Before we actually look together to the Word of God I want to talk to you, especially our congregation of people as your pastor. My concern for the current racial issues and social justice and all that has unfolded in that realm actually began two years ago. It was back in 2018 that I made the statement that this particular issue of social justice and accusations of racism had the potential to do more harm to the evangelical church than anything I’d ever seen in my life. That has played out to be exactly true. And over the last couple of years I’ve endeavored to address it in numerous ways: an extended series from Ezekiel chapter 18; a series of blog articles on the Grace to You blog; some Question and Answer events, some of them prolonged – one of them is available from Grace to You; sermons on “The Unity of the Church” from Philippians; sermons on “The Riots”; sermons on our responsibility and other things. I asked for a list of all of the resources that have been directed at this issue, and the Grace to You guys sent me a very long list of articles, blogs, short videos, sermons.
We have finally reach a point where it’s time for us to move on. But there is one more very important thing to be said. If I were a prophet – and I’m not – but if I were a prophet in Israel, and the evangelical church was Israel, I would declare that the church had gone after Baal. I would declare what the prophets of the Old Testament declared about Israel, that they had been seduced by false gods, because that is exactly what has happened to the evangelical church. It has been seduced by a false god and a false religion. The evidence of that is the complete shattering of the unity of the evangelical church.
The church has gone after Baal, gone after the contemporary, sociological, temporal, earthly religion that is concerned only with social issues. The church has been so seduced by this that it has fallen victim to the point where it looks exactly like a political and social organization rather than the kingdom of God confronting the world. The New Testament would say this: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your act of spiritual worship. And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you many know what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
The evangelical church has been seduced by the world; it has bought into that seduction. In one translation you would say, “The world has pushed the church into its own mold.” Colossians 3, Paul says, “Love not the world because you have been transcended beyond that. Set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth.” You belong to a heavenly kingdom. John says essentially the same thing: “Love not the world; everything in the world is passing away.”
The church has been seduced. It has gone after a false god, a Baal, a false religion, constructed by ungodly, Christless people; and the talk is always about justice. Well, I want to talk about that. Justice for all certainly is a noble and magnificent ideal. Perhaps justice is the noblest of all human achievements when it can be achieved. As noble as justice is, however, in this fallen world it is extremely difficult to see it. It’s even difficult to define it, and more difficult to implement it. It’s even confusing to watch people demanding justice by violating laws.
Perfect justice resides with God alone, and humanity struggles to understand that kind of justice, to respect it, to honor it, or to execute it. And in the world where light is dark and dark is light, and good is bad and bad is wrong, and bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter, justice is hard-pressed to emerge. Many attempts to define justice only lead to injustice because they reflect the perversion of the human heart. We can have justice departments ad infinitum and never really achieve broad-based true justice.
There has been a measure of justice in our nation based upon biblical morality that stabilized us for two hundred years. That is gone. Now to try to define justice without a transcendent revelation is virtually impossible. The Bible anticipates this.
It was a couple of weeks ago that we looked at the book of Ecclesiastes. And I just remind you of a couple of verses there. Chapter 4, verse 1: “Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression, which were being done under the sun.” That means on the earth. “And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of the oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them.” So he says, “I congratulated the dead.” There were the oppressed and the oppressors, and there didn’t seem to be any way to sort that out justly.
Chapter 5 of Ecclesiastes, verse 8: “If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province,” – or the region – “do not be shocked at the sight.” Why? It’s a fallen world. “For one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them.” In other words, we admit there is injustice in the world, we’re not surprised by it. That’s why we have to stack officials on top of officials, on top of officials to try the best we can to have courts of appeal that go higher and higher to find their way to justice.
Then there’s a comment in verse 9 that I find interesting: “After all, a king who cultivates the field is an advantage to the land.” The best you can hope for in the struggle for justice is to have a leader who creates jobs, so that you have something to give yourself to under the sun. That’s a leader who doesn’t give himself to war, but gives himself to work.
In Habakkuk, the prophet begins in chapter 1, the oracle that came to him from the Lord: “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ Yet you do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted.”
There are too many wicked people surrounding the righteous to ever assume you’re going to get everyone to justice. And God has ordained, as we have seen, some restraints against this in the human conscience, the family, the government, and the police. With all of this, this approach of justice and equity is very difficult.
I did a little search on a government website source and I asked the question, “How many laws are there in this country?” and the answer came back, “No one knows. But we do know that if someone spent his entire life counting them, he wouldn’t be able to count them.” It went on to say, “There are twenty thousand laws regarding ownership and use of a gun. There are fifty-four categories of laws. No one even knows how many laws there are.”
To enforce law there are a million policemen. There are all kinds of threats, everywhere to fines to execution and everything in between. There are courts. The courts in our country face one hundred million cases a year trying to litigate the law. Four hundred thousand federal courts convene a year with cases. There are thirty thousand plus judges. There are two-and-a-half million people in prison. Millions of personnel, trillions of dollars, to try to restrain man. And all the restrainers have a measure of corruption in their own hearts because there’s none righteous, no, not one.
Man is lawless; he will do what you let him do if not restrained. And in order to try to restrain him we have countless laws, millions of litigating cases, a million police, spend trillions of dollars, and at the top of the pile is a justice department that we don’t trust because it’s full of the same kind of mentality as the criminals at the other end of the system. So just a little hint: if you’re trying to get justice in the world, that is a fool’s errand. We do the best we can.
Far above this fallen world, on the other hand, is God, who is perfect righteousness and perfect justice. Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “For I proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” You want justice? Only one way to go and that’s directly to a just and righteous God. Romans 9:14 says, “There is no injustice with God.” No, no, never.
Listen to Psalm 111: “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work, and His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate. He has given food to those who fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever. He has made known to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.
“The work of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure. They are upheld forever and ever; they are performed in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” The only hope you will ever had for justice is to know God. He is the final court and the just and righteous God. Prophet Zephaniah said, “The Lord is righteous; He will do no injustice.”
Back in Leviticus – and this is by way of a reminder – back in Leviticus, we have the familiar statement that we’re to love our neighbor as our self in the nineteenth chapter. And, of course, that appears in the New Testament. But that is such a wonderful portion of Scripture. I want to remind you of it.
Leviticus 19, we’ll start at verse 15: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”
The prophet Micah said, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly before your God?” What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly before your God. I know I’m reading a lot from the Word, but I have no way to improve on this.
Hear the word of the Lord once more from Psalm 82: “God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes.’ Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.” All the human judges are inadequate; they’re all going to die. Only God can judge righteously.
So the question is, “Will justice ever come? Will it ever come?” Well, the Old Testament promises that it will, and I want to show you some of those promises. The prophet Jeremiah is a good place to start. Jeremiah chapter 23, and we’ll begin at the beginning of that chapter, just a few verses. Jeremiah 23. This is an indictment of unrighteous, unjust leaders.
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people, – this would be kings and priests – “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,” declares the Lord. “Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply.” That is a promise of God for the future restoration of the nation Israel who have been mistreated and misjudged through history.
“I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing.” This looks even at the restoration of Israel from the Babylonian captivity, that they would go back to their land. That was a historical fulfillment. And they would have judges over them who would be faithful. Those judges we’re familiar with. They were the ones that were there when Israel came back from captivity.
But it looks beyond that to the final gathering. Notice in verse 5: “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch.” And the righteous Branch is the Messiah. “He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord our righteousness.’” Here is the promise to the prophet Jeremiah, not only of a temporal historical restoration of Israel from captivity and some faithful shepherds would shepherd them then, but the days are coming when the Messiah will come and reign as King and do justice and righteousness in the land, and in that sense, in the entire earth.
The thirty-third chapter of Jeremiah also makes this promise, Jeremiah 33, we can look at 14: “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.” Son of David, the Messiah will come, and He will reign with justice and righteousness.
Earlier I read Psalm 96. Verse 13 of that psalm says this: “The Lord is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the nations in His faithfulness.” Psalm 97 said, “The Lord reigns. In righteousness and justice is the foundation of His throne.” And I read from Psalm 98,verse9: “He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the nations with equity.” That promise is not reserved only for the Old Testament.
Turn to the book of Acts for a moment. And the tenth chapter of Acts, Messiah came, but He came the first time not to judge, but to be judged by God in our place. He came to die under the sentence that belonged to us. But now Peter is preaching that He will come again. The tenth chapter of Acts, you can pick it up about verse 38.
“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that he become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness.”
Who was Jeremiah talking about? What is this branch of David? It is none other than Jesus Christ who came and died and rose again. And our responsibility is to preach to the people that this One will return as the Judge of the living and the dead.
Seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts and verse 30: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.” This is Paul’s great sermon in Athens, that all people everywhere should repent. Why? “Because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” You’d better repent because the Judge is coming.
I’ve heard enough about trying to fix this world, haven’t you? Enough of the folly. Enough of the evangelical worship of the false god, the Baal of our time. It’s time to look for the King of justice. And with that in mind, I want you to open to Revelation 19. Now you can start timing me; this is the official sermon.
Revelation 19, verse 1: “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His slaves on her.’ And a second time they said, ‘Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’ And a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Give praise to our God, all you His slaves, you who fear Him, the small and the great.’ And I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.’”
As we come into chapter 19 of Revelation, it is time for praise. It’s time for the ultimate hallelujah chorus to be sung. Jesus is about to return. The actual return begins to be described in verse 11 – and we’ll get to that next time. But by the time we reach chapter 19 we have been through some incredible future history, something we will never do historically because we will be taken out before the events of the tribulation. But though we will not be there historically, we are able to see that period prophetically. We are able by reading the book of Revelation to pass through the fascinating furies of the coming time of tribulation.
We have seen Jesus Christ, the worthy Lamb, take the scroll, the title deed to the universe from the hand of the Father in heaven and begin to unroll the scroll to take back the universe which the usurper Satan has ruled. And as He unrolls the scroll, He unleashes furious judgments. Seal by seal the scroll has been unrolled. Seven different judgments are unpacked. Out of the seventh judgment comes seven more judgments described as trumpet judgments. In more rapid-fire succession, out of the seventh trumpet comes seven more judgments called the bowl judgments, which are even more rapid. And so seven seals and seven trumpets and seven bowls sequentially mount up the escalating fury of God as His judgment is unleashed in the world. And during that period of time, the tribulation it is called, the gospel of grace will be preached. The church will have been raptured, the gospel will be preached. It’ll be preached by a hundred and forty-four thousand, twelve thousand from every tribe of Israel will be converted. It’ll be preached by two living witnesses. It’ll be preached by angelic beings in heavens. That all is laid out in the previous chapters. Through all of the time of God’s judgment, God is also saving those who come to Him.
Following the last bowl, which is the last phase of the seventh trumpet, which is the last phase of the seventh seal, all the judgment has ended, and it’s time for Christ to come back and judge and set up His kingdom. His coming is described in chapter 19, verses 11 and following, and His kingdom is described, a thousand-year kingdom, in chapter 20 – and we’re going to look at all of that in the days ahead. I think we’ve all had enough of what’s going on down here on earth. We’d like to see what the Lord has planned from heaven.
What’s all the rejoicing in chapter 19? What are they rejoicing about? The destruction of the world’s evil system, the judgment of evil, unbelieving sinners, and the establishing of the victorious kingdom and glory of Jesus Christ. This is the moment that all human history’s been waiting for. This is the moment that all heaven has been anticipating. In fact, it is a recurring theme in the book of Revelation.
If you go back to chapter 4 in Revelation and look at verse 8: “Four living creatures,” – this is a view of heaven – “each one of them having six wings, full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and is to come.’ And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders” – representing the church – “will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.’”
Chapter 5, further heavenly praise: “I saw” – verse 6 – “between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God,” – or the sevenfold Spirit – “sent out into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. When He had take the book, the four living creatures, twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.’
“And then all of these beings are saying,” – in verse 12 – ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’ And every created thing which is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.” This is all the praise of heaven mounting up as it gets closer to the return of Christ. Holy angels, saints triumphant, gathered together in heaven, anticipating this incredible culmination: the return of Jesus Christ.
Chapter 18 ends with the destruction of the entire world system. Chapter 17 of Revelation is the destruction of the false religion of the world. Chapter 18 is the destruction of the final world economic system. So you have the destruction of the religious system, a one-world religion, chapter 17; the destruction of the economic system, the global economic system in chapter 18, chapter 18, verse 9. When this comes about, “The kings of the earth, who commit acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her,” – that is with the harlot system. The system is seen as a harlot because they worshiped it rather than God. “The kings of the earth who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’ And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn.”
And it goes on to talk about the products in this global economy, this global market, that will be destroyed, verse 16: “Woe, woe, the great city.” And Babylon speaks of the global system economically. “Once she who was clothed in fine linen, purple, scarlet, and adorned with gold, precious stones, pearls. In one hour was such great wealth has been laid waste!” Even transportation is affected. And while there is woe again in verse 19, “Woe, woe, the great city in which all who had ships at sea became right by her wealth. In one hour she’s been laid waste!” The destruction of the entire world system religiously and economically.
A different attitude comes out of heaven, verse 20: “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles, because god has pronounced judgment for you against her.” My... God has pronounced judgment on the sinful world, its religion, and its economics, for your sake. Why for our sake? Verse 24: “For in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who had been slain on the earth.” They had been slaughtering the saints. This is the end of that. This is the end of that. By the way, more Christians are being persecuted and killed today than any time in human history.
So we have come through the book of Revelation. We have seen heaven begin to rejoice as the Lord sets out to take back His universe. The unfolding of those judgments run from chapter 6 through chapter 18 – series of seals and trumpets and bowls judgments. Then collectively we see false religion is completely destroyed and world economy is completely destroyed. All the world leaders can say is, “Woe, woe; alas, Babylon,” full of tears and grief over the collapse of absolutely everything they put their hands on – Babylon that great city, speaking of world economy. From every throne on earth, from every power behind that throne, from every leader, every ruler, from every place of trade, every business, every location where people are employed to produce and distribute and sell, every continent, every island, every city, every sea, every ship comes the voice of weeping as the entire system falls under the judgment of God.
But while the earth is gasping in its final breath, heaven is rejoicing, verse 20: “Rejoice over her, O heaven.” Heaven bursts into hallelujahs as we begin chapter 19, and it’s not just the same as verse 20 of chapter 18. That was because of the destruction of those who persecuted the saints. Chapter 19, the rejoicing comes because the King is coming. Does this sound strange to you that there would be rejoicing over this, that there would be rejoicing over judgment? Is this not loveless? Is this not insensitive? Is this not uncaring?
No, people have had opportunity to repent time and time and time again. And particularly through all the judgments of the time of the tribulation, if you go back to chapter 16 and go back to the final judgment, the final bowl, “The seventh angel poured out his bowl,” – verse 17 of chapter 16 – “a loud voice come out of the temple, saying, ‘It is done.’” This is the end of the judgments. “Flashes of lightening, sounds and peals of thunder; a great earthquake, such as there has not been since man came to be on the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty.”
Remember, the gospel is being preached the whole time in supernatural ways. Now you have an earthquake like none in the history of the world. “The great city is split into three parts, the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great” – again, the unified term for the global system – “was remembered before God to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. Every island fled away, and the mountains were not found, and huge hailstones, a hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men.” Notice this: “And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because the plague was extremely severe.”
For seven years they’ve been hearing the gospel. For seven years there has been a proclamation of that gospel that has covered the globe. And even when the judgments that they’re going through are so severe that the entire earth and the surrounding bodies in the sky are all collapsing. They blaspheme God.
The world will always honor a false prophet, but the Elijahs and the Elishas and the Isaiahs and the Jeremiahs and Stephens and Peters and Paul and the other faithful preachers who preached the kingdom and preached the gospel, they’ve always been pariahs. Jesus Himself told a story about how the prophets were killed; and even they would kill the son when the father sent him; and that’s what they did. Book of Hebrews says that those who were God’s were mocked and scourged and stoned and sawn in half and slain with the sword and nailed to a cross and thrown to wild animals. Compelled to seek refuge, they were destitute, they were tormented, they were afflicted. But at last, their vindication comes, at last.
In chapter 10 of Matthew, the Lord really made a promise, verse 16: “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents, innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues. You will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You’ll be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” Just prior, Jesus is saying to the return of Christ to set up His kingdom, persecution of the saints will escalate to a fever pitch.
The shouts of joy are to be expected then, aren’t they. They’re anticipated all the way through the book of Revelation: chapter 4, chapter 5, chapter 7, chapter 11, chapter 15, chapter 16. You have the shouts of the saints rejoicing over the coming of Christ.
Do I need to be obvious and say this is where our minds need to be, this is where our thoughts need to be? Those who have prostituted the church’s role in the world to preach the gospel to try to fix the world have, as I said earlier, followed a false religion.
As we come into chapter 19, this is the seventh time we have a vision of heaven in Revelation. And what we hear is what we always hear: “Hallelujah!” Verse 1: “Hallelujah!” Verse 3, “Hallelujah!” Verse 4: “Hallelujah!” Verse 6: “Hallelujah!” Why all the hallelujahs? There are several reasons. One reason, to begin with, salvation has come, salvation has come. Secondly, justice has come. Thirdly, rebellion has ended. Fourthly, God reigns. And, fifthly, church, the bride, has been joined to the Bridegroom: Christ.
Before we look at those reasons for rejoicing, look at verse 1: “After these things” – that covers a lot, doesn’t it? “After these things” bridges the tribulation to the millennial kingdom. After the destruction of the false religious system as described in chapter 17; after the destruction of the global economy, chapter 18; after demons have led the armies of hell to the plain of Armageddon; after all of that, the Lord returns.
Just to remind you of that, chapter 16, verse 13: “Out of the mouths of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast,” – Satan and his agents – “out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; they are spirits of demons, performing signs. They go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (‘Behold, I’m coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.’) And they gathered them together to the place which is in Hebrew called Har-Magedon.”
The demons gather the forces to the plain of Megiddo, which is in the north part of Israel, to fight against the returning Christ. That battle is about to start. That battle will end the time of the tribulation. We are at the prelude to that, and all heaven is rejoicing.
Now let’s look as specific reasons why. And we’ll not be able to give them a lot of attention, you can do that on your own. The first reason is because full salvation has come. “I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.’” Here is the anthem of full deliverance from sin.
“I heard something like a loud voice,” a composite of the angelic hosts of heaven and the saints joining in. It’s a loud voice. It’s a great multitude – saints and angels. And by the way, there are millions and millions of holy angels. There are 200 million demons mentioned in chapter 9, 200 million demons, and only a third of the demons fell, so there’s double that number of holy angels. So you have millions, hundreds of millions of holy angels shouting. And add to that the saints. And what are they saying? “Hallelujah!”
That word doesn’t appear in the New Testament anywhere but in this chapter. It appears about twenty-some times, maybe twenty-four, twenty-five times in the Old Testament. Never appears in the New Testament. It’s reserved for this chapter. “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”
But even in the Old Testament it was connected to the deliverance of God’s people from wickedness. Psalm 104:35, “Let sinners be consumed from the earth and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Hallelujah!” Hallelujah, even when the wicked are destroyed.
The word essentially means praise the Lord. It’s a transliteration: “Praise the Lord.” And of those twenty-four or twenty-five times in the Old Testament, they’re all in the Psalms. It begins and ends fifteen psalms, particularly those in the Great Hallel, Psalms 104 to 109; and the Hallel of Egypt, 113 to 118. And all of them celebrate deliverance from the wicked. It’s associated with God’s judgment on the wicked oppressors of His people and His glorious rescue of His people. Hallelujah is reserved for the joy of deliverance from the wicked. Praise the Lord! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.
The world is never going to be right until it’s under the control of God. That will be the day of His glory. That will be the day of His power. That will be the day of His sovereign rule. His glory, His power; and everything will belong to Him. First cause of rejoicing praise is because the Lord is going to bring full, final salvation from all wickedness.
Second: “Justice will be meted out.” Verse 2, “Because His judgments are true and righteous.” For the first time in human history since the fall, His judgments are true and righteous. Here is the joy of accomplished judgment.
You know what we need to be saying to this world? We need to be saying to this world, “Forget the issues of justice on a human level and realize you will face the justice of God.” That’s the message. And this will be a justice that you will not want if you have rejected His Son. All of you who are working for justice on a human level need to be far more concerned about true justice when it’s meted out by God. His judgments will be true. His judgments will be righteous. Saints long for this because we have nothing to fear. If you’re not in Christ, you may think you want justice; but you will not want the justice you will receive for rejecting God’s Son.
Of course, we want a world of justice; it’s what believers desire. Good news: it’s coming. It is coming. When the Lord establishes His kingdom, it will be a kingdom of perfect justice, swift and perfect justice.
Verse 15 of this nineteenth chapter – a little preview of what’s to come: “He will rule with a rod of iron.” Immediate, painful, if necessary, unrelenting justice. His judgments are true and righteous. We know that because He judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His slaves on her. By the time we get to these hallelujahs, God has already judged the great harlot – that’s from chapter 17, the false world religious system – and He has also judged the system Babylon, which is another part of that harlotry that has corrupted the earth with her immorality.
The harlot had her day, now judgment. Judgment will come. The satanic Antichrist, anti-God system is being permitted now under the control of Satan to lure and delude and seduce and deceive and debauch and corrupt the world with abominations that will only escalate and get worse and worse. But judgment will come; and all those who are screaming for justice today will not want the justice they deserve.
God’s ways are absolutely just. This language is borrowed from Deuteronomy 32: “His judgments are true and righteous.” Those who in this world have caused the moral ruin of so many will themselves be destroyed, and the ones who killed the saints will themselves be slaughtered. Full salvation for the redeemed and justice for the Christ-rejectors. And heavenly hallelujahs are unleashed because it’s time for truth and righteousness and justice.
There’s a third component to the praise, verse 3, “Because rebellion has ended.” Second time they said hallelujah her smoke rises up forever and ever. The whole world system is smoldering. Kept hearing somebody on the news today say, “If we don’t get what we want, we’re going to burn this system down.” That’s exactly what the Lord will do; He’ll burn it down, and the smoke will never be forgotten. This is the end of all rebellion. That’s why all the woes in chapter 18 – we pointed them out – as the system falls under divine judgment.
The smoke is because of the fire. The fire is the fire of judgment. Back in verse 18, “They saw the smoke of her burning,” as the Lord tortures the world system. The destruction is much like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah back in Genesis 19, or even the destruction of Edom that Isaiah talks about in Isaiah 34. The fire will come, burn; the embers will cool; the ash will blow away.
There will be an eternal fire for those who reject Christ that will never die, however. It’s all over now: persecution’s over, false religion is over, materialism is done; evolution, injustice, wickedness, immorality, up in final flames. The end of man’s advancing, quote-unquote, “world,” a global disaster as God torches every human institution, religious and economic. And the rebellion that started with Adam and Eve in the garden has finally been judged.
No wonder heaven responds with, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah, salvation has come. Hallelujah, just has come! Hallelujah, rebellion has ended!” And, fourthly, “Hallelujah because God reigns.” Verse 4: “And the twenty-four elders,” – representing the church – “the four living creatures,” – described as angels early in the book – “fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’”
The praise has always belonged to God, but it was denied to Him. Now the twenty-four elders, the four living creatures – this is the saints and angels – fall down, worship God who sits on the throne. The group of elders – He’s always been on the throne, surrounded by them in heaven, always been on the throne surrounded by the angels in heaven. But now He’s established His throne on the earth and in His creation. “Amen! Hallelujah!” That combination comes from Psalm 106:48, the close of the doxology at the end of Book Four of the Psalter, affirming, agreeing praise: “Praise the Lord! Amen.” “Amen” means so be it, let it happen.
The volume begins to increase and, “A voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Give praise to our God, all you His slaves, you who fear Him, the small and the great.’ And then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.”
The volume swells. A voice comes from the throne, no doubt, a notable angel, saying, “Give praise to God,” – present imperative: keep on giving praise to God, don’t stop – “all you His slaves,” – refers to believers, all of those who are in heaven – “you who fear Him,” – worshiping saints – “small and great.” In heaven all are leveled, right? All intellectual ability, social strata, all accomplishments, all levels of progress in life, all distinctions, all ranks are all dissipated into nothingness, and we all become one in that worshiping community of glory.
For centuries we have been saying, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And then when we get there, we can say, “It has been done.” The redeemed throughout heaven respond immediately to the command to give praise, and millions upon millions upon millions of voices at the top of their heavenly glorified capacity are shouting and making noise that can only be described in terms of verse 6, “like the voice of a great multitude like the sound of many waters, like the sound of mighty peals of thunder.” Just imagine the most loud thunder you have ever heard right on your head and having that hit you at the bottom of Niagara falls, and you might have a small idea of the noise.
Adding their praise to the angels is the praise of the saints: “Hallelujah! Our Lord God reigns.” He’s King! This is another reference to the Hallel in Psalms 113 to 118. The Psalms close 146 to 150 actually with a celebration of God’s glory. Daniel described this moment when he said, “I saw in the night visions one like to the Son of Man brought to the Ancient of Days. And there was given to Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.”
And when Gabriel announced to Mary the child to be born, do you remember what he said? “He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord shall give unto Him the throne of His father David; and He shall reign.” And Jesus said in Matthew 25, “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory.”
Tyrants, despots, petty rulers, godless governments shall be no more. War shall be no more. Inequity shall be no more. Justice and righteousness will rule the earth, and the Lord will execute that with a rod of iron. Truth, peace, righteousness, justice, salvation will dominate the kingdom of Christ. This is where we need to have our minds and our thoughts. The folly of trying to fix a fallen world looks even more stupid when compared to this. There will be a day of justice, a day of salvation, a day when all rebellion has ended, when God reigns.
And there’s one final thing to say. The rejoicing is also an expression of the joy of the union of believers with the Lord. Look at verse 7, and we’ll just read it, make a comment or two: “Let’s rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’ And I fell at his feet to worship him. He said, ‘Don’t do that,’ – because he was an angel – ‘I’m a fellow slave of yours, a fellow servant, and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” So important.
The saints give praise because they’ve finally been joined to their Savior. Rejoice, be glad, give glory. These are the true words of God. The marriage supper of the Lamb has come, we are joined with our Bridegroom, the Lamb who died for us.
The last statement: “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” What’s left for us to do until this time? Preach Jesus. Worship is our life, the testimony of Jesus is our message.
Father, we thank You for Your Word, we thank You for the reality that we have just looked at. This is not speculation, this is prerecorded history, this is the truth. Just as all that was prophesied concerning Jesus Christ related to His first coming came to pass in detail, so will all that is prophesied concerning His second coming. We rejoice that He came the first time not to judge, but to be judged in our place, to bear our sins in His own body on the cross. But He comes the second time as Judge, and then there will be justice.
Lord, turn the minds and the hearts of Your people back to the gospel, back to the return of Christ, back to the message of salvation in Him, and may we proclaim the testimony of Jesus. And the testimony of Jesus is that heaven awaits those who embrace Him, and hell awaits those who reject Him. Protect Your church from getting caught up with the Baal worship of this day, and may we preach nothing but the testimony of Jesus so that men will be prepared for the ultimate justice, which You will render one day.
As we will see going through the rest of the end of this incredible prophecy of Revelation, justice will be meted out, and it will be final; and it will be devastating, forever, conscious punishment to those who reject Your Son. There is no way that we can be faithful to You and not make that the message. May we cry out to sinners who think they want justice, that they will receive justice, but for most of them it won’t be what they wanted.
And, Lord, for all of us, we thank You that You give us not justice, but mercy, that You show us lovingkindness, that You so loved us that You sent Your Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. We want mercy, and we long for the day, we who have received salvation mercy, we who have received grace and forgiveness; we long for the day when Jesus Christ is to be glorified and establishes a kingdom of justice and righteousness. But in so longing, we understand as well that this world will be caught in an irreversible judgment, and our responsibility before that happens is to proclaim the glories of the gospel and forgiveness through Christ, so that we will never know that final justice, but we will know everlasting grace and mercy, through Christ we pray. Amen.
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