AGCC Sun. a.m. 4/29/2001
#12 (Book of Revelation Series)
TEXT: Rev. 14:1-15:8
INTRO: When most people think about the future it usually doesn't include eternity! Most of our life we are looking forward to a future that involves only the things of this life, even as we age we are only thinking about the future in terms of retirement, and not beyond that. Yet when death comes we won't be thinking about the things of this world, what will occupy our mind then is the real future, eternity.
ILLUS:Thomas Edison had been in a coma. Coming out of it he said, "It is very beautiful over there," and then he died. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
Even Thomas Edison at the end wasn't thinking about his inventions and earthly accomplishments, his final words were about eternity!
Isn't it amazing that we spend so little time thinking about THAT future? So many of us go to great lengths to plan for a trip somewhere, we make careful plans, get things in order before we leave ... but yet we FAIL to plan for the greatest trip we will ever make, the journey after death.
Eternity is stamped on humanity ... only in our fast paced secular world have we put it out of our mind.
ILLUS: If you ever get the opportunity to visit Egypt and the tombs and pyramids, study what was required to construct some of those monuments. Some studies revealed that it required the efforts of one hundred thousand workers for forty years to build one of the great pyramids. As you tour the area there, you can't help but ask why. Why so much effort? Why would somebody put that amount of emphasis on a tomb, on the afterlife?
The answer is that the Egyptians understood full well they would spend a lot more time in the afterlife than they would spend in this life. Granted, some of their conceptions of what would happen in the afterlife were a little skewed. But the point is, they understood to the core of their being that the afterlife was a whole lot more important than this life, and so they prepared for the afterlife during this life. God had placed eternity in their hearts. -- Bill Hybels, "Your Ever After: Heaven," Preaching Today, Tape 34.
Shouldn't we take seriously the eternal future we all will face and properly prepare for it?
PROP. SENT: The Bible clearly teaches that one of two destinies are in the future for every living person, and the experience we have tomorrow is based on the experience we have today. Today in Christ ... tomorrow in Heaven; today without Christ ... tomorrow in Hell.
I. CLIMAX OF JUSTICE 14:1-13
A. Rewards of the Pure 14:1-5
1. John's emphasis in the closing chapters of Revelation are about the certainty of everlasting life ... and where we will spend it.
a. The righteous will receive their rewards.
b. The unrighteous will experience God's wrath.
2. John is making an obvious contrast here of those who have been "marked by God with His name on their foreheads" and those "marked by the beast on their foreheads."
a. We belong to God or the Devil.
b. Such ownership will determine where we spend eternity.
3. The chapter opens with the "pure, the blameless" ... those who have embraced Christ as their Lord.
a. They have not compromised with this world, they have lived by God's standards rather than this world's or their own.
b. God's people should stand out as Holy people in a world of darkness!
ILLUS: A 16th century man who did not drink to excess, curse, or abuse his workmen or family could be suspected of being an Anabaptist and thus persecuted. -- "The Radical Reformation: The Anabaptists," Christian History, no. 5.
4. If we were judged today by our lifestyles, would there be enough evidence to convict us of being a Christian?
5. John says that these believers are not only "pure and blameless," but that "they follow the lamb wherever He goes."
a. Can this be said about you?
b. This group of 144,000 that are here in Heaven is probably the same group mentioned in Rev. 7:4 ... they have been martyred for their faith, they died without compromise.
c. It is possible to live an uncompromising life.
6. Heaven is the reward and joy for all those who follow Christ in this life.
B. Results Permanent! 14:6-13
1. The "hour of judgment has come" 14:7 John says, there is a time when judgment for how we live takes place.
a. While sin seems to go unpunished now, this will not always be the case.
b. There will be a day when God will fully deal with sin, the only reason we don't see this yet is that God is gracious and is still giving time for people to repent of their sins.
c. This future judgment can be avoided ... IF WE PLAN wisely NOW!
ILLUS: Sigmund Freud's favorite story was about the sailor shipwrecked on one of the South Sea islands. He was seized by the natives, hoisted to their shoulders, carried to the village, and set on a rude throne. Little by little, he learned that it was their custom once each year to make some man a king, king for a year. He liked it until he began to wonder what happened to all the former kings. Soon he discovered that every year when his kingship was ended, the king was banished to an island, where he starved to death. The sailor did not like that, but he was smart and he was king, king for a year. So he put his carpenters to work making boats, his farmers to work transplanting fruit trees to the island, farmers growing crops, masons building houses. So when his kingship was over, he was banished, not to a barren island, but to an island of abundance.
It is a good parable of life: We're all kings here, kings for a little while, able to choose what we shall do with the stuff of life. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 339.
2. The future always depends on what we do today, even in the natural!
a. If you don't put money aside for retirement, you will be at the mercy of the state, if you don't invest today you will have no dividends tomorrow ... and if you don't attend to spiritual issues today tomorrow could be too late!
b. The great powers and nations of this world will one day all fall ... this has always been true in history, and the future will show this to be true also.
c. The only kingdom that will continue to stand in the future is the kingdom of God!
3. The future destination for each human being is a permanent one, once in Heaven, always in Heaven ... and once in Hell, always in Hell!
ILLUS: There is one way to stay out of hell, but no way to get out of hell. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990).
4. With so much at stake for your future can you really afford to ignore preparing for it today?
II. CLIMAX OF JUDGMENT 14:14-15:8
A. Real Punishment 14:14-20
1. As certain as the rewards of the righteous are, so is the certainty of judgment on the unrighteous.
a. John clearly reveals here that a day is coming when God will bring in the final harvest ... every farmer knows that there is a harvest day when he plants his fields.
b. Because sinners now don't see God's final judgments they assume that this will never come.
c. Accountability is a principle of life ... in every area.
2. While our world likes to ignore the possibilities of eternal punishment it does not mean that it doesn't exist.
a. Far more people believe in Heaven than believe in Hell, how convenient!
b. Most people believe that if there is a Heaven they will go to it, and very few who admit there could be a Hell believe they will go there, the moment of death could be a real eye opener!
ILLUS: The March 1985 issue of Omni magazine reported a study by Dr. Maurice Rawlings, cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga. He and his emergency room colleagues are constantly treating such cases. It is now standard that those who have near death experiences later speak of having experiences of light, lush green meadows, rows of smiling relatives and tremendous peace.
However, in his study, also reported in his book Beyond Death's Door, Dr. Rawlings obtained new information by interviewing patients immediately after resuscitation while they are still too shaken to deny where they have been. Nearly 50 percent of the group of 300 interviewed reported lakes of fire and brimstone, devil-like figures and other sights hailing from the darkness of hell.
He says they later change their story because most people are simply ashamed to admit they have been to hell; they won't even admit it to their families. Concludes Dr. Rawlings, "Just listening to these patients has changed my whole life. There's a life after death, and if I don't know where I'm going, it's not safe to die." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 151.
3. The tragic reality is that all those who experience God's wrath could have avoided it, Christ made a way of escape, but we must accept it.
a. Too often we refuse to accept God's ways, we insist on living by our own standards ...
ILLUS: If you insist on having your own way, you will get it. Hell is the enjoyment of your own way forever. -- Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 5695.
b. Real freedom can only be found in Christ, and today is the opportunity for accepting Him.
B. Revealing Positions 15:1-8
1. The great contrast is shown in this chapter ...
a. The righteous sing a new song, a song only the redeemed can possibly know.
b. The unrighteous experience God's wrath with no hope ... the future is a godless one.
c. The final judgment on sin will begin ... there is coming a day when sin will no longer go unpunished, it will be judged.
2. All the cynics today who reject God will one day face the reality of God whether they believe it now or not ... so often the world foolishly ignores the reality of God, they choose not to see Him.
ILLUS: You might wonder why I believe in heaven in an age like this. One of the Russian cosmonauts came back and said, "Some people say God lives out there. I looked around, and I didn't see any God out there." Billy Graham's wife, Ruth, says he looked in the wrong place. If he'd stepped outside the space ship without his space suit, he would have seen God very quickly. -- Leighton Ford, "Hope for a Great Forever," Preaching Today, Tape No. 96.
3. These final judgments from God are different from earlier ones, the earlier ones gave opportunity for change, these contain nothing redemptive, they are simply the final price tag for rebellion against God.
4. The finality is horrible, and completely avoidable NOW ... what will the climax to your life be like?
a. Do you know what your future holds?
b. Will you be playing a harp or harping against God?
c. If you are willing to make elaborate plans for an earthly trip, why not make adequate plans for your eternal trip?
CONCLUSION: So often it has appeared that evil has won the day ... but the cry for true justice has not gone unheard, the day will come when the rule of evil will end. Evil WILL be punished and righteousness WILL be rewarded. We do not live for God in vain, we will see the day when sin is defeated and we can celebrate the victory over sin. Are you ready for THAT day?