Praise the Lord! – Part I

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When the Lord Jesus Christ returns, there will be great celebration in the kingdom of heaven! All of God’s servants will behold the glory of their King, and all rebels will receive their just punishment. The Lord’s long-suffering with the rebellion for the sake of redeeming His saints will come to an end, and the eternal reign of righteousness will begin.

Such has been the anticipation of the saints throughout human history. And the contents of this book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ are revealed to the apostle John for the Lord’s Church to heighten the expectancy of His return (Rev. 1:1-8). Being assured of our Lord’s glory (ch. 1), of His sovereignty in His Church (ch. 2-3), of His plans to crush the satanic rebellion (ch. 4-19), of His reign on the earth (ch. 20), and of our future with Him in eternity (ch. 21-22), His saints are filled with praise. We are encouraged to trust Him and do His will come what may, since we know the plans He has for us.

However, nothing can compare to the day of Christ’s glorious return to earth! Then His saints will rejoice like never before because, at long last, everything He has promised — everything we have hoped for — will be fulfilled. At His appearing, the joyous exclamation, “Praise the Lord!”, will sound the loudest in God’s creation. For then will His kingdom be fully realized by His loyal subjects. The elect among angels and men will be jubilant as they experience the fullness of God’s eternal purpose and plan.

Revelation 19:1-10 gives us a glimpse into that most climactic moment. As heaven exults over the fall of the rebellion known as Babylon, it is called to the marriage supper of the Lamb — a celebration of Christ (the perfect union of God and Man in one Person) bringing the saints (His bride) to Himself for all eternity (1 Tim. 2:5). His bride is most symbolically represented in His Church (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:22-33), although it includes the saints of all the ages.

Just as the nation Israel is a representation of God’s eternal kingdom on earth, so the Church is a representation of God’s eternal relationship with those in His kingdom. Imperfect though Israel and the Church are because of fleshly weakness, the day is coming when the Lord Jesus will return and bring to fruition His eternal, glorious purpose for both.

In verses 1-6, our attention is drawn to the rejoicing that precedes this joyous event. Here, the word “Alleluia” (or “Hallelujah”) appears four times. It is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning, “Praise the Lord.” While it is used often in the Old Testament — especially in the Psalms (e.g. Pss.104:35; 113:1; 146:1, etc.) — it is found only here in the New Testament. When Christ returns, the citizens of the kingdom praise the Lord for His salvation, His judgment, His worthiness, and His sovereignty. We will consider the praise for His salvation and judgment in verses 1-3 for this study.

Praise the Lord! – Part I (19:1-3)
For His Salvation (v. 1)
The events revealed in this passage begin immediately “after” the “things” described in the previous chapter. With the fall of the rebellion’s capital city, the seven-years of unparalleled tribulation on the earth comes to a catastrophic end. The final bowl judgment (Rev. 16:17-21) paves the way for Christ to return, destroy Antichrist’s armies, and cast that beast and his false prophet into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:11-21).

At this point, John hears “a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven.” Some commentators believe this is the voice of angelic beings only. Their vast numbers certainly coincide with what we find in 5:11-12 prior to the breaking of the first seal of the scroll (the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation). We see them again praising God with a loud voice just before the seventh seal is broken to begin the time of Great Tribulation (7:11-12). Now they again rejoice after the seventh bowl judgment is completed.

The angels exalt God as at other times. Here they specifically praise the Lord for His “salvation.” But it is not their own salvation, since these are elect angels who have never fallen in sin. God provides no salvation for Satan and the demons (fallen angels) who have rebelled against Him (Is. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:12-15; Matt. 25:41; Jude 6; Rev. 12:3-4, 9).

Yet, throughout redemptive history, the elect angels have curiously watched God save His elect from among Adam’s fallen race (1 Pet. 1:12). They have also participated by ministering to those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14). Indeed, God has chosen to manifest His glory to all the angelic host in His redemption of a remnant of mankind (Eph. 3;10). As the crucified and risen Christ returns to fulfill God’s plan, the angels again praise Him for His “glory…honor…and power” in salvation. It is the glorious, wise and sovereign work of “our God” and theirs.

For His Judgment (vv. 2-3)
But the holy angels also praise God for His judgment on those who refuse to turn to Christ for salvation. The second “Alleluia” from the angels (v. 3) follows a declaration that God’s “judgments” are “true and righteous” (v. 2) He is not unjust to punish sinners. In fact, that is His only obligation, and it is in full compliance with His holy standards for His creatures (Rom. 1:18-2:16). Were it not for His mercy, we would all have been consumed by God’s wrath already (Lam. 3:22). Were it not for His grace to intervene in our hopeless condition as sinners, no one would be saved (Ex. 33:19).

When the Lord justifies sinners by grace through faith in Christ He is just in so doing. Jesus bore our sins on the cross — the Just for the unjust (Rom. 3:21-26; 1 Pet. 3:18). The punishment we deserve according to God’s righteous law was fully experienced by Christ. God’s wrath toward sin was satisfied by our Savior’s sinless sacrifice, and we are no longer condemned but justified (Rom. 8:1). We are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Rom. 6:5-11). God did not merely overlook the believer’s sin. Rather, He punished it as His law demands when He delivered His Son to die (Rom. 8:32; Acts 2:23).

So it is right to praise God for His judgment of sin, and it is good to long for His judgment to come inasmuch as it glorifies Him. All rebellious angels and human beings deserve eternal death for their treason against Heaven. God’s holiness demands that He punish every violation of His law to the fullest extent. As noted in previous studies, sin against the eternal and holy God requires His eternal and holy wrath. He is glorified in judgment as much as He is in salvation, and He deserves praise forever for both.

At the end of the Tribulation, when God “…has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication” (i.e. the idolatrous world system which God calls “Babylon”), it will be well deserved and righteous. That dramatic, historical expression of His wrath toward the rebellion will be a preview of eternal hell — an exclamation mark at the end of the age. Our Creator God wishes to allow the rebellion to fully express its treachery, and He wishes to fully express His anger. It will demonstrate the failure of the rebellion and the triumph of His kingdom.

Also, God’s judgment of Babylon will have “avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.” Those who rebel against God naturally hate those who are loyal to Him and represent Him. Their hatred is manifest in various ways and to the extent that God will permit it. They have spitefully abused the saints since Cain killed his brother, Abel, and they will do so until God’s redemptive plans are complete and judgment falls. Then the cry of the persecuted saints, expressed in Rev. 6:10 by those martyred in the Tribulation, will be answered by God. They desire that He take vengeance on their persecutors for His glory. Until that time, our Lord tells us to pray for our enemies and do good to them, knowing that vengeance is His (Matt. 5:44; cf. Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:17-21).

The holy angels are ministers of God to the saints, but they are also ministers of God for judgment on rebellious angels and men. As seen throughout this book and elsewhere in Scripture, angels play an active roll in carrying out God’s punishment on sinners. So when Babylon falls, they praise the Lord for His judgment as much as they praise Him for His salvation. Like all the saints, they rejoice because Babylon’s “smoke rises up forever and ever!” (v. 3). That is, when that day comes, rebels will no longer have any hope of resisting God. They will only experience the eternal torment they deserve (cf. Rev. 20:7-15). What they mistook for God’s reluctance to judge them was actually tolerance as He completed His sovereign work of redemption (2 Pet. 3:1-9).

The celebration among the citizens of God’s kingdom when the King returns to claim the earth is certainly beyond our comprehension. However, our Lord has revealed these future events for our encouragement and to heighten our anticipation of His return. We are to diligently represent His kingdom with a godly life and the message of the Gospel, knowing that He will deal with the rebellious world for its idolatry and its persecution of the His saints. When you suffer as a Christian, remind yourself that God will deal with your persecutors. Until then, pray He will have mercy and save them.

Are you joyously representing God in light of Jesus’ return?

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

Babylon is Destroyed

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God does not change nor does He forget. Therefore, the passing of time neither alters His holiness nor lessens the guilt of those who rebel against Him. When all is said and done, the Almighty will require an account of all beings created in His image and likeness. Men and women who bow the knee to His Son Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior receive mercy and grace, but the sin of the unrepentant is remembered and judged.

The sinner is always hoping that God will somehow overlook their transgressions. The merely religious person thinks the Lord will perhaps pardon their lawless deeds based upon their own version of morality (Rom. 2). The scoffer would dare to presume that God is unwilling to judge if not incapable of judgment altogether (2 Pet. 3:3-4ff). The fool irrationally denies God’s very existence to justify the desire for sin (Ps. 53:1ff).

But none of this affects the person of God or His demand for righteousness. The only reason He has not already cast rebels into eternal torment is because He is merciful, long-suffering and gracious to save some of Adam’s fallen race. He is glorified as much in judging His creation as He is in redeeming it, and He has chosen to receive glory in both. So He has made it abundantly clear that a day of reckoning is fast approaching for those who refuse His grace. Their lawless deeds — being restrained by providence in the course of redemptive history — will all be recounted, and they will be punished according to their wicked intent.

Before the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus, God will allow the spirit of lawlessness to reach its height (2 Thess. 2:7-12). As we learn from Scripture, a final form of the satanic rebellion will coalesce in the last days before Christ’s return. Like its capital city, it will boldly bear the ancient name of Babylon to reflect its first expression (Gen. 11:1-9). That great metropolis of the rebellion will receive the brunt of God’s wrath in the final bowl judgment (16:19). Although it partially survives until the end of the Tribulation, it will ultimately be destroyed without remedy.

The previous chapter describes the downfall of Babylon’s unified false religious system. It initially unites fallen humanity, but Antichrist manipulates it to gain ultimate power. Chapter 18 deals with God’s judgment of that last, great world empire, in which the rebellion fully manifests its unrestrained hatred for the righteousness of God. More specifically, it focuses on the fall of Babylon the Great as the seat of its power and commerce. We have already seen that God pronounces Babylon’s final fall (vv. 1-3), and that it is summarily condemned (vv. 4-8). He likewise reveals how the rebellious world will mourn its sudden and catastrophic loss (vv. 9-20).

However, the finality of Babylon’s destruction is noted in Revelation 18:21-24. In these verses, the Lord emphasizes that it will face a violent ruin, that its vitality will be ravaged, and that its violence against His kingdom will be remembered.

Babylon is Destroyed (vv. 21-24)
Its Violent Ruin (v. 21)
Verse 21 explains that “a mighty angel” with a very symbolic message appears at this point in John’s vision (cf. Rev. 5:2; 10:1). This being of high rank in the angelic order comes to declare the final doom of Babylon, and he emphasizes its utter destruction in a graphic way.

He first “took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea” (v. 21a). From ancient times, millstones have been used for grinding larger amounts of grain as opposed to small amounts sometimes ground with a mortar and pestle (Num. 11:8). Grain is placed on a base or nether (i.e. lower) stone with the weight of the upper stone rolled over it to produce the crushing pressure. Very dense stones would be chosen specifically for their weight and durability, especially for the lower stone which received constant pressure (Job 41:24).

The stones varied in size, but beasts of burden were often necessary to move large upper stones. In fact, our English word is sometimes translated from a Greek word meaning “the millstone of an ass” (Lk. 17:2). However, the word here (Gr. – mulos) emphasizes the immensity of the stone — one that is very difficult if not impossible to move.

As might be expected, the millstone is used to symbolize the necessities of life and one’s livelihood (Deut. 24:6), but it is also a symbol of judgment. Speaking of the severity of leading a Christian into sin, Jesus said that it would be better to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea (Mark 9:42ff; one ancient form of capital punishment; cf. Matt. 18:6). In that case, the word used meant “the millstone of an ass.” The Lord was warning about the unbeliever’s torment in hell (cf. Matt. 18:6); He was highlighting the increase of that torment for an unbeliever who causes a believer to sin. It is a heavier weight of torment, so to speak.

However, with the use of the Greek word, mulos, the emphasis here is on the immensity of God’s judgment — so great that Babylon could not overcome it! This is verified by the angel’s words: “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore” (v. 21b). God’s judgment is “with violence” in the sense that it is a sudden, very hostile assault that overcomes His enemy. The Lord’s judgment has always been promised as coming upon the ungodly world suddenly and without remedy (cf. Jer. 51:60-64; 1Thess. 5:2-3).

Whatever Babylon will become before this time, whether perceived or real, will be lost. God will strike the heart of the rebellion with a mortal blow so that its vitality is ravaged, and it will rise no more.

Its Vitality Ravaged (vv. 22-23)
The angel continues by declaring how God’s final, devastating blow will wipe out any vestige of normal life on earth. The previous events of the Tribulation will certainly have wreaked havoc on the planet, but there was still a sense of resiliency among the nations — some semblance of hope that they could resist heaven’s kingdom. There is nothing left after the final bowl judgment. All signs of normal life on earth will be gone. Those who survive the devastation of Babylon and the world’s cities (cf. Rev. 16:19) will merely be gasping for breath and holding on by a thread.

There will no longer be anything to enjoy or celebrate in that rebellious world system as indicated by the absence of music in Babylon (“harpists, musicians, flutists…trumpeters”). Music has always been a part of humanity but, like everything else God gave us for good, it is increasingly perverted in the absence of moral restraint. As is very evident in the world today, people have always used music to heighten their sinful pleasures (cf. Eccl. 2:8). Music is, even now, a global commodity, and it will play a large role in this final Babylon.

All industry (“craftsmen of any craft”) will cease as will agriculture (“sound of the millstone”; note: same word as above indicating the large-scale agricultural efforts of the global system of Babylon). The loss of the world’s resources will devastate the global economy (cf. vv. 11-14), and all hope of survival will be gone.

Verse 23 also explains that there are no sources of power for “light” to “shine” in the once mighty Babylon. This would also indicate that no one in the city survives to actually light “a lamp.” Darkness will envelop the world at that time (cf. Rev. 16:10; Joel 3:15; Matt. 24:29, etc.) — a historical preview of the darkness of eternal hell.

The verse also says, “and the voice of the bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore.” In other words, there will be no more weddings in that city or anywhere in the world for that matter. This means no more families to perpetuate the rebellious population. The rebellion’s resources and its citizens are brought to nothing. Why? The last part of the verse explains: “For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.” That is, the chief merchants who dominated the global economy dwelt in the great city of Babylon. They kept the world’s population enchanted with materialistic idolatry. But God will take everything from those deceivers and the ungodly population which so gleefully embraced their deception. The godless person loses everything in the end (Lk. 19:24-27).

God’s violent, final blow to the great city of Babylon leaves the world with nothing. Only the Lord Jesus Christ will be able to establish order and prosperity, and He will do so from His throne in Jerusalem for the righteous who enter His kingdom (cf. Is. 11; 35; Matt. 25:14-46; Rev. 20:4).

Its Violence Remembered (v. 24)
Why such violent devastation from God? It is because Babylon — both the city and the rebellion it represents — has expressed its treachery unrestrained. It has violently demonstrated its hatred of God and His righteousness, and it has done so chiefly by persecuting to the death the saints of God who are citizens of His kingdom (cf. Rev. 6:9-11; 7:9-17; 11:7-10; 12:13-17; 13:7, 15; 17:6).

The persecution will certainly be horrific in the capital city, but the order to kill the saints, wherever they are found, will be issued from the throne of Antichrist in Babylon. So the city, representing the seat of Antichrist’s power, will be ground zero for God’s final, devastating blow. For “in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth” (v. 24). Antichrist will unjustly kill any who oppose him, but he will especially hate the saints of God for refusing to pledge their allegiance. God will not forget this evil, and He will violently unleash His wrath on Babylon for it.

There is absolutely no comparison between God’s kingdom of righteousness and Satan’s rebellious attempt to keep God from reigning over His creation. Babylon has been a foolish quest doomed from its inception in the mind of the devil. Everyone who resists God will find that, like Satan, they will ultimately lose everything (Rev. 19:11-20:15). No more will anything good from the hand of God be enjoyed by rebellious creatures; His mercy will no longer be extended to those who scorn His grace.

There is nothing but peace and righteousness for the saints of God, however! They will rejoice when God avenges them on Babylon (v. 20). There will be great jubilation in the kingdom of heaven when the Lord’s true and righteous judgment falls on His enemies (Rev. 19:1-10). An innumerable multitude in heaven will proclaim: “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” (19:6). The world will know the heavy hand of God’s judgment. But the momentary, light affliction of our persecution in this world will yield for us the eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17).

Yes, God does not change nor does He forget. He has justified repentant sinners in keeping with His holy and righteous standards (cf. Rom. 3:21-26; 1 Pet. 3:18), but He judges the unrepentant without mercy for eternity. He did not simply sweep the sin of His saints under the rug. Not at all! Instead, He dealt with it justly when gave His Son to die in our place. And He will deal with rebels justly by punishing them as they deserve. The historical events of the Tribulation are a testimony to the reality of eternity under God’s sovereign rule.

Are you trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation, or are you hoping God will simply forget your sins? It is either repentance or judgment — the righteousness of heaven or the doom of Babylon. Turn to Christ now while God’s mercy and grace are still available.

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