Sun, Sep 17, 2000

Prelude to Judgment: Revelation 15

Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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PRELUDE TO JUDGMENT

REVELATION 15

In our study through the book of Revelation we have seen the cataclysmic events that occurred during the seal and the trumpet judgments that brought unspeakable destruction and devastation upon the earth dwellers. And then God gives John a break from the judgment as some of the details of the tribulation period are filled in for us in chapters 10-14 of the book of Revelation.

In those chapters we have seen John eat the little book, which was sweet in his mouth but as he digested it, it became bitter. God’s promises are sweet to us, but there is also the realization of His righteous judgment that is coming. There is the re-built temple in Jerusalem, the two witnesses, Israel, Jesus, Michael, Satan, the persecution of the remnant of Israel, the Antichrist, the false prophet, the 144,000 who are sealed through the tribulation period which leads into the harvest judgment of God upon a Christ rejecting world, and much more within those chapters as we have already seen in our studies.

Now as we move into Revelation chapter 15, we will see that it is a prelude to the bowl judgments, the last judgments of God, which will take place in chapter 16 of Revelation.

If you remember back in Revelation chapter 6, we saw the fifth seal opened and the fifth seal spoke of those tribulation saints who have been martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, Revelation chapter 20 tells us that these tribulation saints were beheaded for their refusal to worship the beast and their love for God and His Word!

Now these martyred tribulation saints make an interesting request or impose an interesting question to God in regards to those who have martyred them, put them to death for their faith in Christ. They said, "...‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Revelation 6:10.

They were asking how much longer before their blood would be paid for by those wicked men. We read in Romans 12:19, "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place towrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord." And thus, these tribulation saints who have been martyred for their faith in Christ are waiting for God to intervene, but when will that take place? Revelation 6:11 tells us that "... it was said to themthat they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed." God’s judgment is coming!

But, for many, this idea of Hell and judgment has been edited out of the Scriptures. People refuse to believe that a God of love can also be a God of judgment, even though Jesus spoke more about Hell and judgment than anyone else in the Scriptures. You may remember a book that came out several years ago called Embraced By The Light by Betty Eadie. This book was on the N.Y. Times bestseller list for more than 40 weeks, including 5 weeks as #1! In November 1973 Eadie allegedly died after undergoing a hysterectomy, and returned five hours later with the secrets of heaven revealed to her by Jesus. Eadie tells us that Jesus "Never wanted to do or say anything that would offend me" while she visited heaven. In Betty Eadie’s mind, Jesus seems to be relegated to the role of a happy tour guide in heaven, not the Savior of the world who died on the cross of Calvary!

Rosemary Radford Ruether is professor of theology at Garrett Evangelical Seminary in the Midwest. Her new style Christianity is as follows: "Mother Goddess is reawakening and we can begin to recover our primal birthright, the sheer intoxicating joy of being alive. We can open our eyes and see that there is nothing to be saved from...no God outside the world to be feared or obeyed."

And New Ager John White says the following: "The institutional Christian churches tell us that Jesus was the only Son of God, that he incarnated as a human in order to die on the Cross in a substitutionary act as a penalty for our sins, and thereby save the world. But that is a sad caricature, a pale reflection of the true story....Jesus did not save people: he freed them - from the bondage of the ego. The significance of the incarnation and resurrection is not that Jesus was a human like us but rather that we are gods like him..."

Now what we are going to see here in Revelation chapter 15 is that the time has run its course and God’s wrath will be poured out completely upon a Christ rejecting world. That there is such a thing as sin and God is going to judge it, He will judge the sinner who stands outside of Christ in his own sins, his own righteousness, which is like filthy rags! The opportunity to enter into His rest is coming to a close and man’s final destiny is about to come before him. As we move into Revelation chapter 15 you will see these tribulation saints before God and then God’s wrath will be poured out in the bowl judgments that we will deal with next time. With that said, lets dig into Revelation chapter 15.

REVELATION 15

VERSE 1

John opens up this section by telling us of another great and marvelous sign he saw in heaven. He saw seven angels who were going to pour out the last seven plagues, the bowl judgments, upon a Christ rejecting world. And, as I have said before, the number seven speaks of completeness, and just in case you might miss it, John specifically tells us that in these last series of judgments, the wrath of God is complete!

The Greek word that John uses for "complete" is TELEO, which means to mark an end of or bring to a determined goal. This is the completion of the plan of God against a Christ rejecting world. The seal judgments and the trumpet judgments, in a sense, were just a warm-up for what is about to come forth!

Now, in John 19:30, as Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary, dying for the sins of the world, He said "It is finished!" The Greek word that was used was TETELESTAI which comes from the same root word that John used in Revelation 15:1, TELEO.

Keep in mind that the words Jesus spoke are very significant. When He said "It is finished!"He was not speaking of Himself, that His life was over, He went to far and now everything was finished, it was too late! That word, TETELESTAI can be translated "paid in full." Thus, the Lord was saying to us that His plan of redemption was completed as He paid the penalty for our sins. It is as Paul said in II Corinthians 5:21, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

And if you are still not sure about this, listen to what Paul says in Colossians 2:13-14,

"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out thehandwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He hastaken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." In other words, all our sins were nailed to the cross of Calvary, paid in full, and now, as we are in Christ, we have in a sense, the words TETELESTAI written across our lives!

You see, from the cross of Calvary we see Jesus’ arms opened wide for all to receive Him. And from the cross we now move to the fierceness of His wrath that will be poured out upon a Christ rejecting world, and as we will see next time, these bowl judgments come firing in rapid succession over a very short period of time! God’s wrath is exploding forth and as these judgments end, we read in Revelation 16:17, "Then the seventh angel poured out his bowlinto the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘Itis done!" The judgment is now over, "It is done!" and the blessing that is born out of this judgment is the kingdom age!

For almost 2,000 years now God has been gracious and merciful towards us. But, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world is coming back as the Lion from the tribe of Judah to deal with man’s rebellion against Him. It is as Psalm 103:8-12 tells us, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.Thus, the cup of God’s anger is filled and His day of wrath has come, and after it is done, the kingdom will be established! God desires to forgive us, but He will not ignore our sins. Forgiveness only comes through Jesus Christ. Any other way will be punished!

VERSE 2

Here John is speaking of the tribulation saints who have victory over the beast. They have been martyred for their faith in Jesus and they are standing on a sea of glass that is mingled with fire. What is that all about?

In Revelation chapter 4 we saw this sea of glass around the throne of God, as we are seeing here in Revelation chapter 15. And we said that this sea of glass represented the Word of God. Now the difference between Revelation chapter 4 and Revelation chapter 15, is here we see the sea of glass mingled with fire. I believe that is telling us that these tribulation saints have gone through this fiery judgment, known as the tribulation period, and we will see this as we get into the glorious martyr’s song in verses 3 and 4 of Revelation chapter 15.

Notice that they are standing on the sea of glass, which tells me their victory over the enemy is the Word of God. It is what Jesus used against Satan in the wilderness when Satan tried to tempt Him, and it is what we are to use, we are to place our feet firmly upon the Word of God! The laver is where the priests would wash themselves, also known as the sea of brass, and while on the earth we are to let the Word of God wash away the garbage that has been attached to us through living in the world. You see, once we are saved we, in a sense, need only a sponge bath. Jesus said as He washed His disciples feet, "...‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean..." John 13:10.

But now they are in heaven standing on the Word of God, no longer do they need to cleanse themselves and as they are before the throne of God, it tells me that they have been accepted by God. We can read of their faith and victory in Revelation 12:11 which says, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death."

As Christians, we are going to have difficulties, it is part of our every day life. The thing we must remember is God is in control, and this is not our home. He is preparing us for eternity with Him, and the difficult times we are going through, we are not alone, for our brothers and sisters around the world are also going through these times. In fact, Peter tries to encourage us as we go through these difficult times when he said "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not seeHim, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end ofyour faith-- the salvation of your souls." I Peter 1:3-9.

VERSES 3-4

In Exodus chapter 15 we see the song of Moses, a song of deliverance and preservation by God. I will just share with you just a few verses so you can get an idea of what this song is all about. In Exodus 15:1-2 we read "...‘I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider he has thrown into the sea! The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; he is my God, and I will praise Him; my father's God, and I will exalt Him." It is a song that these dear saints could sing as they came out of the tribulation period.

And another song of Moses is found in Deuteronomy 32, where we see that God is faithful and He will bring us out of bondage and avenge the blood of His servants. Again, one verse in this song, says this, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; he will provide atonement for His land and His people." Deuteronomy 32:43.

Now as we examine this song here in Revelation chapter 15, the focus is the praise of God. That should always be the focus of our songs and of our lives! As the song opens up we see themPRAISE THE WORKS OF GOD, that He is all-powerful. I think it is important we remember that fact. It is as the Psalmist said, "All Your works shall praise You, O LORD, and Your saints shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion enduresthroughout all generations." Psalm 145:10-13.

Then they PRAISE THE WAYS OR PLAN OF GOD, that even in His judgment He is righteous, He is just. Now I may not always understand the plan of God, but this I do know, His ways are perfect, they are righteous! Again, in Psalm 145 we read "The LORD is righteous inall His ways, gracious in all His works." Psalm 145:17.

They then PRAISE THE PERFECTION OF GOD, that He is holy, and because of that, He alone is worthy of our praise! It is as the Psalmist said in Psalm 96:8-9, "Give to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth."

And finally, they PRAISE THE PURPOSE OF GOD, that the reason we were created is to worship Him. In Revelation 4:10-11 we are told, "The four and twenty elders fall downbefore him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and casttheir crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory andhonour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and werecreated." And as Psalm 66:4-5 says, "All the earth shall worship You and sing praises toYou; they shall sing praises to Your name. Come and see the works of God; he is awesomein His doing toward the sons of men." One day, in the kingdom age, all the nations of the world will come before the Lord to worship Him!

Now as we look at church history, when the church was started the enemy tried to squash it like a bug, the persecution was intense. Millions were put to death for their faith in Christ. And because of this the early church often called a person’s martyrdom the day of his victory! Barclay put it this way. He said "The real victory is not to live in safety, to evade trouble, cautiously and prudently to preserve life; the real victory is to face the worst that evil can do, and if need be faithful to death." That is what the early church did, and that is what we need to do, and that is what the tribulation saints will do, as the persecution against them by the Antichrist reaches its climax and millions are once again put to death for their faith in Christ!

VERSES 5-6

What is this temple of the tabernacle of testimony or witness? Keep in mind that the earthly tabernacle stood as a witness to man and against man. You see, it was a witness to man in that it provided direction to him that he could approach God through animal sacrifices. It is also a witness against man in that man could not ever approach God on his own efforts! The animal sacrifices could never take away their sins, and that was a constant reminder of their condition.

In Hebrews 9:11 we are told, "But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of thiscreation." No longer is it a physical structure that is a witness to us or against us, but the living God. You see, Jesus said in John 14:6, "...‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comesto the Father except through Me." Thus, to approach the Father you must go through Jesus Christ, receiving the forgiveness of sins by His shed blood. He is a witness to us, pointing the way to the Father, which is through Him. He is also a witness against us for we can not approach God by any other means except through Him.

Also, it is interesting to me that after the tribulation saints worship the Lord, the temple or inner court is opened. Remember what Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4:23-24. We read"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

God is seeking those who will worship Him. He desires our worship. He deserves our worship. We were created to worship Him! And as we worship Him He reveals some more of Himself to us, the temple in heaven is opened, you might say!

Also, note that the angels appearance symbolizes the spotlessness and purity from which the wrath of God is poured out upon this world. And it also tells me the more time you spend with Jesus, the more you will look like Him, reflect His character, reflect His nature. On the other hand, the less time you spend with Him the less you will look like Him, reflect His character, reflect His nature.

It is as Paul said in II Corinthians 2:14-16, "Thanks be to God who always leads us intriumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and amongthose who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to theother the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?" Whatever you come in contact with, whatever you are touching, whatever you are spending your time with, that is what you will smell like! That is what will flow from your life. What is emanating from your life? I pray that it is the fragrance of Jesus that is flowing from your life! If need be, get in contact with Jesus, for all else is not a pretty smell!

VERSES 7-8

At this point God’s anger has reached the boiling point and these angels are about to unleash the bowl judgments that are full of the wrath of God, His judgment will be complete as we reach the end of these judgments. This is what is coming!

Now as we look at the temple in heaven, what do we see? It is filled with the glory of God. We can see God’s power being displayed before us. As the temple is being dedicated in I Kings chapter 8 by Solomon, we read "And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD."It is the SHECHINAH GLORY or the presence of God that filled the temple.

Also, in Isaiah chapter 6 we read of the presence of God and the response of Isaiah as he has an encounter with God. It says "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stoodseraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered hisfeet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is theLORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the posts of the door were shakenby the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: ‘Woe isme, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of apeople of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." Isaiah 6:1-5. Again, we see the glory of the Lord fill the temple and man’s response to a holy and righteous God is reverence before Him!

Now here in Revelation 15:8 we see a truly sad picture for we are told that man’s access to God has been closed and now it is time for His judgment to be poured out. In Genesis 6:3 we see this spoken of as the Lord said, "...‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh..." You see, the destiny of those living on the earth at this point is settled! No longer does man have access to God. Those who are living and are saved will enter into the kingdom age while those who are living and unsaved will enter into eternity apart from the Lord, eventually in the Lake of Fire after the kingdom age is over!

And this will lead us into the bowl judgments, the final judgments of God poured out upon a Christ rejecting world, found in Revelation chapter 16. And as we move into the bowl judgments next week, we need to understand that they will fire with trip-hammer rapidity on a world trying to recover from the previous judgments. Man has rejected the awesome grace of God and they will thus see His wrath!

But, of course, His arms are open wide for you to come to Him. Don’t pass up this day without receiving His grace, for His wrath will be more than anyone can imagine. His cup of wrath is about full, don’t pass up the gift that God has for you that is in Christ. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and be Lord and Savior of your life, and you will enter into eternity with Him, having escaped the wrath that will come upon a Christ rejecting world.

Let me leave you this morning with these thoughts. "A Poet, Friedrich Von Logau, said, ‘Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small.’ William Wadsworth Longfellow elaborated and said, ‘Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small. Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness He grinds all.’"

- John Bartlett, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations

And that is what we will see next time as God’s judgment is poured out, it is complete. We read in Revelation 16:1 "Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels,‘Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth." That is what is coming!

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