Purposefully Misplaced In Babylon - Part One
February 14, 2016 | Randy Smith
Purposefully Misplaced In Babylon-Part OneRevelation 14:1-20
Sunday, February 14, 2015
Pastor Randy Smith
Though I was born on the very tail end of the show, those older than me no doubt will fondly remember the television program called, "The Andy Griffith Show." The original episodes that aired from 1960-1968, portrayed wholesome lifestyles, respectable role models and virtues that are championed in biblical living. The setting is a fictional small community of rural North Carolina called "Mayberry."
How many of you have heard of "The Andy Griffith Show?" Let me ask you another question. How many of you have heard of "The Daniel Show?" Yes, this one was filmed in the sixth century BC. This show depicts a wicked and godless society that was engrossed in paganism and cruel actions. The main character is Daniel. All Daniel did was pray to God and he was thrown into the lion's den. The setting of that show took place in a significant city in ancient Mesopotamia called "Babylon."
One more question for you. Do you view America more as Mayberry or more as Babylon? That is a super-sized, important question to answer. How you answer that question will determine your entire worldview as to how you exist as a Christian in this land.
I am painting with a very, very large brush here, but if this is Mayberry, America is seen as the new Israel. We must go through great lengths to maintain a Christian society. We dwell in the Promised Land and since this is God's favored nation, Christians must do all they can to purge the land of Baal worshippers and the sinful culture we face. Perhaps that's through the right politician. Perhaps that's through force. Perhaps that is through judgment and chastisement and condemnation of this world. After all, it's our primary job as a Christian to keep America moral and God fearing.
On the other hand, if this is Babylon, we find ourselves not at home, but rather in an alien culture that is hostile to our faith. It is not our primary job to transform this culture from ungodliness to ungodliness with a veneer of morality. It is rather our primary job by the grace of God to win souls for Jesus, pulling them from this present darkness as we participate in the Great Commission.
What I'd like to do is take this thought and chapter 14 from Revelation and hopefully set us all on the trajectory of developing a biblical worldview that will bring us great hope and make us most effective while here in America for God's kingdom.
For the past four lessons we have carefully navigated our way through the choppy waters of chapters 12 and 13. No doubt in the book of Revelation, and perhaps the entire Bible, these are the toughest sections of Scripture for the believer. We learned about evil dominating the world. Tremendous political pressure for Christians to compromise. Very persuasive false teaching swaying the masses. The overwhelming majority of the population turning to idolatry. Persecution heavy on the Christian.
And when I consider recent court rulings, last week's halftime show, policies and curriculum introduced into the schools, declining church attendance, entertainment becoming increasingly vile and blasphemous, the acceptance of false teachers in the church, the destruction of the American family, abortion practices defended by legislators, Christians forced to violate their beliefs, biblical thought that is considered hate and bigotry, the love for self that dominates the landscape and the worship of celebrities, I'd say we are close to the scene of Revelation 12 and 13 today.
I don't know about you, but it's not easy as a Christian to live in this world and then read not about our victory, but rather about the antichrist that will "make war with the saints and to overcome them" (Rev. 13:7) and threaten their lives if they fail to worship him (Rev. 13:15) without becoming very discouraged.
This is why we need the right perspective. This is why we need to turn the page to chapter 14 in Revelation. It's just when you see so-called Christians bailing on biblical principles to join the world because they fear persecution that we read about the fate of those who do just that and refuse to follow Christ. It's just when we're wondering if we've made the right decision as a Christian because it seems everyone in the world is living contrary to our beliefs that we are again reassured by God that doing it His way and being a member of His team is, in the long run, the winning proposition.
America was uniquely blessed for a couple hundred years as a country that followed Christ. However, we must remember that what we enjoyed in this country was quite atypical and foreign to biblical teaching. Mayberry is not the biblical promise, Babylon is.
Jesus said, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (Jn. 16:33). Then in John 12:25 we read, "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal." Peter calls us "aliens and strangers" in this world. According to the Bible, this world is not our home. As a matter of fact, if we become too comfortable here and begin accepting the ungodly influences of the world, we are called in James 4:4, "adulteresses," knowing "that friendship with the world is hostility toward God."
The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the fact that "our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20). And it's interesting that once we are brought as low as possible in Revelation 12 and 13, given a true picture of this fallen, anti-God world, that immediately in Revelation 14 we are taken up to the beauties of our eternal home, our real home, heaven itself.
After describing the worst forms of Christian persecution, we read in Revelation 14:1, "Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion [heavenly Jerusalem], and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand [ch. 7 - the totality of the redeemed from all ages], having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads."
We left off last week with those who were spared the wrath of the antichrist who took the mark of the beast. Here we see those who refused the mark of the beast as they have taken the mark of God. We are talking about ownership, loyalty and allegiance here. Instead of following the false prophet who is described and acted as a lamb (Rev. 13:11), they followed the true Lamb of God and are seen here with Him (in Rev. 14:1) in heaven.
Verses 2 and 3, "And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps [a combination of power and beauty]. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth."
Here we see what those in heaven were doing. We've already learned about the angels that praise God in song from chapters 5 and 7, but here we see the humans in heaven praising God in song as well. They are singing the anthem of the redeemed. The angels can't sing this one. As a matter of fact, it says they can't even "learn" the song. The good ones stayed good and the bad ones were never given another chance. The angels never experience redemption. Christ only died to redeem people. Only people can sing this "new song" of redemption because only people have been purchased by His blood.
And how are the people in heaven described? Verse 4, first, "These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste" [literally - "virgins"]. Since marriage is exalted in the Bible, this must be taken symbolically, meaning those in heaven have kept themselves spiritually pure. No spiritual adultery. They have not cheated on God by running after idols.
Second, "These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes." That means they have denied themselves and have demonstrated themselves to be a committed disciple of Christ. Following the Lamb is the same as saying that they obeyed Jesus.
Third, "These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb." Originally first fruits referred to the fist crop indicating the rest of the harvest was about to come. Later in biblical times it simply came to mean nothing more than an offering. That's what we see here. God's children have been purchased by the blood of the Lamb and are viewed as an offering, a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1) to God.
And fourth, verse 5, "And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless." This means those in heaven are not just truth-tellers, but ultimately that they have rejected the decisive lie from the father of lies in aligning with him. They did not, Romans 1:25, "exchange the truth of God for a lie." Despite the persuasiveness of the deceptive forces, they held forth to the truth.
When I read about this description of those in heaven I see people that are not just coerced into "praying a prayer" and then living as they please. I see people saved by faith, but truly saved to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, evidence by how they acted on earth. America does not need more cultural Christians, so-called believers in name only, but showing more heart allegiance to the world system in which they dwell.
As we see here, the teaching of the Bible is the call for Christian discipleship, people that follow the Lamb wherever He goes. People that understand one's place in the world is primarily here to be an ambassador for Jesus, to lead others to reject the lie and receive the truth. Our goal is to see ourselves as witnesses for Jesus whereby our words and actions may be used by God to lead others to the faith. Listen to Peter from 1 Peter 2:11-12. "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation."
What is our mission? To be ambassadors for Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:2, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." God Has left us here on this planet after salvation so that we may use all that He has given us wherever He has placed us to reconcile people back to Himself through forgiveness in Christ.
Our aim is not to condemn this fallen world. What good will that accomplish other than fuel our self-righteous drive to sit in the seat of the Pharisees? Are we shocked that this world hates God? We bring the hope of the Gospel to a lost world, because the Gospel is the greatest gift we have to bring. That is our primary purpose.
And that primary purpose we read about in verse 6 of Revelation 14. "And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people." Many take this as a final appeal for the world to repent. Just before Christ's return, the Gospel, it's called the "eternal gospel," is proclaimed. It is the good news about the Lamb of God that was slain to bring forgiveness to all sinners and reconcile them back to a relationship with the living God.
Verse 7, "And he [that same angel] said with a loud voice [in response to the proclamation of the Gospel], 'Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.'"
And now we get to what I have been alluding to. Verse 8, "And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, 'Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.'"
Right after the "eternal gospel" is proclaimed, the second angel announces the destruction of Babylon. Obviously this is not to be taken literally. Actually Babylon was long gone when Revelation was written. Babylon was an evil place marked by idolatry and it simply became to code word to refer to all societies that oppose God. Babylon is another word we see frequently used in the New Testament to describe this world.
"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever" (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
I'm sure there are many people right now doing as they please and receiving their admiration from the world. It's been said that the Christian arguments against abortion and so-called gay marriage are on the wrong side of history. Presently in many circles, discussion and debate are not even permitted. Throw in all the other sins running without check today and those really trying to live for Jesus will feel and often be treated as outcasts.
Yet what we need to remember is just as those who give evidence of their faith in living for Jesus (verses 1-5) will be rewarded an eternal home in heaven, those who live for this world must understand that their so-called joys and popularity are only temporary enjoyment (verse 8). The Scripture is clear. This world will pass away and Babylon will come crashing down.
Jesus said His kingdom is about loving God first and then loving others. Babylon is the kingdom of me - my needs, my esteem, my feelings, my gods, my way. Love me, look at me, worship me. After all, wasn't that the mantra of the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar himself? "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Dan. 4:30).
Babylon is the humanistic utopia engaged in the worship of self. America is Babylon.
So how do we as Christians exist in Babylon without Babylon existing in us? Some have gone to one extreme in an attempt to transform the American culture back to the morals we enjoyed several decades ago. Others have gone to the other extreme by completely rejecting the culture and turning their backs on this world. To keep it with current news, the former think the right man for political office will be the Savior. The latter won't even go to the election booths to vote. We need to have balance, and to have balance we need to understand that there will always be tension as long as we live in this world but seek not to be of this world.
Perhaps a good place to see how we should live in this present Babylon as pilgrims on the journey to our true Promised Land is to see how God told His children to live when they were taken away from the Promised Land and exiled off to literal Babylon as slaves.
Here is what He said through the prophet Jeremiah: "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare" (Jer. 29:4-7).
Interestingly, the Jews were not told to establish a kingdom there. They were not told to overthrow the Babylonian political structures. They were to wait on God for their deliverance and in the meantime seek the peace and prosperity of the city and pray to God for it.
So when I consider our present society as Babylon, it means at least two things for me. One is that society has a seducing and corrupting influence to draw my heart away from Christ. There is a continual pull, oftentimes through very subtle means to accept and adopt perspectives that are contrary to the Bible. Sometimes the world is more overt in attempts to force Christians to compromise their beliefs. Verse 8 personifies Babylon so well. "She who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality." We must keep our eyes upon the Lord, know our Bibles, have the accountability of the church and walk by faith in doing what is right, even when it contrary to popular opinion and our feelings. That must be a daily activity for yourself and a daily activity in your parenting. I've seen what I have thought to be solid Christians getting pulled into the world. Remember Paul's traveling companion? "For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me" (2 Tim. 4:10).
And second, when I consider our present society as Babylon, I am reminded of her fate. She may sing and dance today, but not far off in the future, the Bible says she with her ideologies will fall. As a matter of fact, the third angel warned of the destiny that awaits her and all that follow her.
Beginning in verse 9, "Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, 'If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name" (Rev. 14:9-11).
Don't tell me there is any issue of greater importance!
My friends, perhaps the persecution on the church that we learned about the past couple of weeks was frightening for you. This is by far more terrifying. Identify with Babylon and you might get a lot of pats on the back and miss the wrath of the Beast. However, identify with Babylon (this world) and you will face the full undiluted eternal wrath of God. How have you and your family chosen?
If we consider this even for a second, our hearts overflow with praise and gratitude for our salvation. Yet if this is the promised fate for those in our society, how can we not be moved with compassion to share Jesus with them and make the Great Commission our primary calling in this world? Lord willing, we'll continue where we left off next week.
Especially thankful for Don Closson's article, "Living in Babylon," from Probe Ministries in the construction of this sermon.