Ready to Serve

Sincere faith in Jesus Christ provides immediate forgiveness from God and the promise of future glory in heaven. But the period in between the two is often ignored. Christians are to daily follow their Lord and Savior in doing the will of our heavenly Father. In fact, that is the reason we are temporarily left in this world. We are set apart from sin to serve as God’s representatives, and He urges us to face the challenge with our eyes wide open.

Since God graciously justifies us through faith in Jesus (Rom. 1-11), it is our duty to serve Him (Rom. 12:1-2; cf. 6:15-23). We are to minister in the Church (Rom. 12:3-8) and exhibit Christian character before the unbelieving world (Rom. 12:9-21). This involves responding to our enemies with good (Rom. 12:17-21), as well as submitting to human authority (Rom. 13:1-7). Our standard for accomplishing all of this is love (Rom. 13:8-10).

With this in mind, Paul issues an urgent call to Christian service. In Romans 13:11-14, he uses the analogy of a person waking up in the morning, changing clothes, and being ready to face a new day. In other words, there is no time to waste — we need to get busy doing what God saved us to do. Believers are to be sanctified and ready to serve the Lord. In this passage, the apostle urges us to awaken to reality, alter our lifestyle, and adorn ourselves with holiness.

Ready to Serve (13:11-14)
Awaken to Reality (vv. 11-12a)
Paul’s previous command to fulfill God’s law with love is time-sensitive. That is to say, we cannot simply pursue it when the mood strikes us. On the contrary, in light of the Lord’s gracious salvation, we should be instantly motivated to serve (12:1-2)! And we should have an extreme sense of urgency about it.

Paul says, “And do this [i.e. fulfill God’s law by loving our neighbor], knowing the time…” (v. 11a). He is not referring to chronological time but to a period of time. More specifically, it is a definitive window of time which presents and opportunity. He means that we need to be realistic about why the Lord has saved us and left us here. He has reconciled believers to Himself to serve in His kingdom — to be busy representing Him with the Gospel, supported by godly living, until Christ returns.

And His kingdom is at hand (Matt. 4:17), accomplishing His redemptive purpose in the world despite the opposition (Matt. 11:12; Lk. 16:16; 2 Pet. 3:1-14). As those whom He has redeemed, we are to demonstrate outwardly what God has accomplished inwardly (Eph. 2:8-10). Therefore, we do not have the option of causally living in this world with no thought of eternal things. No, we have been called to bear witness to His salvation until we leave this world by death or by rapture.

The apostle explains: “that now it is high time to awake out of sleep” (v. 11b). Here he uses a different word for “time” to further emphasize that the opportunity to serve is now! This means that allowing our thoughts to remain only on earthly things (i.e. satisfying our flesh) renders us unproductive. Just as we are not productive while we are asleep, so we cannot accomplish God’s will unless we set our mind to it. If we are spiritually sluggish, we are not spiritually productive (Jn. 15:1-8). And the only way to wake up spiritually is to focus on reality now.

It is like listening to an alarm clock but never actually responding to it. You need to wake up and get busy with your day, but you choose to sleep it away instead. While you may have satisfied your inclination for laziness, you will never be able to gain back that time for productive use. Spiritual slumber likewise renders us useless.

Our spiritual alarm, as it were, is the reality of Christ’s imminent return. The latter part of verse 11 emphasizes that we must quickly rise from any spiritual drowsiness, since “…now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” This refers to the completion of our salvation — our glorification. While we have already been justified, our salvation is not complete until we are glorified in resurrection. This wonderful time draws near with each passing moment, but that does not mean we are to merely sit and wait for it to happen. No, our obligation to serve God begins the moment we are born again and it continues into eternity.

When the Lord Jesus returns in His glory, He will reward and glorify believers according to their faithfulness in this present age. Therefore, there is literally no time to waste. The work of the kingdom is currently to call sinners to repentance. The Church is the embassy of heaven on earth, and Christians are individual ambassadors appealing to the world in word and deed to be reconciled to God before it is too late (2 Cor. 5:18-21). This is a call to report for duty and know that our King is evaluating our work!

Our faithfulness as a representative of Christ’s kingdom determines our eternal reward. That reward is to both receive His commendation and gain greater opportunity to glorify Him (Matt. 25:20-23). As Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 5:9-11: “…we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”

The Scripture repeatedly uses the Lord’s return to motivate us for faithful service (cf. Titus 2:11-13; Heb. 10:23-25; Jas. 5:7-8; 1 Pet. 4:7-11; 2 Pet. 3:10-14). Just knowing that we may see Him at any moment should keep us prayerful, patient, focused and busy on the things that are of eternal value (Matt. 6:33).

That His return could be at any moment is expressed in the first part of verse 12: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” That is, human history (which has served to display man’s spiritual darkness) is coming to a close, and the “day” of the Lord’s glory is on the horizon. He will evaluate our service in that day and reward us accordingly, and He will also judge the unbelieving world. We must live soberly in light of this reality.

Alter Your Lifestyle (vv. 12b-13)
So what should we do once we are focused on this reality? Well, Paul commands us to “…cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (v. 12b). This means that we must stop living as the world does with no thought of God or His kingdom. As God’s servants, we must demonstrate who we are in Christ. Like putting on a fresh change of clothing, we must change the way we conduct ourselves in the world.

Christians are already set apart from sin, in that we are no longer condemned for it nor enslaved to it (Rom. 8:1-4). But that is something only God can do for us (Mk. 10:26-27). It is positional sanctification which results from God justifying us through Christ’s sacrifice. However, Paul is talking about practical sanctification here. In response to God declaring us not guilty and delivering us from the power of sin, we must now alter our lifestyle to reflect His saving grace. Our new spiritual man must control this earthly body in order to best represent the Lord (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 2:12-13).

But what does Paul mean by “the armor of light?” He is noting the spiritual protection provided by practical sanctification. In what way are we protected? It shields us from the weakness of the flesh, the allure of the world, and the assaults of the devil, all of which tempt us to sin (Matt. 26:41; cf. Jas. 1:12-18; Eph. 6:10-18; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). Obedience to God’s will (i.e. the “light” of His truth) keeps us from “the works of darkness” (a term describing all sins in general).

Knowing God’s truth and striving to obey it keeps us away from the sin that once covered us. After all, who wants old clothes when you can have armor to fight a battle? Having now clothed ourselves for service, so to speak, Paul says, “Let us walk properly, as in the day” (v. 13a). We are to conduct ourselves as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to behave as those whose way is illuminated by the Lord’s truth (Eph. 5:8-14; 1 Jn. 1:5-7). Just as people can see clearly to walk a path in the daytime, so we are to take advantage of the light God’s Word sheds on our way and walk in it for His glory (Ps. 119:105; “Your Word is a lamp to my feet…”).

Living obediently is now contrasted with disobedience in the remainder of this verse. Paul mentions three pairs of closely associated sins that characterize ungodly people. Each couples a sinful action with the evil desire that motivates it. Collectively they represent the scope of sinful behavior prevalent in the world, but they primarily emphasize that we once served ourselves and not God.

The sins of “revelry and drunkenness” certainly identify the sinner’s lack of self-control. The first describes immoral, disorderly festivities that often involve illicit sex, physical violence, and displays of rebellion. The second is the precursor to the first. Deliberate and frequent intoxication by any means (e.g. alcohol, etc.) never produces anything good. But it is the desire to be unrestrained which lies beneath the act of drunkenness, and that is why Paul refers to it here. Those who do not care to live a moderate lifestyle willingly indulge their desires without restraint (cf. Gal. 5:21; 1 Pet. 4:3). The apostle is simply saying, “Don’t be like the world — unrestrained and over-indulgent.

Note: This does not prohibit the moderate, responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages. That is not even remotely the issue here. Intoxication is the sin Paul addresses because it reflects a lack of self-control and the underlying desire to indulge the flesh without restraint. This inevitably leads to other ungodly behaviors. Alcohol is simply more readily available and readily abused mostly because it is commonly enjoyed with food.

Similarly, the second pair of sins, “lewdness and lust,” identify all sexual immorality and the unrestrained sexual desire behind it. More specifically, the first speaks of casual sex (Gr. – koite; “the bed”) with no marriage commitment (cf. Heb. 13:4). The word translated as “lust” means shameless and uninhibited sensuality, which obviously drives lewd behavior.

The third, “strife and envy,” are also aptly paired together. For one who constantly argues with others to get his own way (“strife”) does so out of nothing less the selfish ambition (“envy” i.e. jealousy).

These characterize the ungodly person but “not” the Christian, says Paul. And as the apostle Peter said, believers “…no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lust of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the [godless world] — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:2-3). We must alter our lifestyle to appropriately represent God.

Adorn Yourself with Holiness (v. 14)
With this, Paul urges us to follow Christ in sanctification — to be set apart for service. In verse 14 he tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” This concludes the analogy of changing clothes to start the new day. The command to love others (and thus fulfill God’s law) demands that we clothe ourselves with Christ-likeness.

If we will follow Him in doing God’s will (Jn. 4:34; cf. Lk. 9:23), then we will “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” That is to say, the flesh will be subdued as we present our bodies a living sacrifice to God (12:1). When we are transformed by the renewing of our mind in the ways of Christ (12:2), then we accurately display His good, perfect and acceptable will.

This is how you ensure that you are living as God desires. Paul is talking about the daily, transforming work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. As he says in Philippians, as we reverently pursue obedience to God’s will, “…it is God who works in us to will and to do for His good pleasure.” He makes us more like Christ as He appeals to our redeemed nature with the truth of Scripture, which reveals His will for us (Jn. 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-15; 17:17-19). Our part is to obey!

As Christians, we need to awaken to the reality of God’s kingdom, alter our lifestyle accordingly, and adorn ourselves in holiness like Christ.

Are you awake or asleep in regard to spiritual things? Are you living like the ungodly world or like one who is redeemed and looking forward to the glory of heaven? Does your lifestyle reflect the holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ whose image you bear? Are you making the most of your opportunity to glorify God before Christ returns?

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© Copyright 1997-2013 Stanly Community Church. All rights reserved.

The Defeated Rebellion – Part II

Many nations and their leaders have defied the Almighty God throughout history. Their arrogance is rooted in the pride of rebellion. Although the Creator’s existence, power, and law are clear to them, they foolishly cling to the notion that His creatures can live outside of heaven’s kingdom without consequence. It is a lie that Satan presented in the Garden of Eden, and it will persist until the Lord Jesus Christ returns to establish His righteous reign on earth. The collective will and combined forces of angelic and human rebels cannot prevent Him from coming in power and glory. He will defeat all who refuse to have Him reign over them and will punish them for eternity.

Only those whom God has redeemed through Christ will enter His kingdom. They are fully pardoned from the punishment they deserve for their lawless deeds. As King David said, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sin is covered” (Rom. 4:7; cf. Ps. 32:1). It is Christ’s own blood, shed on the cross, which seals the New Covenant that God makes with His saints. Therefore, He says: “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Heb. 10:17; cf. Jer. 31:34).

But that is not the case for unrepentant rebels. When Christ comes as King of kings and Lord of lords, He will bring only judgment to them. Their sentence for treason against the Most High God is nothing less than eternal death in hell. Nothing can alter their condemnation for they have refused the only means of forgiveness.

Our study of Revelation 19:17-21 deals with the defeat of the rebellion at the end of the Tribulation. As we have noted many times, God unleashes seven years of horrific trouble at the end of this age to expose the rebellion’s treachery and express His holy wrath against it. With the world empire of Satan’s Antichrist destroyed (Rev. 17-18), it is time for Christ to appear in glory. And when He comes from heaven with saints as the glorious King (Rev. 19:11-16), it will be time to engage and defeat Antichrist and his armies who have entrenched themselves in the land of Palestine for the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:13-16). In addition, all other living rebels will be executed.

As we saw in part one of this study, verses 17-18 revealed the announcement of Christ’s victory. Even before the Lord appears to depose and defeat His enemies, God calls the birds of the air to come and feast on their dead bodies. That is how certain their doom is. Now, we see Christ’s victory actually accomplished in verses 19-21. Here we find the armies gathered, the Antichrist captured, and his allies destroyed.

The Defeated Rebellion – Part II (19:17-21)
Christ’s Victory Accomplished (vv. 19-21)
The Armies are Gathered (v. 19)
John sees in his vision the “beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies.” The “beast” is the rebellion (Babylon) and its Antichrist — the counterfeit savior and world leader offered up by Satan to rebellious humanity to gain their allegiance. This son of perdition deceptively rises to power as a wicked despot during the Tribulation on the back of the false religious system behind the ten-nation confederacy controlling the world’s economic machine (cf. Rev. 13:1-8; 17-18). It is the final and most powerful expression of the rebellion, which Satan has attempted to expand globally six notable times in past history (the beast has “seven heads” cf. Rev. 12:3; 13:1).

The “kings of the earth and their armies” are identified in verse 18 as kings, captains, mighty men, and horsemen. They are the organized, allied forces of the rebellion who, like all rebels, have pledged their allegiance to Antichrist following his false resurrection at the mid-point of the Tribulation (Rev. 13:3-5; cf. Matt. 24:24). Aided by the demonically powered leader of the false religions system (i.e. the False Prophet – 13:11-18), Antichrist asserts himself as a god. He is permitted by the Almighty to persecute the saints on earth for the final half of the Tribulation (42 months or 3-1/2 years; cf. Rev. 13:6-10), and he uses these forces to kill all opposition. The kings of the earth are lured to Armageddon by the demonic signs of the Beast and False Prophet (16:13ff).

These are now “gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.” That is, they are joined in battle in a futile attempt to resist the Lord Jesus Christ and the host of heaven who are descending in power and glory from heaven to earth. Christ is pictured in 19:11-16 as the King of kings victorious as Judge, Savior and Lord. He comes with the holy angels (Matt. 25:31) and the redeemed of humanity who have been glorified in resurrection (19:14) to destroy rebels and establish His righteous throne (cf. Matt. 24:27-31). But, as we have seen, the Lord’s command to execute all rebels (19:15) will first destroy the opposing forces and then all remaining rebels on earth (Jude 14-15; cf. Matt. 25:31-46).

This plainly identifies the heart of rebels as arrogant and defiant to the bitter end. They would rather die than bow the knee to Jesus Christ (Lk. 19:14, 27). Knowing that the judgments of the Tribulation are the wrath of God (Rev. 6:16), they nonetheless refuse to repent (Rev. 9:20-21). Though they are joined by the demonic forces from the pit of hell, they cannot prevail.

The Antichrist is Captured (v. 20)
The pride of a sinner’s heart, first expressed by the fallen angel, Lucifer (Is. 14:12-15), is reflected in all creatures who have transgressed God’s righteous standards. As Satan is the chief of the demonic angels, so Antichrist is the epitome of lawless humanity. His level of wickedness even eclipses the treachery of Christ’s betrayer, Judas Iscariot (Matt. 26:24; Acts 1:16-20). His blasphemy will be absolutely beyond comprehension, for he acts in the absence of any divine restraint. Everything he does flows from a defiant heart, and the Almighty will permit him to express his wickedness more than any other human being in history.

It seems this would be the reason for the Lord’s very abrupt judgment of “the beast” and his “false prophet.” When Christ returns, they are immediately “captured.” The power they held over the world is nothing in the presence of the victorious King. Although the beast used the false prophet to work “signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who receive the mark of the beast and those who worship his image” (cf. 13:14-18), it is not enough to withstand the Lord who has all power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18).

The beast and false prophet are powerless to inflict any harm whatsoever on Christ and the saints. Without delay, the Lord gives the command (likely to the angels; cf. Matt. 25:32) to seize these “two” who are summarily “cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” This is the eternal hell initially prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41) and the final place of torment for human rebels (cf. 14:10; 20:10; 21:8; Gen. 19:24).

Although the torment of the lake of fire evidently includes the very literal fire of God’s judgment (Heb. 12:29), it is also characterized as outer darkness (Matt. 25:30; cf. Matt. 3:12; Mk. 9:44-49; Dan. 12:2; 2 Thess. 1:9) — the place farthest from God and the glory of His kingdom. The torment of the flame is felt but perhaps not seen. There each rebel will experience God’s eternal wrath because their sin is against His eternal Person. The intensity of His wrath will be determined by one’s willful intent to ignore the light of truth to which they have been exposed (Matt. 25:29-30; Lk. 10:13-16; Heb. 10:29).

Antichrist and his prophet are the first of all to enter the lake of fire and begin their eternal sentence even before the devil himself. They are still there 1,000 years later when he does finally enter his eternal punishment (cf. Rev. 20:10). Therefore, we know that Antichrist and his prophet are instantly translated into resurrection bodies fit to experience their eternal torment (Dan. 7:11; 12:2).

The point is that physical death is merely a consequence of man’s sin. It is not the eternal, spiritual death that our Creator demands for our transgression of His holy law (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). In the case of Antichrist and the False Prophet, God thrusts them immediately into the lake of fire as an example of His righteous anger toward sin (cf. 2 Thess. 2:7-12). They have so defiantly expressed their hatred of God that He bypasses physical death or any formal sentencing.

Giving these two men even a moment more of existence without torment would not satisfy God’s justice as far as they are concerned. Of all rebellious creatures, these two will spend the most time in eternal hell. The unrepentant armies and rebels of the nations may soon follow for their allegiance to the beast (Matt. 25:41). In that case, they would also be given resurrected bodies fit for eternal torment at some point. Without question, the rest of the ungodly dead are all resurrected and judged at the Great White Throne and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 5a, 11-15). There is most certainly a punishment worse than physical death!

The Allies are Destroyed (v. 21)
The capture and immediate banishment of the beast and his prophet is quickly followed by the instant execution of the rebellion’s military forces followed by the death of all rebels who survived the Tribulation (19:18). We read: “the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded out of the mouth of Him who sat on the horse” (cf. 19:15). That is, at Christ’s command, they are executed either by Him merely speaking (Jn. 18:5-6) or by the holy angels who serve as instruments of judgment (2 Thess. 1:6-10). The saints appear to be spectators in this event, although they do reign with Christ (20:4-6).

The “birds,” invited to feast on the dead bodies (vv. 17-18), can now partake of the great supper that God has prepared for them. They “are filled with their flesh” as they receive the plentiful meal to which they were earlier invited. With all remaining rebels dead, everything that offends is now purged from the kingdom (Matt. 3:10-12; 13:41-42).

It is very evident that God makes no exceptions when it comes to judgment. Either you repent and follow Christ the victorious King, or you persist in rebellion and suffer His eternal wrath. There is no middle ground. There is no bargaining for a pardon when the Day of the Lord comes. Eternal hell is all that awaits the unrepentant.

Are you loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ? What is your eternal destiny?

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© Copyright 1997-2016 Richard E. Clayton, Jr. All rights reserved.

The Defeated Rebellion – Part I

There is an unavoidable day of reckoning with God. Anyone who does not repent of sin and turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will be judged. All rebels must humbly bow the knee and seek to be pardoned by the Son of God before it is too late. Denying the truth will not change reality, and any attempt to resist the reign of Christ over God’s creation is futile. Rebellion will be defeated, and God’s righteous kingdom will prevail.

The Almighty has made these things abundantly clear in all that He has revealed to us (Rom. 1:18). We know His existence and power by the things He has made (Rom. 1:19-20). His law is written in our hearts, and our conscience bears witness to it (Rom. 2:15). He has revealed His holy nature, His will, and His kingdom agenda in Old Testament Scripture (Rom. 2:17-20). He has fully revealed these things in the New Testament, which unveils the Person of His Son as the full representation of God to men. Indeed, His sacrificial death is the only means of pardon for repentant sinners whom He justifies by grace through faith (Rom. 3:21-26).

So there is absolutely no excuse for anyone who continues in rebellion. God will judge and punish the unrepentant for eternity. To think otherwise defies reason, revelation, and reality. Yet the heart of rebellious humans and angels is hell-bent on resisting Christ. The nature of sinners is not capable of desiring anything more (Rom. 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14). Of necessity, they hate God and everything that has to do with His righteous kingdom.

Without God’s restraint, the universe would be doomed without remedy. But, in grace, He has chosen to redeem a remnant of humanity for the kingdom. For now, He withholds judgment until redemption is complete (2 Pet. 3:1-13). However, the Day of the Lord will come.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ describes the end of this age when all restraint is removed and the satanic rebellion is permitted to coalesce into one defiant force. Driven by Satan, its goal is to resist the return of Christ who brings heaven’s kingdom to earth. Knowing that his own time is short (Rev. 12:12), the devil musters all angelic and human rebels in a futile last stand. These events will develop during the seven year period of tribulation described in this book.

Revelation 19:17-21 describes the rebellion’s total defeat. The chapter so far has chronicled heaven’s rejoicing over the fall of Babylon (vv. 1-6; cf. Rev. 17-18) — the global empire of Satan’s human Antichrist who leads this final expression of high treason. We are told that the rebellion will fall, and Christ will return with His saints who will forever be joined with Him in the fullness of resurrection glory (vv. 7-10). He comes with His saints as the King of kings, victorious as Judge, Savior and Lord of all (vv. 11-16).

In this final passage, we discover God’s announcement of Christ’s victory over the rebellion and that victory accomplished. We look now at the announcement.

The Defeated Rebellion – Part I
Christ’s Victory Announced (vv. 17-18)
The Day of the Lord is the historical time of God’s final judgment on the rebellion when Christ returns as King. It was specifically noted by the prophets (cf. Is. 66:15-16; Ez. 39:1-4, 17-20; Joel 3:1-21), Christ Himself (Matt. 25:31-46), and the apostle Paul (1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 1:6-10). It is a repeated theme even prior to the time when the rebellion first expressed itself in a unified way under Nimrod (Gen. 10:8-12; 11:1-9; cf. Gen. 3:15).

For example, Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam (Great grandfather of Noah), foretold that Day as recorded in Jude 14-15: “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

The Tribulation is the precursor to Christ’s glorious appearing. The catastrophic supernatural events of those seven years will give rise to Antichrist and expose the rebellion’s treachery. By removing His restraint, God permits sin to reach its peak, thus creating the absolute necessity for Christ’s return to execute His enemies. The Lord will no longer be merciful nor extend common grace to sinners. The Day of the Lord will quite literally be an absolute slaughter of all rebels who have survived the destruction of the Tribulation.

The Battle of Armageddon (16:16) is the main event of Christ’s return. As we noted in Revelation 14:19-20, Antichrist and his armies will be gathered in the land of Palestine as grapes in a winepress (cf. 19:15). There they are destroyed as they unite to resist the victorious King of heaven. It is called “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” in 16:14 because it is really one-sided. That is, the rebellion’s forces are executed before they ever have time to react. As we will see later in Rev. 19:19-21, Antichrist and his armies are powerless anyway being defeated instantly at Christ’s command (cf. Rev. 19:15; 2 Thess. 2:8). Antichrist and his False Prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire, and the armies are killed.

But the nations will also be gathered together at that time. All rebels from every ethnicity who survive the Tribulation will be separated from the surviving Jewish and Gentile saints, and they will be executed (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; Lk. 19:27). Thus the millennial phase of the kingdom will commence with only righteous people in it. These will have children, and some of them will be rebels, but Christ will rule them with God’s Law for a thousand years (“rod of iron” – 19:15; cf. Rev. 20:4-6). Satan, bound at the time of Christ’s return (Rev. 20:1-3), will be released to briefly deceive the nations after the Millennium and rally an uprising, but these will also be quickly destroyed and Satan cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:7-10). Then all human rebels will be judged at the Great White Throne of God and sentenced to eternal torment in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-16).

The slaughter of all rebels at Christ’s return has already been decreed by the sovereign God. It will happen, and nothing can alter the course of events. That is precisely why the “angel” of verse 17 invites “the birds” to “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God” (i.e. “the great supper of God”). From all parts of the earth, they are commanded (“he cried with a loud voice”) to devour the dead carcasses of God’s enemies.

Why the angel appears “standing in the sun” is not clear, but it seems to mean that he is in the atmosphere between the earth and sun where he can see events unfolding and, at the proper time, summon “the birds that fly in the midst of heaven” (i.e. the sky). This heavenly messenger invites them to the feast God has prepared.

The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 24:27-28 that His judgment would be swift and bloody: “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”

The focus here is not only the slain at the battle of Armageddon but those executed all over the world. The birds are to “eat the flesh of kings…captains…mighty men…horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great” (v. 18). Everyone who has taken the mark of Antichrist (“the beast” vv. 19-20) will die.

Again, the Lord’s victory is as good as accomplished, and that is why the birds are invited to feast on the dead bodies. Ezekiel 39:17-20 adds that the beasts of the field are also invited. The people of Israel will bury the bones of rebels in the land of Israel for seven months according to Ezekiel 39:11-16, because the carcasses are evidently picked clean. The Antichrist, his armies, and all remaining rebels are doomed to this end. This is an announcement of victory that was made long before John the apostle saw the vision recorded here.

The sinner foolishly believes that somehow God’s judgment can be avoided. Even though God has made it abundantly clear that the Day of His wrath will come, there will always be an attempt to resist Him. The actions of rebels in the Tribulation proves this fact. And although salvation is offered through Christ, the sinner (if left to his own devices) would rather shake his fist at God and take his chances (Rom. 3:9-18). The rebellious heart will always say of Christ, “We will not have this man to reign over us!” (Lk. 19:14). Psalm 2 reveals that, despite any resistance, God will establish Christ as King on the earth, while He laughs at His enemies.

There truly is an unavoidable day of reckoning with God, and every rebel will be judged — not just those who will be alive on earth at our Lord’s glorious appearing. The return of Christ is inevitable, and He comes with the fire of judgment (Lk. 3:16). As surely as every saint will be glorified with Christ, so will every sinner be judged by Him and cast into hell forever.

Today is the day of grace when reconciliation with God is possible (Ps. 2:10-12; cf. Heb. 3:7-19). Is your treason pardoned through sincere repentance and faith in Christ as Lord and Savior? Or do you have a fearful expectation of His judgment that is fast approaching?

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© Copyright 1997-2016 Richard E. Clayton, Jr. All rights reserved.