September 27, 2020
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts around 17:30 in the audio file.
Or, The Draught of God’s Undiluted Wrath
I’ve read too many British novelists, including Lewis and Tolkien, not to come across the word draught. It’s apparently not an American English word; we use “draft.” They are pronounced the same, but, to me, draft doesn’t seem quite the same. Though it has a number of meanings, for now, think of draught as a portion of drink, a gulp or swallow of a long and thirst-quenching drink, typically of some sort of adult beverage (or elvish). You sip tea, you down a draught of beer.
In the middle part of Revelation 14 three angels announce a draught of doom and identify those who will drink a draught of God’s wrath. God’s anger is likened to wine that will be drunk and will cause disaster for them. The hour of His judgment has come upon those who have made the wrong worship choices, and their torment is just getting started.
Satan (in chapter 12) has thrown himself against the Lord’s anointed and any who follow the Lamb. The antichrist (in chapter 13) embodies the jealousies of Satan and sets himself up as a poser king over the nations. The false prophet leads the earth in worshipping an image of the false messiah. The lies are heavy and great pressure is applied so that all will take the beast’s mark. None can resist in quiet. Worship the beast or lose your life.
At the beginning of chapter 14 we see a remnant of God’s people who do not bow to the beast, many of whom appear to pay the ultimate (earthly) price for it. They have the name of the Father and of the Lamb on their foreheads, and they will not defile themselves in fornication or in falsehood.
Now, though, we begin to see what the future holds for the earth-dwellers. It is not good.
I have preached around 460 sermons at TEC. Most of those sermons have tracked sequentially through a book of the Bible. We’ve finished John and Genesis, 1 Corinthians and some other quicker studies through shorter epistles. We’re more than halfway through Revelation, and I don’t remember ever working through a paragraph on hell, on the lake of fire, that is as explicit as this paragraph about eternal judgment.
There have been sermons on Sodom and Gomorrah, and we’ve studied Psalms with judgment on rebels, but this is an unmistakable, and awful passage about God’s everlasting punishment on sinners. There is even more to come in the Apocalypse.
Hell is an almost unbearable subject, and who can imagine how triggering it is to today’s average college graduate. Psychologically, as in, down in our psuchos/souls, our consciences accuse us and that torment is an prelude of the physical and mental torment coming on those who will not give glory to God.
This is a terrible reality that points to the terrible offense of our sin, and it would be a good opportunity for parents to talk to their kids about it further. Most of the time we talk about adorning the doctrine of God so that it is appealing, especially to our kids. We emphasize that the Lord blesses obedience, and we will see that in this passage as well. But it is good to learn, or to be reminded, that every life on earth will come to an end, and that who we’ve worshipped has eternal consequences, in ceaseless song or the ceaseless smoke of torment.
In verses 6-13 there are four voices making four announcements.
As usual John “saw” another vision and he sees “another angel flying directly overhead.” The last angel John mentioned was Michael who threw Satan out of heaven (12:7), but the last similar flying announcer was an eagle proclaiming a trifecta of woes (8:13).
This angel carries “an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” Is this a saving gospel? There is no mention of Jesus or the cross, rather an appeal to their consciences as recognizing a Creator. This is part of what makes it “eternal,” since it is about the eternal God, and it has eternal consequences. Beast-image worship belongs to a temporary mob. All those worldly worshippers are enslaved by the comforts and consensus (even the comfort of consensus itself) of the beast culture. This gospel ups their accountability.
The angel’s message is, “Fear God and give him glory because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” We could call this creation theology, or natural theology. Honoring God is exactly what men refuse to do. The truth that He deserves honor is the truth they suppress (Romans 1:18-22).
“The hour of his judgment has come,” so this is the last call, the final warning to fear the Lord. It’s one of the reasons that points to a future “hour,” because this sort of “hour” is not cyclical.
The second announcement is made by a second angel, and it also portrays the end. “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.” Proclaimed as if it is completed, the system propped up by the beasts will not last. Count on it.
The beast’s kingdom is called “Babylon.” The original Babylonians lived in luxury and dominated as a world empire. They loved themselves and took God’s people captive. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon in Daniel’s day, played at being god, and he was judged.
> king [Nebuchadnezzar] answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30)
Rome had earned herself the nickname as a modern Babylon. Whether or not the future kingdom is centered in a renewed city along the Euphrates River or if the future kingdom can be represented as a new Babylon, the quote in Isaiah applies: ““Fallen, fallen is Babylon” (Isaiah 21:9).
This Babylon has “made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” She seduced the peoples as by giving them strong wine, enticing them to drink their fill. Later in Revelation Babylon is called a prostitute (chapter 17), and she has captivated the world. It’s not right to take this as a symbol of Jerusalem, and it’s not sufficient to call Babylon the papacy, at least not of the 16th century.
Is “sexual immorality” their physical practice or a spiritual picture? It could be both. We are talking about nations, the wine and the sex are likely metaphors. And also, the relationships among and between the people are wicked. Babylon has set the tone and intoxicated the whole earth and made the nations mad (Jeremiah 51:7-8).
A third angel “followed” them, so all of these proclamations belong together. This angel exposes the real dangers of the beast and taking the beast’s mark.
In chapter 13 “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand” he can buy and sell. Refusal to worship the beast warrants the death penalty. The death penalty is better. In chapter 14 the one who takes the beast’s mark will drink the wine of God’s wrath. The one who drinks wine (of immorality) will get more wine (of judgment). The first cup tasted smooth, this cup leads to disaster. The first made men smashed, the second wakes them up.
God’s wine is “poured full strength” or “mixed in full strength” (NAS). It could be translated “mixed and unmixed/undiluted.” Wine could be enhanced with spices, it could also be watered down. This wine is concentrated, undiluted and doctored with strengthening agents. It is poured into the cup of God’s anger.
> 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. > (Psalm 75:8)
The analogy changes in the second half of verse 10: “he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night.” Fire and brimstone/sulfur, are images that remind us of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), but His hour of judgment is not just one hour of burning. Jesus said it was better to cut off your hands than to go to hell where the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:33).
The “torment” appears to be both physical and mental. This is not annihilation, it is not to be lifeless, but rather to know conscious pain, with no stop, no rest. Ceasing would be a sort of rest, a pause in the pain or forgetting conviction. This is being alert to one’s numbness to God’s glory in a way that harasses and distresses. Like a boat caught in a storm of waves, so sinners are caught in unrelenting suffering. The duration is forever and ever (“unto the ages of ages”), day and night. This is eternal destruction.
While the point in chapter 14 is to remind the saints to endure temporary troubles, the judgment will come to all who fall short of the glory of God. It is a just penalty.
Verse 12 does not move us from the third announcement, but it does encourage the saints once again to endure. “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints.” Keep keeping on. Keep obeying whenever the obedience is called for. Hold fast the faith and follow Jesus as the Lamb.
The voice in verse 13 is not an angel. It is “a voice from heaven,” and followed up by “the Spirit.” This promise comes from God Himself, unmediated.
The voice tells John to write “Blessed. The Spirit agrees, “Yes” or “Indeed.” The favored are not abandoned by God even in their death, which is an argument from the greater to the lesser. Death is not the worst, by far.
The “from now on” emphasizes those who die as Christians, they are “in the Lord.” They are untied with the Lamb, and cannot be separated from Him. He rules over all spheres, and we are to live in His sphere.
The Spirit speaks explicitly two times in Revelation: when He says “Come” in chapter 22 and here. The Spirit seals believers and He strengthens them for love and good deeds. He brings about the obedience of faith and blessing. Believers will “rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.” The “rest” doesn’t mean inactivity as much as it means no longer working amidst unresolved conflict.
The deeds following refers to rewards. We’re saved by faith, and our labors in faith are not in vain. Remember Paul’s exhortation to take care how one builds, as each one’s work will become manifest in “the Day.” If our work by God’s grace is not burned up, we will receive a reward (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
Pay attention to the ends. Take heed of true torment and true rest, of His judgment and His blessing.
Those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness and ungodliness are threatened with eternal, conscious suffering. They go along with the crowd, and the way is wide that leads to destruction. The glory of God and the warning of hell prove the deceitfulness of sin and how hard-hearted/blind it makes the nations.
One reason why this passage points to a future fulfillment is because today, the call to repentance is mixed with many graces. What a contrast. The beast offers no gospel, the Lamb offers eternal blessing and rest. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. You are what you are by the grace of God, so work harder than others, and remember that it is not you but God who is with you. You may be surprised at what it takes to be steadfast, but you will not be surprised when God accepts your deeds done in faith and says, Blessed!
> But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. > Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:57–58, ESV)