Purposefully Misplaced In Babylon - Part Two
February 21, 2016 | Randy Smith
Purposefully Misplaced In Babylon-Part TwoRevelation 14:1-20
Sunday, February 21, 2015
Pastor Randy Smith
In his book, The Glories of Heaven, John MacArthur said, "Most North American Christians have things so good right here in this world that they don't really know what it is to long for heaven. God has blessed us with an abundance of earthly comforts - more than any prior generation in history. There is a danger that we become so comfortable in this life that we forget we are but strangers and pilgrims in this world. Like Abraham, we're supposed to think of ourselves as vagabonds here on earth, looking for a city with eternal foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10)… I often meet Christians who live as if heaven would be an unwelcome intrusion into their busy schedule - an interruption of career goals or holiday plans" (The Glory of Heaven, p. 11).
I believe the average American Christian likes the idea of being saved from hell and given the hope of heaven, but the average American Christian is very misinformed about his or her purpose here on earth. We've confused the decision to accept Christ with what it really means to be a disciple of Christ.
Christians are those who forsake all to follow Jesus. It's a summons to deny yourself daily and live under His lordship. It's to die to self that He might live through you. It's to give up this world in order that you might have the next and then to understand how this world is thrown back into the mix that you now might live here to experience true life indeed.
If you are in Christ, your calling on this earth is to be a disciple. And as a good disciple, your primary mission is to make more disciples. After all, isn't that the Great Commission? "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you" (Mt. 28:19-20).
Our goal is not to get comfortable with the pleasures of this world. Our goal is not to fix all the problems in America. Our goal is to understand that heaven is our home and as a pilgrim here on earth, our pursuit is to be a growing disciple that helps others become a disciple and then helps them be a growing disciple as well who are equipped to make more disciples.
As I mentioned last week, I do not believe we live in Andy Griffith's, "Mayberry." We live in Daniel's, "Babylon." Despite the traces of morality and religion that America might still possess, this country has turned their backs on the living God. The greatest thing we can give them and ultimately the greatest hope to save this nation is the gift of salvation in Christ.
Never has any other issue in my lifetime put Christians to the test than the recent debate over the legitimacy of homosexual behavior. Throughout all of church history, the verdict among Bible-believing Christians was clear. Yet in recent days, many professing believers have changed their perspective. Was it biblical study that changed their minds? No, it was pressure from the world. It was fear of being labeled a bigot or hater. It was accepting the lie that love can be defined as we choose to define it.
Now, if people think the pressure from gay activists is strong, what are they going to do when greater pressure is placed upon professing Christians to align with the antichrist?
Remember our recent study from chapter 13? "And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name (Rev. 13:15-17).
The Bible repeatedly warns us about loving this world and compromising in our faith for the sake of the world's acceptance. Do we dare betray our Savior by aligning ourselves with values of Babylon? Do we want God's smile or the smile from a world that hates God and one day will be destroyed?
Remember verse 8 last week from chapter 14? "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.'"
We live in a world just like the literal Babylon of Daniel's time that goes out of its way to promote values contrary to God. And their favorite tactic is to spend billions to introduce vulgar curriculum that indoctrinates very young minds in an effort to desensitize them to behavior that even the natural mind and conscience recoils against.
14:8 tells us that all this will come to an end. God will judge this world and those who align themselves with it. In 1 John the same author of Revelation said, "The world is passing away, and also its lusts." That's why he said we should "not love the world nor the things in the world. [Because] If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." John continues saying that it is only "the one who does the will of God [that] lives forever" (1 John. 2:15-17).
You know, it's easy to come off of the persecution spoken of in chapters 12 and 13 in Revelation and be a bit hesitant, timid, scared, perhaps even reconsider our trust in God and His Word. I believe if we refuse to compromise with the world we get somewhat of a taste of that every day. That's why we need to focus not on things as they are here, but on our future home in heaven. And we also need to focus on the future home of those who are here and refuse to submit wholeheartedly to God. Because apart from God's grace, that's what we deserve and where we'd be going. And this is where I want to go with the remaining verses of chapter 14.
We need this reminder. When we are persecuted by this world and when we feel like out an outcast and when we could be threatened with the wrath of those who oppose God, we need to remember the wrath we've been saved from. We need to remember that temporary discomfort is nothing when compared to an eternity of agony.
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).
So if there is any temptation to join with the masses and align with the beast (the antichrist) by taking his mark, God's Word wastes no time describing your fate. To avoid the wrath of the man, you will face the wrath of God. Not only is God's wrath eternal, the verse also compares it to drinking wine in its full strength.
Back then the wine was often diluted. The water needed to be disinfected so people of the day basically drank diluted wine. Here, God compares His end-time wrath to unmixed or undiluted wine. The wrath from God that the world has seen thus far is only diluted versions. Yet the time will come when there will be no mercy or compassion added in. God's wrath will be poured out in full strength. The warning is as clear as it can be regarding the fate of those who love this present Babylon and have refused the mercy and compassion of God in Jesus Christ. They will drink the wine of God's wrath without mercy and compassion.
Verse 11 says that the duration of this wrath will be dispensed "forever and ever," "no rest night and day." That sounds like an eternal experience to me. And as for the intensity, verse 10 and 11 both use the word "torment." Verse 10 tells us that it takes place "in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb." And both verse 9 and 11 remind us that it's for those who reject Jesus and align themselves with the forces of this world that oppose Him.
There is absolutely no more important question you can ask yourself. Knowing that you will spend eternity somewhere, we must all ask ourselves, where will I spend all of my eternity? According to the Bible there are only two options - heaven or hell. We just described those who will be in hell, let me now give you a description of those who will be in heaven. Look at verse 12. "Here is the perseverance of the saints ['holy ones" - Christians] who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus."
My friends, there is nothing in the Bible about trusting in a prayer you prayed or an aisle you walked. It's not even based on rituals and spiritual accomplishments you performed in the past. All that may be wonderful, but our hope and assurance of heaven totally depends on how we are living for Jesus Christ today. Verse 12 clearly says that if we are His we will be those who persevere, keep pressing on despite the setbacks, feelings or persecution and display our union with Christ through, verse 10, continual trust in Him ("faith in Jesus") and a continual desire to obey His commandments. We are saved by faith alone - once saved always saved - but the outworking and proof of that faith will be our ability and desire to live for Jesus especially when it costs us something to follow Him.
It's impossible to be neutral. There are only two sides - it's either Satan's team or God's team. And depending on which side we choose - it's either Satan's wrath or God's wrath. Are you in obedience to Christ today? Are you willing to believe and do whatever your Lord tells you? This is what it means to confess Christ. Are you confessing Christ today? Jesus said in Luke 12, "And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God."
John continues in verse 13, "And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, 'Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.'"
This world was never intended to be the ultimate source of our blessings. And when we look to this world for our ultimate blessings we will be disappointed. Remember, Jesus promised His people, "In the world you have tribulation" (Jn. 16:33). As verse 13 indicates, our greatest blessings are promised to us in heaven. It says, "Blessed are [those]...who die in the Lord!" The verse says that it's there that we have true rest. And the verse says that it's there that we will realize that our Christian labors were not in vain and that the rewards for our labors will follow.
Do you hear the Bible screaming at you? Don't yield to the pressures from this world. Don't compromise. Don't bow down to the false gods that are placed before you. Remain faithful. Take your lumps if necessary. Rejoice that you are saved from God's eternal wrath and will one day immediately upon death be transferred into a place of eternal blessedness!
Then from the Christian perspective we are immediately given a picture of the fate of those without Christ. Verse 14, "Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man [some say this is Christ, there are problems with that - most likely it is another angel], having a golden crown on His head [victory] and a sharp sickle in His hand [instrument used for reaping a harvest]. Verse 15, "And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, 'Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour [climatic period] to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.' Verse 16, "Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped."
The imagery is clear. When a grain harvest was ripe, the reapers would come out with sickles to cut the grain and place it in the barn. The timing of this event is just before the return of the Lord. The eternal gospel has been preached (Rev. 14:6-7). The announcement that Babylon has fallen has been declared (Rev. 14:8). The spiritual harvest is ripe and the reapers have been sent forth. The question we need to ask of the text is who are those being reaped from the earth? Some believe this refers to the harvest of God's people on earth, or we could say the rapture of the church (Mt. 24:31). Most believe it's a reaping of those who are assigned to judgment, or we could say those who have turned their backs on God and have rejected His love offering in Christ.
Verses 17-20 leave us no doubt. These verses clearly speak of God's judgment. The imagery shifts from harvesting grain to working the wine press. Verse 17, "And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Verse 18, "Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, 'Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.'" Verse 19, "So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God." Verse 20, "And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
The grain harvest like the wine press were concepts very familiar to the original readers. The former is still understandable to us today. The latter referring to the wine press is not. The way it worked was simply like this. There was a large stone vat with holes on the bottom. Large quantities of grapes were thrown into this container and people inside would continuously step on the grapes. The grapes would be squeezed open. The solids would remain in the vat, but the juice would seep out of the holes in the bottom and be collected for the production of wine.
Same picture for the end-time reaping of the lost. Those without Christ have been given an opportunity to turn to Him. The time is over. They are compared to ripe grapes that will be harvested and thrown into God's wine press. The symbolism is seen here of crushing with blood coming out of the holes in the vat. The amount of blood described in verse 20 is symbolic to speak of complete judgment on the whole earth and destruction of the wicked.
Though the picture that is painted by the Bible is symbolic, it points to a reality that is very disturbing. This is the fate that awaits all those who think they can stand before a holy God without their sins being forgiven by Christ. The fate of the unbeliever should not promote glee or delight, but rather the utmost compassion and desire to get people the Gospel before it is too late.
We can't miss the parallels. The information from chapters 12 and 13 tempts us to fear the wrath of this world. Yet that threat of punishment is nothing when compared to the punishment that awaits those who align themselves with this world as we see in chapter 14. Also, our response to those in the world is not to envy or admire them in their rejection of God. It's not even to condemn them by wagging a Pharisaic finger of self-righteousness. Jesus said He did not come the first time to condemn the world. He came that the world might be saved through Him. Likewise, our job is to have compassion on the world - no different than the way Jesus did when they tortured and mocked Him on the cross - to point people to forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Judgment is His job and as we just witnessed in Revelation 14, that's exactly what He will do when He comes a second time.
Many of you have commented as to how God used last week's sermon to get you do to some thinking. You see, many sermons leave you with specific points of application. However, last week's sermon and today's sermon hopefully will be used to transform your entire way of thinking. Remember, are we living in Mayberry or Babylon? If we accept the fact that God has placed us here as aliens in a lost culture that hates Him, we can better accept the fact that our primary mission is, as He said, the Great Commission. Our divine goal as a disciple of Jesus is to make disciples who make disciples. Our primary goal is not to make America more religious and moral while it still slides into hell, thinking they are fine. We should all share this same worldview. How we apply it specifically could differ from person to person.
I don't do this often, but I want to take the final few minutes to share with you five points of application that the Lord has recently placed on my heart. Please realize that I'm not saying this is specifically what you must do. This is what I believe I need to do pertaining to specific events that are current in my thoughts regarding the Great Commission mandate in light of the awful judgment that awaits those without Christ.
Every Monday and Thursday morning I get some physical therapy for a pulled muscle in my back. It's basically one room with the same people there every day. The conversation is almost always about current affairs in the world. Oftentimes their opinions and desires are contrary to what I believe. And as a participant in the conversations I share my thoughts. After a couple weeks it hit me. I sound like a self-righteous idiot. I wasn't building bridges and friendships. If anything I was turning people off to my opinions. Now I'm just trying to love them more and show genuine interest in their world. Instead of showing them what I know, I need to show them that I care. And then look for strategic opportunities to share Christ.
Second, you probably know of my Grace Quotes videos. I debated for a while as to whether or not place them on YouTube. There's so much evil on that network. Yet that's the reason I do upload the videos. I want to saturate Satan's market with God. We can wait for people to come to us. I can tell you, they are not knocking down the doors. Or we can go to them. And where are they? They are on social media.
Third, I have never had my children participate in Halloween. I researched what the day represented and the customs from where it originated. There's no doubt that it is an evil day engulfed in paganism. I'm in favor of giving out tracts. I was one who suggested the Harvest Festival. All of these were attempts to use the evil day for good. Yet as it pertained to participating in Halloween, my children have never experienced a second of trick-or-treating. Perhaps I've scarred them for life! However, this year I am considering a change. Too late for the older three, but still enough time for Shane. You can call it what you want, but I'm considering taking Shane around our entire neighborhood this year in an effort to meet all of my neighbors. I've live there fifteen years and over 75% of them I have never spoken to. If I am to influence those around me for Christ, I have to build relationships. And to build relationship I've got to know them. When is a greater opportunity to introduce myself to my neighbors to get those relationships started?
Fourth, I try to get to the gym 3-5 times a week. My time is limited and I'm definitely not going there for social reasons. Yet when I speak about the "Christian bubble" that I live in, what greater opportunities do I have to be among the lost? My old perspective was that I have no time to really make the effort to meet others. Furthermore, I focused on how little we have in common (love for alcohol, choice of words, worldview, etc.). Now my perspective is to meet these people on our common ground (challenges in parenting, pressures at work, tips for better workouts, etc.). My goal is to develop relationships. At the best, I might win someone to the Lord. At the worst, I have made a new friend. It's win-win.
And, fifth, regarding my children. Does the Great Commission lifestyle change for them? What's my goal for my kids? Is it just to keep them off drugs, get good grades and come out to church with the family? That might make for training a good American, but not necessarily for training a good Christian. I want my children to see their role as a Christian is not only preventing themselves from being stained by the world (here is where many Christian parents stop), but also empowered by the Holy Spirit to be used as an agent to transform the world. It's helping them to understand, modeling it for them and giving them opportunities to be ambassadors for Christ.
I'm not asking you to come alongside my convictions. I'm not even asking for your agreement. All I'm asking for is for you to answer the question. What is God doing in your life? If the primary mission is the Great Commission, how is He presently moving you and using you to accomplish it?