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Last time we look at Revelation we saw that there is an unholy trinity.
Satan – who is seeking is constantly focussed in harassing and sabotaging and wearing out the people of God. Sometimes with great success because we compromise, and water-down and make our Christianity comfortable.
The Beast of the Sea who represents oppressive kingdoms, political powers and social structures. Materialism. Tolerance. Democracy. We embrace them rather than trusting in God.
The Beast of the Earth is a deceptive copycat who is trying to get us to follow cheap and easy faith. We can follow by allowing ourselves to take the easy path, which is the wrong path.
That is the unholy trinity. We know that one little word shall fell them – but what if no-one uses that word? What if we really can’t be bothered to make a difference? We are in a dangerous spiritual battle. That is what we saw last time. We saw that we need to be willing to stand up and stand out.
How do we fight the battle?
How do we really stand out in this world?
How can we stand against this threat?
What message do we need to hear to keep us on track?
John answers these questions in the next section
Read Revelation 14:1-15:4
The Gospel is Proclaimed in This Broken World.
How do we fight … and stand out … and keep on track?
Firstly you need to know that Jesus is with us (Revelation 14:1-5)
John starts with an image of Jesus the Lamb on Mt Zion with 144,000. We saw in chapter 7 that the 144,000 represents those who have been brought into the family of God.
It works like this. If I was to say today, “You are Northside Evangelical Church”. I would be speaking about the whole number that are part of our community. Around 100 people. Imagine in four years time I said to that group, “You are Northside Evangelical Church”. Maybe then the number would be 200, or 300, or 500 (wouldn’t that be great). The constant phrase is Northside Evangelical Church … but the number changes.
Something similar is happening here. All who put their faith in Jesus are part of the 144,000.
That was true in the days of Paul and Peter and the early church fathers.
That was true in the middle ages.
That was true in Congo, or South Africa, or Iran, or Australia.
Every believer from every nation and tribe and people and language right through history. All can still be part of the 144,000. That is how the number works in Revelation.
Now look where the 144,000 are.
On earth … at Mt Zion … with Jesus the Lamb.
Learning a song that comes from heaven.
This is not a picture of the future, when we are in heaven with Jesus.
This is a picture of what is happening now.
More specifically it is a picture of what has been happening since the day Jesus ascended into heaven.
We are in a battle with the unholy Trinity.
Evil tries to get us tired and make us distracted.
Evil tempts us and causes failure.
Evil causes compromise and complacency.
Evil makes us look for the easy and comfortable way.
How do we fight … and stand … and stay on track?
Because Jesus is with us – now.
In the Scripture Mt Zion is the place where God gathers his people on Earth. It is the place where all the enemies of the Messiah will be defeated. It is a place of protection, security and salvation.
In Jesus we are gathered by God.
In Jesus we will see the enemies of the Messiah defeated.
In Jesus we will be given protection, security and salvation.
“I am with always to the very end of the age”, Jesus said that to us in Matthew 28:20.
We saw at the beginning of Revelation; Jesus is among the lampstands. Jesus is among His church.
We are not alone. Jesus is with us now.
As those who are gather we get to learn a new song. The same song which is played by the four living creatures and the 24 elders who are right there next to the throne of God. We have been told about this song before.
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Only those who know Jesus can learn the song. Sure anyone can learn the actual words. Lots of people sing Amazing Grace. Or they will say the Lord’s Prayer. Or they know Psalm 23 – the Lord is my shepherd. They know the words. But they don’t know the meaning. It doesn’t change them. It doesn’t stir their heart for Jesus.
The 144,000 learn the song in the sense that it stirs their heart.
We think of Jesus slain … and know it was for me.
We know the blood is spilt … because I was a rebellious sinner.
We look at the nations which are purchase … I have been brought by blood.
We are allowed to reign … I know I don’t deserve such an honour.
My heart is stirred, “Lord you are worthy”. Thank you for all that you have done for me. That’s my song – no-one else understands it, until they know the Lord for themselves. We are not alone. Jesus is with us now.
As those who are gathered we are made holy. John says the 144,000 did not defile themselves, they were pure, no lie was in their mouth, they were blameless.
Is there anyone here who wants to put up their hand and say, “Yep that describes me perfectly”?
That is what happens when we look at ourselves through our own eyes. We know how easy it is for us to wander. We know our short-comings and our weaknesses. But here is what we have to remember. We can’t look at ourselves through our own eyes. We need to look at ourselves through the eyes of the Father.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17
As a new creation we have been renewed. God looks at us through Christ and what does God see??
A sinner … no!!
He sees children, heirs, forgiven and transformed.
He sees us who are on the narrow path – having been brought into the family of God we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit living in us.
You who are in Christ.
We who are in Christ.
That is what you have to remember! Our identity before God is not determined by what we think about ourselves. Our identity is determined by who we are as we stand in Christ. We are not alone, Jesus is with us now.
We are the gathered ones.
We get to learn the new song.
We are made holy.
When you see that can you see why you can fight, and you can stand out, and you can keep on track even when you are being assaulted in the battle against the unholy Trinity?
It is so easy to look at the world around us and just keep on looking only through our own eyes and focussing only on ourselves. Using our own worldly wisdom to try and work out all the complexities of life. Confronted our problems with our limited resources, our poor judgements and our sin-stained reasoning.
Look up. Look around and see where you really are. You are on Mt Zion – the holy hill of God. And there … standing right with you … is the Lamb who has written His name on your forehead.
When you have those eyes to see … well really there is no battle … is there? Just victory. Standing assured now because we are with Jesus NOW.
That is how you fight. That is how you stand.
But there is more. Don’t just know that Jesus is with you.
You also should know that evil is on borrowed time (Revelation 14:5-20)
Now I want you to look very carefully at this section – because we need to hear a message that is sometimes disregarded and put into the background. Six angels are involved in this section – each angel adds a little bit more to the message. But the first angel gives the overall summary.
He had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth —to every nation, tribe, language and people.
Through Revelation Jesus wants us to hear the eternal gospel. The gospel is the good news. It is the message which is to be preached to all so that they may put their faith in Jesus.
The first angel in verse 7says that this gospel is one where we should fear God and give Him glory, because judgement is coming.
God is a God of love. He is also a God of mercy, forgiveness, comfort, patience, compassion, gentleness and hope.
But He will judge.
The One who created all things. The One who is the source of all life. The One who made us in His image. He is not going to sit back and watch us turn our back on Him and just say, “It’s ok. It doesn’t really matter”. God is a God of judgement.
The second angel in verse 8 proclaims that Babylon is fallen … fallen.
The city that stood against the people of God.
The city that represents blasphemy and rebellion.
The city that distracted the nations and enticed them to commit spiritual adultery against God.
The city of Satan.
It is in ruins. It has received its punishment. Judgement will come against those who follow Babylon like an adulterous mistress.
The third angel in verses 9-11 talks about the severity of this judgment.
It will be wine which is poured full strength into a cup. In the days of Jesus wine was usually diluted – one part wine two parts water – so you didn’t get the full effect and get drunk. God isn’t going to dilute his wrath or hold back in any way. He will give all those who stand against Him the justice they deserve.
What will this justice look like? The smoke of the torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast. Such is the nature of the rebellion – the consequences are eternal.
Judgement is eternal.
The fourth angel in verses 15-16 comes out of the heavenly temple and tells the one like the son of man who is seated on the cloud to go out and harvest the earth. The son of man is Jesus. Should Jesus be taking instructions from an angel?
When Jesus was on earth He talked about the judgement day. About this day He says in Matthew 24:36 No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. The fourth angel is a messenger from the Father – from the throne. To tell that the time has come for Jesus to gather the harvest. Jesus goes out and takes His people – the harvest of the faithful – and He protects them.
Judgement will not come upon those sealed by the Lamb.
The fifth angel in verse 17 appears – he also has a sickle – a tool to harvest.
The sixth angel in verse 18 gives an instruction to the angel with the sickle. Gather the clusters of grapes. This is a different group to the ones gathered by Jesus. These are the ones who will face the judgement of God.
They caused the blood of Jesus to flow – but they didn’t submit to Him.
Jesus suffered for their sin – but they didn’t thank Him.
God was willing to forgive – but they just threw it back in His face.
Now their punishment occurs. Crushed in the winepress of God’s wrath. It is not a pleasant sight.
Now remember what we are doing here. This is the eternal gospel. It is not the sort of message that you hear very often.
Jesus is crying out to the nations, the tribes, the peoples, the languages. He wants them to now the reality of their situation. He wants them to be aware of the consequences of their choices.
Evil … you are on borrowed time.
Evil … you will lose.
Evil … the victory is already mine.
Evil … why are you still determined to face the inevitable.
That is the Gospel. The good news that is preached so that people may put their faith in Jesus.
News that is designed to bring transformation.
News that is also designed to give those who stand in Christ real hope.
We live in a world where the unholy Trinity is seeking to make us tired, and distract us, and tempt us, and make us complacent, and cause us to fail.
We live in a world which hates Jesus and those who follow Him. We will have times of suffering, doubt, fear, anxiety, anguish and hopelessness.
It will be hard to fight in the battle. It will be difficult to stand out in this world. We might stumble against the threat. We might be in danger of going off track.
When that happens stop. Look around.
You are on Mt Zion.
Jesus is standing there with you.
Evil is on borrowed time.
Victory is already secure. The battle has already been won. Jesus is on the throne. Take up your harp and sing the song of victory … the song of Moses … the song of the Lamb.
Great and marvellous are Your deeds, Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are Your ways, King of the ages.
Who will not fear You, O Lord, and bring glory to Your name?
For You alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before You,
for Your righteous acts have been revealed.”
The Lamb wins. God is in complete control.
You can fight.
You can stand.
You can stay on track.
Because you are not alone.