from the wrath that is to come. All of this rebellion and resistance – in spite of the fact that God Himself has come down and paid the penalty and made the only possible acceptable sacrifice for our sin.
Sadly when a man or woman or young person refuses to repent, and place their faith and trust in Christ for their salvation they are not the only one affected by their sin. Others around them are adversely affected as well. We are told in scripture that sin is like leaven that spreads to others if not righteously dealt with.
One of the reasons the Holy Spirit led the apostle John to write this long book called The Revelation is to warn the peoples of the earth of the horrible consequences for those who continue to harden their hearts. His clear desire stated over and over in scripture is that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance. His clear desire stated over and over in scripture is that we might all know Him and walk with Him and experience Him in our daily lives.
Well today we are going to get a sneak peak at the end of the seven year great tribulation period. And we are going to learn that the end of the tribulation will be marked by jubilant victorious worship of the living God.
Several reasons are given for why worship will be erupting in heaven and on earth as this seven year period of judgment comes to a close.. Let’s take a look at the first one.
The first reason why worship will erupt is because
I. The great harlot will have been judged and vengeance for martyrs will have been accomplished – vs. 1-6
1After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; 2because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her.” 3And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.” 4And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” 6Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
While we aren’t exactly sure what Babylon or this great harlot is that will seduce and deceive world leaders and people of influence during the great tribulation period and will be responsible for the martyrdom of many believers during that same period; we can be confident that its destruction is guaranteed towards the end of this period of earth history. God Himself will judge and destroy it; everyone on earth will know it; and worship will erupt in heaven and on earth by those who know and love the Lord, and who have been oppressed by the evil and wickedness of the great harlot.
One of the many reasons why our God will finally destroy this evil world system is because it for millenniums has deceived humanity by claiming that salvation glory and power belonged to and or came from it. Not only that but it also claimed that this salvation, glory and power could be had by we humans if we just went along with its evil narrative, which in general is made up lies like these four :
- man is good, not sinful; everything we need for life is within ourselves; it just needs to be realized.
- God’s creation is for our selfish pleasure and should be pursued at all times and at all costs – this cost would include sacrificing our children if necessary, and the objectifying and abuse of women if necessary to achieve our selfish ends.
- We are entitled to or we deserve the enjoyment of entertainment and leisure and sensual pleasure at every opportunity because there is nothing after death. This is all there is. So get it while you can.
- There is no God; or at best there might be a god out there somewhere, but He cannot be known and He is not relevant to our daily lives and does not intervene or involve Himself in our daily lives or in the affairs of men.
Millions of men, women and young people are burning in hell right now because of these lies. While they made their own decisions to not seek the living God who made them and who planted the seed of eternity in their hearts; God is still going to hold this evil world system – this Satan designed web of lies and lures and snares – God is going to hold it responsible and destroy it accordingly for its contribution to all of the rebellion and corruption of humanity.
Worship will erupt therefore because the worshippers at that time will know that Salvation, glory and power only belong to the living triune God and His judgments are always true and righteous. God will also be worshipped because He has revealed His salvation, glory and power in and through His Son – Jesus Christ. And if we are willing to bow the knee to Him, we can experience the blessings of His salvation, glory and power.
Worship will erupt then as well because the worshippers will see God avenge every murder of every one of His beloved bondservants. These disciples of Jesus bowed their knee to Him as a way of life, and they refused to bow their knee to the rulers who were caught up in this evil world system regardless of the consequences. Satan and his demons through the Beast and the false prophet will have convinced the murderers that there will be no repercussions but rather heavenly rewards for the murder of these who keep proclaiming Christ and His kingdom, which by the way includes His love for and sovereign choosing of Israel.
Initially as Psalm two tells us – the Lord God will laugh and scoff when evil rulers of nations will scheme to stop His kingdom rule by murdering His bondservants. But then vs. 5 of Psalm 2 says He will “…speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury,…”. Because His judgment is delayed evil doers erroneously conclude it will not come. But it will come and when it does men will cry out for the rocks to cover them from the wrath of almighty God. Worshippers in heaven and on earth who have had to watch evil men seemingly murder at will without any repercussions will be overjoyed when our just and righteous God determines enough is enough and the time for judgment is now!
Would that everyone singing or listening to Handel’s Messiah during this upcoming Christmas season would understand what exactly inspired these outbursts of rapturous worship described in Revelation chapter 19.
A second reason why worship will erupt in heaven and on earth is because
II. The marriage of the Lamb has come – vs. 7-10
7Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ ” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.” 10Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he *said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
While it is very grievous that the peoples of the world in general will be so hard hearted – refusing to repent even with all those awful judgments, Jesus Christ – the loving Lamb of God has been preparing His bride for the most amazing marriage and marriage supper that anyone could ever imagine. The marriage will take place when we are all finally with Him face to face. The supper – a royal banquet unlike anything the world has ever seen – will then be served.
Jesus Christ in one of His many exhortations and warnings about His sudden and imminent return gave us a hint of this when He said,
“be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.” Luke 12:35-37
For those of you who have been married, especially for those of you who had to wait a while for that special day to arrive, you know a little bit about the long awaited anticipation leading up to that glorious joining you with your spouse to be. Jesus Christ, the bridegroom from the foundations of the earth, has waited and longed for the day when He is finally married to His bride without any more distractions of sin, Satan and this evil world system. He expressed this to His Father in that long prayer in John 17 vs. 24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
So if Jesus has longed for this day for so long, and can do whatever He wants, why such a long delay? Well one reason is because the bride has to be ready. Vs. 7 says “…the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride (literally “wife’) has made herself ready.” And how did she do that? Well vs. 8 answers that question, “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
When Jesus was ministering on earth He made very clear one day in one of His parables that only those dressed in appropriate wedding clothes will be accepted by Him and served by Him at His banquet table. Remember that passage? Its’ found in Matthew 22 vs. 11-14, “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
So how can we know King Jesus will recognize us and accept us at His banquet table and that we will be an integral part of that bride or wife found ready by Him?
Well first please note John’s words in vs. 8, “It was given to her …”
The acceptable clothing Jesus is looking for is His own righteousness imputed or imparted to us by Him as a result of our faith or trust in Him for such. The Bible teaches in a number of places that when you and I finally are willing to bow our knee to Jesus and look to Him to make us what we could never make ourselves, He graciously and powerfully infuses into our souls His very life and character or righteousness. Rom. 4:5 says, “But to the one who does not work, (that is does not rely on their works or self righteousness) but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,”. Jesus looks down and sees my faith and trust and reliance upon Him to make me righteous in His sight, and He right then supernaturally imparts to me His very righteousness, which includes forgiveness for my many sins and the grace to begin to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.
So for wedding clothes to be acceptable to God they must come from God. Man made spiritual clothing leaves us naked and ashamed in God’s sight and gets us kicked out of the banquet room and thrown into hell.
But note that at the end of vs. 8 John says this bride will “…. Clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” We clothe ourselves with His provided clothing. And our righteousness is plural not singular “righteous acts”. Which means that the clothing God finds acceptable is His righteousness walked out in everyday life. This is why the same John who wrote this said in his first epistle,
“If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” I John 2:29 “born of Him” is a reference back to Jesus’s discussion with Nicodemus about the necessity of being born again by the Spirit of God as recorded in John chapter 3 to be able to be found acceptable by a holy God. John reiterates this in the next chapter where he says,
“Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;” I John 3:7
When Jesus Christ saves us, when we are born again by the Spirit of God, we are given His very life that both immediately causes us to be acceptable in His sight and enables us to walk out His life or righteousness day by day through a dependent relationship with Him.
For those of us who pursued the lusts of our flesh with a vengeance before we came to Christ or who tried our very human best to please Him with our own righteousness only to come up short time after time, knowing now that we are a secure member of His forever spiritual family and that we will be a part of this glorious marriage and fabulous banquet dinner with Jesus Himself serving us - - well that is a very blessed state indeed. And thus the angel told John to write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Vs. 9
Before I go to the final reason, it is very likely that there is someone here today or watching on youtube that is not sure whether you will be warmly received at the glorious wedding ceremony and banquet supper Jesus will be throwing or not. Perhaps you’ve always known Jesus was special and unique, but you for whatever reasons have never straight up asked Him to forgive your sins, and make you His child. The Scripture is very clear that “whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Rom. 10:13. I would like to stop now and give you a chance to do that. For the rest of you who are confident you belong to the Lord and He belongs to you, could you pray for those who don’t share this confidence? (time of prayer)
The final reason why worship will erupt at this time is because
III. The armies assembled against Israel/Jerusalem will be defeated by God Himself – vs. 11-21
11And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND Lord OF LORDS.”
17Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, 18so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”
19And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
20And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. 21And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
One of the things I love about this 22 chapter book called The Revelation is how we get to see the other side of gentle and meek Jesus that the world insists is His only side. Listen to the descriptions or names of Jesus and His wartime works or actions in these 11 verses.
- Vs. 11 - - HE… is called Faithful and True. The Bible in a couple of places tells us that God is true and all men are liars. The longer I live the more I see the reality of this statement.
John adds “in righteousness He judges and wages war”. I’ve read comments recently from statesmen from America and Britain about the history of wars among the nations – both agreeing that no nation in the last century (perhaps ever) has gone to the extent Israel has to not harm civilians in its ongoing wars with Hamas. And yet Israel has not been perfect in every single action and motive in these wars. Jesus, the One sitting on the white horse, judges and wages war in perfect justice and righteousness without exception. No lapses in judgment.
- Vs. 12 – World leaders in times of war especially when they are the evil aggressors in a given war lie out their teeth. I remember when Anne and I were ministering in Hong Kong and China’s soldiers turned a peaceful protest in Tiananmen Square into a bloody massacre. China’s gov’t leaders claimed that just over one thousand people were killed. The truth is around 10,000 unarmed peacefully protesting citizens were mercilessly killed by their own government.
The gov’t spokesmen of Hamas, for years when wars break out between them and Israel, masterfully and demonically twist the narrative to make them look like the victims instead of the evil terrorists that they are. When Jesus comes to make war with the Harlot and her proxies, and all of the armies assembled against the apple of His eye, Jesus’s flaming eyes will see through all their lies and deception and will look straight into their hard hearts. They will be dealt with accordingly. There will no more smoke and mirrors; no more UN hypocrisy and corruption to corrupt and pervert justice.
- Vs. 13 – Jesus’s robe dipped in blood will be a reminder to everyone in this war that He paid the ultimate price for them to be freed from their sins; He first came as a suffering Savior. Because they rejected Him, He now comes as a warrior King. He as the Word of God then was God’s communication of love, forgiveness and mercy. He as the Word of God at the end of the Great Tribulation will be God’s communication of judgment and justice and punishment of all the rebellion of the armies and their kings assembled against Israel.
- Vs. 14 - Right behind Him will be His armies from heaven that at first glance I figured were His angels. But for a couple of reasons I submit to you these armies are not made up of angels, but rather believers in heaven. First, chapter 17:14 says, “…. and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” Angels are not normally referred to as the called, chosen and faithful, but humans are. Second, Jesus’s bride was earlier in ch. 19 vs. 8 described as one clothed with “fine linen, bright and clean…” Now in vs. 14 these armies are described as almost exactly the same, “…clothed in fine linen, white and clean…”. So for those of you who are concerned that you might get a little bored in heaven, I doubt this battle will find you yawning if you end up fighting in it.
- Vs. 15 – Jesus’s primary weapon will be His words that will be like a sharp sword, except that normally a sword kills one person at a time. Jesus’s sword or words will strike down whole nations. Just as His word created the universe in the beginning of time; now we will see His words destroy all rebellion in the universe He created for His glory. The fierce wrath of God will be on full display at this time in history and all the nuclear weapons of the nations will be no match for such.
- Vs. 16 – The leader of these armies is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. The kings of the nations were able to ignore this reality for a time. That time is up.
- Vs. 17, 18 – Angels are so mighty and powerful that this one stood in the blazing sun as if it was a dim flashlight and commanded every bird which typically flies in the mid heaven to come and feast on the dead bodies of the soldiers assembled against Israel. This supper appears to be in sharp contrast with the marriage supper of the Lamb mentioned in vs. 9.
- Vs. 19 – God allowed John the apostle to see the beast and all the kings and their armies assembled to make war they think against Israel, but in actuality they are assembling against Jesus who sat on the white horse and against His army of believers in heaven. This reminds me of when Saul of Tarsus thought he was persecuting Christians, Jesus corrected him that he was actually persecuting Jesus Himself.
- Vs. 20, 21 - As this battle began to erupt, the king and their armies were killed by the sword from Jesus’s mouth, but the beast and his false prophet, who had considerable demonic power were seized (perhaps by Jesus Himself or perhaps by angels) and were thrown alive into hell’s flaming fires.
So what do we make of such a chapter?
Well there are two clear commands for we believers earlier in the chapter. Maybe we should dwell there for a moment.
The first one is found in vs. 5 where a voice from the throne of God commands us, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Our God, unlike all the leaders of nations and armies down through human history is absolutely perfect, righteous and just in all of His dealings with His children and with His enemies. There is none other like Him. He has graciously and mercifully let you and I in on what is coming down in the not too distant future. We know who is going to win, and who is going to win and reign with Him. He is worthy of our highest praises and our utmost devotion. May our lips be ever more filled with His praises.
The second command is in vs. 7, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him…” There is nothing that Jesus has ever said or done or ever will say and do that you or I should worry or be concerned about or feel bad or embarrassed about. While all men are liars, He is true through and through. I’m not sure we give glory to Him when we walk around droopy and weighed down with the cares of this world and are worried about what people of the world think. Our joy and His glory are closely tied together – both a result of seeing Him as He truly is.
I know there is plenty to be sad and depressed about in these dark days for people who do not know and walk with their Maker. And I’m aware that we can sometimes be affected by their sadness and depression. So can I suggest something very practical?
First get your copy of Handel’s Messiah out and if you have never gotten familiar with the lyrics as you are listening to it – print out the lyrics. Our passage for today evidently had quite an impact on Handel when he was composing it.
Second, get your Christmas worship music out and fill your cars and homes with the praises of our great Savior and King. I give you permission to start today if you haven’t already. And please note I said Christmas worship music. There is a lot of Christmas music out there that is not sung and performed by people who know and love and walk with Jesus. You know the difference by how your heart is affected when you are listening to it.
Third, Just like there is a big difference between Christmas music and Christmas worship music; so there is a big difference in some of the writings, commentaries and rambling these days under the Christian umbrella stimulated by Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas. God has things to say in these days, but He is not necessarily saying what Christians are saying or at least all that they are saying. When John the apostle who was as intimate with Jesus as any other disciple fell at the feet of the angel and started to worship him, the angel corrected him and reminded him that “…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Vs. 10 Good angels always get this right. Christian writers, authors, teachers, prophets and prophetesses and apostles don’t always get this right. If their words do not point us to Jesus, and cause us to want to better know and follow Him, as interesting as they might be, they might not be from His heart and mouth. Let’s be discerning who we listen to or read in these days. Time is short, our bandwidth is not infinite, and our hearts require consistent and careful cultivation.