The Warnings and the Blessing
December 21st – Les Kovacs Revelation 14-16
Observe: In Chapters 14 through 16, we see the continuing contrasts between the judgements upon the followers of Christ versus the followers of the Satan. They do not necessarily unfold in chronological order.
As Chapter 14 opens, we see a vision of the sealed believers of Christ. These stalwarts are seen singing praises to God while standing on Mount Zion. They are described as spiritually pure, in stark contrast to the wicked people marked as worshippers of the Antichrist. John next describes seeing three angels delivering messages of warning and prophecy. They include messages of God's impending judgment on sin and evil which will befall the people who have who accepted the mark of the beast, described in in the previous chapter. Those who take that mark are bound for eternal punishment. This passage ends with a word of encouragement for Christians who suffer persecution for their faith. The last section of this chapter describes Jesus holding a sickle to be used during the harvest separating the believers form the wicked.
In Chapter 15, the first vision John sees are seven angels. They carry the last seven judgments, represented by bowls that will complete God’s wrath against the wicked. The scene is one of celebration, as the redeemed believers sing a song of worship to God. These seven angels proceed out of the tabernacle in heaven, which was filled with smoke to hide God’s glory until the judgments were competed.
Chapter 16 describes the seven bowl judgments on the non-believers, those who had the mark of the beast. They include: painful sores; turning the sea to blood, and killing all sea life; turning the rivers to blood so the people had no water to drink; causing the sun to blaze hotter so they were seared by the intense heat; the world was plunged into darkness; and the great Euphrates River was dried up to allow the armies of the east to invade. During this time, three demons appeared that performed signs, and prepared these armies for the final to battle at Armageddon. The seventh plague or judgment, was a devastating, worldwide earthquake and 100 pound hailstones. Through all of these judgments/plagues, the non-believers continue to curse God.
Interpret: We see these righteous judgments being poured out on the non-believers, the people who would rather follow the ways of the world, which is the way of sin, instead of repenting and following the ways God. Chapter 16:2 says that these only affect those who had the “mark of the beast and worshiped its image”. At this point in time, the wickedness of unbelievers on earth will have reached a peak, and because of their refusal to bow before the Lord, the earth will have been devastated and no longer be able to sustain life. The wrath of God will tear apart those who fight against Christ. But just as the Israelites were protected by the blood of a lamb on their doorframes during the last plague in Egypt, so too, will Christians be protected from these final judgments by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
Application: These chapters of Revelation hold both a dire warning and a blessing. The warning is for those who defy God, and the blessing is for those who follow Him. During the last days, however long that might be because no one knows, the temptations of this world will continue to increase over time. The influence of the kingdom of the evil one will continue to spread until it pervades every aspect of our lives, including the church. Eventually the activities of the world will become so vile and repugnant to God that He will bring about His judgment of wrath on the people of the world. To non-believers this will be a truly terrifying time. But for Christians, there is the sure hope of deliverance from our sins by and through the blood shed by Jesus, the Lamb of God, for all who believe in Him.
At the beginning of Revelation 1:3, God told John to write down what he saw, and pronounced a blessing on those who would study what John wrote: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near”. God promises that He will bless you, if you follow His command to read and hear the words, if you take to heart what He reveals through it.
Although difficult times lie ahead, as Christians, we have the entire, and infallible, Holy Bible, and especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to instruct us in the ways in which we are to take it to heart. In John 13:14 Jesus says to His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” As people who walk in the light of God’s truth, we must be people who have a genuine and deep love of others and of God. Our lives must reflect our obedience to Him, regardless of the challenges and persecutions we may face, because of the hope we have in Jesus.
Questions: Despite the terrifying visions of the end times, do you believe that following Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask you to guide us to walk in your truth by obedience to your will for us. We pray for your Holy Spirit to open the Scriptures to us more and more as we strive to walk in your will. Help us to never be deceived or led astray by the subtle temptations of the world, and strengthen us to meet the challenges of life in ways that honour and glorify only you. And may we always be known as followers of Christ by the testimony of our lives. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.
Song: The Name of Jesus – Chris Tomlin
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.