???????? How long is eternity? Someone once tried to describe forever in this way. Once every one thousand years a sparrow flies into the desert and lands on a solid block of granite one mile wide, one mile long, and one mile tall. The sparrow sits for one minute and sharpens his beak on the edge of the block of granite and then flies away. One thousand years later a sparrow flies in, sits on the edge of the block of granite, and sharpens his beak. This is repeated throughout the ages until the sequence of sparrows sharpening their beaks wears the block of granite down to nothing. When the block of granite is gone you will have experienced the beginning of eternity.
????????? Eternity is a long time isn?t it? It is impossible for us to truly get a grip on eternity because we are confined by time and space, we live for the moment, and we like to put off for today what we think we can get around to tomorrow. For us, eternity is a million tomorrows away. We spend our time experiencing the ?now? and give little to no thought to eternity.
Many of us look at the things of God as those things that we can put off until later on, but while we are putting off the things of God we are finding ourselves more and more mired and entangled in the things of this world. Thomas Carlyle once said, ?He who has no vision of eternity will never get a true hold of time.?? It is only when we get a hold of eternity that we will then begin to adjust our lives in the here and now to God?s will and God?s ways.? We need to realize that eternity is crouching at our doorstep. We are living in the midst of eternity right now. When we die eternity will continue on, but we will no longer have any time to make adjustments to our lives or lifestyles. The time is now. Don?t put off until tomorrow anything that needs to be taken care of today for tomorrow may never come. The great preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, put it this way.
It is not after the storm has arisen, or the telegraph has reported that his ship has struck, that the merchant runs to insure his goods. He takes care of the insurance while the sun is shining and the air calm; he makes sure the insurance is in effect before the ship has cleared from the dock, or at all events before the ship has left the river. You should do the same, you living, but dying people! Now is the accepted time, today. God is with us waiting; his terms are still, ?Whosoever will.? Today you may enter into life; tomorrow the door may be shut. ?(Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)
Today is the day to allow the Lord to search our hearts. Today is the day to turn from our ways and turn to the Lord. Today is the day to make things right with the Lord. Today, not tomorrow. Today, not when we get around to it. Today. The writer of Hebrews encourages us with these words.
7So, as the Holy Spirit says: ?Today, if you hear his voice, 8do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, 9where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 10That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’? 11So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'” (Hebrews 3:7-11 NIV)
????????? Eternity is a very long time, but our time is short. As we turn to our next study in the book of Revelation we find the call going out for all people to turn to God. The stakes are high, the consequences of not heeding the call are dire, and the time is now. Let?s read together from Revelation 14:6-12.
6Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth?to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”? 8A second angel followed and said, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.” 9A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, 10he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.” 12This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.? (Revelation 14:6-12 NIV)
????????? In Revelation 14:1-5 we saw a glorious vision of the Lamb standing on Mount Zion with those who had kept themselves pure and they were singing a new song of praise to the Lamb. Now that we are moving on to the next section of Revelation 14 we find a very different vision. In verses 6-12 we find three angelic messengers crying out. They raise their loud voices and make announcements that needed to be heard in John?s day, they need to be heard in our day, and these messages will continue to need to be heard in every day to come.? This section of Scripture is one of the most disturbing sections of God?s Word which I pray will cause us to truly consider where we are and where we are going.
????????? John says in verse 6 that he saw ?another angel flying in midair.?? This reminds us of another scene that John saw back in Revelation 8:12-13, as the fourth angel sounded his trumpet. Read along with me.
12 The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night. 13 As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” (Revelation 8:12-13 NIV)
????????? The eagle flew high in the sky so no one would miss the message?judgment was coming and it had already begun. The judgment that we read about in Revelation 8 pales in comparison to what we have just read in Revelation 14. The message goes out to people of every nation, tribe, language and people. The whole world is called to attention and urged to hear and heed the message. What is the message? Look at verse 7.
7He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”? (Revelation 14:7 NIV)
????????? This is not the first time that God has urged people to turn to Him and to worship Him alone. Sinners and saints alike throughout the ages have been called by God to reverence His name, give Him the glory, and worship Him.? In Joshua 7:19-21, Achan had sinned by taking what was not his. When Joshua approached Achan to confront him with his sin he said,
19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” (Joshua 7:19-21 NIV)
????????? Why would God urge His people to fear Him, give Him the glory, and worship Him? That is a great question. Is it because He is insecure? Hardly. It is because God knows that if we give our hearts to anyone or anything else we will be destroyed. God desires to bless us, to lead us through this life so that we can experience the fullness of life that He desires for us. If we bow our knees to anyone or anything else they will use and abuse us. In the Psalms we read about the call going out to those who fear the Lord. ?In Psalm 22:23 we read,
23You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! (Psalm 22:23 NIV)
????????? The call has gone out, but it has not been heeded. In Romans 1, Paul wrote about the wrath of God and the reason for the outpouring of God?s wrath. Read along with me.
18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities– his eternal power and divine nature– have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:18-25 NIV)
????????? Why is the wrath of God being revealed? Because we have not listened to God calling us to worship and revere Him alone. We have turned our back on God and as a result we are worshipping anything and everything that you can imagine. ??
????????? Even as the judgment of God in Revelation 14 is taking place, God is still urging people to turn from their ways and worship Him alone. What a gracious, compassionate God we serve!
????????? In Revelation 14:8 we meet a second angel that follows the first angel. His message is further confirmation that if we give ourselves to anyone or anything other than God that our worship is in vain. Those who compromised their faith in God and bowed their knee to Domitian would soon learn that Domitian, and the Roman Empire as well, would fall. Read along with me.
8A second angel followed and said, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.” (Revelation 14:8 NIV)
????????? This is the first of six mentions of ?Babylon? in Revelation and there has been much discussion about who John is talking about. Is he talking about a literal city called, ?Babylon? or is he referring to something else?
????????? Tim LaHaye, the writer of the Left Behind series believes that a literal resurrection of Babylon will take place in the last days. What?s interesting is that in Dr. LaHaye?s own, Prophecy Study Bible, there is an article called, ?The Figurative Babylon.?? We read,
Will ancient Babylon be rebuilt and become the center of the world?s economy, finances and religion? The Bible mentions, ?Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the Earth? (Rev. 17:5). This verse does not refer to ?Babylon? literally, but rather figuratively. This Babylon is a different entity than the one mentioned in Jeremiah 27:6. ?While a literal Babylon no longer exists, the spirit of Babylon, characterized by rebellion and confusion, continues. Babylon is a symbol of rebellion against God, whose position in that regard passed to Media-Persia, then to Greece, and finally to Rome. (Arno Froese, ?The Figurative Babylon,? in Prophecy Study Bible, gen. ed. Tim LaHaye, Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), 703, emphasis added.)
????????? John MacArthur, in his commentary on Revelation 14, writes about the historical Babylon and how the evil and rebellion of Babylon has transcended the times and will find its ultimate fulfillment in a final Babylon. MacArthur says,
Babylon has from its inception symbolized evil and rebellion against God. It was founded by Nimrod (Gen. 10:9), a proud, powerful, God-rejecting ruler. Babel (Babylon) was the site of the first organized system of idolatrous false religion (Gen. 11:1?4). The Tower of Babel, the expression of that false religion, was a ziggurat; an edifice designed to facilitate idolatrous worship. God judged the people?s idolatry and rebellion by confusing their language and scattering them over the globe (Gen. 11:5?9). Thus the seeds of idolatry and false religion spread around the world from Babylon, to take root wherever these proud rebels and their descendants settled. As humanity was united in idolatrous false religion at Babel, so will it again be united in the end times under the aegis of the final Babylon. History will thus come full circle. (John MacArthur)
????????? There is no doubt that the Babylon read by those who sat in the pews of the seven churches of Asia Minor was pagan Rome, the embodiment of ancient Babylon. Both nations were headed up by godless leaders, both nations oppressed God?s people, and both nations destroyed Jerusalem, Babylon in 587 B.C. and Rome in 70 A.D.? You can believe what you want concerning a literal or figurative Babylon, but it is of greatest importance for us to understand the enticements of the Babylonians.
????????? If you will notice John writes that Babylon, ?made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.” How could Babylon ?make? the people or nations drink her maddening wine?? If you will remember back in Revelation 13 we learned that if you don?t have the ?mark of the beast? then you can?t buy or sell or trade. For Babylon, or Rome in John?s day, if you bowed to the government and went along to get along then things would work out for you. If you participated in the pagan rituals and kept your faith to yourself then things would work out for you. If you refused to live the lifestyle of the Romans or Babylonians then you had better prepare yourself. There are some similarities with our own day are there not? It?s ok to be a Christian in America today as long as you are a nominal Christian, but don?t let your faith bleed over into your workplace or your social life or you may run into opposition. Let?s turn to the third angel. Read along with me.
9A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, 10he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:9-11 NIV)
????????? The angel says that if anyone worships the beast and his image and receives the mark on their forehead or hand then they will drink of the cup of God?s fury. This is quite a different message than the one we heard about the beast and those who received his mark in Revelation 13. Take a look at Revelation 13:16-17 with me.
16He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:16-17 NIV)
????????? The second beast, or the False Prophet, of Revelation 13 says that if you don?t worship the first beast and receive his mark then you will be shut out of the marketplace, but God says something altogether different. There is something far worse than being shut out of the marketplace my friends and that is being shut out of heaven and suffering the wrath of God.
????????? This past week, as I have been studying this section of God?s Word, something has jumped out at me. I noticed in verse 8 that the people drank of the cup of the Babylonians and in verse 10 those same people were forced to drink of the cup of God?s fury.? We really need to ponder the thought and the consequences of indulging ourselves in the lifestyles of the world. I have seen this scenario take place in my own life and in the lives of countless friends of mine. If we give in to the ways of the world and drink in all that the world has to offer, then we are going to suffer the consequences of our choices. When we choose to walk away from God and turn our backs on His counsel then He will unleash His judgment, His discipline, in our life to try and turn us around.
????????? The cup of God?s wrath is a constant theme in Scripture. God?s judgment comes and is characterized as a ?cup? in Isaiah 51:17.
17Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger. (Isaiah 51:17 NIV)
????????? In Jeremiah we see the same cup appear once again. God?s judgment comes in every age and it came in Jeremiah?s day. Read along with me.
15 This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.? 16 When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.” (Jeremiah 25:15-16 NIV)
????????? Like those in Isaiah and Jeremiah?s day we too will drink of the cup of God?s wrath if we continue to turn away from God and pursue the idols of our life. Make no mistake about it; there will come a final judgment, as the angel of Revelation 14 says, ?poured full strength.?? This is a fatal and final judgment. God?s judgments throughout history, His discipline if you will, have been intended to turn people to repentance and back to God, but a day is coming when there will no more opportunity to turn away from our sin and turn back to God.
????????? If God does not have your attention right now, with you hearing the strong words of these three angels, then you are to be pitied my friends. You and I desperately need ears to hear these words. I know that there are many today who do not believe in hell or a final judgment of God. The Church is only compounding this problem as many Bible teachers are supporting this type of teaching. I would urge you to listen to Jesus instead of modern-day Bible teachers.? Jesus said,
42 “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.? 44?? 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.? 46?? 47And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,? 48 where “‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:42-48 NIV) ???
????????? In Luke 16 Jesus told a story about Lazarus and the rich man in which we see Jesus once again speaking about the horrible realities of hell. Let?s read Luke 16:19-31.
19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.? 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” (Luke 16:19-31 NIV)
????????? You and I can believe that there is no final judgment, that there is no hell, and no consequence for our refusing to heed God?s counsel, but we will live and die to regret those decisions. Last of all take a look at Revelation 14:12 with me.
12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. (Revelation 14:12 NIV)
????????? When I read these verses from God?s Word I shutter to think of the consequences of turning away from the Lord. As a follower of Jesus, these verses cause me to take very seriously the call of God upon my life. God has called me to live for Christ each moment of each day. When I am at home I am His. When I am at work I am His. When I am out with my buddies I am His. I am His at all times and in all situations. I am not a Sunday Christian. I am a seven day a week Christian. Maybe this is why John is sharing with the folks in the seven churches that they need ?patient endurance? and ?obedience.? Those are interesting words. The word for ?patient endurance? is ?u`pomonh,? (hupomone) and it means, ?steadfastness, constancy, endurance.?? In the New Testament it is the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.? The word for ?obey? is ?thre,w? (tereo) and it means, ?to attend to carefully, take care of, or to guard.?? We need patient endurance each minute of each day as we seek to walk faithfully with the Lord. For us to have patient endurance we must guard the Word of God, take it into our hearts, spend time in it, and allow it transform our hearts.
????????? I want to ask you this morning, ?Where are you headed in life??? Are you surrendered to Jesus alone? Are you straddling the fence between faithfulness and unfaithfulness? Why continue to live a divided life? Won?t you trust the Savior today?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
November 5, 2006