A). Illustration: Siege at Helms Deep
Yet Aragorn and Théoden decide to keep fighting and ride out to meet the enemy. As they fought their way out of the fortress, they paused. The looked and saw a huge forest that had not been their previously. Then they looked and upon a ridge stood the White Rider, Gandalf, in league with 1,000 men of Rohan led by Erkenbrand, the marshal of the Westfold. The scene must have been breathtaking for Théoden’s men, who thought they were surely going to be defeated. The force charged down from the ridge and the entire enemy force was filled with madness before the White Rider. The entire force fled before them or surrendered. Many ran into the trees and were never heard from again.
After the battle, Eomer, the future King of Rohan, remarked to Gandalf, “once more you come in hour of need, unlooked for,” Gandalf replies, “Unlooked for? I said that I would return and meet you here (148).”
B). Illustration Related to John’s Reader’s Circumstance
In a similar way the believers, to whom John was writing, found themselves in a situation of despair. They were facing a government who sought to kill them, deceivers from within who sought to mislead them, and promising prosperity that sought to alleviate their sufferings. Some of them were disowned by family, some imprisoned, and some even died. The temptation to compromise faith for comfort, must have been beautiful and alluring to the eyes of John’s readers.
C). The Insurmountable Foes: Revelation 12-13
The visions John records in Revelation 12-13 depict the seemingly insurmountable foe believers were and are facing. The foe is pictured here as an “unholy trinity.” The three wage war upon on “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus (12:17).” The first beast, representative of strong worldly powers that seek to oppress the faithful by means of strength, causes many of the faithful to be slain. The second beast, representative of other religions, systems of thought, or a number of other types of idolatrous promises, deceives a large portion of mankind into worshipping the first beast. Everyone around the faithful seems to be falling. Their safety is compromised and great risk is required. Though victory has already been assured earlier (12:5, 9-12), many may have been tempted to forsake their faith due to their enemies seeming invulnerability. Chapter 13 leaves us somewhat in despair at the strength of the enemy. Who can overcome him?
D). The Stark Contrast: Revelation 14
But starkly contrasting the images of the unholy trinities assault upon God’s faithful, stands the Lamb on Mount Zion with a great host, the 144,000 (14:1-5). They seemingly look down upon the enemy, who assail God’s faithful, and prepare to ride down and utterly destroy them. This host already plays its victory song on their harps(14:2-3). The enemy, who once appeared to run unchecked, now cowers awaiting sure defeat. Those faithful under siege now have renewed vigor to continue the fight, seeing their foe cannot win. They, as well as us, have full assurance of victory.
E). Today, we have the same hope.
Today we too can look to the assurance of victory at hand and fight all the more valiantly, knowing that in the end we shall stand triumphant. When we feel like being faithful to the Lord is hopeless because so many around us set themselves against us, we must not shrink back because our victory is assured. There are many reasons for believers to persevere in the faith. Yet, in this passage, the reason we must persevere and remain faithful is because the enemies of God will not prevail. The purpose of this passage is clear: God’s enemies will not prevail and God’s people are exhorted to persevere in light of this. John states the purpose of this passage himself in v.12: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”
This text demonstrates three ways in which God’s enemies will not prevail. It also provides us with a fourth and final reason for persevering that encourages us to persevere based on the promise of reward.
II). Persevere and remain faithful, because God’s enemies will bow before him (vv.6-7).
First, believers must persevere and remain faithful, because God’s enemies will bow before him.
***READ TEXT: Rev. 14:6-7***
A). The Judicial Side of the Gospel
John sees a vision of three angels, each with a message. The first we are told proclaims an eternal gospel to “those who dwell on earth.” He commands these to fear God and give him glory. At first glance these two verses may lead us to believe that this is a last chance given to those who worship the beast to repent. This would seem consistent with what we know of God’s character. God graciously extended mercy to those who deserve punishment. Also, this is a common way to interpret this verse.
However, this is not what appears to be in view, but rather that God’s enemies will be finally coerced into bowing the knee to their maker in judgment. The idea is the same when Paul says, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).” Forcing these to bow to God may not sound like the gospel message initially. We are accustomed to associating the gospel message sometimes solely with God’s justifying of the sinner through the sacrifice of his son on the basis of grace. While, this is an important part of the gospel, it loses its beauty and significance, if it is removed from God as the sovereign Lord and judge who must punish the guilty. This is John’s emphasis here, the judicial side of the gospel. The whole earth is commanded to repent and worship him. Many do, but many do so too late. The audience of the first angel has refused to do so willingly, unto the end.
Two reasons for this interpretation are:
First, the angel’s hearers are called “those who dwell on the earth.” This phrase is mentioned twelve other times in the book of Revelation and each time it refers to those who are in allegiance with the beast and thus opposed to God. For instance, in 13:7-8, the beast is said to be given authority over “every tribe and people and language and nation” and those “who dwell on the earth will worship” him. Further, they are identified negatively as “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” Also, in 11:10, “those who dwell on the earth” are said to rejoice over the death of the two witnesses. Throughout the book of Revelation “those who dwell on the earth” depict those who are aligned with the beast and who refuse to give God glory. They are the enemies of true believers, seeking to oppress and destroy them.
Secondly, the “earth dwellers” are not invited to fear God and give him glory because the judgment is coming, but they are commanded to do so because “the hour of his judgment has come (v.7).” The judgment hascome and it is too late to repent. This idea is found also in Matthew 24:9, where the “gospel of the kingdom” is proclaimed to all the nations and then the end comes. Following the beast unto the very end they were deceived. The prosperity and safety they were promised were only temporary. They have heard an eternal gospel that does not change and always remains true. Thus, they are condemned forever by this eternal gospel.
John intends his readers, as well as us today, to be exhorted to continue to hold fast to our faith because we know that all, even God’s enemies, will bow the knee to God. We, who have willingly chosen to worship God, can sometimes feel as if we are beset and surrounded by a great multitude of those who refuse to worship God. Sometimes they not only oppose him, but us as well. Many of our friends and family members seem to be deceived by the enemy into idolatrous practices. They refuse to repent and turn to God. Some people may mock us and seek to humiliate us for our faith. The multitude may be against us and sometimes we despair of holding to our faith. They blaspheme the name of God and put him to the test.
Yet, we must persevere in the faith because if we do not we will be among those coerced into bowing. We must persevere because all of God’s enemies will bow before him. All the multitudes that assail us and deter us will one day bow. The leaders of the Roman government who oppressed the believers in John’s day will one day bow. The family members who disowned their believing family members will one day bow. The false teacher who led astray the church from within will one day bow. God will vindicate his name for he is jealous for his own glory. All will bow before God, including his enemies, so let us persevere in the faith!
III). Persevere and remain faithful because the allure and beauty of God’s enemies are rooted in destruction. (v.8).
Not only must we persevere in the faith because God’s enemies will be destroyed, but second, persevere and remain faithful because the allure and beauty of God’s enemies are rooted in destruction.
A). Solomon’s Adulteress Woman Solomon instructs his sons to beware the adulteress woman. They are told to keep away from her and not go near her door (Prov. 5:7-8). Her promises are sweet, dripping honey. Her speech is smoother than oil (5:3). She not only is persuasive, but also adorns herself in beauty. Her eyelashes seek to capture you (6:25). She captivates the simple and he lies down with her. Solomon warns his sons to stay away for her promises and beauty are not what they seem. “Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death (7:27).” She leads the simple man “as an ox goes to the slaughter (7:22).” Solomon warns his son of this deceitful harlot, so that they will not commit adultery. Know that her ways are death and run far away from her! Do not believe her for one minute when she promises you good, it is fleeting. In the same way, believers are not to commit spiritual adultery with the worldly idolatrous systems. No matter what they claim to possess it is a lie. Believers must persevere and remain faithful, because the allure and beauty of God’s enemies are rooted in destruction.
***READ TEXT Rev. 14:8***
B). Babylon the Great: Old Testament Imagery The second angel John sees declares, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all the nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” The symbolism here is very rich. First, Babylon carries with it much Old Testament imagery. Babylon was the empire that conquered Judah and sent them into exile. Israel lived in exile within Babylon. Israelites would have been tempted to worship the gods of Babylon and forsake the one true living God. Those who chose to remain faithful faced opposition from Babylon. It was a struggle to remain faithful, as is evidenced by the stories of Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 1-6). Recognizing the Old Testament imagery of Babylon John’s readers found themselves in a similar situation under the oppression of Rome. Some within Judaism even called Rome, the second Babylon because both empires destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. The book of Revelation symbolically envisions all evil world systems as “Babylon the Great.”
C). Symbolism of Babylon from Revelation
Secondly, Babylon carries with it much symbolic imagery. The imagery of Babylon is further played out in the book of Revelation. Babylon is depicted as the adulterous woman of the beast (17:3-4), the antithesis to Christ’s virgin bride, the church (21:9ff). She is depicted as very beautiful, being adorned in “purple and scarlet and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls (17:4).” Her beauty lures many to commit adultery with her (17:2). Committing adultery with Babylon appears to be equivalent to growing “rich from the power of her luxurious living (18:3).” The two ideas are held in conjunction with one another in 18:9 as well. Speaking of the kings of the earth it says, “who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her.” The nations weep over the fall of Babylon, fearing their own demise as well. Their source of wealth and security has gone and surely they will follow after. So, Babylon also depicts security through economic prosperity. It is the very essence of idolatry. She lures men in, appearing beautiful and satisfying. She promises so much. She promises contentment, security, and happiness. Even the beast she sits upon (17:3) is strong and who can resist him?
D). Intoxication from Babylon’s Cup
The allure to go lie down with Babylon is strong. It entices men to give into its idolatrous demands for economic security. She makes the “nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” Once her cup has been drunk the drinker becomes intoxicated, losing all ability to see the truth to her false claims and discern her destructive ways. Those who have drunk from her cup are spiritually blind and have no desire to resist Babylon. They have fallen head over heals in love with a destructive harlot.
E). John’s Readers Tempted to Fall Away Seeing Her Comfort
Many of John’s readers may have been tempted to compromise their faith for security. They may have thought if only I give in and go along with what Rome demands then I do not have to worry about dying or being persecuted for my faith. Look, the pagans have it better than I do. Even the ones that do not have much, they have security. Babylon’s way appears easy, but it is the broad path that leads to destruction.
F). Her Fall is Surely Going to Happen.
Her fall is here already pronounced as surely happening. The angel proclaims even before it happens, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great (14:8).” Later, the very beast that she sits upon will turn and destroy her making her desolate (17:16). Babylon’s system is built upon shaky ground. The very principle it is founded upon, self-centered rebellion, cannot ultimately stand. The beast will turn on his woman, Babylon, and “will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire (17:16).” The beauty of the harlot has proven deceitful and has its ground in destruction. Dennis Johnson writes concerning the fleeting beauty of Babylon saying, “Today Babylon looks to John’s readers like a confident and beautiful queen, a city teeming with energetic activity and overflowing with the good things of life. In reality, however, Babylon is even now a hag, a hollow husk, and the haunt of demons, defilement, and death. That inward reality will become outwardly visible at Babylon’s fall, when her mask is torn away (254).”
We may be tempted to sacrifice faithfulness for many things in this world. We see the seeming prosperity and happiness of the world. As our eyes behold these things the promises and love of God seem but a distant whisper to our ears. We must remember that these things are temporary and not eternal. The promises of this life are not what they seem. They boast of luxury, happiness, and ease. When in reality they will lead us like an ox to slaughter if we pursue them. The world’s system is doomed to failure as if it has already fallen. This is not a place to build our homes it is shaky sand. Therefore, believers must persevere and remain faithful, because the allure and beauty of God’s enemies are rooted in destruction.
IV). Persevere and remain faithful, because God’s enemies will be eternally condemned (vv. 9-11).
Thirdly, let us persevere and remain faithful, because God’s enemies will be eternally condemned.
***READ TEXT: Rev. 14:9-11***
A). The Eternal Punishment
The final angel John sees in this vision comes proclaiming that “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the Lamb.” Not only will those who swear allegiance to the beast be forced to bow, but they will also be eternally punished. The gospel the first angel proclaimed was an eternal gospel. This entails that it is unchangeable and always true. Consequently, the judgment of God on those who oppose him will also be eternal. The angel goes on to say that the “smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night.” Their punishment is eternal and they are unable to find rest due to their anguish.
B). Lives Characterized by Sin
Those who are eternally tormented are those in allegiance with the beast. There is a fourfold distinction of how these people have devoted themselves to the beast. They have: worshiped the beast, and worshiped its image, and received a mark on their forehead or on their hand. They are idolaters and their way of life is characterized by imitating their father, Satan. They are the ones who have drank from the cup of Babylon and become intoxicated. For whatever reason, they have given in to the allure of the harlot Babylon and are now fully engulfed into the destructive system of the beast.
C). God’s Strong Cup of Wrath
They have drunk from the cup of the harlot and become intoxicated with it. Now, they will also “drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger.” The cup of God is used throughout the Old Testament as a picture for God’s wrath. Psalm 75:8 says, “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.” Also, Jeremiah 25:15-16 says, “Take from my hand this cup of the win of wrath, and make all the nations to who I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them. The cup is also what Jesus asks to be passed from him, because he knows that his cup contains the full wrath of God destined for sinners. This is why he is so grievously struggling in the garden, sweating blood (Luke 22:42-44). If they thought the harlots wine was strong, they are in for a surprise because the Lords cup is pure and unmixed, a very strong drink. These who drink his cup face his wrath forever, being tormented with fire and brimstone. This spiritual Sodom will take on God’s righteous anger against their rebellion. They will find no rest. Their stubborn rebellion has ended in their eternal anguish. They once thought they had found sure rest and peace, but it was only temporary and false. Their hope was not built on the eternal God, but on the hope of the worldly idolatrous system. God has vindicated his name against those who have opposed and blasphemed his name. He is shown to be righteous in the punishment of the wicked.
D). Grasping the Eternality of Hell
The eternal nature of the torment of those who experience God’s wrath in judgment needs to be grasped. Those who worship the beast will experience suffering forever. As Aaron O’Kelley explained it, it is very easy for us to sing, When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we will no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.” What a wonderful idea to be forever with God! Yet, what a sad reality it is to be forever apart from God’s favor and be forever under his wrath. They will have no less days to experience God’s punishment.
E). Let the Terrible End of These Motivate Us to Endure
This is the end of those who worship the beast and fall prey to worshiping anything other than God. Giving in to the worlds system may appear like the sure thing to do, but those who do will face such a terrible end. God’s enemies end is certain and terrible. Therefore, let us believers not be tempted to chase after the fleeting promises of the world. Do not be counted among the enemies of God. Hold fast to the faith given by Christ. If you do not and chase after idols, this will be your lot. You will be numbered among those in corporate Babylon. Stand fast when beset by trials from with and without. Persevere and remain faithful, because God’s enemies will be eternally condemned.
V). Persevere and remain faithful, because God’s faithful will find true rest (v.13).
Finally, John puts before us something positive and rewarding to strive after, rest. Believers should persevere and remain faithful, because God’s faithful will find true rest.
A). All Believers Receive “True” Rest
John is told to write, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” The focus is not on how these died, but only that they died in the lord. Christian martyrs are not specifically in mind, though they would surely be included, rather all believers who die in the Lord are said to be blessed. Why are they blessed? They are blessed because they will enter into the Lord’s rest. Though those faithful to the Lord may experience suffering in the present, they know that what awaits them is an eternal rest. In direct contrast to the worshipers of the beast, who find no rest, those who follow the Lamb find eternal rest. Those who live in luxury and adultery in the world system may have rest now in the present life, but they will not find it in the next. Whereas, believers may experience suffering now, they will have rest in the future. This is why they are blessed.
B). Good Works Follow
The good works of faithfulness to Christ do not go unrewarded. The good works of the saints follow them. Their works are proof of their faith. Works and faith are inseparable. Those who obey believe and those who believe obey. They can be assured that their faithful obedience will not be in vain, because their works follow them. When judgment comes their works will prove them to be true followers of the Lamb and they will find eternal rest at last.